Don’t be fooled. You are not looking at a picture of Venice. This is an island very close to Venice and usually associated with a visit to this historic site. If you ever walk down the streets of Venice, you will find many shops selling the very expensive blown glass sculptures. These small pieces of art come from this other island where artisans come to show their hands at this craft, and if you want, you can take a short vaporetto, water bus, ride out there to see how it is done. You just need to find one of the buses that will take you out to the island of Murano, and you can see where all of this blown glass comes from.
The big question is whether the trip is worth it. It is not that far of a ride, and when you get there, you will be able to see more shops selling more intricate pieces. It is fun to look at the art, but the island has the same kind of feel that Venice does, only on a smaller scale. If this is a type of art form that you are interested in, there are displays that you can witness to watch how they create it. If you get tired of looking at art, there are places where you can grab a gelato, or a nice Italian meal, and when I went out there, the crowds were a little smaller than the ones I experienced on Venice. So for these reasons, it is a nice day trip to take if you find yourself staying in Venice for an extended stay.
But this comes with a warning. The way you got out there is the way you have to get back. The vaporettos only come every twenty minutes, and that is if they are running on time. There are a lot of stops along the way, and at a certain time in the afternoon, they start to get packed. I was there during the off season in March, and I had to wait for four different boats before I was able to squeeze onto one. I also left at 2:30 in the afternoon thinking that it would be before the crowds got there. I could not imagine what it would be like during a rush hour, or during the height of the tourist season. The point being if you go out there, you might find yourself stuck in line for a long time trying to get back to the main island.
To be clear, I really enjoyed the afternoon I spent on Murano. It was fun looking at the glass sculptures, and I had a great lunch. My frustration came when I tried to leave the island. The feeling I got from the island could have easily been found on Venice without the frustration of having to travel both ways to get there. Murano is not a must see, but for a certain select group of people, I could see why they would want to go there. If you are one of those people, please make your way out there, but try to plan it to avoid the frustration of trying to get back. Make sure you are on the stop that picks up passengers first, or leave later in the evening where there is not a mad rush to get back to Venice. It is the one thing that can make the time there not worth it, but otherwise, it can be a lot of fun to experience what all the noise about the Murano glass is all about.
Thanks for listening, and until next time, enjoy your time traveling.
When I was just starting off in my teaching career, I had saved up enough money to fly over to Europe to spend fifty days traveling around the various countries. I was working on a shoestring budget and spent a lot of time in various hostels, eating meals of bread and cheese to make sure that we were able to enjoy ourselves the best our budget would allow. There were many cities on that trip that I really enjoyed and I always told myself that when I could afford them more, I would come back to see them again.
Venice, Italy was one of these places. Some of the others disappeared from my mind as I continued to travel around the world, but Venice never did. It has always been one of my favorite places to have visited, and I tell people all the time that if they ever get a chance to make it out there, they should.
There is not another place in the world like it. The city has taken over this tiny island on the eastern edge of Italy. Because of all the water and canals, no motored vehicles are allowed to make their way across the cobblestone streets. This means that the roads are free for people to walk up and down at their leisure, and it also makes Venice the best walking town in the world.
One of my favorite memories from the last trip was wandering around Venice for a day. It is the perfect place to get lost in. You can’t get so lost that you will never be able to find your way out because you are on an island, and you cannot leave it. At the same time you can get lost enough where you find yourself strolling down back alleys and seeing sights that you would never suspect seeing. You will always be able to make it back to some place where you know where you are, such as San Marco Piazza, or the Rialto Bridge, and from there, you can catch a water bus back to a place close to where you are staying. It makes for a fun and cheap day of exploring one of the best cities in the world.
I am glad that I have been able to make my way back here, so I can explore more of this city. Coming back before the tourist season, in March, has been another treat. The crowds I had to fight sometimes, the last time I was here, are nowhere to be seen which allows me the freedom to get completely lost in the medieval maze and sometime feel like the whole city is here for me and me alone. It is great to know that the memories I made the last time I was out here did not steer me wrong, and it is still a great place to visit. I hope you get the chance to do it yourself some time, so you can share the corners of this city that you have discovered on your own day of wandering the city.
We all need weekend getaways, and when given a three day weekend, we all like to jump on the opportunity to go take some time for ourselves. This is what I did this weekend. I did not have enough time to fly out of the country, but I still wanted to find a nice place where I could relax for a bit. I also wanted to experience something new. A friend of mine told me about these hot springs by the Dead Sea, so I thought that I would try that out.
Heading there, I instantly felt that this was the perfect place for a getaway from Amman, especially during the winter months. Amman has been hit with cold weather, and bouts of snow, but just an hour drive away locked away in a hidden canyon, the weather is perfect. It feels like a crisp fall or spring day with just enough sunshine to leave you comfortable. It is a very relaxing atmosphere, and the best part is, when you feel a little too cold, you can always hop into the warm, soothing water of the pool. It is like stepping into a hot tub, except there is enough space for everybody to find their own little corner. It is perfect on a day like the ones we experienced. I don’t know if it would as great during the summer months, but there is another pool there that was closed in February. I believe that this is the regular swimming pool, so during the warmer months, you could go there to cool off.
Some people drive down from Amman, just for the day. The pool is open to the public from nine o’clock in the morning until seven at night. But if you are looking to have a little privacy with the pool, there is a hotel attached to the pool. If you stay there at night, the pool is made available to you at six in the morning, so you can have the pool to yourself for a couple of hours before the crowds arrive. It is a little expensive, but a night’s stay does include dinner and breakfast, and the buffet does make the stay worth the price. The rooms are also really comfortable with amazing views of the valley.
The Ma’in Hot Spa is a great getaway, or even a nice night stop if you are traveling around the Dead Sea. It is only Qwant kilometers off highway 40 next to the Dead Sea. You just take the turnoff for the Panorama Plaza and follow the signs until you reach the hotel. It is a nice addition to any holiday, an definitely the perfect weekend getaway from Amman, Jordan.
There are a couple of places in this world that are known for their tuk tuks, and India is one of them. Basically a tuk tuk is a motorcycle that has a backseat attached to it, so some driver can speed tourists around a busy city. They are called tuk tuks because of the noise they make as they putter around. They are fun to take, but depending on where you are, you need to make a deal with the driver before you leave about how much you are going to pay, and where they will be taking you. There are many scams surrounding these vehicles, but if you stick to your guns, you can get a reasonable price, and have a driver waiting around for you as you go from place to place. The trips are usually short, but the feeling of being rushed around in an open air vehicle is one that is too much fun to pass over if you find yourself in one of the countries that relies on these as a form of transportation.
I recently took a trip to Chennai which, in retrospect, was a lot like a tuk tuk ride. I guess you could call the trip a business trip. I was taking a group of kids from my school to a track meet at a school in this city. For those of you who have been on a business trip before, you know that they rarely give you the opportunity to do anything more than the business that you were sent out there to do. You could find yourself in one of the most amazing tourist destinations in the world, but all you could see of that place is the inside of a board room. At least, I got to experience the beautiful campus of the school that I went to, and a track meet is always going to be a lot more fun than sitting in meeting after meeting. But I was still busy, and like take a quick ride on a tuk tuk, it was nothing more than a whirlwind that I am still trying to wrap my head around.
During the short moments that I was able to get and explore the city, they were never to go some place that would have enriched me culturally. My first responsibility was to make sure that the students I had with me enjoyed their experience first. This meant that I went to a beach where they were able to spend some time figuring out how to boogie board, and dig around in the sand. We also went to a mall to waste a little time before we headed to the airport to fly home. The mall was a little too western for my tastes and was like any other mall that I have been to in the world, but my students enjoyed it. All of this did was give me a little bit of a teaser that made me want to eventually return to India so I could explore it more on my terms rather than the short spurts of energy that was required of me by coming out here on this school trip.
Still I was able to sneak in a tuk tuk ride on my tuk tuk ride of Chennai. It was probably the most cultural significant thing that I was able to do. It was a quick run to a store so I could find a gift to bring back to my wife, and we had to pay the tuk tuk driver a little extra money to have him stick around for us. Still, it was nice to get away for a thirty minutes and have this small moment in this new country for me. I enjoyed the tuk tuk ride, but I am looking forward to something a little slower next time. This way I will be able to experience the moments a little better than being whisked away through the landscape. But it still better to have a tuk tuk ride rather than no ride at all.
Here is to all of those tuk tuk rides out there, and I hope that the next one that you find yourself on, though it may be quick, will still be memorable.
India has always been on my list as one of the countries I have wanted to visit, so when I was told that our big meet of the year for the high school track team that I coach would be in Chennai, I got really excited. I knew that it would be a busy trip where I wouldn’t have much time to explore, but what I didn’t know was that it would be a grueling slog that I would have to push my way through.
The meet took place at the American International School of Chennai, an all day travel day from the place I live and work in Jordan. It is never easy to guide twenty students, a majority of whom were middle schoolers, through the process of getting on planes and working their way through customs, so they could compete in this event. The meet itself was a three day affair where events were taking place early in the morning, and went until late in the evening where we were whisked back to our hotel. It allowed enough time to decompress for a bit before having to crawl into bed so we could do it all over again the next day. I have been on trips like this before, and this was just another example of how a busy five-day schedule could wear somebody out.
Despite the grueling schedule, the trip was totally worth it. We had spent a couple of months getting our athletes ready for this event. At times, they wondered why we were working them so hard, but when they got out there, they were able to see how fast they could run, how high they could jump, and how far they could throw puts, and discuses.
Track has always been one of my favorite sports. I enjoy watching the events, and it is even more fun when I am able to be out on the track, coaching my athletes through their long distance races. It is fun to watch the grit that these kids have finally pay off. training takes a long time to get ready for one of these events, and it is hard to come after a hard day at school to push one’s self to lift weights and run laps when you don’t see any payoff during that whole time. Finally, they got to show off what they could do.
But it was not just the medals that the kids won that made this trip so great. We weren’t able to do the cultural thing which I love to experience so much while going on a trip like this, but we were able to connect with other students from other countries, and get to know each other better. There is a bonding experience that only happens at a track meet. It is not just with the members of your own team, but also with the members of the other teams as well. You might go out and run a race against another individual, and you might win or lose, but in the end, you are both congratulating each other for the battle that had just ensued. Even on occasion, you will even pick each other up from the track, or give advice about how to do an event better. You push each other to do better while collaborating to be better yourself. I do not think that there is another sport out there that allows for this kind of dynamic, and I love it.
So, the trip on a whole wore me out, and it might take me longer to recover from it than how long I was out there experiencing the whole event. It required me to show a little grit myself, but it was still worth every moment. I am glad, just like my students, that I saw that grit through.
It is always fun taking a flight that lands you in the middle of the night. You are whisked away from the airport in some random transit towards your hotel. Your brain is a little foggy with the pressurized atmosphere of the plane, the change of time zones, and the long day of travel. All you want to do is lie down on a bed and get some sleep, but still you are excited about the new environment you find yourself in. You try as hard as you might to look beyond the street lights and closed shop to get some idea about the lay of the land, but you can’t find any insight about it. You only get glimpses and hints of what your trip will be about, and entices you enough to keep your eyes open though you can feel the weight of your lids press down. Even the abandoned hotel lobby won’t give you any information about where you have landed. It looks the same as any other place that you might have encountered on the many different voyages you have taken in your lifetime. You just have to stumble off to your room, and try to make sense of the time you have left in the evening, and as you drift off to sleep, you wonder what this new adventure will bring.
This is what I experienced last night as I landed in Chennai for a track and field meet that I am taking my students to. When the alarm woke me up this morning, I opened up the blinds to my room to find a city outside that was familiar in some aspects. The tuk tuks, reminiscent of Bangkok crowded the bust streets, a heavy humidity hung over the air, and the haze of a busy Asian city loomed in the air just beyond the horizon. Yet, I could feel that things were going to be just a little different. The morning news talked about the most recent Cricket match, the statues around the city were of various Hindu gods, and I have not seen Buddha anywhere, and the air carried the aroma of Indian spices. It was different enough to excite me about this next adventure though it will be spent mainly at a high school track. It is still fun to wake up in a different country with new experiences and the possibility to be exposed to a new culture.
It may be that I was trained at an early age, but I always find it weird to be a warm location during the holiday season. Snow should be coming out of the sky, forcing me to bundle up in a warm coat, and watch the blinking lights from a safe distance. The malls should be crowded with holiday shoppers, and everybody should be in good cheer.
But when it is warm out, it doesn’t have the same feel. I want to go for hikes, and explore the world around me. This was more the focus of this holiday season, and though it may have been different, in a way, it was more authentic.
In the hustle and bustle that we lose ourselves into during every holiday season, we sometimes forget that in reality, it is not about the snow, and pine trees. It is not about the presents, and the parties. It actually started off in a very humble manner, in the place where I am now living, and traveling through during the holiday season. Maybe, instead of having this Nordic experience every year, we should turn our attention to sand, and camels.
Despite the stringing up of power lines, and the introduction of indoor plumbing, the Middle East has not changed a lot over the two thousand years since the birth of the holiday season. There are many opportunities to find small old houses to stay in, sleeping on the floor, and hearing the voices of animals just outside your window. The community still gathers together in those places for meals, and enjoys the company of each other under skies that do not threaten you with anything more than a warm day. It is completely unlike anything that we think about when the holiday season comes to mind.
Granted the Middle East is a predominantly Muslim part of the world, and the further that I get away from my home in Jordan, the harder it is to see the aspects of Christianity that I grew up with and became accustomed to. That does not mean that the holidays are not celebrated there. New Year’s Eve looks like the bigger celebration, especially in the bigger cities, but still there are aspects of Christmas around as well. It is just shown in different ways, and it reminds me of those ornaments that, as a child, we always placed on the bottom part of the tree. They were of shepherds, and camels, and donkeys, and of course, the whole crew to fill out the nativity, and those are everywhere to be seen out in the Middle East. It just reminds me of a Christmas celebration that is sometimes pushed to the side, instead of being celebrated more.
Though I found myself wandering the desert, and relaxing on the beach this holiday season, it did not mean that it wasn’t any less special. Yes, it definitely felt different than what I was accustomed to, but it was still a nice way to spend the holidays.
The beauty of the season did not come in electric systems that were put to the test to keep lights blinking, but instead from the explosion of color in the sky that came from when the sun set. The warmth of the season did not come from bundling up close to a fire, but standing in the sand letting the sun thaw me out. The feeling of the season still came from those I was able to share it with which, in the end, is what the holiday season should be about.
I did enjoy the time that I got to have in both Oman and Abu Dhabi. It is a side of the world that I have gotten to explore, and I do believe that this experience has given me a greater appreciation for the place in the world that I live in. I hope that you can come to the same agreement with wherever you find yourself. Be sure to appreciate the ones you are near, and look forward to not just the dawn of a New Year, but each day that follows it.
When people travel to Europe, they spend a lot of time in cathedrals, not because they are trying to renew their faith, but because they want to look at these monuments build to God. It is always a weird thing because you walk around this place where people go to worship while taking pictures and marveling at the art that can be found there. There is a similar tradition in the Middle East, except instead of cathedrals, you go visit the mosques.
The people of the Middle East will not allow you to visit every mosque, but their is usually one in every country that you should go visit. In both Muscat, Oman and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, it is called the Grand Mosque, and they are a sight behold. They are both still used for worship, and the one in Oman has limited times in which you can visit. Still, it is a must do for anyone heading off to either of these countries.
There are some stark differences between mosques and cathedrals. The larger cathedrals have a collection of artwork, and monuments from the people and dedicated to those who helped design and establish the cathedral in the city where it is found. There are various altars to pray at, and the architecture has a distinct pattern to it that all churches are supposed to follow. The artwork in mosques is still there, but its focus points to a love of nature and cultures instead of individuals and saints. Architecture is still a huge part of what you will see, but it is built to highlight the themes that are already a part of the design.
There is a certain symmetry to the design. It creates patterns that you can lose yourself in by trying to unravel it, and then marvel at its beauty. It is a showcase of geometry that would excite any math teacher. These features are still in a cathedral, but it sometimes gets lost with everything else going on in them; whereas, with a mosque, it is there to enhance what the place has to offer.
This all comes together at the niche that is the central focus of any mosque’s chamber. It is where the imam will come to lead their followers in prayer. The niche will still follow the patterns of geometry that are on display elsewhere in the mosque, and highlight that with richly designed artwork. Sometimes this further enhances with the use of gold, and Arabic writing. Just like an altar in a cathedral, it will direct the eye to what should always be the center of attention in any place of worship.
Both of the mosques in Abu Dhabi and Muscat boast of a hand woven carpet that stretches out perfectly over the main room’s floor. At first glance, it looks beautiful, but on further inspection, you will notice that there is something else going on with it. It is one piece of carpet which reaches perfectly to all of the edges, and goes around the columns nicely. To think about how this was handwoven and is just one piece that covers a vast amount of area makes you think about the care that went into creating its design. It boggles the mind to think about what was gone through to enhance the beauty of this place.
There are also chandeliers in both mosques, and they are something to marvel at. They are massive. The one in the center of the picture is so big that I am told it has a staircase in the middle of it, so people can enter it and maintain it. They are also strategically place, so they not only offer light, but they illuminate parts of the room, such as the niche, to enhance the artwork that was designed there.
Just like the cathedrals in Europe, it is easy to see why people flocks to these locations to tour these mosques. The reason that they are given the name Grand is easily shown while touring around them. The one in Muscat allows for more freedom when touring it, but both of them are definitely worth the trip.
Greece had always been one of the places I always wanted to visit, but it is in such a strange location in Europe that makes getting to it a little difficult by Eurorail. It became a no-brainer though when I moved to Jordan. It is a short flight to the islands, and with Spring Break being open to the world again this year, we took advantage of that fact to explore two of the islands, Santorini and Naxos. It was fun to see one of the more touristy islands, Santorini, compared to one of the quieter islands, Naxos, and get to experience them right before the Summer season started in full. It is easily a place that we will eventually come back to.
Iceland was another place that I had never been to that I always wanted to explore, and this last summer was the perfect time to do so. Covid restrictions were being loosened and we could spend the whole time outside where any exposure to it would be minimum. The funny thing about this trip is that I caught Covid right before we landed, so we were the ones that people needed to stay away from. The hike that we took on this day was absolutely beautiful, and I would have probably enjoyed it more if I wasn’t sick on this day. It was still a stunning place to visit in a country full of stunning places to see.
There are many things to do on the island of Santorini, Greece, but one that is skipped by many of the people that go there is the Akrotiri Ruins on the tip of the island. This is Greek’s answer to Pompeii. This city was destroyed by the volcano that turned the island into a ring instead of the massive mass of land that it used to be. So far, archeologists have just started unearthing the ruins that were left behind, but it is cool to see what Greek life used to be like, and imagine being a part of it.
This was one of my poems that people enjoyed a lot this year. Usually they do not make it into the top ten posts for the year, but I guess people connected with the story of Mary. I had been watching It’s a Wonderful Life for the first time in a long time over the Christmas holiday, and I noticed one part of the story that did not hold up as well as I remembered it to be. The awful life that Mary had because George Bailey had never been born is almost absurd if compared to today’s standards. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a great movie, but I’m having a hard time getting over this little part of the story.
This is the second poem of the year that ended up on the list of top ten poems for the year. I love the snow, and I have not been able to see it much ever since I moved abroad. It was a nice treat to see it early in the year, and it made for a nice inspiration for a poem. Evidently, many of you thought the same as well because it was the most popular poem of 2022.
This last year was spent learning a lot about the Greeks, and Romans, but one of my favorite trips was to a place that many people forget about when thinking of these two ancient civilizations, Cyprus. It is a short flight from Jordan, and it is filled with ruins all over the place. One of the best places to check out is the House of Dionysus. It has mosaic floors from ancient times that are still being uncovered. They do a great job of telling old Greek stories, and are worth the time to check out.
Growing up, my family had a tradition of getting together on New Year’s Eve and playing game until we could ring in the New Year. As I grew older, my siblings kept up the tradition, and not being able to attend has always been one of the bigger regrets I have had about moving abroad. Luckily, this year was started revisiting that tradition at my brother’s house. It was fun to ring in the New Year this way, and it is amazing that this post was one of the more popular ones as the year continued.
Considering that things have started to return to normal after the couple of years of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, it is hard to remember that it was still going on at the beginning of the year. This made travel exceptionally difficult. Not only did you need to be vaccinated in order to travel, and some countries had not gotten up to speed with that yet, you also needed to prove that you were Covid free. I had to stand in two line in the cold of Portland, Oregon at the beginning of the year to make sure that I could travel back to my job, and this post was an exploration of what that was like.
When summer rolled around, restrictions relaxed, and I was able to enjoy my first real travel experience after a couple of years of not being able to do so. Of course, we went big by renting a camper van and driving around Iceland for three weeks. It is a beautiful country, but we were there during the coldest June they have had in thirty years. Because of this, we got to know our camper vans really well. This post has been viewed by a lot of people who are going to travel there as they wonder which camper van company will be right for them. I hope the post guides them in the right direction and they can enjoy the country the way it is meant to be enjoyed.
My first trip of the year took me to Cyprus, only an hour flight from Amman, and a world of difference from each other. Cyprus is wine country, and one of only three places in the world where you can get the rare blue wine. This was the most popular post of the year, and I can understand why. The wine is a novelty, and it sparked a lot of people’s interest. It is fun to try, but for the most part, it is just like white wine, except the process of making it turns it blue.
This was a post from a year early that is still getting a lot of traffic. Apparently people love the combination of elk and the forests of Oregon. It was a treat for me to see them instead of the typical deer that roam the ranch, and apparently a lot of other people agreed.
This was actually a post that went live at the end of 2021. I was visiting family in Colorado, and my brother and his family took me down for the opening on Meow Wolf. I had never heard of this place, and it sounded interesting. It was cool to see the craziness that it had to offer, and it took until this year before people started visiting the post.
During the pandemic, I found my way back to hobby that I enjoyed a lot when I was younger, board games. This was a game that I got for Christmas, and I was able to play it at the end of 2021. This is the review of the game, and it has apparently helped a lot of people decide if the game is right for them or not because it was regularly visited during this year.
This was one of my biggest posts of 2021, and it continued to be a favorite of people’s again this year. It tells people how to visit this cool part of the Dead Sea that is a little ways away from all of the resorts that are further up the road. It is a great day trip and I expect people to visit it often again in 2023.
It always surprises me what people connect with and what they do not. This was supposed to be a throw away post based on a bumper sticker I saw while driving through Bend, Oregon. It has endured over the years, and is always one of my top posts. It is one of the few ones that I have posted that does not even have a picture to accompany it with, but people continue to come back to it again and again even though it has fallen off in popularity this last year.
This is by far my most popular board game review. It pits two of the top board games against each other and helps people decide which one is right for them. Even though I have been able to play Wingspan more over the last year, I still think that Everdell is the better game, and I have even started to see it for sale at Target, making it an even bigger game than when this was first posted.
This is far and away this most visited post that I have. It talks about a little hike that you can take if you find yourself in Railay, Thailand. It must be the one that people go to on a regular basis to help them find the way to the bat cave because it gets visits on a daily basis. I am glad that I have been able to help people find there way there, and I hope, if you are reading this blog, that you some day make it there as well as all the other places that I write about. The world is a great place, and you should go explore all of its nooks and crannies while you still can, especially now that travel is a thing again.
There are many wadis, or canyons, that you can hike through in Oman, but probably the most famous of them all is one that you hike along the rim of it. It is connected to Oman’s tallest peak, Jebel Shams. It is a sacred peak for many of the people in Oman because it is the first place every day to see the sunrise. It is also a great location to go to for a hike, and during the month of December, the temperatures are perfect for making the attempt.
It may look scary from the pictures I am showing, but in reality, it is not that hard or stressful of a hike. There is more stress involved by making your way to the start of the hike as you need to drive 17 km on a bumpy dirt road that is sometimes so narrow that only one car can fit through it. But the hike itself has very little elevation gain. In fact, the way in is mostly downhill, and it is a gradual uphill hike to get back out. It says it takes four hours to go to the end and back, but it only took us three, and we had a stop for lunch. I guess it depends on how fast you want to move, and how many stops you are willing to make on the way.
There are a few goats that you will run into a long the way as well. Most of the time, they will leave you alone unless you pull out some food. This one ran all the way down a cliff in the hopes of getting some food as some as we had some lunch. Just like any wildlife, they do not need to be fed. There is plenty of food around for them to much on, and at numerous occasions, we came across goats high in the trees eating the branches that were higher up. I never knew that goats could climb trees, but this was not an uncommon sight on this hike.
There are domesticated goats around as well. At the beginning of the hike, there is a small ranch, and they must have just had a litter of kids because there were a bunch of them running around. Everywhere I turned, I was able to see them playing around with each other or jumping around the pens that were set up for them. The people that run the ranch have set up a small shop at the start of the hike where they sell key chains and bracelets made from the hair of the goats and sheep that they raise. They will also sell you some bottled drinks if you need some of that for the hike. I did not find them to be too pushy, but they will work in a way to talk to whoever starts or ends the hike.
The end of the hike will take you to a waterfall. I did not get to see the waterfall. It was December when I was taking the hike, and the waterfall had run dry, but I could definitely see the place where it would usually comes down. Even missing this sight this time around did not take away from the hike, and it was the perfect weather to be doing it at this time of the year. I could imagine it being a little too hot if I were to do it at any other time of the year.
And for those of you who are campers, there are many places around where you can pitch your tent after the hike. Oman does not regulate where you can camp, so you can find the perfect place for the sunset. If you want a little more comfort there are a couple of resorts, but they are a little overpriced, and service is an afterthought at them, so do not expect a lot if you plan at staying at one of them. Whereas, the price for camping is free, and you can set up right next to them. This was you can see that the last thing the sun hits in the country of Oman is the same place that it hits when it comes up in the morning, Jebel Shams.