William & Mary Returns to Oman
In January 2020, I co-led the William & Mary study abroad program to Oman (commonly known as Rock Music Oman). As we returned home from that program, little did we know that we were weeks away from a pandemic that would shutter the world and effectively limit global travel for over two years.
It’s January 2023 and I’m happy to report that William & Mary has returned to Oman. This year I’m co-leading the program with my colleague Dr. Abigail Buffington, an archaeologist whose conducted research at ancient sites from one end of Oman to the another. My geology colleague Dr. Dom Ciruzzi has also joined us for part of the trip, he’s an eco-hydrologist. Oman, with its arid to hyper-arid climate, is an interesting place for eco-hydrologists. Our 2023 cohort includes 25 students with a wide array of interests. Once again, we’ve partnered with the Noor Majan Arabic Institute to make this trip a reality.
Muscat is our base for the start and finish of the program, it’s a thriving, and sprawling, metropolitan area. Our first stay in Muscat involved visits to the Mutrah souq, the National Museum, the Al Alam Palace, and the Royal Opera House for a show. We also made our first observations of Oman’s fabulous ophiolite. The jagged terrain that surrounds Mutrah originated in the Earth’s mantle, the bedrock here is peridotite which formed 30 to 40 km below the Earth’s surface some 95 million years ago in the Cretaceous.
We’re currently on an 8-day road trip across northern Oman – we’ll travel from Muscat to the mountains to the desert and then onward to the sea. Thus far, during our journey we’ve done field work with geology students from the Sultan Qaboos University. We’ve visited Bronze Age and Iron Age archaeological sites at Wadi Al Raki, Bat, and Al Ayn. We’ve overnighted in traditional Omani accommodations at the historic center of Nizwa and shopped in its busy souq. I type this post from the Sharqiya Sands, a massive dune complex south of the Eastern Hajar Mountains. We’re tucked into a desert camp for a day of reflection as well as frolicking in the dunes. The weather has been exceptional, and dare I say, far better than typical January weather in eastern North America :).
And, of course, there is camel riding. Nothing says “we’re in Oman” quite like saddling up on a camel and then plodding off into the desert.
Our student cohort is keen to learn about Oman. They’ve bonded into a cohesive group, plus they’ve embraced the rigors of study away, rolling with the bumps that come from international travel and fieldwork in a distant land.
Below are more pictures of our adventures in Oman. However, these images reveal only part of the story, as they don’t fully illustrate the academic angles of our studies in Oman. As we take in both the natural history and contemporary culture of Oman many questions have emerged about globalization, immigration, sustainability, resource management, and, of course, the ophiolite.
W&M’s spring semester will soon be here. Before that academic wave washes over us (students and faculty alike) and turns our attention to other matters, I want to express joy for returning to Oman with students after such a long absence.
This trip was such an amazing experience to be on! With all that we’ve seen, I’m gonna need to put Oman as #1 best country to visit! I enjoyed the geology, culture, music, and nature of Oman! What a great blog post! I hope I can come back one day, fingers crossed!
This trip opened my eyes to so much geology that I’ve learned in classes but never quite got to grapple with in the real world. It was, dare I say, life changing and I owe it to Chuck, Dom, and Abby for organizing such a spectacular and best road trip I’ll probably ever go on.
Thank you for taking us on this amazing trip! I’m glad I got to experience so many new things, and I learned so much. Another great blog post Candle Water!
I would like to second this comment! This trip has confirmed my love and understanding of geology. And ultimately reaffirmed why I am a geology major to begin with so THANK YOU!
This trip was everything and so much more. It cemented my understanding of geology from the classroom. The outcrops and geologic sites will be hard to top on the east coast, but I look forward to applying what I’ve learned and the experiences I have gained from this trip to my future in geology. THANK YOU!