Friday, December 14, 2012

DISC 28 Muscat (12 December)

Muscat is a favorite place of mine.  When people stateside, who have never been to the middle east, are thinking about taking a vacation in the region, there is only one place I recommend: Muscaat, Oman.  it is a lively place, kind and tolerant people, fabulous beaches, and incredible outcrop geology.  I came to Muscat in the 1990s as a technical advisor to PDO and made a foray into the high country with Rian de Jong among others.

My contact for this DISC was the kind and capable Said Al Mahrooqi of PDO, with whom I had a lovely dinner the evening before.  At the course I was introduced by my former U Tulsa student Ali Al-Lazki, who went on to a PhD at Cornell and several years as professor of geophysics at Sultan Qaboos University and recently joined PDO.  The class was quite large (69) and the facility was excellent.

The 2012 Muscat DISC class

About town (and beyond)

Ali Al-Lazki was kind enough to take a weekend day and drive me around for over 10 hours.  We toured Nizwa fort, a wonderfully preserved and restored place. The displays were well done and fascinating. Here I saw, for the first time, an actual pitfall (a covered floor hole in a narrow corridor meant to drop an attacking culprit several feet down into serious trouble).  We also did a drive-by of the vast Bahla fort, which has an associated midieval wall snaking forever it seems along the craggy landscape.  There were lots of westerners in these towns driving around in rented 4WD vehicles and enjoying beautiful winter weather (75F). Did I mention that Oman is a great vacation destination?

High atop Nizwa fort

In this area, the most amazing geological feature (among many) is the  ophiolite complex.  I have heard of these but never seen one, they are known at less than 30 places in the world.  Put simply, an ophiolite is a slab of oceanic crust that has been thrust up and stranded onto land.  Ophiolite is composed of dark, exotic, heavy minerals that form in places we can never visit at great depth, temperature, and pressure.  Once subjected to surface conditions, the ophiolite weathers into a craggy moonscape of crumbly sharp ridges.  At the ophiolite base is a glimpse of the mantle/crust contact frozen and delivered on a plate for viewing.

The ophiolite up close and personal

Ali and I pressed on to the 'grand canyon of Oman' cut into carbonate and shale units that produce oil and gas farther west.

Thank you Ali for a truly wonderful tour.

Grand canyon of Oman

Ali Al-Lazki, oracle of the outcrop

An interested observer on the mountain

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