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“The car truly masters every challenge.” Really? The next morning we want to test whether Ishmael’s self-assured promises are correct and we head inland in the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63, southwest toward Nizwa. It’s 160 kilometers to the oasis city with the giant fort from the 17th century, Oman’s most visited monument. To the left and right of the motorway: breath-taking lunar landscapes of the Hajar Mountains and fertile oasis villages where date palms afford shade. Suddenly, just outside of Nizwa, a mirage. The village road shimmers like a flowing stream. We look at it more closely. It’s not a mirage. The road really is a stream. When the residents step out of their homes, they stand up to their calves in water that comes straight from the mountains. It’s cool and crystal clear. No one ever struck upon the notion to divert this stream, explains our driver and guide, who’s also named Mohammed. Water is sacred in this bone-dry region where the temperature rises in the summer months to more than 50 degrees Celsius. The Omanis love the rivulets and streams from the mountains. The wadis that are so typical of this country are normally not flooded roads but riverbeds that eat their way through barren mountains, on the banks of which the land grows and thrives. They fill wells, irrigate plants, water the livestock. They are also picnic spots and cool swimming holes. Several times we drive to wadis far from the road. In Oman you can and may leave the road at any point. Even the motorways. If you have the right car. And we do. Streams, rivers, mud, boulders, rocks – nothing stops us. Uncompromising, gladiatorial and without affectations, the GLS 63 roars through the countryside. “You can only reach the best spots in the wadis with fourwheel drive and a powerful engine,” an envious bather shouts to us. We manage it. Easily. In the wadis and in the Hajar mountains the Mercedes- AMG masters even the steepest climbs and descents, curves and slopes. But how does it do battle in the hot desert? Where three very special challenges await, as our guide Mohammed says, grinning: “Free-roaming camels that know no right of way. The Sharqiya Sands with their huge sand dunes. And the police, who impose fines on unclean drivers.” In Oman excessively dusty, dirty cars are actually prohibited on the road by law. But we’re clean. Still! Today the wild camels are keeping a safe distance from the motorway. No problem: If they won’t come to us, we’ll go to them. Here, too, the shock absorbers and suspension system of the Mercedes- AMG GLS casually swallow the humps and potholes of the dirt tracks. Shortly before the Sharqiya Sands we make a pit stop at a small auto repair shop and let some air out of the tires. We don’t want to get into slides or rolls among the dunes. In the sea of sand, the SUV really comes to life. Let‘s its 585 horses gallop. We are drifting, raising a great deal of dust, sending loud echoes of thunder through the dunes. And as Selma the Bedouin shows us her camels and finally serves us coffee and dates in her carpeted tent, a fantastic day draws to a close. That intoxicating feeling of boundless freedom: Now it’s here. But our four-wheel adventure is still lacking a trip to Sur on the Gulf of Oman, Mohammed knows. That is where Sinbad the Sailor was to have set out on his travels across distant oceans with his dhows, bulging two- and three-masters that represent the Omani art of shipbuilding even today. However, before we head for the dhow shipyard, we first have to have our GLS 63 washed. By law the desert sand has to be off the paint. Three men set to work. Lathering, rinsing, buffing by hand. It takes 20 minutes and costs one-and-a-half riyals, the equivalent of about four euros. The dhow shipyard looks like it must have looked hundreds of years ago: Old banana boxes full of roughly forged asparagus-spear nails, a large stack of teak and acacia wood, around which about 15 carpenters and boat builders scurry, and out of which an imposing ship grows. Businesspeople from Qatar have ordered six dhows, explains the Pakistani foreman. “This means work for three years.” The traditional sailboats are available in three sizes. In Oman the dhows are still used today for fishing, in the Emirates mostly as restaurant or tourist boats. We ask the shipbuilder how he would describe a dhow. “Strong personality, reliable, elegant,” he replies. “Simply a classic beauty.” “Just like our car,” we say. That makes the man curious. He puts aside his hammer and nails and accompanies us to the car park. At the sight of the gleaming white Mercedes- AMG GLS 63 4MATIC he whistles appreciatively. “But the car has a weakness,” he demurs. “It can’t swim.” “True,” we reply, puzzled. “But it can do everything else.” In the sea of sand, the SUV really comes to life. Lets its 585 horses gallop. 93


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