Gallops of Oman: A First Success.
It’s completed: after staying on course for five days and 180 km of sandy dunes, all participants of the first Gallops of Oman, and equestrian endurance competition across the desert all the way to the Omani beaches, arrived safely at their destination on February 21st: the beautiful beach in the East of the spectacular Ash Sharqiyah desert.
The terrific welcome at the wild seaside by four ministers of the Omani government and hundreds of Bedouins who came from the desert in their ineffable pickups created an atmosphere that the European riders will not be able to forget anytime soon. The two Omani teams Al Safinat (green) and Al Adiyat (red) that were familiar with the grounds, obviously dominated the competition, but the Europeans came off well with Khasab, the team of the Allemandou family, placing third in this sporting event.
However, it is mainly the adventure, the discovery of the magnificent desert and the interaction with a different (equestrian or not) culture that made this first event unforgettable. The crossing of a desert, even with the enormous logistics provided by the Royal Cavalry of the Sultan, is nothing trivial. The installation and moving-around of bivouacs, tents, sanitary facilities, luggage, nourishment, water etc. becomes much more complicated on sandy grounds, and the dunes lead to disorientation every now and then.
The riders, on the other hand, encountered other difficulties: their horses’ “cardio” (heart rhythms) management, loss of GPS and thus orientation, collapses and elopements of horses (all retrieved!), sore muscles and injuries (nothing too bad, but forcing the horses to drop out), communication – or rather miscommunication – problems between team mates… In short, there were plenty of moments in which a person’s true character was revealed and solidarity was able to develop. Not only solidarity, even friendships were formed; people who knew each other fairly well got to know each other profoundly. This epic trip impressed participants as well as staff and attendants equally.
In the course of the competition, the participants discovered a land with a rich patrimony and plenty of touristic sites such as the Nizwa fortress that was the residence of Oman’s sultans until the 20th century, the astounding medieval town Adam, the paradisiacal Wadi Bani Khalid with its turquoise waters, the Mutrah souk and the majestic mosque of Muscat, to name just a few examples of a touristic destination that’s full of surprises that can oftentimes lead off road. The Ash Sharqiyah desert obviously belonged to those off-road adventures with its “hotel” built of tents and stones, the camp of Arabian Nights built in the middle of the Wahiba sands where the caravan retired on the first night of the competition. The night that left behind the biggest impression of all will nevertheless be the “white party” in the white sand of Qihayd, a magical party that took place after a unique sunset in a fairylike setting.
In spite of distress and in spite of inevitable incidents that are bound to happen under such conditions, positive memories remain in the end. Thus, this first edition of the Gallops of Oman is but the beginning of a long and wonderful adventure: The organizers Bady Kebir and Benoit Perrier, his Excellency Nasser Bin Ahmed Al Kindi, his Excellency Abbas Abdulalleh Al Bahrani, the General Abdulrazak El Shahwarzi and The Minister of Tourism Ahmed Bin Nasser Al Mahrizi confirmed that the Gallops of Oman will soon be added to the agenda for 2015.
photos by Christophe Bricot)