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 Book Review: Oman: the thrillseekers’ guide

Shelley would have liked Jebel Shams. Scenery that was sublime, which inspired awe, even terror, and was beyond imitation, was the topography of choice for Romantics of the late 18th and early 19th century, and it remains popular to this day. Aside from hospitality, Oman's chief selling point for tourists is its natural, rugged beauty, an aspect of the country that is celebrated in a new book aptly titled In Search of the Sublime.

In Search of the Sublime: A journey through Oman is the work of two men, Dr Khaled Abdul Malak and Sukanti Ghosh. The text, written by Ghosh and also translated into French, accompanies Dr Khaled's evocative photographs. This book is not only a study into the extraordinary, often sublime sites round the country; it is also a tribute to a remarkable oral and maxillofacial surgeon who has hiked, climbed, swum, snorkelled and caved his way round
the sultanate.

Lebanese by birth, Dr Khaled has worked in Oman since March 1996, during which time he, his family and their adventurous friends have explored the country exhaustively. The surgeon's (and Ghosh's) keen knowledge is reflected in In Search of the Sublime: each location described in the book also features directions and GPS points, making it a great source of practical inspiration for readers keen to get out of the air-conditioning and into the wild.

The book is broadly divided into chapters that focus on particular wadis, mountains, caves and beaches that Dr Khaled has visited. The activities that he has undertaken in these places appear
to range from the extreme - the surgeon enjoys abseiling into the so-called Seventh Hole on the Selma Plateau and tackling the via ferrata in Snake Gorge - to the relatively tame (snorkelling in
the bay at the Yacht Club in Muscat). The result is that the book has something to please beginner and experienced explorers alike.

Much of the charm of In Search of the Sublime lies in the way in which Ghosh's lively text communicates Dr Khaled's enthusiasm for adventure and life itself. Of his crossing of Wadi Taab, the surgeon is quoted by Ghosh as saying, The only way out was to climb up or to climb down to a place from where we could move on. The experience was simply amazing, with the adrenaline pumping through our veins and our hearts pounding in our ears. We ended up having to do 11 abseils."

All this talk of abseiling and adventure is inspiring stuff. "And from where does he get the strength and stamina to drive six hours and then walk four hours and climb another 12 hours, only to return to Muscat and be back in office bright and sprightly the following morning?" wonders Ghosh. Where indeed. In Search of the Sublime is a rousing starting point for those eager to explore Oman's imposing landscape. In Search of the Sublime: A journey through Oman is available at bookshops including Turtles.


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