About six weeks ago an inquiry popped up in my Facebook message box from journalist Nourhan El Kelawy, wondering if I‘d be interested in having a blog post I’d written about Oman’s ancient lost city of Sumhuram featured on the CNN Arabic website.
I think it took all of about five seconds – and a quick check to make sure the message was in fact real – to respond with an enthusiastic, “I’d be delighted!” Not only was I thrilled that Nourhan had stumbled upon my little corner of the internet, but I was incredibly honored that one of my blog posts had sparked her curiosity.
CNN Arabic, part of the CNN network, is based in Dubai and provides international and regional news and feature stories throughout the Middle East. Stories are published in Arabic and can be translated with the click of a button. From what I could tell from a perusal of the website, my visit to Sumhuram would be a good fit for the tourism section.
A Little Background
The ruins of Sumhuram, ancient capital of Arabia’s frankincense trade, are scattered throughout the Khor Rorī Archaeological Site on the coast of Salalah, Oman. Our visit was part of a shore excursion on the Regent Voyager last November, an itinerary rich with well-known places in the Middle East from Jerusalem to Luxor to Petra. Salalah, however, was a bit of a mystery to me. I remember poring over the excursion options, finally deciding that the archaeological site sounded the most intriguing. And I have to admit, the idea of an “ancient lost city” never ceases to fascinate me!
Nourhan sent me a list of questions about my experience at Sumhuram, including recommendations for making the most of a visit. She asked if I would allow CNN Arabic to publish my photos from Kohr Rorī – of course I would! – and included a release form for me to sign. It was great fun to answer the thoughtful questions and revisit a place from a trip that is still so imbedded in my spirit.
I thought about our enthusiastic guide Mohammed and the people from the cruise we shared the tour with that day. My mind traveled back to Salalah’s brown-toned Dhofar mountains, the endless drifts of sand juxtaposed against the Arabian Sea and how the landscape suddenly transformed itself into a tropical oasis when we turned off the main road. Memories of the land of frankincense and roaming camels came spilling out, all wrapped up in a never-ending smile.
A Universal Truth
I emailed my responses to Nourhan and put together descriptions of the photos she had requested. She thought the story would probably run in a week or two, but as excited as I was, I understood that it could be even longer. This was a feature story that wasn’t tied to a timeframe or an event – an “evergreen” piece, as these types of stories were referred to in journalism school. I had done my best, and I knew I had to let it go. I also knew that the story would undoubtedly run when I least expected it, a universal truth based on no scientific evidence other than the fact that life events seem to happen that way.
And true to my belief in this unwritten law of the universe, Sumhuram was far from top-of-mind when Herb and I walked into our San Francisco hotel room late at night on July 14th. Exhilarated and still buzzing from a glorious first day with our new grandson, I checked my phone before heading to bed and saw the message from Nourhan. The story was up and running on the CNN Arabic website! (It can be translated if opened on Chrome.)
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It was a thrill to see my favorite photo from Sumhuram on the front page, and I loved how Nourhan so beautifully captured the essence of what I had hoped to convey about the experience. Reading the story on CNN Arabic made the world seem a little smaller, as if I could stretch out my arms and reach all the way to Salalah in an instant. And in these times of restricted travel to faraway places, it’s a wonderful feeling to embrace the past with remembrance before we can begin to look forward once again.