Have truck, will fish.
MUSCAT, Oman- Truck fishing. That’s the only name for it that I can come up with. It’s pretty much what it is.
After stumbling out of the bar at the Hyatt I went for another walk down the beach. Oman is arid and dry and the beaches here are overtly refreshing — not the soggy, sticky type of the more humid stretches of the tropics. I enjoyed the sea breeze and strolled. I watched kids play tag, men play soccer, and women play gossip. I chatted with a guy up in a tree. He had a long pole and was knocking down fruit to his buddy. His buddy gave a sample of the fruit they were getting. I ate it but have no idea what it was.
I floated around looking at it all in the orange evening sun. Then I came up to a group of young guys practicing martial arts beneath a palm tree.
They had taped a pad to the tree and were punching and kicking it. They were the local badasses. I hung out with them for a while, had they do cool stuff so I could film it. They were better than I thought they would be — doing back flips and spinning cinema kicks.
Then one of them pointed to a truck that was speeding down the beach.
“You should take a picture of that,” he said.
He was right.
Why was a pickup truck driving fast down a beach full of families?
So I left the martial artists and raced down the tracks left by the truck. When I caught up it was at the other end of the beach, idling perpendicular to the surf. There was a group of young guys gathered around it. One of them had tied a rope to a tow hook on its front bumper. The rope stretched taunt way out into the waves. I could not determine what it was attached to.
“What are you doing?” I asked one of the young guys.
“Fishing,” he responded simply, as though everybody fishes like this.
“What do you mean fishing?”
All I saw at that point was a pickup truck and a rope. But then the truck roared into reverse, pulling back the rope, which one of the young guys unhooked as the truck drove forward into the waves. He reattached it and the truck went into reverse again, pulling back the net.
At the other end of the beach there was another pickup doing the same thing. Boats had previously stretched a colossal net out over the sea, covering the entire area in front of the beach. Incrementally, the trucks would move forward and backward, essentially becoming giant four wheeled winches. With each cycle they would move in a little closer to each other, pulling the net both into shore and cinched up together like a bag.
I hung out with the young guys manning the rope and took pictures. A guy in a white robe and taqiya began calling out orders. He seemed to be a supervisor so I interviewed him.
“Have you always fished like this?”
“Yes, for many, many years. We always fish like this?”
“Before we used boats. Boats that use wind.”
He then smiled a little mischievously and began calling out for a black guy from Africa to come over. “He is the one buying the fish. He sells to local restaurants and if anything is left takes it to Dubai. Take his picture,” the supervisor said with a laugh. The African had no interest in having his picture taken.
As the evening turned into night a crowd materialized — they were there for the fish. When the edges of the net first started being pulled up on the beach the scavengers dug in. They untangled fish from the net and stuffed them into plastic grocery bags. I’m not sure what the arrangement was. I did not see any money exchange hands but this doesn’t mean anything — maybe this was the social fee for the fishermen taking over the beach or maybe the scavengers were paying for the fresh fish they seized.
Eventually, the two pickups were side by side and a group of a dozen men were standing in the waist high surf around the reeled in net. I removed my boots, attached a light to my camera, and went out and joined them. One guy called out something and pulled a long barracuda from the net. It hung down from his waist to his feet and he carried it to shore separately. By now the buyers truck was here and the men pulled in the net by hand, carried it to the truck, and dumped its contents in the back.