A few, a very few roadside hotspots have the power to ‘attract’ (or repulse) a traveler via smell alone. This is one. And its perfume (in comparison to Western notions of soapy, sometimes fake, cleanliness) provides a very compelling moment of NQR.
In the Musandum Penninsula of Oman, just south of the city of Khasab, we drove past a beach where local fisherman had been drying their catch, millions upon millions of small minnows. The smell from the beach was absolutely rancid, but the process itself proved to be fascinating and ingenious. It involved the close cooperation of somewhere around twenty fishermen, each with separate boats, separate nets, separate small Toyota trucks used to haul their equipment, but with one shared, central task: drying the fish. The collective activity of these men, their cooperation rather than competition, speaks to a totally different cultural expectation than our capitalism. Certainly they are all in it for profit, at some level, but the ties of kinship and mutal support that likely drive their cooperation are certainly alien to the western idea of how work ought to be performed.
The fishermen were very clever in placing their drying mats. In full sun during the height of the day for maximum drying benefit, the shadows of the nearby cliffs fell toward and then over the mats at just the same time as the sardines reached an acceptable level of dryness. This allowed the fishermen to work in the shade, a vigorous hour of activity rolling up mats, whacking fabric to dislodge stuck fishies, creating huge piles of sardines.
While, admittedly, the process employed many modern conveniences — toyotas, synthetic plastic tarps, fiberglass hulled boats with diesel engines — an element of the primordial process remained: the fish whacking sticks themselves, usually pieces of driftwood found on the beach.
If it weren’t for the smell, I might have been tempted to jump in and assist!