Friday, August 28, 2009

Oman! Poor Man in the Gulf

This is horribly late, but serves as a little recap of our trip. Mostly pictures and a few words.

We booked a short one week trip to Oman to visit Grant, Mel's friend from yoga class. We've always wanted to visit, and his offer of fine company, fine food and wine and free accommodation was to good to pass up!

Oman is the poorest country in the Gulf region and that's precisely it's charm. No soaring scrapers, massive malls or construction cranes crowd the landscape. In fact, no building is over 5 stories. The air is clean and the harbor uncrowded, and those dramatic soaring mountains divide and separate the city into little "pockets".

Downtown Muscat

Along the main cornice of Muscat proper are a row of quaint wooden portuguese houses,
all whitewashed and crisp!

We spent the better part of one day at the Sultan Qaboos Mosque, the largest and grandest mosque in Oman. We were warned beforehand that we'd have to cover carefully and even wear socks (!) to cover our infidel feet.

Infidel feet! (And yes, my sister and I are searing the same shoes.)

This is one of the nicest mosques I've ever been in, and by now, I've been in a few. To be very honest the inside was "meh" but it was the outside that held our attention. For hours. In the blazing heat. The reason were these niches around the outside.

Each niche is covered in tiles in the style of all the other Muslim countries of the world. India, Pakistan, Egypt, Iran and Spain were my favorites.

Detail of an Indian Niche

Detail of a Pakistani Niche

So a word about heat. Muscat's heat is beyond anything I've felt in Egypt, Syria, S.E. Asia, the UAE or anywhere else for that matter. It's burning. It makes you unable to see straight. It beats down relentlessly and even standing in the shade offers no respite.

As Mel and I plodded from one building to another in the blistering heat, I was reminded of the lyrics by Noel Coward that my neighbor Mike used to sing:

At twelve noon the natives swoon, 
and no further work is done -
But Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.

The Sultan himself!

Grant, ever the gracious host, took us to the Muscat Souk one night after the sun went down. Small little alleyways, densely packed, it was all we've come to expect from souks. Mel and I bought Omani silver pedants here, and today mine remains my favorite souvenir from the whole summer!

Sparkly Pajama Store

Omani Clinique Counter!

Mel and Grant wandering through the streets of the souk. Probably discussing plans to visit Nizwa Oasis on the weekend.... Stay tuned, more pictures on the way!


  1. What? No Egypt, Iran and Spain snippets?

  2. Horribly late? Ha, I think I beat you in that department. Great pictures - love the mosque.