Tuesday, April 26, 2016

GE 2016: Desert ramblings from Oman




Greetings from Oman.  I do not always love the Middle Eastern leg. The cities are very new and often do not have a ton of history or charm. But I totally enjoyed the last 2 days in Oman ... Or at least I enjoyed most of the leg, after we got passed the first 4 hours of frustration. For this leg we were allowed to rent a car and it became immediately clear that a rental car was a necessity if we wanted to do well. But getting a rental car was MUCH harder than it seemed. We took taxis to 4 different rental car places all over the city - wasting almost 3 hours - and came up empty.  Plus we needed two cars as there are 8 of us altogether, which doubled the problem. Just as we were about to give up, we scored two cars but by then we'd lost a lot of time... and points. 

We tried to get back on track with a visit to the main Souk or market: colorful and interesting. 



Then a great meal with Chris and Chloe at Khargeen's, a garden restaurant. It was like an oasis of hip and calm in a day of frustration. We ordered a whole series of dishes recommended by the waiter and the food was incredible. 



Plus - of course - we had to partake of the "hubbly bubbly."



Next up was a sunset cruise on a wooden dhow boat down the Muscat coast. Relaxing and we ran into an Egyptian ex-pat on the boat who helped us plan the next day by calling a bunch of places for us and reserving a sand dune ride. 






We had decided to go to the opera house to watch a jazz musician as our final scavenge of the day but then we instead asked (OK... We begged in our best pleading voices) our taxi driver if we could come to his house for dinner. That was a 200 point bonus. And a totally out-of-your-comfort-zone request.  We fully expected him to politely say no, but instead he called up his second wife (who he said was nicer than his first wife) and told her he was bringing over guests. For the next 2 hours we sat in his living room and talked and talked to Mohamed, his brother-in-law and 3 of his 8 kids. We never got to meet his wife but she cooked up omelets, french fries, a lamb curry dish and warm pita.  



Mohamed's English was great so I asked him probably a hundred questions about Oman, being born and raised in Muscat, how we met his wives (they are both cousins of his, they were both 17-18 when he married them, the second wife is from Pakistan and he never met her - or even saw her - before the wedding but Mohamed's sister told him she was beautiful and that was all that he cared about), some of the practices of Islam and the history of the Sultan (a truly beloved leader of Oman who is 76 and no one knows if he is married, has multiple wives or any heirs ... Can you imagine? The world knows if Obama buys toothpaste but this leader's private life is a complete mystery). It was fascinating and Mohamed is a gifted - although somewhat long winded - storyteller and he was willing to openly discuss anything. No subject was off limits. For example he introduced us to his brother in law and detailed how his sister and husband have been married for 6 years but have no children because the brother in law drinks too much vodka in his room. And yes, the brother in law was walking around with a half bottle of vodka, even though it is illegal in Oman for Muslims to buy or drink alcohol.

How cute is Mohamed's baby daughter?



The next day we were up and out of the hotel by 5:30AM.  First up was a fish market. Yikes. What a smell. But fascinating.



There was a fish auction where the auctioneer shoves a stick into a particular fish or group of fish tied together with string ... and that tells the crowd what is on the auction block.  Then the bidding begins.  And once the round concludes, he flips the fish to a side for the highest bidder to collect.



Then it was off to the Nakhal Fort, which looks just like a sand castle.







A quick dip in the nearby natural hot springs



And a long ride to Washiba Sands where we headed into the desert on 4X4 Jeeps for sand dune dashing and camel rides.





We ended the Oman leg with a stroll along the Muscat corniche (or boardwalk) at sunset.



The leg ended at 9:00PM and we found out then that we had a 2AM check-out of the hotel for our flights through Abu Dhabi to Nairobi, Kenya.  As I write this, we are now in Kenya (a new country for me - YAY).  The leg opens tomorrow... so stay tuned for chronicles of our adventures here in Africa.

5 comments:

Derek Maingot said...

Uncle Gary (Dad's brother) lived and worked in Oman for years and absolutely loved it... :-)

Good luck in Africa... when you get back we'll talk about the rumors about the Sultan of Oman!

april said...

I have no doubt that y'all will crush this leg. have fun! be careful (some sort of mother hormone compels me to type that)! xo

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