Friday, April 21, 2006


Oman was amazing! Instead of describing the place and its people in another lengthy post, I decided to post some pictures with brief explanations. In general, although I was only able to spend about 5 days in Oman, I was able to get a pretty good feel of the place. And I loved it! Okay, I had some major technical problems (AHH!) placing the pictures in any sort a coherent way. Sorry. So, they are numbered with corresponding comments below.

First, a link to a map of Oman. As I describe places, feel free to check out the locations on the map. Notice Oman’s natural importance as a port, which has historically led to a population that is very accustomed to interacting with different people from all over the world. That certainly continues today.

The cornice in Muscat, the capital of Oman. Coming from Jordan, the organization of the place was truly stunning to me. There are clean roads, traffic rules, and legitimate art (with water!) in the center of the roundabouts. What?! Unlike many of the other gulf states, which have become crazy (and often awkwardly) modern places, Oman has done a uniquely superb job of combining the benefits of oil wealth with the preservation of its traditional culture. Way to go Sultan Qaboos!

One of the most interesting aspects of Oman, especially Muscat, was the number of foreign workers. Coming from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and especially Pakistan and India, foreign workers actually make up about 20% of Oman’s total population. In Muscat, it felt much higher. We spent some time talking with these folks, hearing about their lives and, of course, eating their food! In fact, just about every meal we ate was at an Indian or Pakistani restaurant, often full of Omanis customers. The degree of mixing and intercommunal tolerance was quite impressive, at least on the surface, as Omanis eat at Indian restaurants, buy Bangladeshi-made clothes, and sleep in Pakistani-run hotels. The large and absolutely beautiful Muscat market is a small picture of this mixing, lined with shop after shop of Indian saris, next to shops of the traditional black Omani dresses. Nothing makes me happier than experiencing these diverse cultural expressions living in harmony with one another! We were able to share tea with Pakistanis from Kashmir, sit in a park with Christian Sri Lankans, and eat dinner in the home of native Omanis.

Wadi Asshab, the “Grand Canyon of Oman.”

The Sultan Qaboos Mosque, the national mosque of Oman. In general, the mosques in Oman are extremely beautiful, often reflecting the architecture of Shi’a mosques in nearby Iran. The majority of Omanis are neither Sunni nor Shi’a, but a minority sect in Islam called Ibadism.

The wildlife in Oman is incredible! Aside from seeing beautiful birds, a constant supply of the always fascinating camels, ghazelles, and numerous lizards, I witnessed one of the most impressive natural phenomenon of my life. There is a beach near the city of Sur named Ra’as Al-Jinz that is a prominent landing spot for giant sea turtles, and during the summer, literally hundreds of turtles come to this beach to lay their eggs. Although we weren’t there to witness this, I can’t complain too much, as we were able to observe all sides of the turtle egg-laying process. We watched turtles wash onto the shore, crawl up the beach, and use their flippers to dig holes to lay their eggs. At another spot on the beach, we saw over 50 baby turtles popping out of the sand, literally appearing from everywhere, like insects. They had just hatched from their eggs below the sand, and they were beginning their highly precarious journey to maturity which very few will reach. Even if they escape the dangers of foxes and crabs to reach the ocean, the vast majority with be eaten or drown in the sea. Finally, and perhaps most impressively, we witnessed a giant turtle (who presumably had just laid her eggs) slowly creep from the beach back to the ocean. This absolutely enormous turtle would use its flippers to crawl three or four steps, stop and take a (loud) breather, and then continue to push forward until it finally reached its destination. It’s difficult to describe the whole scene, but it was fantastic!

The Indian Ocean. Never been there before.

A castle in Nizma, a city at the foot of the Hajar Mountains which was once the capital of Oman and remains at the center of the Ibadi faith.

The Hajar Mountains, a mountain range that dramatically reaches up from the Indian Ocean to 10,000 feet. We had a great time climbing around…that’s me in the background of the first picture. Scattered throughout these mountains, and all over Oman in general, are towers dating from the Portuguese era in the 16-17th Century.

Men in Oman are different! This was a sign for the bathrooms.

Well, I hope you enjoyed the pictures. Happy belated Easter to everyone (it's Easter today in Jordan)! By the way, I'd be interested in your opinions of my last post, about homosexuality in the Middle East. I thought I'd get more of a response.


Blogger Nate said...

Robin: great pictures - really, really good - particularly the one of you and the guy... mouth open, naturally. It just says so much. Speaking of which - does anyone there ever question your open-mouth picture practice? Or do they simply take it in stride with your being American (home of the Freedom Fry (TM)!!)?

6:41 AM


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