There is a certain cultural undercurrent that you can sense in almost every seaside community. Living next to the ocean must instill a sense of patience, and an understanding of how small we really are. The waves have a rhythm of their own, and the pace of the tides changes for no one.
Muscat, Oman, is one of those pearls. It sits on the southeastern coast of the arabian peninsula, and draws the fortunate triple of sun, mountains, and warm seas. When we (after a lengthy delay- for rain of all things!) finally arrived at the modest airport, the friendly customs and immigration officer was concerned that it was so late at night, and made sure we found a taxi to take us to our hotel. Upon leaving the airport, we noticed an immediate change in atmosphere- there was a salty ocean breeze, and courteous drivers were using turn signals!
The next two days were devoted to lounging on the beach, letting the sun melt away our stress and worries.
However, the true beauty of Muscat wasn’t apparent until we left the hotel. The Omani people were as warm and inviting as the beaches, and we were constantly amazed at their desire to share their country with us. Our tour guide, Yousuf, took us to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, which is simply amazing.
The people of Oman adore their Sultan. He had been out of the country for medical treatment, and just returned during our visit.
The streets were filled with people honking and celebrating; I never thought I’d see a woman standing up through the sunroof of a Hummer dancing- while wearing an Abaya! This brings us to the title of this post. I’m convinced that Oman is the California of the Middle East. In fact, if you turn the map just right, it even looks like California:
Muscat is right around where Santa Monica would be. The crazy people who live in communes are found towards the top of the map (Yemen/Oregon). Dubai is a few hours’ drive through the desert away, allowing Las Vegas-like escapades. Iran is like Mexico, if the drug cartels had nuclear weapons.
The mountains of Oman are a must-see. Once again, following the SUVs into the wild:
Jebel Shams is the “Grand Canyon of Oman”. I think our kids will mostly remember feeding dates to the goats.
To celebrate our successful trek through the mountains, we headed out to sea. A traditional Dhow cruise comes with a new-traditional serving of Pepsi.
To summarize the rest of the trip: souq shopping, snorkeling on a coral reef, eating a traditional Omani meal on a boat while looking for dolphins, and getting a Henna tattoo.
On that note, one of my children exhibited his lack of impulse control when my wife suggested she get a face tattoo; he immediately, enthusiastically says “that’s a great idea!”. I’m not looking forward to the teenage years..
Another great Omani moment was when our taxi driver asked if he could take a detour. I didn’t really understand what he was saying, but agreed anyway. That habit will probably get me in trouble one day, but it paid off this time. He drove us to a point above town to watch the sunset, and showed us his home and the best places to fish. The view was worth the detour:
I will never forget the beautiful people and scenery of Oman. Maybe after a month or a year it would all seem normal, but for one week every moment was worthy of a post-card.