We spent today visiting Muscat, the capital of Oman. This photo, taken as we came into port, shows the arid, rugged mountains that cover the coast of Oman, making it the most alien-looking place I have ever visited. I have seen the desert in Arizona, but I had never seen desert mountains. Rarely, a brown bush grew on the mountains, which were background to almost every landscape and completely surrounded the city. Oman is a sultanate, meaning the sultan is the hereditary leader. The current sultan, Qaboos, came to power in 1970 when he ousted his father for wanting to keep things as they had always been. Consequently, the city is filled with modern buildings, all less than fifty years old. This sultan is greatly loved and appears to have done a lot for his people.
Our first stop was at The Grand Mosque. I nearly suffocated in the long sleeves, long pants, and scarf the women were required to wear. Still, it was beautiful with no expense spared. The chandelier in the men’s prayer hall, shown in the photo, is made of solid gold and crystal. According to our guide, it is the most valuable chandelier in the world. The carpet was hand woven in traditional Muslim colors and is the largest single carpet in the world. The prayer hall will accommodate over 6000 men. The more modest women’s prayer hall only accommodates a few hundred. When we asked the guide why there were so few places for women, he said that they were expected to pray at home. From the mosque we visited the Muttrah Souq. Souq means market and this one was so crowded and so full of merchandise that many of us were overwhelmed. They take any kind of money as well as credit cards. From there we visited a small museum with a collection of weaponry, jewelry, and currency. From there we stopped for a photo moment at Sultan Qaboos’ palace (the third photo). We finished with lunch and yet another museum.
Outside the museum there were multiple goat-like figures, brightly painted and all different. I asked the guide about them and he explained that these were Arabian oryxes painted by local artists for a recent festival. It was like Chicago did the cows, Cincinnati the pigs, and Lexington the horses. That was one familiar thing in a very foreign place.