This post is from yesterday, but I didn’t have time to publish it because the images took too long to upload.
One really important thing I’ve learned here that I didn’t understand very well before is that a lot of things that we consider Islamic are actually traditions among Arabs in the gulf. For example, the type of clothes that Omani men wear are simply traditional rather than Islamic. It’s the same with a lot of other behaviors and ideas. Another is that no generalizations can really be made about the Middle East because the cultures within are so vastly different. Omanis wear completely different clothes than Saudis, but they are neighboring countries! And as I mentioned before, the dialects of Arabic speak can be as different as the different languages in Europe. We don’t really make generalizations about all Europeans, so it’s not possible to make generalizations about all Arabs.
Another thing that sets Oman apart is that the majority of people here are Ibadhi Muslims – they are part of a sect that formed before the Sunni and Shia sects did. As a result of this, they mostly stay outside of the Sunni-Shia conflicts and are able to remain practically unscathed. Maybe I’ll talk more about Ibadhi Islam in another blog post.
Today was another busy day. We had to be on the bus by 7:00 in order to see the animal auction at Nizwa. In case I didn’t make this clear earlier, Nizwa is a pretty big city that we’re about 30 minutes away from – there are definitely a lot more people there than in Manah.
The auction was incredible; I’d never seen anything like it in my life. Goats also make some very strange noises. Most of what was being sold were cows and goats. There were people leading goats around all over the place and through the crowd, and we were really the only Americans there. Of course the vegetarian in me felt a little upset seeing the animals treated this way, but I also understand that this is a tradition in Nizwa.
We got to look at an Omani Helwa shop, which is a famous Omani sweet made with nuts, sugar, and some other spices (so I’m not able to eat it). We had a few minutes of free time to browse the stores. I made a purchase only in Arabic! But I can’t say what I bought because I don’t want to spoil anyone’s surprise.
After spending a little bit of time looking at the shops in the Souq, we went to see the Nizwa fort. It was built in 1650 – it is where the imams ruled the interior of Oman until it came under control of the Sultanate. I’ll talk more about this later but Oman was until not to long ago two separate countries with separate governments because the mountains pretty clearly separate the coast and the interior. There were all sorts of setups for crazy traps on the way up to the main tower – four trapdoors (covered now, of course) and several holes where soldiers would have poured boiling honey or date syrup down on invaders. Yuck.
After that, we got to see another falaj and were even able to step into it a little bit. Even though it was before 12:00, it had to be at least 90 degrees outside, so putting my legs in the water was very refreshing.
After I got back, I was so tired from the heat that I’ve been in a daze for the rest of the day, and am now going to sleep because I’ll have an even busier day tomorrow!