Well, this is going to be a long post. For some reason I no longer have internet in my room, so it took a while for me to get all of these photos uploaded, but here I am now.
Have you ever spoken with someone who didn’t understand English well, had them not understand something, and you just repeated the same thing more loudly? I’d like to say I haven’t done that, but I think I’m guilty. It’s a pretty weird thing to go through, and it’s happened to me a couple times. Some of the words can wind up being pretty hard to figure out as very few sound anything like their corresponding English words.
Last weekend, I had an exhausting but fun trip to Muscat, the capital of Oman. It’s where we arrived on the first day, but we didn’t really spend any time there. We started Friday (I’m not sure if I mentioned this previously, but Friday and Saturday make up the weekend here: Sunday is the first weekday). We got up and were on the bus by 7:30 in the morning, and our first stop was the Royal Opera House. Sultan Qaboos is a huge fan of classical European music – and that was very clear to me after our visit there. Everything was polished, ornate, and decorated. The lighting was weird in the actual theater area so unfortunately I don’t have any good pictures from there.
We went to the Muscat Grand Mall after that, which wasn’t very interesting because it had mostly Americanized stores. The only stores I would have wanted to visit were closed.
We had some free time to hang out in the hotel in the afternoon, then we went to the Matrah Souq in the evening. It was a sprawling market with several shops where one could buy just about anything. Honestly I didn’t even get to see that much of it, as two hours really wasn’t enough. I went with one of our supervisors from the college, Malik, to try to buy a dishdasha, but I just decided that I would wait until later. I don’t have any pictures from the Souq, but Khalil has a funny video of me trying to barter with someone that I’ll most likely be able to post in the next few days. Hopefully I’ll be able to go back and actually buy a few things before I head back home.
Some of us went to a Shisha Cafe later at night, which was fun because I spoke with an Egyptian guy there who was very impressed with my Arabic. Before I left I just said “I’m a crazy foreigner, I don’t speak Arabic well”, which he thought was pretty entertaining (transliterated Arabic: “Ana ajnabi majnoon, la atakallam al-‘Arabiyya jayyidan!”).
That concluded day 1 in Muscat. Day 2 was the intense one.
We began Saturday at 8:30 with a visit to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. Honestly, I was as impressed visiting it as I was visiting the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. It’s very pretty on the outside, and it’s really hard to fathom how big the main hall is inside. I’m certain that my family’s house at home could fit in the center comfortably as my pictures don’t really capture the size. The women’s prayer hall is far smaller and less ornate than the men’s – our guide gave us an interesting reason for that which I can explain if you ask me but that I’m not going to write here.
After that, we went to a museum in Muscat. I wasn’t able to take pictures but I learned some interesting things about Omani clothing and traditions.
After that, we had my favorite part of the trip – a boat ride and snorkeling trip in the Oman Sea of the coast of Muscat! I saw a lot of cool creatures that I’d never seen before, like some cool rainbow fish, a pufferfish and live coral. My favorite creature I saw though, was a cuttlefish. That was totally surreal. I’d seen cuttlefish before on T.V., but I never realized how weird they really are. It wasn’t flashing like they usually are in videos, but it was camouflaged with the coral, which was just as cool.
One weird thing was that I got very seasick one the way out and back from the cove where we swam. I’ve never gotten seasick before, even in a smaller boat blasting across the Great Slave Lake or on a larger cruise ship in the Aegean Sea.
My favorite thing that afternoon though was probably overcoming my fear of heights to some degree. The video doesn’t do it justice, but I jumped off the top of the boat into the water, which was probably about a two story jump. Of course plenty of others did it without hesitation, but I was proud of myself either way. I did it twice.
We were all very tired by the time we got back to shore, but we still had one more stop planned: Sultan Qaboos’s Grand Palace in Muscat! We were only able to look at it from behind a fence, of course.
Even after that, we still had a two-hour bus ride back to our Guest House in Manah. Needless to say, I’m still tired from the weekend!