Today we did a tour called Mystical Muscat, recommended by one of the destination staff, Nancy, who lived here for 6 months.
Our guide was Abraham and he spoke almost perfect English. They take English from first grade on.
All education through university is free as is health care. They don’t pay any taxes at all, crime is low and each Omani gets a 600 meter piece of land to build a house on if they wish to. While this is the most conservative country for dress for women (sleeves to wrist, pants to ankle and hair covered), they are more liberal in other ways- women can drive, hold jobs, serve in the military, etc. Local women are all covered, sometimes their whole face.
Here is a shot of us with my head scarf.
It was 101° today, not the best day to be so covered up, but cover I must! Not the men though. And of course there were 2 women who came with capris or short sleeve shirts in spite of repeated instructions, both written and verbal. The one with the capris got a loan of long socks from someone and the one with short sleeves had to wrap her arms in scarves. You just can’t enter the mosque otherwise, they are serious about this.
Muscat is the capital of Oman and its largest city. We visited the Sultan Qaboos Mosque which was completed in 2001. It holds 20,000 people in total. Women and men pray separately, the women’s section holds 700 and the much grander men’s section holds 8000 with the rest of the capacity in surrounding rooms. You must take your shoes off to enter.
The mosque is quite spectacular with Persian rugs that are made in one piece for the huge room and chandeliers that pictures can’t do justice to.
After our visit to the mosque, we put our shoes on, took our scarves off and went to the Muttrah Souk , a huge market that winds around in many small alleys, it is a place that the local people shop and there are also lots of tourists there.
We were intrigued that so many similar shops can survive, and we loved the spice shops and the ones selling fabric and decorative pieces for sewing clothing.
Our last visit was to the Bait Al Zubair museum. It was a beautiful private collection of traditional Oman clothing, weapons, maps, household items, jewelry, etc. They have a replica of an old home, a village and colorful goats representing those found in the country. We couldn’t take pictures inside but this is some of what we saw in the outside exhibits.
We then drove by the palace on our way back to the ship. The Sultan doesn’t actually live there, but it is the official place of government.
We also saw his yacht in the harbor near our ship. Quite impressive!That is a locally made wooden boat in the foreground.
We have an invitation to dine with the captain this evening. Looking forward to that.