my itinerary for spain: here’s what i’ve got so far…

Tags

,

Here’s my itinerary for Spain. Portugal will come soon, I hope!

in search of a thousand cafés

Tuesday, June 11:  I’ve planned my time in Spain, but, so far, I haven’t even begun to think of Portugal.  I know I better start thinking about it soon because I have to fly out of Lisbon on July 25.

Here’s my itinerary so far.

June 28-July 3: Barcelona, Spain, including Montserrat.  I’m staying at BCN Fashion House: (bcn fashion house)

I decided to skip Madrid altogether.

July 3-6:  Toledo, Spain.  I’ll be staying at La Posada de Manolo. Last summer when I was traveling in Greece, I met an inspiring South African lady, Marie-Claire.  She had come to Greece after traveling all over Europe, but especially in Spain and Portugal.  She highly recommended I stay more than one day in Toledo.  Since I have a small group tour lined up in Andalucia from July 6-12, I booked 3 days/4…

View original post 977 more words

seeking “the essence of Muscat” on a steamy 42 degree day

Tags

, ,

Friday, June 7:  Today, I meet up with Mario near the Costa Coffee at Qurum Beach.  We plan to go on a photo shoot of Muscat to capture “the essence” of the Sultanate’s capital city.

Qurum Beach is a popular area for both tourists and locals.  The little shopping center near the Intercontinental Hotel is quite a hub of activity, especially Costa Coffee, a hot spot which sits at a strategic people-watching corner overlooking the beach.

ice cream cone in front of Costa Coffee on Qurum Beach

ice cream cone in front of Costa Coffee on Qurum Beach

view of Qurum Beach from the Costa Coffee and mall terrace

view of Qurum Beach from the Costa Coffee and mall terrace

view of Qurum Beach

view of Qurum Beach

Costa Coffee, where people sit to people-watch

Costa Coffee, where people sit to people-watch

a crepe restaurant

a crepe restaurant

wall of crepe restaurant

wall of crepe restaurant

We end up capturing only a few icons of Muscat because of the extreme heat (42 degrees) and high humidity.  Getting in and out of the oven of Mario’s car and walking around blinded by salty sweat dripping into our eyes and down our backs is not a pleasant experience, but Mario keeps reminding me: “What’s the worse that can happen?  So what, we’re sweating.  That’s the worst, right?”  And so we go: starting from the east on the harbor side of Al Alam Palace and working our way west, making a stop at Muscat Gate on the way.

view toward Mutrah from Ruwi

view toward Mutrah from Ruwi

Ruwi

Ruwi

Ruwi

Ruwi

Our first stop is at Muscat Gate Museum. The museum is closed, but we walk around and over the gate.  Opened in January 2001, the museum contains displays about Oman’s history from the Neolithic times to the present. I’ve never been inside the museum, but apparently it has a number of special exhibits on Muscat’s water springs, the ancient wells, underground channels, the souqs, houses, mosques, harbors and forts (Wikipedia: Muscat Gate Museum).

Muscat Gate

Muscat Gate

Muscat Gate

Muscat Gate

marigolds at Muscat Gate

zinnias at Muscat Gate

view of the Al Riyam Incense Burner from Muscat Gate

view of the Al Riyam Incense Burner from Muscat Gate

View from Muscat Gate

View from Muscat Gate

View of watchtower from Muscat Gate

View of watchtower from Muscat Gate

historic sign about Muscat

historic sign about Muscat

minaret

minaret

Al Alam Palace is the ceremonial palace of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos.  The palace was built by Imam Sultan bin Ahmed, the 7th direct grandfather of the current Sultan.  The existing palace, which has a facade of gold and blue, was rebuilt as a royal residence in 1972.  Visitors are not allowed inside the palace, despite the fact that His Majesty normally lives elsewhere in Oman. Al Alam Palace is surrounded by the Mirani and Jalali Forts, built in the 16th century by the Portuguese.

The Palace is used for official functions and receiving distinguished visitors and in January 2012, the Sultan received Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands at Al Alam Palace during her state visit to Oman (Wikipedia: Al Alam Palace).

I’ve visited Al Alam Palace several times while in Oman, but usually we come from the center of Muscaat, which has a long colonnaded approach and is quite picturesque.  I have heard there’s a back view, from the harbor, so today we go to the harbor side for pictures.  If you want to see the front view, you can check out this post: al alam palace in muscat.

Al Alam Palace from the harbor side

Al Alam Palace from the harbor side

fort and government buildings in Muscat

fort and government buildings in Muscat

government buildings in Muscat

government buildings in Muscat

Al Alam Palace from the back gate

Al Alam Palace from the back gate

fort near Al Alam Palace

fort near Al Alam Palace

Al-Riyam Park is along the coastal road and is a leafy park with a small fun fair and an ornamental incense burner adorning a rocky crag.

Incense burner in Al Riyam Park

Incense burner in Al Riyam Park

Watchtower near Riyam Park

Watchtower near Riyam Park

Watchtower

Watchtower

Incense burner

Incense burner

Incense burner of Riyam Park

Incense burner of Riyam Park

I want to stop and photograph a small mosque I always pass on the highway between Qurum and Ruwi.  We stop but the view from the ground is much less impressive than the view from the highway, which sits above the mosque.  Too bad it’s impossible to stop along the highway for photos.

the mosque on the way from Qurum to Ruwi

the mosque on the way from Qurum to Ruwi

mosque

mosque

The Sultan Said bin Taimur Mosque (جامع السلطان سعيـد بن تيمور) was built in the memory of the father of Sultan Qaboos in 1999.  It sits off a roundabout in Al Khuwair near the Radisson Blu Hotel and the Technical College. The mosque is built in the style of Ottoman mosques which are found in Turkey. Sadly, Sultan Said bin Taimur Mosque is not open to non-Muslims.  (Oman Tripper: Muscat’s Ten Most Beautiful Mosques)

Sultan Said bin Taimur Mosque, fashioned after Istanbul's Hagia Sophia

Sultan Said bin Taimur Mosque, fashioned after Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia

Sultan Said bin Taimur Mosque

Sultan Said bin Taimur Mosque

Sultan Said bin Taimur Mosque

Sultan Said bin Taimur Mosque

Sultan Said bin Taimur Mosque

Sultan Said bin Taimur Mosque

Sultan Said bin Taimur Mosque

Sultan Said bin Taimur Mosque

Sultan Said bin Taimur Mosque

Sultan Said bin Taimur Mosque

Sultan Said bin Taimur Mosque

Sultan Said bin Taimur Mosque

flowers in a garden near Sultan Said bin Taimur Mosque

flowers in a garden near Sultan Said bin Taimur Mosque

flower garden at Sultan Said bin Taimur Mosque

flower garden at Sultan Said bin Taimur Mosque

Here’s a video of the mosque during the Friday call to prayer, with a backdrop of screeching cicadas.

Sultan Said bin Taimur Mosque

Sultan Said bin Taimur Mosque

We end the night with an Iranian meal at the Shiraz Restaurant at the Crowne Plaza, at the opposite end of Qurum Beach from where we started.  We meet our friend David, whose birthday is today, along with his friend and colleague, Janice, who’s from Marin, California.

the view of Qurum from the Crowne Plaza

the view of Qurum from the Crowne Plaza

view from the Crowne Plaza

view from the Crowne Plaza

I’m exhausted from our hot day, so I stay overnight at my favorite go-to hotel in Muscat: Safeer Suites, near Medinat Sultan Qaboos.  It’s really nice not to have to drive back home to Nizwa, as it’s a long tedious drive.  However, it’s money I certainly don’t like to spend.  Muscat hotels are not cheap. I’ve been saving like crazy for my month in Spain and Portugal and I really don’t want to part with any money in Oman unless absolutely necessary.  🙂

weekly photo challenge: the sign says

Tags

,

Saturday, June 1: This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is The Sign Says.

Signs. Funny, poignant, symbolic, incorrect, informative, foreshadowing…there are so many signs in the world.

Like so many signs translated from another language into English, I can’t help but wonder if this one was done by Google Translator.  This sign is at the entrance to the village of Misfat Al Abriyyen in Oman.

I don't know who translated this sign into English, but it's a mess!

I don’t know who translated this sign into English, but it’s a mess!

the ruins and gardens of adam

Tags

,

Saturday, June 1:  This morning, Mario takes his friend Sultan and me to see the extensive ruins in Adam, about 40 km south of Nizwa in Ad Dakhiliyah region.  I am surprised to see such an extensive array of ruins, and to see that they are actually being restored.

the first of three huge sets of ruins in Adam

the first of three huge sets of ruins in Adam

one of many painted metal doors in the ruins of Adam

one of many painted metal doors in the ruins of Adam

We take a long stroll through ancient forts, citadels and towers, mosques and deserted traditional souqs, all surrounded by beautiful gardens of date palms, pomegranates, apricots, figs, bananas and numerous other fruit trees.  Today is about 40 degrees C (104 F) and unusually high humidity for the interior, so we are sweating profusely.  I drink a bottle of water; despite this, my head is pounding.  We make a short detour to the local market for Panadol.  This is not a strenuous hike, mind you, but even a leisurely stroll is taxing in this heat.

ruins and gardens in Adam

ruins and gardens in Adam

arches and gardens

arches and gardens

The history of the Wilayat of Adam dates back to pre-Islamic times. Adam has several meanings in Arabic but most likely means “fertile land.” The most notable places are Harrat Al Ain, Harrat al Bousaid, Harrat Al Hawashim & Harrat Bani Shiban, where several archeological sites have been found, and Harr Al Jamii, which is more recent.    About 13,000 people live in sixty villages around Adam. (Wikipedia: Adam, Oman)

Click on any photo in the gallery below for a full-sized slide show.

When Mario visited Adam last weekend, he got a tour of the ruins from a local Omani man who told him about the restoration project.  A large section of the ruins, where we find many painted rooms, has been restored already.  The government seems to be using mud bricks for the restoration, which is same construction material as the original buildings.

mud bricks lined up for the restoration project

mud bricks lined up for the restoration project

Apparently, in March of 2012, a meeting was held between the Ministry of Heritage and Culture (MoHC) and the Ministry of Tourism on restoration and management plans for Al Jame village in Adam and Al Bilad in Manah, where intensive restoration work is going on.  Other members of the committee included the Ministry of Housing, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources and the Supreme Committee for Town Planning. (Muscat Daily: Restoration of historical sites to be discussed at MoHC meeting).

It’s obvious to us as we walk around how expensive this project must be.  We have visited so many ruins throughout Oman that are in various stages of disintegration, so Mario and I are both pleased to see the government restoring these amazing ruins.  At least these villages can increase local employment and make some money off these tourist sites.  Mario also thinks the ruins could be used in movie sets.

Click on any of the images below for a full-sized slide show.

This project is just one example of the amazing things Sultan Qaboos has done in this country to bring its people into the modern world.  The list is extensive: excellent roads, hospitals, schools and universities, a huge airport that is currently under construction, desalination plants, dams and recharge dams, and too many other projects to count.  As I have a Master’s degree in International Commerce and Policy, the focus of which is economic development, and as I have traveled extensively all over the world and seen many places where the governments do NOT take care of their people, I have to salute the visionary Sultan and his government for a comprehensive development plan in the midst of a very harsh environment.

painted room and ceiling

painted room and ceiling with Quranic verses at the top perimeter of the walls

We’re exhausted from our 2 hour stroll through these ruins in the heat, so we go to the New Firq Restaurant for an early lunch. On our way, I ask Sultan when he started wearing glasses, as I’ve never seen him wearing them before.  Mario says, “Show her your glasses.”  He doesn’t take them off, but I say to him what I suspected all along: “Don’t tell me those glasses don’t have lenses in them!”  Sultan shows me how the frames broke and the lenses fell out.  I ask why he is still wearing them.  I am reminded of Korean boys who often wore frames without lenses, and I thought that was silly.  Sultan says, “Don’t they make me look stylish?”  I say, “They make you look like you’re trying too hard.”  Mario says, “I said the same thing to him!”

Sometimes, great minds think alike….. 🙂

Mario and Sultan at the New Firq Restaurant

Mario and Sultan at the New Firq Restaurant

cbbh photo challenge: knobs & knockers

Tags

, ,

Thursday, May 30: Marianne of East of Málaga …. and more! has given us a challenge for the month of May to find pictures of knobs and knockers.  She writes:

Forget bells and intercoms – this month’s CBBH Photo Challenge is all about decorative door furniture, to make an entrance look perfect.

Of course, the purpose of a door knocker is to let the householder know there is someone at the door, but at some point in history they took on shape and symbolic meaning. I’ve seen protective dogs and lions, honorary wreaths, severed hands, mythological references to Medusa and Cleopatra, as well as elegant and ornate displays of wealth in polished brass.

I’ve taken many pictures of Omani doors in the 20+ months I’ve been here, and I’ve noticed that most of them don’t have knockers at all.  It seems Omani doors are all about safety and security.  Instead of knobs and knockers, they all seem to have metal bars, locks, spikes, and chains.  I could hardly find a knob or knocker anywhere in my collection.  I feel this tells a lot about Omani culture, much like the watchtowers that adorn every hill throughout the country.  It’s all about protection, keeping things under lock and key, keeping intruders out.

metal bar and lock on a metal door in Yanqul, Oman

metal bar and lock on a metal door in Yanqul, Oman

knockers on a door in the Ibra ruins, Oman

knockers on a door in the Ibra ruins, Oman

a lock and chain on a door in the ruins of Ibra's old souq

a lock and chain on a door in the ruins of Ibra’s old souq

more locks and bars in Ibra

more locks and bars in Ibra

Lock, bar and spiky deterrents at Nakhal Fort, Oman

Lock, bar and spiky deterrents at Nakhal Fort, Oman

Lock, bar and spikes at Nakhal Fort, Oman

Lock, bar and spikes at Nakhal Fort, Oman

Surprisingly, I found the same kinds of bars and locks in Nepal.

locks and bars in Bhaktapur, Nepal

locks and bars in Bhaktapur, Nepal

Marianne asks that we introduce two bloggers in this challenge.  I’d like to introduce Heather of artist. hippie. cali chic.  Heather has a serious case of wanderlust.  She’s traveled a lot in the past, but is now trying to save money to pay off her student loans.  So instead of traveling now, she’s doing the responsible thing and saving money.  That doesn’t stop her from dreaming of travel.  She describes herself thus: I am an artist/graphic designer/huge Audrey Hepburn fan and self-proclaimed giant hippie with a hopeless case of wanderlust living in Southern California.

I’d also like to introduce Lynne of On the Go with Lynne and her husband, photographer Ron Mayhew, of Ron Mayhew’s Blog. (All right, I know that’s two more, but they’re a husband and wife, so I want to include them together!)

Lynne writes of herself:

Wherever I am, I have learned to appreciate the moment.
To draw inspiration from the experience.
To write about the journey and not just the destination.

And to have fun…while I can still bend over to pick up a shell
And to cast without tangling my line.

Ron describes himself thus: Having been a professional wood sculptor  for over twenty years he has developed an eye for composition.  It’s  this artistic  background which has helped Ron achieve recognition regionally and internationally in photo competitions.  His photography is beautiful.

I especially love reading about their joint trip to Havana, Cuba.  Ron’s photos and Lynne’s stories are fascinating and capture a culture that few Americans get to experience.

 

caracalla dance theatre: “kan ya ma kan” at the royal opera house muscat

Tags

, ,

Tuesday, May 28:  This afternoon my friend Kathy invites me at the last-minute to go to The Royal Opera House Muscat (ROHM) to see an amazing show put on by a Lebanese company, Caracalla Dance Theatre.  The show, called Kan Ya Ma Kan, (Once Upon a Time) is filled with music, energetic dancing, and colorful exotic costumes.  Sadly, no one is ever allowed to take photos of performances at the Royal Opera House, so I’m unable to show the dazzling and exotic costumes and sets that made this performance so stunning.

Kathy had originally planned to go with someone else who cancelled on her.  I had made no plans to attend any more shows at the Royal Opera House before I left Oman, so it was a lovely surprise and an amazing farewell to the Arab world.

Royal Opera House Muscat

Royal Opera House Muscat

Kan Ya Man Kan is a trilogy that features old Arab tales and folklore, told through dance — choreographed by Alissar Caracalla — and some narration, combined with European music performed by the Armenian State Opera and Ballet Theatre Symphony Orchestra (Times of Oman: Arabian tales to be told at ROHM).  According to the program, the orchestra was conducted by Maestro Mohamad Reza Aligholi and blended with the melodies of oriental instruments.

The Royal Opera House from the garden

The Royal Opera House from the garden

The first part used Russian composer Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s music Sheherazade and focused on King Shahryar.  Based on One Thousand and One Nights, this orchestral work combines two features typical of Russian music and of Rimsky-Korsakov in particular: dazzling, colorful orchestration and an interest in the East (Wikipedia: Scheherazade (Rimsky-Korsakov)).

It then moved to Maurice Ravel’s music Bolero. The story was about a cunning wizard in an oriental market.  This is my favorite part of the performance with its traditional Arab souq as a backdrop and exotic costumes in jewel tones of purple, royal blue, fuchsia, turquoise and pink.  The costumes were stunningly made in mixtures of silks, chiffons, satins and velvets in mixed patterns, giving them a gypsy-like and bohemian feel.  The dancing in this part was so amazingly choreographed that I just sat in awe of the colorful extravaganza.

flowering tree in front of the Royal Opera House Muscat

Plumeria (aka Frangipani) in front of the Royal Opera House Muscat

The third and final part used traditional Arabic Heritage music and explored the cultures of the Arab world, including a tribute to Oman.  The guest star singer for this part was Hoda Haddad, sister of the famous and widely respected Lebanese singer Nouhad Wadi Haddad, known as Fairuz.  During Ms. Haddad’s songs, flashes of Oman’s famous landmarks (Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Al Alam Palace, Nakhal Fort, and many others) appeared on the screen behind, bringing enthusiastic applause from the audience.Royal Opera House Muscat

Royal Opera House Muscat

This production was adapted from the original, which premiered last summer in Lebanon, to fit the ROHM and was inspired by the building itself, explained Ivan. “This is like the first opening because the show changed. It’s inspired by the architecture of the opera house. It’s tailor-made for Oman,” said Ivan (Times of Oman: Arabian tales to be told at ROHM).

Royal Opera House from the gardens

Royal Opera House from the gardens

According to Times of Oman, Caracalla Dance Theatre is based on the concept of fusing Eastern and Western traditions. Its founder, Abdel-Halim Caracalla, studied under the American dance legend Martha Graham, so the choreography is more international, as are some of the music choices. The music, however, has been adapted to include traditional Arab instruments like the oud, kanun, Arab percussion, and ney (Times of Oman: Arabian tales to be told at ROHM).

Royal Opera House Muscat

Royal Opera House Muscat

According to the performance details on the ROHM website:  Ivan and Alissar maintain the cultural message of the Caracalla Theatre by transforming the Arab Heritage into an international art form with its dominant presence in the world of dance theatre.

Alissar is the founder of Studio Caracalla “L’Art de la Danse” and of the “Orientalist Dance Company”. She brings an innovative spirit to the unique Caracalla technique, to become the flame of present and future of the Arabic culture with her creative style in choreography, to amalgam the expression of the east and west in a unique dance style based on the Martha Graham technique.

Inside Royal Opera House Muscat

Inside Royal Opera House Muscat

This outstanding performance includes the guest participation of leading acting and singing stars of Lebanon including Hoda Haddad, Joseph Azar, Rifaat Torbey, Gabriel Yammine, Simon Obeid, and Toni Aad (ROHM: Performance Details).

leaving the Royal Opera House after the performance

leaving the Royal Opera House after the performance

Much of the performance harkened back to the days of Sultans and harems, and some of the sets made me think of Topkapı Palace, a large palace in Istanbul, Turkey, that was the primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans for approximately 400 years (1465-1856) of their 624-year reign (Wikipedia: Topkapı Palace).

The performance made me wonder what happened to the exotic and sensual Arabian world of old, which today, at least in Oman and other Gulf countries, has been turned into a cloistered world of white dishdashas and black abayas.

travel theme: pathways

Tags

, , , , ,

Sunday, May 26:  Ailsa’s Travel Theme this week is Pathways.  I’ve seen many beautiful pathways in my travels around the world.

Path of Bamboo in Arashiyama, near Kyoto, Japan

Path of Bamboo in Arashiyama, near Kyoto, Japan

path through Ihlara Canyon in Cappadocia, Turkey

path through Ihlara Canyon in Cappadocia, Turkey

path through Suncheon Bay Ecological Park in South Korea

path through Suncheon Bay Ecological Park in South Korea

snow-covered path through Gongju, South Korea

snow-covered path through Gongju, South Korea

Many people use the aflaf in Oman as pathways to walk on.  This one is at Wadi Bani Khalid in Oman.

Many people use the aflaj in Oman as pathways. This one is at Wadi Bani Khalid in Oman.

Pathway of enlightenment ~ leading to a Buddhist temple in Pokhara, Nepal

Pathway of enlightenment ~ leading to a Buddhist temple in Pokhara, Nepal

a pathway along a farmer's field in Pokhara, Nepal

a pathway along a farmer’s field in Pokhara, Nepal

pathway through Little Petra in Jordan

pathway through Little Petra in Jordan

weekly photo challenge: in the background

Tags

, , ,

Saturday, May 25:  Friday’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is In the Background: The places that we pass through day after day, or even once in a lifetime, leave in their small way, echoes and traces of themselves upon us. But so often when taking self portraits or pictures of friends, the places themselves become a soft blurred mush of indistinct semi-nothingness, the limelight stolen by our smiling faces. In today’s challenge, let’s turn the tables. Take a picture of yourself or someone else as a shadow, a reflection, or a lesser part of a scene, making the background, or — as in the example above — the foreground, the center of attention.

I’m not sure I really “get this” challenge, but here are a couple of attempts.  Adam, with his mouth watering, is the blurry background with the tofu sandwich as the center of attention.

there's Adam, all blurry in the background, mouth watering  over his vegan sandwich

there’s Adam, all blurry in the background, mouth watering over his vegan sandwich

In this one, taken at the Sahab Hotel on Jebel Akhdar, the blurry background of the Sahab is shown upside down and in the foreground, in the glass of wine.

The Sahab Hotel in the background, but again in the foreground, upside down in the wine glass

The Sahab Hotel in the background, and again in the foreground, upside down in the glass of beer

Alex is behind the glass, so covered completely, but you can see his face in the foreground in the wine glass

Alex is in the background, covered completely by the glass, but you can see his face in the foreground in the glass of beer

And finally, in this picture of a vintage shop window in Carytown, Richmond, Virginia, it’s hard to tell the background from the foreground.

Vintage Shop window in Richmond, Virginia

Vintage Shop window in Richmond, Virginia

And finally, in Dubai, UAE, the Burj al Arab in a mirror, though we’re still in the foreground!

Us in the mirror with the Burj Al Arab in the background

Us in the mirror with the Burj Al Arab in the background

a stroll through al qasha on jebel akhdar & a farewell to old friends

Tags

, ,

Friday, May 24:  Today I go up to Jebel Akhdar with my oldest friends, Anna, Kathy and Mario, for a farewell gathering.  Anna is leaving the university at the end of July, a month after me, and Kathy is going on vacation in a couple of weeks.  Mario will still be here for a while, but, regrettably, we will be leaving him behind as we vacate the premises.

the view of the escarpment from Wadi Al Ayn

the view from Wadi Al Ayn of the escarpment above

Spina christi

Spina Christi

flowering bushes

flowering bushes

lovely flowers

lovely flowers

flowers

flowers

the path down into the wadi

the path down into the wadi

delicate white flower

delicate white flower

pomegranate flowers

pomegranate flowers

baby pomegranate

baby pomegranate

pomegranate buds

pomegranate buds

I’m thinking it will be the same old stroll we always do, along the villages of rose garden fame.  Anna, however, has other ideas.  She wants to drive past Diana Point down into Wadi al Ayn, park the car and walk through the village of Al Qasha.   Although I like the hikes we always do on the Green Mountain, I am surprised to find a new place to discover as I begin my last month in the Sultanate.

looking up the wadi to Al Qasha

looking up the wadi to Al Qasha

terraces with pomegranate trees

terraces with pomegranate trees

the falaj to Al Qasha

the falaj to Al Qasha

flowering wild bushes

flowering wild bushes

more flowering bushes

more flowering bushes

a little pool ~ possibly the source of the spring?

a little pool ~ possibly the source of the spring?

“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”                         ~ Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Kathy and Anna

Kathy and Anna

me

me

You and I will meet again, When we’re least expecting it, One day in some far off place, I will recognize your face, I won’t say goodbye my friend, For you and I will meet again.  ~ Tom Petty

Kathy

Kathy

little swimmer

little swimmer

We only intend to do an hour stroll, and that’s exactly what we do.  We descend a rocky path down into the wadi, where we see terraces of pomegranate trees.  We can look up to the escarpment above where the rose gardens and the three villages of Al Aqr, Al Ayn, and A’Sheragah are situated.  It’s strange to see the escarpment from below when I’ve always been up at the top looking down.  We see some beautiful wild flowering bushes, blooming pomegranate trees, and terraces fringed by fuzzy trees.  Eventually we climb up on the falaj and walk along that until we reach a little pool where the spring seems to originate.  Frogs are swimming in the pond.  Other frogs are croaking out a symphony of sorts from a pool deeper in the wadi.   A giant lizard lies placidly in the sun; Mario tells us he’s dead.

pomegranate flower

pomegranate flower

We make our way back to our car and drive up to the Sahab Hotel for their buffet dinner.

appetizers at the buffet

appetizers at the buffet

appetizers and a little donkey friend

appetizers and a little donkey friend

our table setting

our table setting

an Omani door made into a coffee table at the Sahab

an Omani door made into a coffee table at the Sahab

During dinner, we share tales of dreams, premonitions and ghosts.  Mario doesn’t believe in ghosts, but he’s dreamt of people with whom he’s fallen out of touch, only to find they die within the next week or so.  Kathy feels there is a presence of some sort in her flat in Oman.  Anna has dreamt of carpets, cars and strange evil men, all of which (or whom) have shown up on her doorstep matching the dream images.  I can’t say I’ve had any of these types of encounters, but I’m open-minded enough to believe there very well might be a different reality than what most of us know.

Strawberry mousse desserts

Strawberry mousse desserts

chocolate mousse desserts

chocolate mousse desserts

Mario's plate

Mario’s plate

Mario, Anna and Kathy

Mario, Anna and Kathy

“I’ll never see them again. I know that. And they know that. And knowing this, we say farewell.” ~ Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

 

friday meditation: my top ten happy memories in the sultanate

Tags

, ,

Friday, Mary 24: I will carry to America hundreds of wonderful memories of my time here in the Sultanate of Oman.  There are too many to put into one blog post, as I have written over 475 posts during my 20+ months here.  As part of my fond farewell to Oman, here are my top 10 happy memories.

1.  On April 19, 2012, Mario, his Omani friend Sultan and I went on a mis-adventure to Wadi Damm.  It was shortly after a big rainfall and we had to cross about 10 fast-flowing wadis.  It was a foolish exploit, because many people get killed every year in flooding wadis; it rains so rarely here that most of the time the wadis are bone dry and people don’t realize how dangerous they are.  For us on this day, it was a grand & somewhat dangerous adventure.  We laughed a lot and then ended up at my house drinking wine and enjoying the night away ~ high jinks all around.  (an attempted trip to wadi damm ~ foiled by raging wadis)

one of the raging wadis on the way to Ibri

one of the raging wadis on the way to Ibri

2. On April 26, 2012, two of my friends, Kathy and Tom, and I ventured across the Hajar Mountains in Oman.  We drove over a treacherous dirt road along the edges of steep mountains through Wadi Bani Awf toward an idyllic little village called Balad Sayt.  In order to get to this beautiful village, we had to clamber through a pool-filled canyon to emerge on the other side in an open bowl surrounded by mountains.  The village with all its lush green plantations sits in the middle of this bowl.  Kathy made the mistake of abandoning her shoes beside one of the pools in the canyon.  When she came out on the Balad Sayt side, she struggled mightily to walk over the burning gravelly path up to the village. She devised several methods to protect her feet, using discarded pieces of rotten wood which she tossed ahead of her one step at a time; this painstaking method didn’t work too well.  She finally tied some flexible bark around her feet with old twine.  I know it wasn’t too funny for Kathy, but Tom and I never laughed so hard in our lives! (52 pick up: success (aka overcoming adversity))

Kathy and her bark and twine makeshift shoes ~ at Balad Sayt, Oman

Kathy and her bark and twine makeshift shoes ~ at Balad Sayt, Oman

3. On March 28, 2013, Mario and I went up to Jebel Akhdar to see the roses.  The year before, we had tried to see the roses but had come too late.  This time, we were able to breathe in the sweet fragrance and take lovely photos of the pink blossoms.  We had a lovely time walking through the rose gardens and then having wine and dinner at the Sahab Hotel after (the roses of jebel akdhar & a lovely encounter with an irish couple).  We repeated similar amazing experiences on Jebel Akhdar so many other times, I can’t even count them all.

Roses on Jebel Akhdar

Roses on Jebel Akhdar

Everyone who reads my blog knows that my favorite place in Oman is Jebel Akhdar.  Each time I went up the “Green Mountain,” I had different memorable experiences that I’ll carry in my heart always.  Here are a couple more of my favorite times.

4) On May 11, 2012, Mario and I went hiking on Jebel Akhdar in search of the roses, but we were too late to see them.  However, we had one of many great conversations throughout the course of our friendship.  After our hike, he invited me to come over and share lime-flavored white corn TOSTITOS® tortilla chips (a rare find in Oman), apricot & almond cheese, cheddar cheese and a bottle of wine.  We sat in his air-conditioned living room and talked about the tribal society of Oman and the confining rules under which a tribe must live, a conversation I call “escaping the tribe.”  Sometimes I think I should write a book titled “Conversations with Mario.” (searching for roses on jebel akhdar & a conversation about escaping the “tribe”)

Ruins at Wadi Bani Habib on Jebel Akhdar

Ruins at Wadi Bani Habib on Jebel Akhdar

5) On January 13, 2012, my sons came to visit me in Oman, and all of us loved our excursion into the watery cave at Wadi Shab (cliff-jumping in the hidden caves of wadi shab).  Stunningly beautiful.

The entrance to the pools at Wadi Shab that you must swim through to get to the cave

The entrance to the pools at Wadi Shab that you must swim through to get to the cave

6) On April 11, 2013, Mario and I went to explore Wadi Bani Kharous.  Not only did we explore the multitudes of picturesque villages in that wadi, but we experienced some great Omani hospitality along the way. (a trip to wadi bani kharous)

Omani hospitality at Wadi Bani Kharous

Omani hospitality at Wadi Bani Kharous

7) On Tuesday, February 21, 2013 Mario and I went on a huge road trip, where we explored Wadi Dayqah Dam, among other places, and ended up in Wadi Arbiyyin on the east coast of Oman.  Then we headed to Muscat and had a sushi buffet.  It was the road trip to beat all road trips, and perfectly lovely, except for the gunshots that scared us out of our wits. (wadi arbiyyin >> quriyat >> sushi in muscat. {the road trip: part 3})

Wadi Arbiyyin on the east coast of Oman

Wadi Arbiyyin on the east coast of Oman

8)  When I first arrived in Oman, I coudn’t find anyone who wanted to go exploring Oman on the first National Holiday, so I went by myself. I had a great time at Al Areesh Desert Camp meeting random people and listening & dancing to the Bedouin music. (national holiday chapter 3: sharqiya sands & al-areesh desert camp)

Bedouin singers at Al Areesh Desert Camp

Bedouin singers at Al Areesh Desert Camp

9)  When I went to Jordan over the 2011 Eid, I met an Italian guy, Guido, who came to visit me in Oman in December.  We had a great time going to Wadi Tiwi on his visit here on December 2, 2011. (cathy takes guido to wadis tiwi & shab…and up the coast to muscat)

Exploring Wadi Tiwi with Guido

Exploring Wadi Tiwi with Guido

10) The first time I went to Nakhal Fort, had lunch with an Omani family, then drove through Wadi Mistal to Wekan was simply magical. (nakhal fort, lunch with an omani family & a wild drive up wadi mistal)

My first magical time in Wekan

My first magical time in Wekan

I’ve been to some of these places many times, and each time was wonderfully special.  I’ve picked my favorites based on a feeling of peace and contentment I experienced during those specific times.

My time here in Oman is coming to a close.  I am ready to leave, but I will carry many happy memories with me. 🙂