On the Way to and from Nepal
Nancy’s illness cut our stay in Oman and limited our travels to the
regional around Muscat
The city is so spread out that in some
sense there’s no better location than another to stay for general access—it’s a
taxi ride or long walk to anywhere. We
spent much of our time hanging out along the corniche in the district of Mutrah
and nearby Old Muscat. The souq in Mutrah has a chaotic appeal, but
sitting in an outdoor café over shwarma
and fruit juices was about as energetic as was necessary to spend an enjoyable
few mid-day hours.
Corniche of Mutrah
is the original walled city. The
strategic port is protected by a pair of forts (al Jalali and al Mirani) and
the Sultan’s Palace sits at the head of the harbour.
of the Sultan’s Palace and al-Jalali Fort
The only long distance we travelled was a
day trip to Nizwa and Jabrin.
We picked up a kilogram of dates in Nizwa’s
souq—most of them ended up in morning
porridge on the trek in Nepal. Nizwa’s 17th century fort has been
wonderfully restored—as have many of the historic buildings we saw in Muscat and
elsewhere. The level and detail of
interpretation in Oman’s
museums and historic sites is at a uniformly high level—as a collection, the
best I think I’ve ever seen.
Interpretation Panels in Nizwa’s Fort
Jabrin, too, has a restored fort—this more
detailed in architecture.
doesn’t have the same extent of oil reserves that underlie the UAE. One result is that the social structure seems
a bit more egalitarian. There are middle
class Omanis driving taxis and working in tourism and retail—and complaining
about taxes. Guest workers are not as
ubiquitous as in Dubai
Before the trip, I had gone to the Toronto
Public Library’s periodic sales of unwanted donations and remaindered books and
picked up an old paperback copy of Wilfred Thesiger’s Arabian Sands—unaware of the book’s contents or importance. Thesiger was among the first Westerners who
ventured into the Arabia’s Empty
Quarter and Oman’s
interior—and this in the late 1940s. It
was remarkable being in Oman and reading his accounts of being “the Christian”,
of ongoing Bedouin raids and tribal disputes, the threats that forced him to
avoid Nizwa—all while in the modern nation that Oman is today. Even as late as 1970 Oman had no
schools beyond the primary level and the country was essentially cut off from the
West. Not until 1987 were visa
restrictions eased to allow for tourism.
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