On the Way to and from Nepal II

Oman

 

Nancy’s illness cut our stay in Oman and limited our travels to the regional around Muscat (the capital).

 

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.

 

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The Corniche of Mutrah

 

Old Muscat 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.

 

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Part 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.

 

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Nizwa’s Fort

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Historical Interpretation Panels in Nizwa’s Fort

 

Jabrin, too, has a restored fort—this more detailed in architecture.

 

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Jabrin Castle

 

Oman 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 and Sharjah.

 

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.

 

EMAIL ME: bardecki@ryerson.ca