We flew into Muscat, the capital of Oman, from Dubai and since it was a Friday, we just lazed around the Grand Hyatt Hotel where we stayed. Muscat has always been an important trading port between the east and the west and was ruled by various indigenous tribes as well as foreigners such as the Portugese and the Persians throughout its history. My first impression was that the city is very neat and uniform probably because of its strict building regulations. Omanis are generally laid-back and open-minded and most of them speak English. Alcohol is served at the hotels where expats and some locals hang out. Non-Muslim women don’t need to wear a headscarf except when visitng the Sultan Qaboos Mosque, however more conservative clothing is still advised when walking around town. Omani women generally wear a hijab to cover their hair and an abaya which is a long, most often black, cloak. Most Omani men wear the dishdasha robe, usually in white with a tassle at the neck to be dipped in perfume, and a kumma cap. We took a walk along the waterfront outside Muttrah Souk on our first night and almost all the people there were men. It is very common for local men to stare and in the evenings, there are very few women on the streets. The staring was a bit uncomfortable at first but then you get used to it. None of the men approached us so we still felt relatively safe.
The following day we visited the highlights of Muscat such as the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, the Corniche, Muscat Old Town, and of course Muttrah Souk. Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is the third largest mosque in the world. Built from 300,000 tonnes of Indian sandstone over 6 years, the mosque can hold up to 20,000 worshippers. A major feature here is the world’s second largest single piece of carpet covering the floor of the prayer hall of 4,343 square meters. It took 400 weavers 4 years to complete. The crystal chandelier above the prayer hall is also one of the biggest in the world at 8 tonnes and 14 meters tall. There is an information center here with knowledgeable staff explaining the religion as well as the culture and traditions of Oman and the rest of the Arab World. Stop by for some dates and coffee and a brief introduction. My friend also picked up a free translation of the Quran here.
In addition to the famous Muttrah Souk, we also stopped by the local fish market. Muttrah Souk which translates to Market of Shades is the oldest souk in Oman. The souk is an intricate labyrinth of stalls and shops selling any and everything you can think of.
Stayed tuned for my next post on Nizwa, Oman.
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