March 29, 2014

Welcome to Salalah (Oct 2011)

Next stop: SALALAH. Ok, isn't that a great word?! Great tongue twister if you try to say it 5 times. Have I mentioned that we did 17 flights on this trip. We got to be such pros. However this  flight was not one without mishaps.

We discovered that most of the flights wouldn't allow us to sit together- I think due to the amount of air masks that were available should cabin pressure drop. At first this seemed inconvenient (remember I was still nursing Reid and coach seats are soooo close together- that's even if the person sitting next to you isn't an ultra conservative man believing that seeing a woman's wrist or ankle is too provocative) but it was handy in ways to both be on aisle seats and have easy access to stand up to get something out of your baggage, or head to the bathrooms, or even just walk/rock a baby. The nice man sitting next to Varian actually offered me his seat, but due to their airline rules we explained that they had to have us on different seat sections.

So Reid and I were pretty happy in our seats as you can see, but Jaren and Varian had a bit of a different story. I wish I had gotten a better "before and after" picture of the nice man all dressed in his white sheik robes.

Varian said he was super nice and was patient with Jaren and let him play with his watch...etc. Then came snack time - a muffin and bottle of thick mango juice...du-du-dummm. I think I gave Varian a skeptical glance as I saw him open it up with Jaren on his lap, and then I'm not sure exactly what happened next. But for some reason I was standing up and holding Reid when I looked over to see a LAKE of mango juice pooling on the white lap of that man sitting next to them. Oh my heavens, it was awful. I set Reid down in the airplane's bassinet and frantically pulled out some wipes and napkins and offered it to him. Varian and I were mortified. I think he took things from us to wipe himself down but mostly just didn't talk and silently declined needing any help.

He then got up and went to the bathroom to try and get that sweet sticky orange slime off his beautiful white robe. He took it really well. He was nice when he came back and seemed to accept our profuse apologies with only mild exasperation. The airline steward came and brought him some present/package for his inconvenience at sitting next to the babies and all seemed forgiven. It was pretty embarrassing. I'm sure he was inwardly cursing us for not switching seats after all.

This is a shot Warren took of this Arabian baby and Reid. I wish he had gotten more of the mother, I don't even think her face was showing, just her eyes. You can see she's even wearing black gloves. There we were from different sides of the world with different cultures and traditions, but nonetheless two mom's traveling with young babies.The other photo is just one of many fruit stands on the side of the road that we passed.
We arrived without further ado, picked up our entourage of white rental cars and drove to the Arabian Sea Villages Hotel. It was literally beach front property- those are our cars parked on the sand. We were given this giant sized family room to sleep in. We laid Reid down on a mattress on the floor, and blocked off a corner by the window with sofas for Jaren to sleep in. He did much better at night if he could be semi-contained. I imagine it's our own fault for not letting our kids sleep in our beds. There's no way our boys could handle it, they'd be jumping all over us. But it's a low price to pay to be inconvenienced on trips, but have every other night of the year with your kids getting an independent night sleep and you getting your own space and time together as a couple. :)

Warren was our tour guide (I will put a link to his website in the next post) and gathered the group together for instructions for heading off for the day (also in the next post).

The next day we were up for a nice hot breakfast and then time for a swim before our day's adventures (again- saving those shots for later).

While we were playing on the beach some of Sultan's guard came riding by. I wish I would have taken a picture of the women that would come out at dusk in their burkas and sit on the beach. It was strange how few women you would see. They'd be hiding away all day and then emerge at night in small groups, all shrouded and mysterious. I asked one lady that I got to know why the women didn't come out during the day (vampires?) and she said that they let the men go out to "work" when it's hot and they, the women, would rather wait till it gets cool. I'm adding the "work" finger quotes as a lot of men we saw seemed to more just be sitting around chatting. But I don't mean that as in I'm implying they're a lazy culture. I didn't really get the sense that they were lazy, more just that there were a lot of older laid back men shooting the breeze and that the women were oddly sequestered.

Varian got this shot the next morning as we saw the sun rise. It was beautiful, and yes you can quote the footprints poem in your head if you like. Below is one I took of Lani and Cameron watching the sunrise together.

The staff there were lovely and it was a great place to stay. I would highly recommend it if ever you find yourself wanting to travel to Salalah. Ah, Salalah. I could say that word again and again. The next posts will show you some of the things we did there.


March 26, 2014

Muscat, Oman part 2- Zahar and Rahoma (Oct 2011)

Walking back from the mosque, we stopped at this restaurant for lunch. We tried to enter main door where I was quickly ushered to my own segregated entrance. I asked in surprise if I couldn't eat in the main section because I was a woman. He was from India I think, and said he didn't mind but that the culture here expected segregation. Remember that I've come thinking that women are oppressed and have just been to see the Grand Mosque where women are very much segregated, and I did feel a bit critical of the arrangement. I talked to him about it and he told me that they do it so that women will feel more comfortable not being looked at by all the single men in the main restaurant area.

The next people we talked to however, totally softened my heart. This couple (Rahoma and Zahar) became our dear friends for the day. Varian walked over and told them how this was our first day in Oman and what would they recommend we order. They proceed to tell us what is nice and then offered for us to try their food. It was fun to start talking to them but I felt a little embarrassed by their offer saying surely they didn't want us to eat their food. "No problem, no problem," they said again and again and insisted we eat right off their plates to see if we liked it. Again talk about friendliness. Can you imagine someone else offering you that the next time you head to Chilis or Costa Vida? (Ah, ok two restaurants I am missing right now!)

Rahoma then asked to hold Reid and we continued to visit with them. They were so nice and were sad to hear that we only had one day to spend in Muscat and insisted that they drive us around for the day. Again we were a bit surprised at their generosity and didn't want to put them out. Also Varian is the more paranoid one of the two of us and was a bit hesitant to commit- just wondering what their motives were...etc. But they insisted and seemed so friendly and we accepted.

They were about to leave but said they would pick us up from our hotel after our lunch (Varian's worry- they'd take us out for the day and arrange their friends to come rob us- not because they seemed shady, but because he was just thinking through all scenarios and making sure he kept us safe.) After we left the waiter told us that they had already paid for our meal. My heart feels so touched even now thinking about it.

Here's a picture of the narrowest elevator in the world, and my jet-lagged Jaren throwing a fit that he couldn't go up the stairs like Daddy. So when we got to our floor I let him climb up a few to appease him. I can't remember if we arranged enough time to let the boys get a sleep or if we just went straight out with our new Omanian friends.

They picked us up and were truly just interested in helping us see the sights for the day. They took us to the Corniche - which I've had to google the word to make sure I'm using it right. It's a road on the side of the cliff or mountain. We walked along this road by the ocean and stopped at a Souk (market) and did some bartering. I love markets but I frankly don't really like to barter. I tried to barter for this amazing blue scarf (not that wearing baby blankets on my head for these holy places wasn't fun). The stall owner would go down on the other scarves but now the one I wanted so I did the walking away trick- only to discover that Zahar went and bought it for me. :} Again I can't even say enough how nice these friends were!

We stopped for some fruit shakes. Oh my heavens we could not get enough of all the fresh fruit shakes while we were there!

It turns out our friend Zahar was this high government official and luckily chose to spend his day off playing tour guide. But because of his job he had security clearance to take us to places normal tourists wouldn't be able to see. He drove us all around and showed us various points of interest. Below is the Al Alam Palace (ceremonial palace for the Sultan Qaboos)


He carried my bags, they took us shopping, we got to know each other and asked them questions about the country and life there. I was fascinated with her scarf and cover and what it was like always having to wear one. It was fun getting to know locals and get a better sense of life there. He took us to the Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa where the Sutlan apparently goes. It is a 7-star resort, I didn't even know there could be 7 stars. It was amazing! (I didn't actually upload a lot of pictures of the hotel itself, but google it and you'll see how pretty it is!)

They were lovely. They kept buying us figs and tarts and treats throughout the day. They were going to take us out to dinner but Varian (possibly still a little reluctant) thought we should get back to the hotel and get the boys an early night.

I got some random person off the street to take a picture of us when they dropped us off. The first one they took I'm totally cut out of the picture. At least this one we're all in the frame.


I love these shots of them though. What great people! We were back in time to watch the sunset on our balcony. What a great way to begin our Middle-East adventure!!!