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!!!


1 comment:

D1Warbler said...

We had a bit of a similar situation (as to the hospitality and generosity of the Omani people) on our flight home from Salalah in 2011. I had an aisle seat, and had been visiting with a British woman as we waited for our plane at the airport. We were already seated on the same row with each other when an Omani gentleman and his wife got on the plane. He had been given the middle seat between the British woman and me and his wife had the aisle seat across from me. He asked if he could switch with me so he could be closer to her, but I refused as I have a bad knee that needs to be in the aisle if at all possible. The three of us on our side ended up talking all the way to Muscat and he realized (which the British woman did, too) through our conversation, that Jim and I had a long layover -- through the night -- in Muscat before our flight to Turkey. He offered to take us home with him and his wife, let us sleep at their house -- after which he would bring us back to the airport in time for our flight! Of course, not wanting to be such a bother, I refused the offer, but he was totally serious. In the end, he insisted I take one of the fresh coconuts he was bringing home from Salalah. The British woman and I had given him a couple of business ideas, as we talked, which I'd love to know if he ever implemented as he was a business man and owned businesses in Salalah and Muscat, but he was just so amazing that the couple you encountered in Muscat don't surprise me at all!