March 25, 2014

Muscat part 1, Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque (Oct 2011)

Oh my heavens it's time to get back into blogging. This is the farthest behind I have ever been, but still I feel compelled to stay in chronological order, so here goes. We flew out of Beijing and arrived in Dubai, UAE. I was nervous. It felt so unsettling to be "in the Middle East" (said with a sinister tone of voice). If I had picked our travel site- it would have been to Europe. The Middle East brought to mind terrorists and abusive men mistreating women. I questioned how safe we would be and how we'd be treated. Growing up my mom rented way too many movies of women and children being oppressed and cruelty in those countries, not to mention how in the last decade or two, Hollywood has moved on from Russians and Germans being the bad guys in the movies to Middle Eastern terrorists. Their portrayals have added to this negative perception. But in saying that this trip was such an eye-opener to that wonderful world and culture. The Muslim people were so kind and generous to us. Their hospitality far exceeded that of anything I expected or that you can typically find in Western cultures.


At the airport one of our babies started crying and we were ushered through to a different line where a man kind of ushered me to the side and talked to Varian. I wasn't sure quite where to go and didn't want to go to far away. At the time I didn't know if he was trying to get rid of the women/children, or if he was being kind and allowing me to go through to help the boys and not be stuck in line. (Looking back on the whole thing I definitely believe the latter.)

We got through all the securities and began the semi-dodgy part of our plans. We took a taxi to a street corner where Chad remembered from past travels he could catch another taxi to drive us over the border to Oman. But it worked. I don't know what time it was but it was late at night and totally dark and it would take hours to get there. But luckily we found two drivers who would take us and off we went driving overnight through several guard posts and the border crossing till we got to our hotel/apartment. It was lovely.

We made a little bed and put Jaren in the kitchen, which with jet lag and all that open space didn't work that well. Hard to convince babies it's the middle of the night when their body clocks are telling them otherwise. I wanted to include a picture of the bathroom to show how on the wall is the toilet paper roll for the Westerners, and the hose for the Middle-Easterners. Goo! :} Often the bathrooms would just have a pitcher of water next to the toilet for your "wiping" needs and so we'd be careful to always bring tissues with us into the bathrooms. Let's just say that once I discovered I had no tissues with me. Well, when in Rome...

This was the view from the balcony outside our window. It was gorgeous! That building in the horizon is the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, which we went to the next morning.

Here are some shots of the mosque in person. Women had to have their head's covered, hence the baby wrap on my head. :) It was a beautiful place. Shockingly clean and shiny, considering what a dusty desert place the area was.


Hopefully some of these images capture the beauty of the building and gardens. If only the following photos could give a true sense of the splendor of the chandelier in the main musalla (males-only prayer hall). It was absolutely stunning. I have a thing for chandeliers and this was perhaps the most breathtaking one I had ever seen- it was just so huge!


Now the feminist in me  can't help but be a bit disgruntled at then comparing that huge magnificent hall to that of the female prayer hall:


It would be hard to pray there with an open heart knowing you were excluded from the masterpiece room due to gender. But maybe it helps the women to be humble and Allah hears their prayers better; still sad though. 


Our boys  enjoyed a nice little nap. We brought this double stroller all over 6 countries- this was just the beginning. We couldn't always bring it with us, but it sure was nice to give them a nap and give our arms and shoulders a break from carrying them and all our bags.

We had a lovely time visiting the mosque. Here's another daytime shot of it from our hotel balcony.  We only had this one full day in Muscat before we were on to Salalah to rendezvous with the rest of the Aston family. The rest of the day's photos and stories I'll save for the next post.

1 comment:

D1Warbler said...

So lovely to look back on this amazing trip. What hotel were you in in Muscat? It was much nicer than ours -- at least than our room -- if it was the same hotel! I loved the mosque, too. I had much better memories of it in 2011 than I did in 2008 when I was actually suffering from Cholera picked up in Jerusalem the day we visited it!!! (Those hoses and I got very familiar with each other in 2008 in the woman's rest room with all the LOVELY slot toilets and nary a single western commode!!! (Slot toilets are the only thing I really dislike about Asia and the Middle East. The person who invented them should be shot!)