Saturday, 7 January 2012

Christmas in Oman

I had missed Sultan Qaboos' Grand Mosque when in Oman last time, about 7 years ago. We visited the marvellous mosque, which has been finished only in 2001, on Christmas Eve. It now harbors the world's second largest hand-woven carpet and chandelier (after those in Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan mosque in Abu Dhabi which has been installed only in 2010). The mosque in Oman features architectural gems and recalls, at the same time, Cairo's Ibn Tulun and Esfahan's Shah mosque, the Timurid floral and Arabesque tiles in its Friday mosque, Safavid muqarnas, Persian weaving art and a Paradise garden. 

On Christmas Day, we attended the mass in the Protestant Church in Ghala, at only a couple of hundred meters distant from the Grand Mosque (although heavy construction work would have made it impossible to walk). I was not really prepared to meet an evangelizing Christian there who expressed her hope and good wishes for us to find the way back to salvation, only after having admitted that I wasn't too much religious and mentioning that evangelizing Omanis appears to be kind of weird. Indeed, I suppose that evangelizing Christians are only tolerated on the Arabian Peninsula by highly tolerant, friendly and peaceful Omanis. 

Monday, 2 January 2012

Toward Misfah

What can you do in Oman when you have just a couple of days? We were lucky that Ahmad, a fisherman from beautiful Sur and cousin of a friend, promised to drive us to Nizwa. Friday market with cattle and goat on sale. Many tourists and generally no collectible souvenirs. We had lunch in a restaurant only with separate rooms for families.


We then went to Misfah, a small village in the mountains with spectacular views into canyon-like wadis with subtropical (actually tropical!) vegetation. The road to Al-Hamra and Misfah offers spectacular view at Oman's highest mountain, Jebel Shams (3009 m).

Ahmed Saleh Al Araimi may be hired as guide also for longer tours by emailing him:

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Royal Opera House Muscat

A couple of weeks before the opening ceremony, I stumbled over the brand new Opera House in Muscat on the internet. The program included Turandot, Carmen and, well Pjotr Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. When it was dead-easy to purchase tickets online, I planned to spend Christmas once more in the Middle East. The performance of the world class Mariinsky Ballet on opening night was marvelous, and so was the opera house in Al Qurum.