Friday, 7 March 2014

Checking in from Oman

Well it seems like only a few days have passed, but in reality it is now March. Where did the time go?

So what has been happening you may well ask. We took the opportunity, in showing guests around, to visit old favourites and new places as well. I have now lost count of the number of times Wadi Fanja has been conquered by the Chevy and we have now been clued in to some desert dunes around an hour from home, rather than the 2 and a half for the big desert. All good for showing people around and giving them a bit of most things Oman has to offer.

Traditional boat building in Sur

Coffee at the Festival
And of course the Muscat Festival was on through much of February so, just the thing for guests. Think I went four times this year? just to show guests around and give them an opportunity to sample a wider range of crafts and traditions of Oman. Michelle and Kazzia both went home with a wonderful BBQ basting paste and an Omani Marsala spice mix. Mind you the Marsala mix being presented in spice layers, rather than mixed may make it a little tempting to just put away and bring out to tease guests.
"Xander" Meet beach!

Until a couple of weeks ago we had a constant flow of guests. That's now come to an end for this season and we are not expecting any more house guests for some months. In all we had visits from Katrina's sister Liz, our son Robert (BJ), Robin and Jeremy (who I missed, being away with work), Michelle and finally Kazzia and 10month old Alexander, and not to forget a work visit from SP (at the WCO). So our spare room now goes back to its normal unoccupied state.

For me after the Christmas/New Year break to Jordan it has been back to the grindstone, leaving Katrina to play mine host. From all reports everyone had a fun time in Oman. At this time of year it is rather idyllic, mid winter with overnight lows in the high teens and days low twenties has been just fabulous. But we know summer is fast coming and the 40++ days that entails.
Dancing at the Muscat Festival

Highlights of the past few months include the traditional boat yard in Sur (250k's away) that was fun clambering around the boats under construction. If I was more of a woodworker or a seaman at all it would have been "outstanding"! (if anyone wants pictures........... just ask)
The coast from up high

Vultures soar above the Hajar Mountains

Bahla Fort
We crossed the Hajar mountains a couple of times, got reacquainted with Nakhal Fort and got to see Bahla Fort (well more castle in both cases). Nakhal is rather quite nice and the rooms are laid out with some furnishings. Bahla on the other hand could do with some decoration, it is huge, still not finished and it would be interesting to know what parts date to which era's, as it was clearly built and added to over centuries. It justifiably wears a World Heritage plaque, but unfortunately that seems to be almost the only descriptive plaque in the castle at large.

As we get out and about more and more we are regularly seeing abandoned and decaying strongholds, houses and in some cases villages. When we have the time, we stop and have a look around as these can be fascinating places. But it would be nice to see more evidence of these historical/legacy places being shown more care and attention before they degrade completely.That's not to say there aren't significant places under preservation already.
Abandoned Village

One of the constant frustrations in Oman is the lack of decent tourist information. There is a lot to see and do here, but very little accessible information about just what is available and when it is open. There is also a lack of descriptive information once you are somewhere. One of the few exceptions to this is the Bait Al Zubhair Museum, which we take most of our guests to. There would be a good living here for someone that could come in and deal with this........

Sheesh a Smurf!
Our efforts in starting Brooke P's money box collection around 18 months ago have borne fruit, in that she now has more than 60 of them, so if anyone wants to please feel free to add to her (in)voluntary collection. I am sure that Ms Brooke will be most "appreciative" of your efforts on her behalf. We have a few here waiting postage..... The reason for bringing this up is that Michelle's visit coincided with a Smurf infestation of our house. Coincidence - I THINK NOT! But we did detect Brooke's "subtle" hand in this. (Katrina loathes Smurf's with a passion). As Smurfs are found a pogrom is enacted and, well, incidents happen. Anyone who has seen my recent facebook posts will have been witness to how we deal with Smurfs! Although we have since had regular Smurf sightings while out and about, including a recent Sheesha smoking Smurf - what next intravenous drug use Smurf????

Anyway to finish off, last weekend we went to Doha, Qatar simply to see what's there. The answer is a kind of miniature Dubai, but on a human scale, with the "Dubai" quarter confined to a relatively small part of the city. And at least in Doha the landmark/signature sky scrapers all seem to be reasonably original in concept.

We flew in to Doha late Thursday night and back to Muscat on the Saturday evening. Would have been a great weekend away, but for a bug/virus that struck on Saturday. Sigh spent the entirety of Saturday asleep in bed or shuttling to and from the little room. Fun for no-one! It wasn't until quite close to flight time that we were sure I was well enough to travel home - thankfully only an hour and a half flight.

So what's in Doha - well apart from the ubiquitous malls, the Museum of Islamic art and Souq Waqif are the two things we got to see. The souq is fun and quite different to Muttrah Souq here. This one is largely recently built, but in "traditional style". In consequence there is room to move around it is well laid out and includes a restaurant strip, making it quite a vibrant place and experience.
Indian wool carpet 16c
Quite a lot of thought has been put into this and it fits in well with the corniche area that includes the aforesaid museum, the (mostly tourism) Dhow harbour and public park areas. All in all a really nice use of the bay area.

11c Spanish ivory pen box detail
Illuminated Quran 13c Baghdad

The museum of Islamic Art was simply fabulous. We have to go back because we saw less than a quarter of the main collection. Sigh  What we saw was simply wonderful. Well laid out in display cases and in many instances viewable through 360 degrees. Carpets, architectural pieces, homewares and the list goes on...... So of course a picture or two is in order.

And finally our garden is now in full bloom, wonderful stuff, I'm off to smell the flowers.

Flowering succulent

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