Day 8

So the day is here… The start of Ramadan!

Unfortunately from now on, we are unable to really explore. Seeing as some places are closed, and the others are just so difficult to fully experience without one drop of water throughout the trip.

IMG_7091Ramadan is the holy month in which Muslims commemorate the revelation of the Holy Quran. They do this by fasting during the daylight hours.

With every intention of respecting this, Louise and I wear our abayas whilst venturing outside to compound.

“Out of respect non-Muslims should not eat, drink or smoke in public places, even in their cars, between sunrise and sunset”

Firstly we looked round a traditional fish market in al seeb, with lovely old men selling the fresh fish they caught that morning.

FullSizeRender-1.jpgSo we had been out of the compound, attempting to be respectful of this cultural event, for a maximum of 20 minutes… Before…

We visit a fruit and veg stall, where there are a different type of dates.. So Louise asks if we can try them and mid mouthful¬†screams at me and hits the date out of my hand… Apologising profusely!

Honestly, with food in front us… Of course we wouldn’t think about anything else ūüôĄ

During Ramadan, the whole dynamics of the country change, with rush hours on the roads being later, work hours being shorter and places being open at different times. Apparently the roads become worse.. with constant accidents, due to people being easily aggravated during their fasting.

After 40 minutes in our abayas and the heat of the day, we rushed home for some water. I honestly admire everyone that commits to the fast… it shows wonderful restraint and commitment to their religion and beliefs!

 

 

 

Day 6

With one member of the team down, we ventured for coffee with Louise’s friend who lives on a neighbouring compound. After being here for five years, she has collected¬†traditional and authentic omani decor,¬†adapting¬†their home into a¬†sophisticated and cultural abode.

I thought I would share a story about the most unlucky.. yet lucky wadi-dog! Wadi-dog is the term used for the wild dogs that live in Oman. Since arriving in Oman, I have not seen one dog on a lead.. compared to the UK where dogs are treated as a child in most families.

However, there are still plenty of dogs.. Wild dogs roaming around fish markets and outside the compounds. It is clear from being here, that in Oman… dogs are treated very differently.

In the Quran dogs are referred to as “if you attack him, he lolls out his tongue, or if you leave him alone, he (still) lolls out his tongue” (Surah 7-178).

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Habiba

This is ‘Habiba’; which translates into English as beloved. The¬†local charity;¬†Omani Paws,¬†“A group of people¬†who¬†spray, neuter and re-home these wadi-dogs”. They saved Habiba from being drowned.

She has been adopted by a lovely family. As you can see, they spoil her rotten and she lives a life of luxury. Which will carry on when they take her back to the UK with them, when they leave Oman.

Her unlucky streak began again at the age of 7 months. Whilst being a usual energetic puppy… she decided to jump over a wall that had a 30ft drop! Doing so, she broke her front leg in two places. With the family at hand, they rushed her to the closest vets. With blood pouring from her mouth, they were expecting the worst.¬†A broken leg was in some ways lucky.. seeing the severity of the accident.
Whilst arriving home, this nurturing family noticed her discomfort on her back hip. Initially, the vets believed it to be a scorpion sting.

However, it turned out to be a huge burn, accidentally inflicted by the vets during the surgery for her leg. This was due to her temperature dropping. So they applied heat packs on her hind legs, to keep her warm enough.

Luckily, she is now a few months on from her accident,¬†and is now recovering. And despite the trauma she has been through… she is still a very friendly, energetic and beautiful animal!

At a cost to the family of 600rials (approx ¬£1200)… despite everything she remains¬†a very lucky dog!

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Day 5

After our binge boozing the day before, we definitely followed with a lazy day! Nursing our serious hangovers, we relaxed by the pool and discussed the antics from the night before. Being three members of the Whyte family, of course.. there were plenty! Sophie got the most out of her last few hours of the 40 degree tanning weather, before she flew home… prepared¬†for London and the world of working?

Her flight was at 5am on Sunday morning, and despite a hangover, she still managed to finish one book and read another in three hours. I’m yet to reach chapter 3 of my book…

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Day 4

In Oman, Thursday is the new Friday, so shortly after I posted about our adventures in Muttrah, the weekend began with Kev supplying strong G&T’s from 6pm. The reason the weekend starts so early here is that their holy day is a Friday, rather than a Sunday in¬†the UK.

So forgetting to start the BBQ… we carried on drinking… resulting in Louise and I trying to be ‘down with the kids’ and crashing their pool party.¬†Anyway, explaining to Sophie how i managed to return home with soaking wet clothes, I realised how technology has changed the simplest of things. With Oli having to ask “Phone? Watch waterproof?” before pushing me in!

Having to look presentable for our bubbly brunch at the grand hyatt hotel, for 12pm the next day, was a struggle. Before the drinking began again at 2pm, we were not feeling the love for Kev!

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Bubbly Brunch @ Grand Hyatt Hotel

Bubbly bunches are put on by hotels, to allow anyone to enjoy the finest of their cultural cuisine, within the luxury of a 5 star hotel. Accompanied by alcohol, which cannot be bought or consumed anywhere outside of hotels in Oman. We paid 35 rials, which converts to £62.63, with the current exchange rate. With their not being any pubs or restaurants where alcohol can be consumed, these brunches are how the community of expats, westerners and tourists socialise.

The food was out of this world. I have not experienced quality and choices like it. I actually found it quite stressful! There was a pork room, for non muslims, which was overwhelming for the expats who have limited access to pork. And when they do, its very pricey, for example 12 richmond sausages cost them around £12, compared to £2 we would pay in Tesco.

The main course section had a salad bar, sushi, roasts, seafood – including Oysters which Sophie was brave enough to try! We had from 1-5 to enjoy this selection, very surprised we were even affected by the alcohol! Eloquently presented and tasted delicious!!BeFunky Collage_188.jpg

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The pudding section: as you can see, anything you could imagine!

 

 

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We definitely took advantage of the included alcohol, and are paying for it today!

Day 3

Today’s adventures took us to the coastal town of Mutrah, this is renowned as the old town of Muscat. The gates to Muscat used to be closed at last light and opened at first light. If you weren’t able to get through the gates in time, you would have been locked in the desert for the night with nothing. This is before Sultan Qaboos came into power.

IMG_0041The first thing I learned in Oman, is how much they value their leader; Sultan Qaboos. In 1970, he started to revolutionise the country, through changing his father’s attitude to leadership. He has been educated in a private school in England and trained in Sandhurst. And rather than holding onto their wealth, he has invested everything into the coutcry, by modernising the infrastructure. When he took over Oman, it had 3 primary schools, 10k of paved roads and 2 health centres. Today Oman is peaceful and prosperous, whilst also preserving much of the character and heritage of the country, making Oman so unique.

Anyway, as I said we visited Mutrah, where we went to the traditional souk (market). Which sells Omani and Indian artefacts, antiques, traditional textiles, hardware and jewellery. Navigating around the souk was a challenging maize of avenues, we are so lucky to have Louise who has visited many times and knew what she was doing.

As three whytes on tour, we were constantly haggling for the best deal. This may of resulted in Louise encountering a man being over friendly and Sophie accidentally revealing slightly too much. The reaction was hilarious, safe to say we got a cracking deal on that one!

IMG_2120The highlight of today: definitely when we were heading to the car after the souk and whilst being dramatic over how hot the car was… We found this adorable lady who gave Louise her child’s ice cream. Then runs into the shop to get us all an ice cream to cool down. Whilst chatting, I said how much I loved her dressing that she wears such beautiful colour rather than just black. Well… Being Omani and Muslim she literally offered us the shirt off her back, in the form of her dress!! The Omanis are incredibly generous, being English I assume they’re taking the mick.

Tomorrow will be the least cultural with us heading to an incredibly fancy hotel to get smashed; Grand Hyatt. Might make a post?!

Day 2

Following my early night, I was once again woken by the morning prayer. To which after tossing and turning, I could not fall back asleep. So I got out of bed at 5am, which isn’t ridiculously early for the Jordan family, who leave for school at 6am and work at 6:30. The days start earlier here, due to the early starts helping to avoid the heat of the day.¬†The shops are generally open from 8am-12pm, then closing for the afternoon and opening again 4pm-midnight. But school starts at 7:30am and finishes at 2pm.

After heading to the gym with Louise at 6:30am, definitely a record time for me! We headed to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, it was a great privilege to experience the extent to their religion and culture. We were incredibly lucky for a kind lady; Sister Naima; to tour us around, explaining everything in such great detail.

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The quality and detail of the architecture is overwhelming, with the Arab’s using global materials to create the most oare-inspiring buildings. Every wall within the mosque has Arabic written just under the ceiling, which translate into positive religious versus, one translating into, “God, don’t cover up my heart after you have guided me”.

The total capacity for people to prayer within the Grand Mosque is 20,000 people, with the total size being 416,000 square meters. Men and women pray separately, and they pray in lines, touching shoulder-to-shoulder. This is to demonstrate everyone being on the same level and equal in every way.

Due to women having commitments at home, they have the ability to pray at home. Whereas Men are required to pray five times a day within the mosque. This makes the size of the mens prayer room huge in comparison to the women’s, with the capacity of the men’s being 6,600 compared to 750 within the women’s prayer room.

The chandelier in the featured image weighs 8 tonne, and is 8 by 15 metres in size. It is the second largest chandelier in the world, with Dubai taking the lead. Apart from my sheer amazement at the size and beauty of the chandelier, I wondered how an earth it is maintained. The light bulbs are changed by someone being lifted up in a crane, where the side opens up to a staircase leading to each section. It has never been taken down since it was placed up there in 2001.

To top today off, Naima was incredibly generous and gifted Louise and I the prettiest of habayas. We are now very prepared¬†to be respectful during Ramadan next week. Heads up, they’re surprisingly cool, despite being black and covering the whole body. I think its the loose fit!

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Day 1

 

After a brief disruption to the start of my first night in Oman,  I finally managed to fall asleep around 3am local time only to be woken up by the morning prayer sung by the Imam (the priest). He calls to prayer when the sun rises, which at this time of the year is roughly 4.15am.

I’m going to blame the disruption and not being lazy, but I was finally woken for the day at 11am by my sister with a cup of tea. The air con gave me a false sense of confidence amind I¬†strolled onto the balcony.. To be welcomed by the sudden heat of 45 degrees and a blinding brightness!

Louise drove us around where she lives; al seeb. We went along the sea Cornish, which offered stunning views of the sea front and the crystal blue water. Also visiting a small shopping mall in ‘the wave’ which is apparently the westernised section of Oman, where English women can stroll around without the need to cover up.

We then visited Muscat City Centre. Much to my surprise it seemed extremely westernised, with every possible shop there! Unfortunately, the exchange rate is currently 0.54, so I’m basically doubling the prices in rials, which makes shopping slight pricey!!

Following this, we needed to head to a supermarket. Discovering the equivalent of a larger tesco extra, we ventured round the huge aisles and discovered food that is bought in such huge quantities.

The highlight for me being a date fanatic was visiting the date stall within the supermarket, I’ve attached a picture, but this is just fuelling my addiction. Will definitely be taking a lot home with me!

We relaxed by the pool in the afternoon, reading and still struggling in the now much reduced heat of the day, before having supper on the veranda.

10pm: exhausted and ready to snore!

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Travelling to Oman

Planning to travel to Oman has been stressful to say the least, but it’s safe to say I’ve arrived with only a few hiccups along the way.

Stress 1:

Deciding¬†to attend We R festival in Upminster the day before my flight, made planning my descent to the airport very confusing. Two weeks before, I left my car with my best friend in Kent (with my bag packed for Oman). Not remembering what I packed before, I packed a small backpack with my iPhone and iPad, and my passport… The idea of carrying such valuables to a festival was horrifying!

On arriving in Kent, I looked through my large bag to discover I had forgotten ankle socks, toothbrush, underwear and any form of long sleeved tops to cover my shoulders on arrival.

With my flight being at 10am on Bank Holiday Monday, and releasing this large mishap at 11pm the night before.. There was no option than to have an expensive start to this trip in Gatwick, visiting Victoria secret and Zara.. So much for budget travelling!!

Stress 2:

Arriving at the check in desk, to a concerned air hostess mentioning that the flight is fully booked, but that she’ll sort something… Anyway, I’m checked in… I don’t care.

Turning up at my gate to scan my boarding pass to be clearly rejected with a few red lights and beeping noises..

“Let me just to check the names match.. Oh yes, you have been upgraded to business class”

What an experience!

  • the comfiest reclining chairs
  • so much leg room/space
  • Gin & tonics on tap
  • Smoked salmon, chicken breast with chickpeas, cheese board, fruit platter

Stress 3:

Finally arriving in Muscat, where I needed to purchase a 10 day visa, which should of costed about ¬£15. Me of course worked out I need a 12 day visa, not considering that I’m in the air for a day each way. So I purchased a 30 day travel visa which was the next option.. Costing roughly ¬£45… Rookie traveller right here!

Whilet queueing to get the visa I just paid for I can’t find my boarding pass.. So a quick look at my passport & boarding pass & visa turned into a lengthy analysis of my reasons for visiting, online confirmation of flights, all with a very difficult language barrier!

I could of not of been more relieved to see my older sister waiting for me, I’d made it!