The Magnificent Mosque of Muscat, Oman

After the perilous Strait of Hormuz, we safely moored in the bay of Muscat. Hannah’s father once told me that he enjoyed working in Oman during his career in petroleum overseas. He distinctly remembered that the people were down to earth and friendly. During our short experience, both of those remarks rang true and I would gladly visit again.

Outside the narrow bazaar, Hannah and I took a local taxi driver up on the offer to drive us around on a 2 hour tour for $40. The roads of Muscat looked very similar to those back home in Houston; we speculated that oil cities like to have big highway to promote driving. The city was also spotless and its mostly white buildings shown almost reflectively in the bright sun. Our first stop was the Grand Mosque.

The Grand Mosque of Muscat was incredible. Hannah carefully covered her head with a scarf she had bought in Bosnia and we proceeded into the beautiful, spacious grounds. Long, symmetrical rows of green promenade and fountains created a welcoming environment. Further inward, we slipped our shoes off and stowed them in available cubbies to enter the Ladies’ and Men’s separate mosques.

The chandelier in the Men’s was one of the biggest I have ever seen. The customary honeycombed artwork of Islamic architecture and vibrant blue colors adorned the pillars, nooks, and ceilings. Toward the end of our short tour, a mosque attendant offered for us to visit the welcome center where free tea and dates were served and the opportunity to earn more about Islam. Oman was the first country we encountered that allowed tourists to enter prayer areas of mosques, and we appreciated the welcoming atmosphere.

Our driver stopped by the Muscat Opera House with its grand sprawling marble. Our next stop took us across the city to the fortress and Al Bustan Palace. The sand colored fortress walls camouflaged perfectly with the surrounding mountains. Sultan Qaboos Bay shimmered in the sun as waves lazily lapped the dhows and cruise ship.

At 2 hours to the minute, our driver bid us farewell back at the souq. Hannah and I dived in with an open mind for a souvenir or two. Omani men, as well as several other Middle Eastern cultures, often carry a ceremonial dagger. It is called a Khanjar, and it is uniquely crafted at a sharp angle near the bottom of the blade. I purchased a cheap ornamental one, but an interesting souvenir to remember the time. Several hours later when re-boarding the cruise ship, it was confiscated by security, as we expected, to be later given back at the end of the cruise.

Hannah said this was the first place she felt a bit of the male dominated society. Men would always address me, the man, to welcome us into their store. More women wore covering garments and women shopping were usually in groups. On the other hand, women tourists (who were dressed appropriately) were welcomed in the male prayer rooms of the grand mosque which we had never seen before.


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