Category Archives: Oman

A Colombian’s View of the Middle East

Rebeca Nigrinis is a Colombian artist whose paintings are well known by their bold lines and bright colour combinations. Inspired in her Latin American background and the Middle East influence, she has developed a unique style combining the vibrancy emanating from the vivid colours of her Caribbean background, with the exotic beauty of the Middle East. Rebeca’s work has received many accolades and several awards. Please enjoy some of her artwork below, that is currently on display at the Hormuz Grand hotel in Muscat.

Nizwa Fort

The consolidation of political power and religious authority in Oman during the 1600’s produced new requirements for fortified buildings, including the lodging of the Imam.

Fulfilling this purpose, Nizwa Castle (built c1650) became the pulsing heart of the Imamate. Within its walls the Imam entertained important visitors, held public audiences and conducted the daily affairs of state.

A secret escape tunnel – the exact location of which is now lost in history – once led from the Imam’s private rooms to a safe location beyond the Castle’s outer wall.

High, crenelated curtain walls with loopholes and downward-angled arrow slits provided protection form musketeers and archers.

Castle guards wore outfits similar to the one below.

The Castle’s massive inner and outer gates were hewn from hardwood and reinforced with iron spikes.

A holding cell located between the fort and the castle made it possible for prisoners to be detained without passing through the main part of the Fort or Castle where they might learn of their defensive secrets. A jail for women was located outside the main gate.

Large quantities of dates were stored inside the castle as a defensive measure in case of a long siege. Date sacks were stacked in rows, one on top of the other. Pressed under their own weight, the dates oozed thick, honey like juice (‘asil) which was channeled into jars in the floor. Dates for everyday use were stored in a large earthenware jar (khars). Such jars had narrow necks to minimise exposure of their contents to sunlight, dust and pests.

Here are a couple more images of the interior of the fort.

The majority of the text was supplied from the different signs in and around the castle and fort.

 

Old Omani Cannon

Photographed at the restored fort in Nizwa the plaque behind it reads:

Omani 3-pounder cannon.
Early 17th Century, cast bronze.

This superb and unique cannon is almost certainly of Omani construction. It was probably cast at Sohar. With its intricate cartouches, it provides a talking point for Arabic scholars. It is mounted on a replica 19th-century Omani carriage found in a gun tower at Al Akdar.

Jebel Sifah

Sifah Marina Panorama

Sifah Marina Panorama

Down the coast, to the east of Muscat, is the resort town of Jebel Sifah. It’s a great place for a weekend, especially if you are a golf aficionado or water sports fanatic. The area is being steadily built up with accommodation, restaurants, bars and boutique shops, so you can expect this little gem to be ‘discovered’ more and more as the year goes on. Heidi and I happened to visit on the same weekend as the SifahStock 2018 Music Festival was on. Who doesn’t love 12 hours of back-to-back music 😉

Ghost in the Machine

A trip to Melbourne for a job fair in 2016 reminded us that posh western hotels, with English speaking staff, can be just as frustrating as any foreign hostel or lumpy mattress disaster.

Ok, so the room wasn’t ready. No problem, we’ve all had this experience before I’m sure. But it was after we finally completed our check-in that things went downhill

Firstly another M Green gets a key to our room. We found this out when the porter showed up to deposit his / her bags. No worries, the front desk will fix it, leave it with them.

A ‘clerical error’ means that the ‘full buffet breakfast’ on the reservation confirmation won’t be honoured. Hmmm, good thing I don’t eat breakfast and there is complimentary coffee in the room. Oh, its instant coffee. Well then its a good thing we are in Melbourne, a city known for its excellent cafes.

When we return to our room there is a letter for the other M Green and items that don’t belong to us. Sigh, back down to reception we go once again. Back and forth with the concierge in an effort to show that I am in fact a different M Green to the one they think I am. Acknowledgement leads to an upgrade with full ‘Club’ privileges, except breakfast. Oh well, a win is a win – right?

Nope. The upgrade causes our credit card to be charged twice for the stay leaving us seriously short of funds for the trip. Another frustrated adventure to reception results in a free bottle of wine, which was really nice, however the cleaner left the wine glasses soaking in our bathroom sink the next day and forgot to remove them from the room.

What else can go wrong? Stupid question. After approximately ten job interviews during the first day it became abundantly clear that I was not going to secure a job as a teacher without experience and I was not going to get experience without a job as a teacher. Classic catch 22.

Back to the room, check for other M Green’s belongings, wash wine glasses, spend remainder of the evening rewriting CV and researching management positions within the schools that are attending. One school in Dhaka, Bangladesh looks promising. Just a small problem, I need to have teaching qualifications in order to be employed.

Last day at the hotel. The other M Green has already checked out, but didn’t pay our bill 😉 Still no breakfast, but Club privileges have us enjoying a cocktail on the top floor. A lucky discussion with a gentleman from a Swiss school has encouraged me to rewrite CV once again and focus on my management skills. Six weeks later I was on a plane to Oman for a job interview.

All’s well that ends well.

Melbourne

Melbourne

24 hours in the desert – Dew, Death and Dance Steps

Early mornings in the desert show you how lively the nights must have been. Small shrubs glistened with dew drops and the footprints of various animals lined the sandy floor like a dance studio for beginners. Before the heat of the day the desert offers up a serene landscape filled with birdsong, camel grunts and a misty outlook.

Misty Sunrise

Misty Sunrise

Once the sun comes up the temperature can soar over 50 degrees Celsius in the summer time and if you cannot find shelter then your days are numbered. It is as beautiful as it is deadly.

Palm Corpse

Palm Corpse

24 hours in the desert – sleeping on the sand

Hamid is a Bedouin.  His family have lived in the desert for generations. He is one of three sons and two daughters.  His family live in the local village, breed camels and run a desert camp where people can experience some of what life is like.

Hamid welcomed us to Nomadic Desert Camp and after we stowed our things we went for a drive.  The camp is basic and beautiful.  Each hut has 2 single beds (you can push them together if you would like to), a table and small chairs outside.  Showers are at the back of the camp, work very well and surprisingly large. There is no electricity in the camp.

Before our drive we visited a camel that was resident in the camp.  And if you think Matthew was nervous, he was.

Hamid drove us to where his family’s camels are.  Camels roam freely unless rounded up.  Pregnant females are penned just prior to giving birth to help them when the time comes and also to make sure that the foal can suckle. This is Hamid’s grumpy, feisty camel who has just given birth and loves him.  Surprisingly camel hair is very soft, especially the foals – we were asked not to touch her back as it wasn’t yet fully formed. 

Camels in the Middle East have a variety of purposes – meat and milk of course, but also camel racing and beauty contents (I kid you not). 

After camels we drove further into the sand dunes to watch the sunset while Hamid built the fire.

After sunset coffee and dates are served. Right hands only are washed in a finger bowl and then dates are offered along with rich, sweet, thick Omani coffee.  Your cup is filled and refilled until you shake it to indicate you’ve had enough.

We are a mixed group from all over the planet and while we are chatting Hamid quietly excuses himself, walks to the ridge facing the sunset and prays.

Then it’s back to camp for a dinner and time to sit around the campfire in the Majlis.

Next day Hamid is up early making bread on the fire ready for breakfast.  It is served along with humous, Arabic breads, coffee and fresh camel milk still warm (from the camel Matthew met in the morning).  We took a stroll before breakfast and this is what we found.

While we were breakfasting these camels were being got ready for our camel ride – the last experience before leaving the camp.

24 hours in the desert – Wadi Bani Khalid

Ana has lived in Muscat for several years and took us into the desert for 24 hours.  First stop Wadi Bani Khalid. Drive over the mountains that frame Muscat one side (the sea is on the other) and into a valley of desert, mountains, villages and trails.

What does wadi mean? Wadi is an Arabic term traditionally referring to a valley.  Sometimes it may refer to a dry riverbed that contains water only during times of heavy rain [1]

Over the mountains and into a long stretching valley of occasional villages, scrub and mountains.  The wadi is literally in the middle of nowhere.

When we arrive, nearly 4 hours later this is what we find.  An oasis, with crystal clear water, fish that nibble your toes (free pedicure) and sweet spring water.

Wadi Bani Khalid is a beautiful place that surprises you in how large it is.  For families, there is a restaurant and large pool that is child friendly, for the more adventurous, you can hike up into wadi and choose a pool to your liking.  You will need to be sure of foot though – the trail can be narrow and uneven in places.

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Reference

[1] Wadi definition: Wikipedia Accessed 4 April 2018