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.
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.
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.
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 
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.
 Wadi definition: Wikipedia Accessed 4 April 2018
According to Wikipedia, in 1992 His Royal Highness Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said held a competition to design and build a Grand Mosque. Construction took six years to complete and the result is a stunning reflection of Islamic architecture.
The mosque occupies an area of approximately 416,000 square metres and can accommodate up to 20,000 worshipers within the grounds.
Hanging within the dome is the former Guinness world record holding 14 metre high Swarovski crystal chandelier that weighs a staggering 8.5 tonnes. It took four years to build and, until recently, was the largest chandelier in the world.
Underneath the 600,000+ glittering Swarovski crystals is arguably the second biggest hand-woven carpet in the world comprising 1,700 million knots and weighing 21 tonnes. Apparently it took 600 Iranian women 4 years to make. The size and scale of this rug made it hard to photograph properly.
There are sixteen smaller chandeliers lining the edges of the main prayer hall.The mosaic pattern of the Mihrab (below) deserved a closer inspection however the crowds on the day of our visit just would not allow this to happen. Built in the traditional semi-circular way the Mihrab indicates the direction of Mecca and hence the direction that worshipers should face when praying.
Buildings and walls surrounding the main prayer hall were inspired by traditional Omani fort architecture and incorporate verses of the Quran into the design.
Many of the internal walls have small niche’s like the one below that incorporate the Islamic motifs of other cultures. This one reflects ‘a contemporary interpretation of the patterns and designs which flourished during the reign of Tamerlane (1336-1405 AD) ruler of Central Asia’.
There are also fine marble ablution rooms for men and women.
Within the grounds are five minarets that symbolise the five pillars of Islam being Shahada (faith), Salat (prayer), Zakat (charity), Sawm (fasting) and Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca). The four smaller minarets occupy the corners of the mosque and a larger central one located adjacent to the dome.
The height of the central minaret (below) reaches 91.5m and has a 10.9 metre square base. From here the call to prayer is broadcast over the city six times a day.
Non-Muslims are welcome to visit the Grand Mosque between 8:00am and 11:00am any day other than Friday and it is definitely worth a visit. Please dress conservatively though out of respect for your hosts. Men should wear long trousers and have their shoulders covered, whilst women should have a covered head and arms, with either long trousers or a long skirt.
If you are unable to visit the Grand Mosque please feel free to check out the 360 degree virtual tour provided by the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque official website.
This incredible building is called the Muhammad Al Ameen Mosque and is situated just off 23rd July Street in the district of Bausher, near our home.
Named after the Prophet Muhammed it was privately financed to the cost of 40million Omani rials and bears the third largest carpet in the world costing around US$4million to weave.
The mosque was opened in 2014 by Sheikh Ahmed bin Hamad al Khalili the Grand Mufti of the Sultanate of Oman. Here’s a closer look at the intricate designs in the domes and spires.
The mosque covers an area approximately 20,000sqm in size and caters for a maximum of 2,100 worshippers at any one time and there is a library spread across two floors so as to accommodate the 12,000+ volumes of Islamic literature.
For women there is an area of 450sqm to allow up to 570 female worshippers to attend prayers at any one time.
Day or night, it is an amazingly beautiful piece of Omani architecture.
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and begins after the night that the crescent of the new moon is sighted. This can vary by a day or two amongst Muslim nations and this year Oman’s Moon Sighting Main Committee, led by Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Salmi the Minister of Awqaf and Religious Affairs, announced that Ramadan in Oman would officially began on the 7th June.
Ramadan is a time to reflect and re-evaluate our lives. It’s the time to be mindful, work on our strengths, and overcome our weaknesses. The fast involves not only abstaining from food and drink, but also from sins like dishonesty, cruel words, pride, and over-indulgence – Times of Oman
On the 20th June children throughout Muscat celebrated Qaranqasho to mark the halfway point of Ramadan. Qaranqasho is an event similar to Halloween whereby children in traditional costumes visit their neighbours singing songs and receiving sweets as a gift. Qaranqasho began as a reward for children who had managed to fast for the first half of the month of Ramadan.
A specific song is sung on this occasion, “Qaranqashoyonas, atonishwayathalwa (O people, Qaranqasho time, give us some sweets please.” It further goes “doosdoos fi almandoos, hara hara fi a’sahara,” where they ask for candy – Times of Oman
I guess that face painting, games and a belly full of lollies is a great way to encourage the children to continue fasting for the second half of Ramadan 😉
Now that we are well past the halfway mark we through we would share with you some of the things we have learned so far about Ramadan etiquette for non-Muslims in Oman.
Do not eat, drink or smoke in public:
Fasting begins at Sehr, which is sunrise in Oman, and concludes with Iftar (the breaking of the fast) after sunset prayers. The Sehr o Iftar time scale roughly equates to a 4:00am beginning and a 7:00pm finish. During this time frame Omani Muslims are not permitted to eat, drink or smoke.
Non-Muslims are also not permitted not to eat, drink or smoke in public during fasting hours. This includes semi-public spaces such as motor vehicles. Sipping water or munching on a snack whilst driving is not entirely private and therefore it is against the Islamic faith, as is chewing gum in public.
Public observance of Ramadan is compulsory, however many Omanis are aware that non-Muslims have a different belief system to their own and may make allowances within the work place if their own beliefs are treated respectfully.
Ramadan brings shorter working hours. The working day is reduced to six hours and traveling business people need to be aware of this when organising their schedules. Lunch meetings should be avoided and conference rooms that supply tea and coffee facilities need to be carefully vetted.
The Ramadan road toll is very high. The rush to visit family at Iftar, combined with low blood sugar and dehydration from fasting, can lead to road fatalities, so try to avoid driving within an hour of sunset.
Although the shopping malls are open for business, cafes, restaurants and movie theatres are closed throughput the day. At night however they become a magnet for Omanis celebrating Iftar and are therefore crowded. Live music is prohibited so clubs and bars will be closed. Non-Muslims also need to be mindful of the sounds emanating from within their own domiciles. Parties involving loud music, drinking alcohol etc are acceptable so long as the sounds are contained within the premises and not allowed to be heard outside.
Revealing clothing, sheer clothing, too low, too short, too tight, are all items that should remain in your wardrobe. A Muslim Mosque, Buddhist Temple, Christian Cathedral etc, should all be treated with dignity and respect regardless of what your beliefs may be. Walking the streets of Oman during Ramadan is no different and respect costs little.
Public displays of affection:
No matter how romantic you and your partner find the amazing Muscat sunsets to be, snogging in public is a no-no. There will be plenty of time back in your apartment or hotel room for that 😉
Iftar is awesome:
Iftar is both a feast and a celebration with a strong focus on family and community. Perhaps the best way to describe Iftar to Christians is to imagine the daily fasting of Lent being concluded with Christmas dinner. Traditionally the celebration begins with a few dates to break the fast, washed down with Laban (a delicious yoghurt drink) and plenty of fruit. Then the feasting begins with shawarma, kofta, kibbeh, shish taouk, tender lamb, grilled meat and a vast array of delicious salads including fattoush, tabouleh and a Lebanese potato salad full of mint, lemon juice and olive oil. The Baba Ganoush has that delicate smoky flavour of slow-roasted Aubergine and the Hummous is as smooth as King Island triple cream.
The Arabic coffee, brewed for hours with a mix of ground coffee beans, cardamom, and various subtle spices, is both sweet and savoury at the same time. It is the perfect compliment to Umm Ali, a Middle East bread pudding we enjoyed for dessert.
The kids at OURPLANET International School in Muscat, Oman have been attending ‘Fun with Food’ co-curricular activities after hours, learning about nutrition and enjoying some healthy snacks along the way.
Obviously the students have rather discerning palettes for all things red…
…except when it comes to vegetables 🙂