For my final project in a photography class I took this spring, I showed 10 images from our trip to Oman. My classmates’ impressions of them truly touched me. Moreso than their generous feedback on the photos themselves, their reactions to the experience behind them were what left me feeling tremendously blessed.
When we left Hong Kong, it’s no surprise it was with very heavy hearts. Saying goodbye to a life changing experience was difficult; saying goodbye to those who were there every step of the way was even moreso. All we could do was promise ourselves that though circumstances change, friendships don’t have to. Nearly two years later, while we don’t see each other on daily basis, our Whatsapps are abuzz morning and night. Wine and cheese nights may be less frequent, but big news can be shared over FaceTime. We don’t plan big nights out any more; we plan big vacations.
Last year we got to show Jane and Rowan a bit of the US. This year, we were all about visiting their parents in Oman. All I can say is, we are so lucky to have friends that help open our eyes to the beauty and culture of the rest of the world.
The Grand Mosque. The only mosque in Oman that non-Muslims can visit, it’s also one of the most architecturally stunning and peaceful places we’ve been in all of our travels. This glorious place of worship was a gift to the people of Oman from their Sultan to mark the 30th year of his reign. A true champion of his people, the Sultan has transformed Oman into its modern state over the past forty years and established its role as an active advocate for peace in the Middle East. His generosity and forward thinking have made him an incredibly beloved figure among his people. Huge photos of the Sultan are everywhere. (And it’s not just because he has what Jake considers to be the best beard of all time.) Pretty remarkable that an entire country can be unified in their love of their leader.
The mosque fills up with tourists in a hurry so we arrived early. This is the type of place you want to experience without crowds to get a glimpse into the culture…
To get unobstructed views…
To become one with the mosque.
And because I bet you’re wondering… Yes, the floors are that shiny. And yes, its absolutely necessary to follow local customs and show respect in a place of worship and cover from head to toe. (That my hair was showing slightly at times was an accidental slip!)
Are those ceilings incredible or what?! As beauuuutiful (and might I add, symmetrical) as the architecture was on the outside, the real gem awaited us inside the men’s prayer hall…
Ta-da! That’s no ordinary dining room chandelier. One of the largest chandeliers in the world, this thing weighs 8 and a half TONS and has over 600,000 Swarowski crystals. (I sound like a guidebook but just had to put things in perspective here).
With that spectacular finale to close our trip to the mosque, it was time to shop.
The Souq. No one loves a good local market more than this boy. Sell it on the street, he’ll come a runnin’! Over the years I’ve found him ogling over pig figurines carved out of jade, remote-control helicopters, wind chimes crafted from bamboo, live goldfish and a plethora of fake Dr. Dre audio devices – all of which now reside in our closets. (Minus the goldfish. Those died.) He’s been rubbed down with a ‘secret’ massage oil by a random man in Bali, coaxed into drinking snake blood in China, and ‘tattooed’ by a beachdweller in Mexico. Luckily with a hookah from Oman already safely stashed on his man patio at home, he was pretty content to leave the Souq with not much more than the memories and a few reminders of the day he emulated an ultra cool Arab:
Now, that’s not to say we didn’t have to go BACK to the Souq when we realized that there were no souvenirs to pack in our suitcases. Rest assured, we didn’t leave Oman empty handed.
The desert. Having gotten a good feel for the city of Muscat midway into our trip,we decided to venture into the desert.
Arizona’s desert = cacti and vegetation. Oman’s desert = DUNES.
Enormous piles of sand, perfect for the locals’ version of off roading (aka dune bashing). Who would’ve thought that a Toyota could breeze up and down these sand mountains like they were a freshly paved country road?!
Our accommodations for the night. We really roughed it with two bedrooms, a full marble bath, and air con. Throw in a big breakfast and a meet & greet with this guy:
Pals. Okay, two favorite photos of the trip coming up. Sunset on top of the dunes:
Charming as well.
He wanted one last chance to smile for the camera before we left the next morning.
Oman’s climate is pretty similar to that of Phoenix. Hot (in the 90s during April), fairly dry, typically sunny. But there’s one big difference that gives Oman a leg up….
WATER!! This amazing place is Wadi Shab, a valley where fresh water cascades down from the tops of the mountains and meets the sea water on the banks, creating shallow pools of perfectly clear water. There’s no road leading into the wadi; we took a small boat to reach the start of the hike and from there, we started seeing the pools 20-30 minutes later. About 45 minutes in, we reached the last pool, at the end of which is a little keyhole that you swim through to reach a cave with a waterfall….
…that you climb and jump off the boulders on the other side. (A little grainy since these are stills from the GoPro, but you get the idea. No video since two-thirds of it is me trying to work up the nerve to jump. The splash in the photo on the right is the end result.)
Lunch at the beach after the wadi. Just us and a pack of goats who seemed to be the sole inhabitants of the nearby village.
LOOK AT THAT. You can’t have water this clear and not pull out the old snorkels. We chartered a boat for the morning and went to scope out the marine life off the coast…
Happy campers after spotting, awaking and following the turtle around for a half hour. Never gets old!
And then comes the bittersweet end to the trip. We spent the last day in Sifa dining at an open air seafood restaurant on the beach and strolling along the water. (I should mention the food in Oman is awesome. I’m not one to typically take photos of my food but even I channeled my inner-Asian and whipped out my camera a few times to take pics.)
Another adventure in the books. Loads and loads of thanks… and see you in Phoenix, guys <3 [otw_shortcode_button href="/travel" size="medium" icon_position="left" shape="radius" color_class="otw-aqua"]More of Our Travel[/otw_shortcode_button]