We left India, the land of vibrant color, litter, and dirt and two days later arrived to the spotless white buildings and absolutely litter free streets of Muscat, the capital of Oman. The contrast could not have been more striking. Known officially as the Sultanate of Oman, Oman is an Arab country strategically located at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. It has always relied on the oceans for its livelihood and once controlled the coast as far south as Zanzibar. Unlike most Middle Eastern countries, it has only modest oil reserves so it is looking to tourism and trading fish and dates to develop its economy.
It is an absolute monarchy ruled by Sultan Qaboos since 1970. He is also the Prime Minister, Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Minister of Defense, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Chairman of the Central Bank. He is the 14th generation descendant of the dynasty that has ruled Oman since 1744. He came to power by overthrowing his father. At the time he took power Oman was a backward country that was just beginning to receive revenue from its oil reserves. Qaboos immediately abolished slavery, built a modern infrastructure, gave equal rights to women, and established a viable education and healthcare system. Our on board lecturer said he had no wife or children so his successor would be a nephew or cousin. Our local guide said he was very private and no one knew if he had a wife or children. He had nothing but good things to say about what Qaboos has done for the country. While he certainly spent a lot of money on himself, he has also done a lot to improve the lot of the ordinary citizen.The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque was completed in 2001 and can accommodate up to 20,000 worshipers. Unfortunately, the interior was closed to foreign visitors minutes before our arrival, so we only saw the mosque from the outside.The Muslim religion prohibits images of living things including people, animals, and plants. Consequently, the art in the mosque is abstract and often features calligraphy. These images are all details of the exterior of the mosque. The bottom picture is tiles. I think the Sultan would be appalled if he knew you could see pigeon droppings in the next to last picture.
The Other Susan took a different tour that got to go inside the mosque. Thanks to her, I am able to show you what we missed.This chandelier above the praying hall is 45 feet tall; and according to Wikipedia, is the largest chandelier in the world.The carpet is the other famous feature of the interior. It contains 1.7 billion knots, weighs 21 tons, and took over four years to make. It is the second largest single piece of carpet in the world.I personally was more impressed with these doors and the area where the Imam stands to speak.This is the Supreme Court Building across the street from the Mosque. Muscat is a desert climate with only four inches of rain a year. I saw no naturally occurring vegetation. Where there is grass, it requires a lot of irrigation and it is mowed like a golf green. They get their water from five desalination plants.All the buildings were a pristine white. Everything looked freshly painted.The souk was filled with interesting products, all of which seemed to be imported. From top to bottom, a display of elaborately decorated wooden boxes, neatly folded men’s hats, an antique display, the ceiling of the souk, and perfume in the window of a perfume store. The perfume is packaged in a crystal container on an elaborate base in a fancy wood box. The price is 150 Omani rial or about $385. This is a relatively modest price as some of the most expensive perfumes in the world are made in Oman.There are many forts and watch towers scattered around the city.The Sultan found a little extra money to spend on his own needs. This is his yacht and the smaller yacht facing away from us is his also.This colorful and relatively modest building is his home.His home is on a huge plaza with numerous big white buildings of unknown use.The harbor is surrounded by rugged mountains with numerous watchtowers. The big white thing is a model of an incense burner. I think the scenery around the port was the prettiest since Komodo Island. Oman has been added to the list of destinations to which we would like to return. We now have six sea days before reaching Jordan.