Tuesday, May 12, 2009 by Jason Oliver Nixon.
This past weekend, I savored the myriad pleasures of Oman’s capital, Muscat, situated at the southern edge of the Arabian Peninsula. Oman in nothing like the Emirates: There’s no flash, no glitz, no skyscrapers, and far less of a Western influence. Women dress conservatively in abeyyas and Omani men don dishdashas (white shirtdresses) and embroidered hats. Traditional garb for the gents might also include a khanjar, a curved ceremonial dagger tucked into a belt, and I saw several older men wandering through town with bejeweled knives in tow.
Among Muscat’s sights are the amazing Portuguese-built forts that hover above the low-rise city and Sultan Qaboos’ vast Grand Mosque that houses the world’s largest carpet and acres of marble. But, for me, the best part of Muscat was wandering along the sun-splashed Corniche, which follows the bay, to enjoy the vistas back to the bustling harbor as well as savoring the splendors of the Mutrah Souq, a traditional Arab market.
Omani handicrafts are amazing, and you can purchase objets of every shape and size at this bustling, covered bazaar—from silver boxes encrusted with semi-precious gems to lanterns, hand-embroidered tunics and stunning, chunky necklaces seemingly plucked from the pages of Vogue. Take in the stalls selling spices—including pungent Iranian saffron—and breathe in the heady fragrance of rosewater spilling from the ornate perfume shops (the Omanis are passionate about their scents, I discover), or dive into the baskets filled with gorgeous trinkets decorated with cavorting monkeys and other playful motifs. Oman is simply delicious!
At the Souq
Here I am at the entrance to the souq, where I spent a good amount of cash on delicious trinkets. Note the gentleman on the left in a traditional dishdasha, a pristine white shirtdress.
Here’s a silver-tipped piece of coral that will look so chic as a sort of objet on a table in my living room. I love nothing more than a branch of red coral, don’t you agree?
Terry the Turtle
I am crazy about turtle-shaped boxes covered with semi-precious gems, so I pick them up wherever I can. I bet you never knew that jewel-encrusted tortoise boxes even existed, huh?, but I have found such boxes everywhere from Palm Springs to Istanbul. This little Omani pillbox of sorts now boasts the name “Terry the Turtle.”
Here’s Muscat’s charming harbor as seen from the Corniche with one of the Portuguese-built forts looming over the city.
Sultan Qaboos’ Yacht
Sultan Qaboos seems to be a much-loved ruler, and everywhere seems to be named after this English-educated gent. Here’s his yummy yacht bobbing about Muscat’s harbor. It’s good to be sultan, me thinks.