23rd January 2015
Day one of our Oman adventure started off by visiting Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat. It is one of the biggest and most beautiful mosques in the Arab world and can hold approximately 20,000 Muslims in its ornate prayer room. The specialist work of the craftsmen is prevalent everywhere, from the world's second largest handmade silk Italian carpet in the musalla to the intricate tiling and carvings in the teak doorways. Beyond doubt the most spectacular example of opulence is the grand chandelier weighing approximately 11 tonnes glimmering from the centre. It's a truly stunning piece of architecture of the Islamic faith and a feast for the eyes.
As it was Christmas Eve and the owner of our hotel in Muscat was Christian, he had kindly organised a Christmas banquet for his guests. The chef even made Christmas pudding, albeit sweeter than what we are accustomed to, yet certainly not the last taste of the Omanis' fondness for sugary foods! Christmas morning was spent with a visit to the old fish market in Seeb, which was a good first hand experience of what the locals eat and how they interact in the bustling fish market. We chatted to some friendly shoppers and fishermen who told us about the changing fish market and their prices. There is a huge variety of fish caught in this area, from barracuda, tuna, calamari and imperial fish, to shark fins and rays. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised the smell of fish wasn't overbearing! We were given an interesting behind the scenes look when we walked into a separate building in the market area where they were gutting the fish and cutting them up. One man stepped boldly over the calamari ink to wash his hands, whilst another man looked up at us smiling as we passed by, confidently and casually chopping with a meat cleaver.
Christmas night was spent lying in a bathtub overlooking the twinkling town of Al Hamra which was covered in a hazy dusk glow from the setting sun. A crescent moon appeared in the starry sky; for me it was a welcome change to the usual way I'd spend Christmas night.
Tour leader Cally Savage recently led our Oman Desert Adventure group tour.