Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Feb 20 2013

Middle East trip, part 7

The hotel breakfast was very nice, as are the suites. In fact, there’s even a swimming pool on the roof, though we haven’t had time to use it. It seems people here stay out late; we’ve ended up eating dinner around midnight every day of the trip, it seems. Salim and Ahmed showed up around 9 and drove us to the huge Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, which was filled with both worshippers and tourists. We navigated the well-kempt, manicured grounds, including shallow streams of water, to the mosque itself, first touring the women’s prayer hall, which was very nice, and then the main prayer hall for men, which was constructed in such a way that the first words out of anyone’s mouth upon entrance tend to be OMFG. It is incredible. The intricacy of the carvings, the massive chandeliers, the humungous dome, the light on the carpets – it’s really just spectacular. We walked around in our bare feet, our pants making corduroy noises on the carpet, before taking a look at the washing procedures as demonstrated by Salim, and then proceeding back to the parking lot. Before we got there, however, we were on the receiving end of one of the mosque’s holy men’s introduction to Islam, which included poorly designed literature with bad clipart and multiple fonts on the cover. I’d think that the people behind these things would put a little effort into them if they really want to convert anyone. Not to mention that the text inside made very little sense. They should just lead people into that main prayer hall, gesture at it meaningfully and say, “Uh-huh? Yeah?” with plenty of eyebrow motion.

Anyway. After that we visited Muscat’s old gates, a Dali exhibition at a history museum, and the Sultan’s hangout again, where I was motioned at for holding a camera in someone’s general direction. It’s very difficult to explain to people of a society that is convinced that photography is inherently dangerous that the result of such attitudes, especially in this ever-more-connected world, is a gradual disappearance from public reality of their entire country. But I guess that could be seen as a good thing, unless you’re banking on any kind of tourism.

Lunch was delicious rice and chicken dishes at what seemed to be the Arab equivalent of a fast food joint. Salim and Ahmed told us to eat with our hands, that it would taste better. I’m not sure it worked; the food was already pretty good while using the forks. It’s a Saudi franchise, and would probably do well in Taiwan.

We returned to Salim’ pimped-out Ford Edge, while the others took Ahmed’s 6.0-liter V8 Chevy Caprice out to the marina, where we booked a boat tour for tomorrow. Then it was back to the hotel for some rest while the sun went down. Ahmed has a cold, it seems, and needed a break. I guess everyone did. After a nap, I went up to the hotel roof and looked at the pool and the view of the various construction projects in the vicinity. Lots of Muscat is really only about 30 years old, and much of it is actually new.

Salim showed up around 6:15, and Ahmed considerably later. We drove up the mountain and over to the Muscat Festival, which is being held in a park. There we saw lots of cultural exhibitions, stalls, rides and shows. I rode a camel, which was surprisingly smooth except for the jerk it does when it sits down. I got the feeling I was expected to take pictures of the various exhibitions, but I’ve never been that kind of photographer. In fact, photography on this trip so far hasn’t really panned out. Then again, I knew it was going to be this way; there’s really no other way it could be. Logistically and mindframe-wise, it’s nigh on impossible, and that’s just the way it is. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.

posted by Poagao at 4:58 am  

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