Monday, March 27, 2017

Oman + 5

I'm sitting on my balcony on sea day 5 after Oman. It doesn't feel like it's been nearly a week since we were visiting Muscat, Oman, but that's what the calendar is telling me. 

Tomorrow we arrive in Aqaba, Jordan. Somewhere between Oman and today, just as I had finally been feeling better, I woke up in the middle of the night with a raging fever and a head full of congestion. How does that happen? I went to bed feeling fine. And then several hours later - boom. So very discouraging. Ah well. I took a Tylenol for the fever and curled back up under the covers and hoped for the best. 

It's gotten better.  Yay. My appetite is good. My Kleenex box is empty. I'm ready for Jordan, where the Wadi Rum and the ancient city of Petra await. 

But first - Muscat, Oman. Was in a privately arranged tour to visit a couple of places outside of Muscat. We drove out through the Hajar Mountains to a town called Nizwa. Nizwa's claim to fame is a nice fort from the 1600's. Attached to it is a traditional souk, or marketplace. 

The fort was cool. Quiet, clean, respite from the heat. The souk was small and quiet for a midweek day, I suppose. They are known for their excellent dates (as in the fruit) and we got to sample a wide variety of them. I'm not a big date lover, but what I tasted was pretty good. 

After The long drive out to Nizwa along with the touring of the fort, our group was hungry for lunch. Our guide took us across the street to a restaurant boasting free wifi. Those two words are very important to cruisers. Especially the first word, FREE. We enjoyed big plates of aromatic rice, along with a choice of chicken, lamb or fish. 

Our bellies full, and internet addiction sated for the time being - my TMobile plan included free data in 140 countries, but not, alas, in Oman or Jordan. Boo - we next drove about 40 minutes to another small village and even older fort in Bahla. Our last stop was Jebrin Castle, a learning center also from the 1600's for the study of Islamic Law, History, Medicine and Astrology. This was a really nicely laid out place, designed to take full advantage of the winds to keep the castle cool and comfortable during the extremely hot summers, where temperatures regularly exceed 110 degrees F. 

It was a full and long day. The country is clearly very wealthy. It is clean and neat, with new highways and beautiful buildings and homes alongside them. There are no taxes here, free medical care, subsidized utilities and petrol. Oman is essentially a 100% Muslim country and claims to be a friend of all and enemy to none. Although I will mention that while they recognize Palestine as a country, they do NOT recognize Israel as a country. 

They say they do not discuss or ask their fellow countrymen if they are Sunni or Shia or whatever. They say they teach only peace, as it is written in the Koran. Our tour guide said they would never tolerate extremists in their country. 

One thing I noticed throughout the day - I saw very few women. In fact, I only counted four. The entire day. Two were in a car riding in the backseat and I saw two in the Souk. Shopkeepers were all men. Maybe it was just a fluke. Our guide said women were free in Oman to serve in any job they wanted - military, police, taxi driver, etc. That's all well and good but I didn't see any evidence. Perhaps if we'd spent some time in the city of Muscat itself it would have been a different experience. I guess I will never know. Unless I'm on a cruise again that passes through this part of the world, I don't have any desire whatsoever to visit Oman again. It's barren with craggy mountains, little greenery other than farms of date trees scattered here and there. It's a large country and clearly I saw just a small sample, but my overall impression was "meh."  Onward. 

I've taken advantage of the past five days at sea to just relax. I've picked up my walking again but not to the extent that I was earlier in the cruise. I've gone through two more books and have watched quite a few movies. It's been good. 

But I'm still quite homesick. I'm counting the days now, till I get home. 29 at this posting. 

We had another photo contest and I submitted three photos. None won. Ah well. I am proud of the ones I took. 

Last night, Jack invited me to be his guest for dinner at the Pinnacle Grill, the super nice steakhouse restaurant here on board. We enjoyed a pre-dinner glass of wine in the Explorers Lounge and listened to Adagio Strings play and then enjoyed a delicious and relaxing meal. Jack had a beautiful petite filet and I chose the grilled halibut with shrimp scampi. I've always wanted to give the halibut try, bit usually in the past I've broken down and had one of their delicious steaks. This time I held firm and was not disappointed. It was yummy!

The barbed wire and water hoses have been installed on the ship since just after Mumbai. There were a few days where our ship was passing off the coast of Yemen where Somalian pirates have been known to prowl and attack ships. At night the ship has kept a low profile by keeping outside lights to a minimum and we've been tracked by the maritime organization that keeps tabs on everyone out here. Should we have been attacked help would be on the way immediately. I suppose that is comforting. 

I've included pictures from Oman as well as a couple others from our sea days. 

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