Monday, April 16, 2012

Touring with Ahmed in Salalah, Oman

Here we are meandering through the Arabian Sea...

All the way down to Salalah at the bottom of Oman...

There were plenty of fishing boats as we made our way into the port.

Looks like a container port for us today…

The Coast Guard was in port, as well as a ship that turned out to be the Indian Navy.

We didn’t have anything planned today. We weren't too close to the town, and it appeared that the rumours of taxi cabs charging exorbitant prices were true. There was one vendor on the pier so we decided to see what he had to sell and just have a relaxing day on board. The vendor had all sorts of goodies for sale, including silver jewellery and lots of frankincense. The frankincense tree flourishes here. It produces the resin that is the basis of incense. The vendor asked us if we wanted a tour, and we said we didn’t trust any of the cab drivers not to overcharge us. He assured us “his brother” would give us a good tour for $100 for the 4 of us, so we decided to trust him and go for it.

We had a nice Land Rover so it had lots of room. We whizzed by this monument. Like most countries here, everything to do with water is precious.

We were immediately impressed with the neat architecture of the buildings.

And the lush gardens…not exactly what we were expecting!

The hospital looked very new. Our driver, Ahmed, was throwing out explanations in his broken English.

An interesting minaret on this mosque…

Ahmed stopped where these camels were tied up. We could smell them as soon as we got out of the vehicle. Look, a momma and her baby.

Hmm…that look was telling us “don’t come too close!” and we listened. Ahmed said that camels that give milk are very expensive. This camel would sell for about $2000.

Ahmed brought us to this old section of town, which is now in ruins. 

There were actually people living here, mostly Indians who are shopkeepers and have low salaries.

A little sheet in the window for some privacy.

Then he stopped outside a row of jewellery stores and said “15 minutes” which was our cue to get out and shop! This shop had mostly silver, as well as some other very interesting pieces.

Barb bargained for some pieces and we each got a silver camel to wear on a chain.

One jeweller after another. Obviously, this guy was Ahmed's friend. He had to run across the street to use the Visa machine, so they all work together…I guess! No shortage of big BMWs either.

Our next stop was the summer palace of the reigning Sultan. He is only here for a short period of time, as they spend more time in Muscat, the capital.

Ahmed in front of the palace. He was pretty funny once he got going, and once we figured out what he was saying.

A lovely wide, clean street leading up to the palace.

We then stopped in town. Ahmed went to his favourite coffee shop to meet with his buddies and we wandered around the town. It was soooo hot. As we have noticed in other places, all the vendors of one type cluster together. Every shop had the same sign “Readymade Garments & Textiles.”

And this group was “Gents Tailoring.”

We tend to use the word burka when we see this type of dress, but actually a burka (burqa) would completely cover the face so that they have only a mesh to see through. This covering of the face is called a niqab, where the eyes are exposed. They really enhance their eyes with make-up, which is their way of expressing themselves. The dress itself is an abaya.

We heard Salalah had beautiful beaches, but there wasn't a soul to be seen on the beach. After we read this sign, we didn’t dare even go down and put our feet in the water. We were not about to ruffle any feathers in these countries.

Endless sand…

This sign appeared to indicate the lack of swimmers was more due to the current, but we weren’t taking any chances as Ahmed wasn’t around to bail us out of trouble.

We came upon this tiny door...

And when we peeked in, we could see another neighbourhood...

These coconut palms have quite a lean to them...

Ahmed was trying in his broken English to tell us about this fort. There were over 300 small temples here, but many were damaged by the tsunami in 2004.

I got out of the car to take a photo. These flowers obviously don't need much to survive...

And I could hear the kids singing in this school. It would have been neat to visit.

Ahmed stopped at this fruit vendor. The back windows of the vehicle were tinted and mine wouldn’t roll down, hence the cloudy picture. He bought us some coconuts and bananas to sample.

A coconut with two straws. The milk was hot…not exactly refreshing, but we didn’t want to refuse his kind gesture.

The bananas were tiny and sweet. Doesn't that plastic on the seats make you even hotter!

I expected coconut meat like we would get at home, but this coconut had very little meat in it.

We paused at this mosque for a quick photo stop.

Ahmed was trying to tell us this story about a camel, cutting its head off, something else. We politely nodded, but then we stopped and he brought us into this building. I believe this is the story he was telling us although how the footprints were preserved, I'm not sure.

Saleh was a Prophet around 500 BC. While some people accepted Saleh, others demanded that he perform a miracle in order to prove his prophethood. They challenged him to produce for them a camel out of the nearby rocks. Saleh prayed and the miracle took place by Allah’s permission. The camel appeared, lived among them, and gave birth to a calf. Some people thus believed in Saleh’s prophethood, while others continued to reject him. Eventually a group among them plotted to attack and kill the camel, and dared Saleh to have God punish them for it. The people were later killed by an earthquake or volcanic eruption.

A shopping centre…

Once again, we stopped without knowing what we were doing. This sign wasn’t telling us too much.

Once inside, we realized this is what some people believe to be Job’s Tomb. We decided that Job was very tall and skinny. Actually, people of importance were buried in this manner rather than with tall monuments. I took a picture and we started to leave when the guy in the picture approached us and pointed to the other end. We concluded we were supposed to make a donation, which we did, and then left.

Job was the hero of the biblical Book of Job. According to the Bible, Job was a man of such devotion, that Satan was allowed by God to test his faith. Job's children were killed, his possessions destroyed and he was afflicted with a plague from head to toe. But to the displeasure of Satan, Job had not expressed anger at God.

Eventually Job was rewarded by God for his devotion, giving to him even more possessions than he had previously. Job died an extremely wealthy man, with many camels and children. Job's tomb in Salalah is where this biblical hero, revered by Muslims, Jews and Christians worldwide, is said to have been laid to rest.

Jim and Ed on the grounds of Job’s Tomb…

We stopped at another mosque which looked very new...

Look at the beautiful grounds…

Ahmed indicated that this is where the rich people live. He told us he had one wife and seven children. We teased him about having another wife and he said “no, no!”

We wanted to buy some postcards and he brought us to a store. They didn’t have any and we were OK to leave it at that. But the next thing we knew, we were stopping at this “hypermarket.” Ahmed was kind enough to keep thinking of places that would sell postcards and we found some here. 

Once again, we were very impressed with the landscaping.

We had been given these cards when we left the port and warned not to lose them. We were back at the port and showing our cards. Ahmed gave us a wonderful three hour tour and we didn’t get ripped off. We were happy!

We got back to our cabin and from our balcony we could see Ahmed and “his brother” closing up shop for the day. I would think they did very well with the ship’s passengers.

And then it was time to go. The Indian navy ship and the Coast Guard were still there as we left.

Lots of waving as we sailed away…

Now we have four lovely sea days before landing in Aqaba, Jordan for our tour to Petra.

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