Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

"This glorious piece of modern Islamic architecture was a gift to the nation from Sultan Qaboos to mark the 30th year of his reign."  This quote was taken from the Lonely Planet's guide to Oman, UAE, and Arabian Peninsula.

The main gate to the men's prayer room, closed this early in the morning.

My friend, Debi, and I spent a lovely morning visiting the Grand Mosque in Muscat.  It is open to non-Muslims 8-11 am Saturday to Wednesday.  Women must have their wrists, ankles, and heads covered.

Here is Debi, looking lovely in her scarf.  Trust me, it is a learned skill, one I have yet to accomplish.  That is the main dome behind her, over the men's prayer room.

Construction on the mosque began in 1995 and took six years to complete.  Made from marble, sandstone and wood, the four corner minarets measure 148 feet high, and along with the the taller central minaret, represent the five pillars of Islam.  This information came from the Bradt guide to Oman.

Traditional Omani carved door

This picture was taken outside the women's prayer hall.  You must remove your shoes, so there are lots and lots of cubbies provided.

The women's prayer hall is stunning.  Beamed ceilings, stained glass, and Swarovski crystal chandeliers.  All in all, there are 35 crystal chandeliers in the mosque. 

The women's prayer room holds up to 750 women, much less than the men's prayer room.  It holds up to 6600 men!  A guide explained to us that women are not required to go to a mosque and pray.  They are allowed to pray at home, in case they are pregnant or nursing or caring for young children.  That is the reason this room is smaller and less ornate.  Yes, believe me, the men's prayer room is much grander.

Lots of amazing carved panels

Hard to believe that all I had to do was point and click.  There are not enough superlatives to describe the grounds and buildings and interiors.

There were lots of these niches, each one more beautiful than the next.

A place to wash your feet

And here we are- in the men's prayer room.  This carpet was made totally by hand in Iran.  It took 600 female weavers four years to complete.  It was brought to Oman in pieces and completed on site.  It was the largest carpet in the world, until Abu Dhabi had a bigger one made for its mosque.

And here it is-- the piece de resistance!  The world's largest Swarovski crystal chandelier.  It is about 24 feet wide and about 42 feet high.  Breathtaking!

Beautiful and colorful mosaic art

This is another sight not to be missed if you visit me in Oman.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Savannah's Discover Oman Trip-- Jebel Akhdar

Every year, the middle school and high school students at my children's school go on a 4-day Discover Oman trip.  The week before, my son rode camels in the desert.  This week, my daughter Savannah went hiking in the mountains. 

She went to Jebel Akhdar, where we had gone as a family.  This, however, is a different abandoned village.

The trip was very physical.  Lots of steep hikes.  But even Savannah admitted the views were amazing.

This is Wadi Nakhr Gorge, aka The Grand Canyon.

These are the tents the kids slept in- two to a tent.  My favorite quote of Savannah's, "I have never been so hot and so cold in the same day!"  It can get quite cold in the mountains of Oman in the winter.

Savannah thought it would be fun to chase a goat.

When I read the itinerary for the trip, it mentioned abseiling.  I had never heard of that.  Turns out it is what we call repelling.  She went off the side of a cliff. 

This person coming down is actually not Savannah, but just thought  you might like to see it from another angle.
All in all, another successful Discover Oman trip!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Austin's Discover Oman Trip-- Camel Trek

Every year, the middle school and high school students at my children's school go on a four-day Discover Oman trip.  There are many choices-- Beach Restoration, Water and Walls, Camels and Turtles, Jebel Akhdar, Industry Tour, and Salalah to name a few.  My son Austin went on the Camel Trek. 

The group went with a professional tour company.  This is the first night, at the base camp.

                                        Austin thought these sand patterns were interesting.

 There were several activities the first day, including sand sledding and sandboarding.  Austin chose to roll down the hill.

                                            One of the tour guides and a few of the camels.

                             I love this picture!  Camels by the caution- camel crossing sign.

Who needs a car when you can have a camel?  According to Austin, he was a natural.  But he did say it was not too comfortable.  You are basically sitting on the camel's backbone.

                                                   The view from the top of the camel.

                          Austin got the special privilege of helping the Bedouins lead the camels. 

                        The group takes a break while watching the approaching sandstorm.

                                              This is how you breathe during a sandstorm.

Here are the Bedoiun tents the students slept in every night.  The group traveled every day, so the tents were set up in different locations each night.  Austin said the boys did all the work.  The girls were told to sit.

                                                Tour guides and students having lunch.

Because of the sandstorm, one of the hikes had to be cut short.  The students were transported back to camp in pickup trucks.  Austin said he was holding the camera level.  This is how steep the dunes were.
When we envisioned life in Oman, this is what we pictured.  Austin just happened to be the first to experience it.  Stay tuned for Savannah's Discover Oman trip!