Monday, March 25, 2013

The Muttrah Souk

One of the first places I take any visitor is the Muttrah Souk (or Mutrah Souq, depending on which guide book you are reading.)  A souk is a marketplace.  It is located on the Muttrah corniche, along the harbor.  A beautiful location.  The souk has been in this same location for centuries. 

I have been to the souk 5 or 6 times, and these pictures were taken at different times.  I kept thinking of something else I wanted pictures of!  There are several narrow alleys with small shops on either side.  It is very easy to get lost.  The variety of items for sale is amazing!  You see many locals shopping here, but it is especially busy when the cruise ships are in port.  Just remember, however, the souk closes from 1-4 in the afternoons.  I have learned this the hard way. 

Residential alley to the side.

I have my eye on one of these purses with the camels.  How much longer can I resist?  :)

Dishdashas and muzzars for sale.  The scarves to the left are called keffiyehs, and are worn by Emirati or Saudi men.  The black cords are aghals.

When I first moved to Oman, I didn't know what these were called.  I thought they were burqas, but they are called abayas.  Most of the women in Oman wear these over their regular clothing.  A lot are all black, but many are decorated.  These are some of the more highly-decorated abayas.

Here I am, wearing a shela, or head scarf.  The shopkeeper had to show me how to put it on.  In case you can't tell, the edges are all rhinestones.  And yes, this did come home with me!

I couldn't resist trying on an abaya.  Very blingy!

This part of the souk is known as the Gold Souk.  Store after store selling gold.  LOTS of it.  You would not believe the size of some of the necklaces.  Should have taken a picture of them!

This store sold semi-precious stones and silver jewelry.  More to my taste.

Baubles of all kinds.

This is what we were looking for on this trip to the souk- antique doors!  Highly-decorated doors are very traditional in Oman.  We would like to buy an old set for our house.  These doors actually function in their door frame.  I still want to go back and buy these.

More doors
My favorite thing to buy in the souk?  The gorgeous trims!!!  There are several small stores selling all kinds of beautiful trims.  I bought this particular trim, not really knowing what I will do with it.  I might put it on some pillows for my couch.  Or use it as tiebacks on living room drapes.  Or trim a purse with it.  Who knows? 

What would you do with all these beautiful trims?  Other things to be found at the souk include TONS of pashminas, perfumes, frankincense, henna, spices, rugs, antiques, etc.
It is a little blurry, but here is my friend, Angela, right outside the souk entrance.  We were enjoying a drink and snack and the views after shopping.
See y'all later!  There is a camel purse with my name on it.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Dubai -- Beyond the Malls

Last weekend we went to Dubai.  This was my third time to go and I was determined to see more of Dubai than just the malls.  Amazing as they are.

We made the five-hour drive the last two trips, but decided to fly this time.  This banner was in the Muscat airport.  You can take the girl out of Texas, but Texas is never far.

Some of the souvenirs for sale in the Muscat airport.

This is the view from our hotel in Dubai.  We stayed at the Al Murooj Rotana Hotel.  It was right across Sheik Zayed Road from The Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa.  I said I wanted to see more of Dubai that just the malls.  I didn't say I wanted to avoid the malls, however! 


We decided to do the Big Bus Tour.  We caught the bus in front of The Dubai Mall.  This was a great way to see Dubai and I recommend it.  We stayed on for the blue route tour and the red route tour.  I have to say, that was too much bus for one day.  I would suggest the two-day pass and do one route a day.

Did you know that Dubai has one of the highest water consumption rates in the world?  You need a lot of water to make all this green grow in the desert!

I am wanting to see more than malls, and what is the first stop?  A mall.  This is the Wafi mall.  Pretty cool, though.

Here we are on the Dubai Creek.  Seriously, this river is called a creek.  We are about to take a boat tour along the creek, included in the price of the bus tour.  This is the original site of Dubai.  It started as a small pearl diving village.  By the way, I have come to realize that there is no such thing as a good hair day when one is sight-seeing.

When I think Dubai, I think glitz and glam and new.  These old wooden barges transport goods much in the same way as they have for a long time.

I could do a whole blog post on all the cool architecture in the city.

I love this picture of the white, serene mosque surrounded by all the hustle and bustle of the city.

Here we are on Jumeirah Beach Road.  Water on the right, and skyscrapers on the left.  I just realized that I don't have any pictures of the Dubai beaches or coastline.  I think that after seeing all the beautiful beaches and coastlines in Oman, the beach I saw at Dubai didn't impress me much.

How could I talk about Dubai with at least one car picture?  Here is a nice Ferrari, but we saw lots of Bentleys and Maseratis, too.

The Burj Al Arab.  We thought about staying here one night, but a basic room runs about $1200 a night.  We decided to pass.  You can buy a whole lot of shoes with that money!

Did you know that Dubai also has an Atlantis Hotel?  Not just The Bahamas.  This is where we will stay on our next trip to Dubai!

After three trips to Dubai, The Dubai Fountain is my favorite thing in Dubai!  They are located between the Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa. The dancing fountains are patterned after those at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.  I have probably seen at least a dozen fountain shows in Dubai.  This one is my favorite, set to Andrea Bocelli's Con te Partiro (Time to Say Goodbye).  In case you are in the area, Andrea Bocelli will be performing in Abu Dhabi on April 24th.  I would love to see him, but couldn't work it out.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Muscat Festival

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the Muscat Festival.  This is a month-long event that takes place every year.  It is a wonderful showplace for Omani culture, pageantry, and traditions.  There are lots of things happening, but I especially loved the chance to take pictures of some of the people.  This is a chance rarely given.  Here we see two boys stirring some Omani candy. 

 The mixture contains water, sugar, spices, coconut water, and a thickening agent. It is stirred over heat for about three hours. The finished product has the texture between a soft caramel and jello. Not bad.

Parts of the Muscat festival reminded me of an exotic county fair.

With camel rides.  These first few pictures were taken at the Naseem Park location.

The rest of the pictures were taken at Amerat, the site for the Omani Heritage Village.  The place was set up like a traditional village, with lots of tradespeople and a marketplace.  This woman is selling frankincense.  In case you didn't know, there are very few places in the world where frankincense trees grow.  The best comes from Oman!

This woman is selling hand-painted frankincense burners.  You place charcoal on the bottom and light it.  Then you can toss the frankincense nuggets on top.

Basket weaver

 It was amazing to see these men make the fishing nets.  It reminded me of tatting lace.

There were several room displays set up like this.  I assume this is just a gathering of friends.  Not really sure.  It is hard to tell with the lighting, but their dishdashas are all pale blue.  Dishdashas do come in many colors, but white is by far the most popular.

 My favorite room was the one with the children in their traditional dress.  So colorful!

Here is a group of boys studying the Quran.

This young girl was very popular with the photographers.  I tried to get a picture from a better angle, but tired of waiting.

No waiting required for the ox.  :)

I never tire of seeing the mountains in the background.

These men were doing a ceremonial chant and dance.  They used the canes as props.

Another fishing net maker.

Here is my new friend.  Actually, he was one of the performers in the next two pictures.  This performance was more of a military march.

Here are several Omani women selling food.  They are dressed more colorfully.  Many of the women I see out and about in Muscat are all in black.

Here is a mock Bedouin camp.

I couldn't resist taking a picture of a boy and his camel.

Well, this sign really has nothing to do with the Muscat Festival, other than that is where I took the picture.  I just LOVE this slogan for the Ministry of Tourism.
I hope y'all enjoyed seeing some of the faces of Oman!