Life

Oman: The Arabian Nights in the Land of Tranquility

  Oman means “Place of Tranquility” in Arabic. Perhaps because of this, this country in “The Arabian Nights” did not fall into the quagmire of turmoil like its neighbors Yemen, Iraq and Iran, but lived a low-key, relatively stable and secular life in a corner of the Arabian Peninsula.
  While a large number of Chinese tourists flock to the United Arab Emirates to experience the luxury of Dubai, Oman, which is also a Gulf country, still maintains its tradition and tranquility. Such perseverance inevitably puts a veil of mystery on it. With curiosity, I embarked on a flight to Oman——

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque interior
capital muscat

  Muscat, the capital of Oman, is just a 1.5-hour flight from Dubai, the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates. During the 20 minutes of the diversion, I sat by the window and looked at the mountains outside the porthole. Their rolling posture was very different from the mountains I had seen before.
  The snow-capped mountains in the Alps and the Himalayas have their own unique beauty and pure white, while the mountains in Guilin, China, and the Kansai region of Japan are tender green that can squeeze out water. Even the mountains in the slightly dry Scottish Highlands and North China are always beautiful. There is a bit of dark green with water vapor… But the mountains on the outskirts of Muscat are different. In my impression, I searched them all, and perhaps only the sand dunes stretching for thousands of miles in the northwest of China and the uncanny Gobi cliffs on the West Bank of the Jordan River are comparable to them. slightly similar. The light and shadow from the sun outlines the panqiu crouching dragon concocted by nature, the color of the land is exposed in the hot sun, and the breath of the earth is volatilized. Muscat, just at the junction of the mountains and the sea, uses a bright white color to show the thousands of years of accumulation in the Arab world.
  As a traveler who loves to photograph architecture, the large and small mosques in Muscat really feast my eyes.
  The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is a must-see for tourists. Not only does it have the second largest Arabian carpet in the world, but the crystal chandelier under the gorgeous dome is also the world’s largest in size. In my opinion, Omanis don’t like to show off, and they are not born with a big personality, but they do have enough financial resources to order a large mosque to be built. If it is too simple, it will be demeaning.
  Oman is a relatively enlightened Arab country, and when you walk through its capital, you will sometimes have the illusion of being in continental Europe. For example, walking along the seaside trail in the evening breeze, the left hand is the sea breeze with salt particles, and the right hand is the brightly lit luxury cruise ship. The sight almost transported me back to Nice, France many years ago. Surrounded by mountains and the sea, the most unmissable thing is to hike along the coast of Matra, one of the three towns in Muscat. On one side is the extremely blue Arabian Sea, and on the other side is the overwhelming Arabian-style architecture. The whole hiking process is pleasing to the eye except for the hot sunshine, which is hard to bear.
  If you are tired from walking, you can sit down on the plank road by the sea, blowing the sea breeze, overlooking the fortress on the cliff and the nearby islands. The enthusiastic local uncle said that many of these fortresses are the products left over from the Portuguese colonial war in the 17th century. Together with the Portuguese stone carvings on the coastal cliffs that have been worn away by time, they silently remind the past of this period of history.

Night view of the capital Muscat Corniche Promenade
Sinbad’s hometown Sur

  If you have read “Sinbad’s Voyage”, Sur must be a must-visit place after you come to Oman, because it is said to be the hometown of Sinbad the navigator. His legendary adventure stories have been popular all over the world. Whether it is the wisdom of tying himself to a piece of meat and being brought back by the giant bird, or the courage to defeat the giant and lead everyone to escape, every reader will appreciate the “shaping” of Sur. Sinbad’s city is full of curiosities.
  Sur can be reached in less than two hours by car from Muscat. Along the way, you can enjoy the intoxicating coastal scenery of the peninsula, and vehicles can stop at any time along the way, so you can have a seaside picnic with your food. Along the way, there is also an ancient city called Amangalhat. It was the main port during the reign of the Hormuz dynasty from the 11th to the 15th centuries. Today, however, all that remains is Bibi Mariam’s mausoleum, a few rows of low walls, and a pile of rubble. Nonetheless, it was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2018 as a unique testimony to the trade links between the Arabian East Coast and China, India, and regions of East Africa and Southeast Asia.

Port Sur

  If Muscat and Salalah are important stops on the Maritime Silk Road, then Sur is the “behind-the-scenes hero” of the glorious Maritime Silk Road, because there is a shipbuilding industry that has endured for thousands of years. When you arrive in Sur, you’ll realize that it’s a small city. In about half a day, I did not need to rely on the guidance of the map for my activities near the old city of Sur and the port. It’s not because I have such a good sense of direction, but because the port city that supported Sinbad’s seven voyages to sea is only about the size of a medium-sized county in our country.
  However, the size of the city has never been the determining factor of “beauty”, and the beauty of Sur is also unquestionable. With a cup of coffee and a book, I imitated the locals and sat under the dark blue sky for two hours. Then in the afterglow of dusk, I enjoyed the beauty of the sky and the sea in Suer, and the beautiful lights at the beginning of the night. In the wind blowing from the land to the sea, the lingering sounds of oud and the intoxicating aroma of mutton float, and the returning sails in twos and threes and the lights up the mountain form undulating curves. By the port, the simple and abstract lighthouse is said to have illuminated the way home for Sinbad’s caravan.
  On the second day in Sur, I chose to go to sea. I took a very retro wooden ship, which looks like it has traveled through the millennium. After leaving the breakwater in the port, the boat began to speed up. After a while, my mobile phone lost the signal, so I could only choose to keep taking pictures of the endless sea level. The captain smiled when he saw this, and he told me in broken English that all we can see now is the calm sea, and when we sail to the Arabian Sea, we can see dolphins.

  The sea breeze that hits the face becomes more salty and humid, and the sun gradually rises to a high point. When the wharf and mountains are out of sight, the shape of the land is gradually blurred, and the waves replace the mountains, inlaid around the rough bay and become the dominance of nature. Finally, the dolphin appeared. We encountered a feral pod of about a dozen dolphins and everyone on board cheered and the men whistled. Some of them jumped up at the bow of the ship suddenly, and then quickly rolled in the air, and the other dolphins behind them followed the leading one to swim happily as if they were disciplined.
  Near noon, the sea surface seemed to be sprinkled with a pool of crystals, shining brightly under the reflection of the sun. I think that the Arabian Sea in front of me should look the same as what Sinbad has seen.

laid back locals

Shipbuilding has a long history in Sur

Overlooking the ancient city of Nizwa

Since ancient times, Nizwa has been known for its exquisite craftsmanship
ancient city of Nizwa

  When I walked over the waves, crossed the mountain peaks, and stood in front of Nizwa’s castle, I felt a sense of “both mountains and seas can be flattened” in my heart. In a date palm forest, it stands majestically on the commanding heights of Nizwa, with a majestic momentum and a naturally majestic atmosphere.
  Nizwa is the largest city in the inland mountains of Oman and the capital of the Yariba Dynasty. It does not have the taste of the sea, only the beauty of the mountains, and each castle carries its own story. In history, many dynasties have built castles here, but most of them have been lost. Among the more than a dozen existing ancient castles, the ancient castle of Nizwa is the largest and best preserved. I still remember the moment when I poked my head out of the hole in the castle wall, the whole picture of Nizwa was so casually displayed in front of me. That kind of inadvertent style made me surrender.
  50 kilometers away from Nizwa, there is also a world historical heritage – Bahla Fort. The history of the Bahra Fort can be traced back to 3500 years ago. It was mainly constructed of adobe bricks, palm tree trunks and stones. It was later expanded in the 17th century to resist the invading Portuguese. The main historical site of the period before the advent of the Islamic cultural era.
  The village where Fort Bahla is located is located between two deep ravines and still retains its original features. Houses are scattered on the slopes with dense vegetation. The lush date palms are in stark contrast to the dry mountains. The ancient Faraj canals are distributed in the orchards, passing through the stones and connecting the canyons. The life of traditional Arabs is displayed in front of your eyes.
  After seeing two ancient castles with rich history, why not come to some relaxing activities-go to the market. Since ancient times, Nizwa has been known for its exquisite handicrafts, and the market is still full of handmade coffee pots, copper teapots, copper plates, as well as various belts, dagger cases and so on inlaid with gold and silver. Horse scabbard. Nizwa’s pottery industry is also relatively developed. The pottery products made by the locals are both practical and beautiful, with colorful patterns on them. If I didn’t have enough space in my suitcase, I really wanted to pack it and take it home.
  Of course, apart from these exquisite handmade products, the most fascinating thing about Nizwa Bazaar is the mysterious aroma in the air. As early as 3,000 years ago, this mysterious spice from the East was used by the ancient Egyptians in sacrifices and daily life. People call it the pearl of the desert and think it is “the closest to the taste of the gods” – this is frankincense.
  The Old French word for frankincense is franc encens, which means “precious spice”. Once, it was worth more than gold. In the Arab region, there are many places where frankincense is produced, but it is said that the best frankincense comes from Oman, so Oman has enjoyed the reputation of “the country of frankincense” since ancient times.
  Through the long river of history, spices represented by frankincense have penetrated into the cultural genes of Omanis, and they can be said to be “inseparable” in life. For example, in Omani men’s traditional clothing, a ten-centimeter-long tassel hangs from the neckline of the robe, which is specially used for dipping in perfume, while men in other Arab countries do not have this custom; Light a small incense burner under the clothes, and put a few white frankincense to ensure that the clothes are fragrant after washing.
  Similar to the Silk Road, Oman also has a frankincense road. At that time, the camel caravan started from the south of Oman, passed through Yemen, went north along the west side of the Arabian Peninsula, arrived in Jerusalem, and then distributed to the Roman Empire, Persia, and then went to India in the east, and even China as far away as possible. This road is more than 3,000 kilometers long, and the road is full of endless deserts. However, in the past thousand years, it has been an important window for Arabia to connect to the world.

  In this mysterious country, there are magnificent coasts, majestic mountains, summer resorts in high mountains and valleys, and the glorious footprints of the frankincense country. No matter in Muscat, Sur or Nizwa, traveling in Oman can always bring you one surprise after another. I like the local people’s adherence to traditional culture, and I like their modest and moderate enthusiasm. It’s like bathing in a hot spring, with a warm current lingering in your heart.

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