O, man: not-so-Jitterbug in Muscat Land…

Muscat, Oman, by the sea...

Muscat, Oman, by the sea…

December 2009

Muscat is like many other white-washed Mediterranean cities; only one difference—it’s not in the Mediterranean. These Arabians sailed the Seven Seas, and once ruled East Africa, and not so long ago either.

Muscat is one sprawled-out city, a hemmed-in port eternally looking for leibenschraum, and able to leap tall mountains at a single bound: ancient city tucked away in a little corner; the slightly newer Mutrah right around the rocks down the beach, sliding up the hill and over the ridge until it finds a valley and becomes Ruwi, right before it spreads out to infinity.

Muscat past perfect

Muscat past perfect

There are distinct parts to Arabia. If Yemen is the poor but pure descendant of ancient Arabia, and UAE the Arabia of a sci-fi future, then Oman is somewhere in between, and something totally distinct. Africans, Pakistanis, and Baluchis here go way back with Oman; also ancient connections with other parts of the peninsula, including Yemen, with which it shares a border.

The Muscat souq is certainly atmospheric, frankincense and all that rap, but other than that there is little on offer, and what there is, is expensive: hundred-dollar city tour, etc… Muscat may be a bit cheaper than the oil-rich Gulf States, but not by much, and nobody’s giving away Wi-Fi with the rooms, available for purchase only. Much of Oman is simply generic Arab and international Muslim, interesting enough if you don’t need any anti-freeze in your system.

Muscat souq

Muscat souq

…the big travel news is a bit beyond my control, the British Airways pending strike that got suddenly called off… guess I’ll spend New Year’s Day with my wife after all…catch the ONTC bus from Muscat back to Dubai, walking the mile or so to the bus station as the sun also rises…. get into Dubai after a seven-hour drive and border-crossing, go straight to the four-buck Indian buffet close by and proceed to pig out…

…walk over to the Kish Airline office and get the ticket for the flight I’ve booked to Iran… seems like that’s a visa run for Emirati ex-pats, particularly Russians, one of whom shows me how to cheat the local telecom there for sending SMS’s free. She also cautions me not to trust any local Iranians there. The fact that a Russian is saying this to me is a fact not lost on me…

Men make up the rooms in the Dubai hotel where I stay, for reasons that I can easily surmise. I’m starting to get slightly antsy about the trip to Kish Island, not that I suspect anything weird about it, mostly that I just don’t know anything about it. I don’t have much to lose, though, since the flight and my shared accommodation is no more than what I would pay anywhere in Dubai. If you don’t go, then you don’t know…ไม่ลอง ไม่รู้

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