Winter Break: Part I

And I’m back! I know it’s been awhile but what can you do? Even though the “no Internet at home” thing interferes with my blog-posting sometimes I’ve actually enjoyed having a break from 24/7 Facebook access. I am able to interact with my family more and have realized how little I actually need it. The only bad side is it makes it harder to keep up with current events, but if I figure if something is really important then I’ll hear about it.

Anyways, break was really great; it felt very long but very short at the same time. On Sunday and Monday I got a chance to see a bit more of Oman outside of Muscat, which was very exciting. My host dad works part time as a tour guide and he was taking the parents of one of the American embassy employees around for some sightseeing so I got to tag along. It was two gifts in one – I got to tour more of Oman and spend time with friendly American grandparents! Of course it wasn’t the same as seeing my own grandparents but I’ll take what I can get!

We went to a few places I had already been – Nizwa and a fish market in the town of Barka but we also went to several other villages, including a few with historic forts and castles. My favorite one that we visited was called Jabreen Castle, near the village of Al Hamra. The castle is in excellent condition (it was recently restored) and it is easy to see the splendor that its inhabitants surrounded themselves with. It was the seat of power for the imam (Muslim religious leader) in the 1600s when he controlled almost 80% of Oman. There are dozens of large rooms with intricately decorated ceilings, plush pillows and giant copper trays that were used to serve food to guests and were so heavy that they had to be carried by three men.

A view of the Omani flag on top of a lookout at Jabreen Castle

A view of the Omani flag on top of a lookout at Jabreen Castle

The dining room ceiling in Jabreen Castle. The design symbolizes the "eye" and protection of God.

The dining room ceiling in Jabreen Castle. The design symbolizes the “eye” and protection of God.

Me at a different fort in the towm of Rustaq. It was built directly into the cliffside by the Portugese and was later used by the various tribes that controlled the area.

Me at a different fort in the towm of Rustaq. It was built directly into the cliffside by the Portugese and was later used by the various tribes that controlled the area.

Another highlight was an ancient village not far from the castle called Misfat Al Abreen. The village is wedged on the side of the foothills and is over 500 years old. It’s inhabitants immigrated from Yemen generations ago and lived there secluded from other tribes until they were forced to intermarry because of too much inbreeding, which led to many genetic problems.  The village was unlike anything I had seen in Oman thus far. With its lush gardens, tall grasses and abundant fruit trees it looked almost like a rainforest in South America, aside from the sturdy mud brick houses and occasional donkey. Another giveaway was all the men dressed in dishdashas (traditional Omani dress). The village is situated near a spring and has an ancient but still functional fellaj system (a series of channels used to transport water, similar to an aqueduct but on a smaller scale) that allows for successful agriculture. We were able to wander through the narrow alleyways and see where they grew date palms straight out of the side of the mountain.

A path winding through a cliffside garden in Misfat Al Abreen

A path winding through a cliffside garden in Misfat Al Abreen

My host dad and I at a lookout point across from the village Misfat Al Abreen.

My host dad and I at a lookout point across from the village Misfat Al Abreen.

The entrance to Misfat Al Abreen. Many of the houses are hundreds of years old and made out of mud brick.

The entrance to Misfat Al Abreen. Many of the houses are hundreds of years old and made out of mud brick.

I’ve continuously been amazed at the diverse landscape here, and it seems like there is always somewhere new to discover. The American couple was shocked to see so many mountains, and it’s true, before coming here I expected only sand, palm trees and maybe some camels. I think that this diversity is part of Oman’s beauty and the fact that I live so close to all of these fascinating things just makes me realize how lucky I am to be here.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lily
    Dec 31, 2013 @ 12:57:30

    Miriam, What a wonderful adventure . . . You seem to be seeing, learning and experiencing so very much . . . I am looking forward to seeing ALL the picture and hearing the ENTIRE story when you return. L, Lily

    Reply

  2. AHI
    Dec 31, 2013 @ 14:19:52

    Wonderful tour of Oman. Sure helps to understand the country. Just think, before you went there, most of us were Oman Ignorant. And you loo great too! love,Poppa

    Reply

  3. Harriet lowinger
    Dec 31, 2013 @ 18:02:07

    What a great adventure you are having, and how much more knowledgeable I have become. Keep it up.

    Reply

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