When One Door Opens…

Well, I think it’s time I tell you all about my doors. I feel comfortable calling them my doors because I’m pretty sure nobody else cares very much about them. For my capstone project I have been documenting and analyzing the various types of doors in Oman and have amassed a collection of over 200 photographs!

It’s been a lot of fun and although the fact that there is almost no prior research on the topic was challenging at first it also meant that I got to create a lot (i.e. all) of the classifications myself.

The doors in Oman are incredibly unique and do a great job of demonstrating Oman’s progression as it has transformed from a traditional Arabian oasis to a modern, 21st century country. I’ve been drawn to the doors since I first got here, I think because they are just so different from anything I’ve seen in the U.S. Also I think its so interesting how doors – the epitome of the mundane and everyday – have been elevated to the status of art here. I’m not sure if this has been done purposefully or just out of a desire for a little extra style but there can be no arguing that they are something very special, even if most people don’t really notice.

In my project I have put the doors into three categories: Traditional Wooden Doors, Metal Doors and Modern Doors.

Here is a selection of photographs from each category:

Traditional Wooden Doors

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Metal Doors

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Modern Doors

 

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I loved taking the pictures and having the opportunity to study the doors more in depth but even more than that is the excitement in knowing I’ve helped other people become a bit more aware of the specialness in something so ordinary. And I always appreciate when people here come up to me to let me know about an especially interesting door they saw over the weekend, or even better Whatsapp me a picture of it!

I’ve abbreviated this project a bit for the blog post so if you have any other questions, let me know!

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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.

Nizwa and Jebel Shems

Up until now I had only experienced life in Muscat but last weekend I got a chance to visit Nizwa, the old capitol of Oman and Jebel Shems, the tallest mountain in the country.

I went with AMIDEAST and the other exchange students, which was a lot of fun, they’re always entertaining and we’ve really grown into a close-knit group.

Nizwa is one of the oldest cities in Oman and is most famous for its fort, which dates back to the 1600s and is one of Oman’s most visited attractions. It stands today as a symbol of the influence ancient Oman held in the region and is also very impressive in its architecture, with numerous defense mechanisms such as trapdoors, fake floors and channels for pouring hot date oil on potential intruders. We took a tour of the fort and also visited the souq or marketplace where you can find traditional Omani handicrafts, silver work and jewelry, all for a pretty good price as long as you make sure to bargain.

View from the top of Nizwa fort

View from the top of Nizwa fort

Liz and I at Nizwa fort

Liz and I at Nizwa fort

The inside of the fort. The stairs lead up to a lookout point

The inside of the fort. The stairs lead up to a lookout point

We then drove to Jebel Shems (meaning “sun mountain”), which at 10,000 feet is the tallest mountain in Oman. We drove to the top and were able to walk right up to the edge of the cliff, something that definitely would not be allowed in the U.S.  We took advantage of the lack of regulation, walking along the edge to get better views and making our chaperones  nervous.

The overlook at Jebel Shems

The overlook at Jebel Shems

We spent the night at a campsite nearby and before dinner a few of us hiked up a nearby hill where we saw an amazing sunset. It was surprisingly cold at the top of the mountain, and relative to Oman’s usual temperature it was absolutely freezing. In the evening it also started raining which was a bit of a shock. I had never been so excited to see 40 degrees and raining!

The next day we visited a wadi which is the Arabic word for a valley or riverbed with a small amount of water, or one that only has water during heavy rains. It was a bit scary at first because we drove off the road and straight into an unmarked canyon but after about 10 minutes of bumping over the rocks we pulled up to a clearing with a pool of clear water. We spent a lot of time exploring the wadi; it was really beautiful with tons of greenery and we even spotted a water snake. We were slightly unprepared for wildlife adventuring and I think our Omani guides were amused to see 14 American teenage girls struggling through the water in maxi skirts and long sleeves.

The wadi

The wadi

Rachel, Kirby and I at a lookout point on our way to the wadi

Rachel, Kirby and I at a lookout point on our way to the wadi

On our way to the wadi

On our way to the wadi

From the wadi we headed back to Muscat and it was back to school and the routine of city life.

I really enjoyed getting to see a different side of Oman over the weekedn. Muscat is a great place but it isn’t always a great representation of what the rest of the country looks like. I loved seeing the mountains and small villages during our drive and it gave me a better understanding of the country as a whole.