Beginnings / Study Abroad / Tourism / Travel

Orientation + Day One

Heeeeey, check me out with my fancy photos and stuff! (Finally, right?)

The last two days have been a necessary evil in terms of length.  Saturday the advanced level students, who were more or less all just arrived minus two, were given a tour of some of the more famous sites in Muscat.  We started off at Qasr Al Alam (Al Alam Palace), the palace residence of Sultan Qaboos (leader of Oman, incase I forgot to mention that) in Muscat. You cannot go in, but you can walk right up to the gates and view the beautiful gardens the Sultan has had planted around it, a result of the influence of his partial upbringing in Britain. I took very few photos of this, as when I visited last year I took a shamefully large amount. However, here’s a view of the walk leading to the palace looking BACK…just because.

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Goes to fancy palace: Takes picture facing the opposite direction.

Following that little stop, we visited Bait Alzubair, a small but very interesting museum about Omani culture (and a wee bit of history) located in what used to be the home of a government official with a very long career.  I’d never visited the museum before, but I was completely fascinated with the inside–it featured two exhibits on Omani dress, which varies from region to region and can be extremely exquisite with a lengthy history. To be honest I think I’m going to write an entire post dedicated to it–it’s a subject that has captured my interest since my last visit to Oman when I found out that the Omani predecessor to the niqab (facial veil worn by some women) was a facial mask unique to whatever tribe to which a woman belonged.  For some reason I’m always fascinated by discerning details–be it in language dialect, dress, traditions…I like being able to identify people. The museum also featured exhibits about Omani homes, old maps, the fishing/sailing history and industries, and outside there were art exhibits.  Photos were not permitted indoors, but I was able to snap a few of the artwork…which were the same statue of the Oryx, an Omani animal sort of a combination between goat and gazelle, given to different artists to decorate as they would-something common in the USA.  Some of the designs were absolutely lovely, while others were more comical.

Wall hanging depicting Mecca in Saudi Arabia on display in Souq Muttrah.

Wall hanging depicting Mecca in Saudi Arabia on display in Souq Muttrah.

Our final stop in the older part of Muscat was Souq Muttrah, a more traditional souq (shopping center) that specializes in clothing, jewelry, knickknacks, and of course–perfumes. (Land of frankincense and Myrrh, people. Both of which smell incredible, by the way). Most stores tend to sell the same things, but it’s excellent for buying gifts for people back home.

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Itty bitty alleyway in the souq. Most of the walkways were much broader and had decorative roofs.

We then visited the CIL (Center for International Learning, my program here in Oman) building and received a quick welcome speech and a few cultural notes from our program directors, and had a rather tasty lunch. By the time we returned to the hotel we were all sweaty and exhausted. I forced myself not to nap so that my inner clock would readjust, but as luck would have it I woke up at 2:30 AM anyway and couldn’t fall back asleep, and thus basically putzed around until it was time to kick myself into gear to be picked up at 7:20 AM for classes.

As this was the first official day of classes, all students in the Advanced level spent the morning in individual interviews with our future teachers to gauge our levels, and then we had a few hours of class which was again mostly just to feel things out.  We won’t really be learning any grammar in our fushaa (standard Arabic) class, which surprised the beans out of me, as I think they want us to focus on poetry and literature and applying all of that knowledge. There was a break for lunch, and the afternoon consisted of meeting with our language partners (two per Omani) for two hours…I can’t figure out if we’re actually going to have an official dialect class or not, but I really, really hope we do. I’m thrilled I can speak Jordanian dialect (hardly fluently, but well enough) since I had to work so hard at it, but now I’m in Oman, annnnnd I kinda would like to fit in here as well. New experience, new challenges.

Anyway, I’m really wanting to write that post about Omani clothing (perhaps I’ll throw in a few other Omani culture notes as well) sooo going to wrap this up for now. Apologies for the rather boring and dry post, look forward to more interesting things in the future I hope!

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