Monday, July 30, 2012

Back in the USA Part 2: Disneyland & California Adventure

What is it about Disneyland that’s so magical?
Kai me denim jacket

My granddaughter Kailyn is six years old, so it was time to take her to Disneyland. I hadn’t been there since I took my daughter Nicole and her friend in 1997, and I wondered how much it might have changed. What I found out is that it’s still the Happiest Place on Earth, well managed, and any changes are for the better. And now, there are two parks –Disneyland and California Adventure, which opened in 2001. For some reason, when you go there, you can’t help but enjoy yourself, even when you’re waiting in a long line.

Back in March, I told Kailyn that I would take her to Disneyland this summer. Her big eyes got even bigger, and she said “Let’s go now!” No, we have to wait until I come back this summer, I said. Winter ended and spring began, and  Kailyn’s mom Kerri and I began to plan the trip.
Waterfall girls

Both Mommy and Daddy (my son Brian) were going, and I asked Kerri to invite a friend for Kailyn. Kids have a lot more fun, and remember it better, when they’re with a friend their own age. Kerri suggested Kailyn’s best friend Hannah. They are kindergarten friends, but Hannah’s daddy got transferred, so the family moved from Concord to Petaluma. This trip would be a great way to keep the Kailyn – Hannah connection over the summer.

We got a package deal through our Costco membership, which included three hotel nights, a two-day Park Hopper pass, bus transportation, a “character meal” (more about that later) and early entry on one day. They send the tickets to your home, but since I was out of the country I had them sent to Brian and Kerri.

Disneyland 028

We drove from Concord, California to Anaheim in about seven hours, and got to the park the next day about an hour after it opened. The first thing we did was get in line for a popular ride, Splash Mountain. I’m not a big fan of roller coasters or other rides with a big drop but I thought, “What the heck?” Although Kailyn was a little scared, it was a good way to start. And I must say that the strategy of getting as far inside the park as early as possible is a good one, because by 11:00 a.m. the waits for the popular rides are long. We also got onto Pirates of the Caribbean before there was a long wait.

Even though they are six years old, the girls are still pretty young for many of the rides, which were too fast or too scary for Kailyn or too big Hannah, who is only 40” tall. Also, the girls were little enough to get tired pretty easily. The first day, we went back to the hotel to “rest,” but the girls wanted to swim, which certainly made them even more tired. That night we were all exhausted, and ended up sleeping in the second day, missing our “early entry” opportunity. So on the second day, we stuck it out for the whole day until after the Magical fireworks show, about 11 hours.
Here’s a list of what we did in our two days there.
Disneyland rides
  • Splash Mountain
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  • Autopia
California Adventure rides
  • Francis’ Ladybug Boogie
  • Flik’s Flyers
  • Tuck and Roll’s’ Drive ‘em Buggies
  • Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train
  • Luigi’s Flying Tires
  • Radiator Springs Racers (didn’t actually get on the ride, but waited in line for 2 hours until it broke down)
Shows and Parades
  • Disney Junior – Live on Stage
  • Muppet Vision 3D
  • Pixar Play Parade
  • World of Color
  • Magical Fireworks Spectacular
  • Ariel’s Grotto Princess Celebration
  • Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill
  • Carnation Café
  • Tomorrowland Terrace
  • Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor
Fortunately, the rides are only part of the Disneyland experience. Over the two days we were there, it seemed like we only rode a few rides but the parades, characters and shows were what made the trip. Looking back, I can see there are tons of things the girls would have loved, that we didn’t have time to do. Should we have made it a week-long trip? Probably not; the girls would have been overwhelmed. And so would I! So I guess that’s why people go back, year after year.

At the end of our trip, Kailyn said she's going back when she's 12 years old. Why she picked that age, we don't know. The grownups said we might want to go back sooner.

The Pixar Parade video that I promised earlier is finally on YouTube. But be careful, you or your belongings may get a little wet!

Cars Land just opened in June of this year, so it was very crowded. Fortunately, I just saw the movie – Kailyn let me borrow her Cars 2 DVD to watch at home in Nevada, where I didn’t have any TV or Internet. So I knew all about Lightning McQueen, Tow Mater, and all the rest. I recognized everything from the movie! It’s just like being in Radiator Springs.

The last thing we saw was the fireworks show.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Back in the U.S.A. – Part One

Expats evacuate the Middle East during the hot, humid, stifling summer months. Families take extended holidays back to their country of origin. Wives go home for weeks, leaving husbands to tough it out alone. I’m enjoying five weeks in the U.S. while Mark is staying in Abu Dhabi and working. According to Mark, today’s temperature was 48°C or 119°F.

Yet I feel a little left out because I am missing the Ramadan experience. “Ramadan Kareem,” I see in posts and news stories. This means “Have a Generous Ramadan,” because Ramadan is a time of fasting, prayer, reflection, thanks, and generosity to others. Sometimes, with this crazy, fast-paced life we live, the idea of slowing down and reflecting is appealing. Mark tells me the streets in Abu Dhabi are strangely empty as Muslim people fast all day, not even drinking water. Then, as the sun goes down, they head out for Iftar, a large meal that breaks the fast. Shops that have been closed all day open, and many stay open all night. The grocery stores are packed, Mark says, like they would be during a natural disaster.

Mark’s Ramadan work hours are 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. But it’s too hot to be outside, and as a sign of respect even non-Muslims must refrain from eating and drinking even water in public during the day, so that makes going out even less enticing. Instead, he’s been watching movies and reading on the Internet.
What have I been doing, here in the U.S.? Too much to write long stories about, so here are some random thoughts and activities, with photos.
Kailyn 003

The first thing I did was check in with family, especially my granddaughter, Kailyn.

I thought perhaps returning home would make me feel disconnected after my long absence, like an outsider. I did feel a little bit out of phase when I first arrived in the U.S., but mostly because of lack of Internet in our house in Nevada.
Home was a welcome sight. Thanks to our gardener and watchful neighbors, it looks just like it does when we are home – except that the yard furniture is missing, put away in the garage.Two of the things I’ve missed the most are the blue, blue Nevada skies and the high desert sunsets.
Faye Luther 012

Home is Where the Art Is
Gardnerville 001

To get onto the Internet, I went to 88 Cups coffee shop in Minden for breakfast and Wi-Fi. What I did not know was that my oil painting teacher, Tina Tyrrell, would be teaching a class there at 11:00 a.m. What a happy surprise to see her walk in!

Gardnerville 003
Meeting Tina’s students and seeing them set up their easels and paints made me want to move right back and start painting with them. Tina introduced me to Bob, who is interested in boats, owns a sailboat and is working on a tugboat series. He’s a retired geologist who spent most of his career working in the oil fields in the Middle East. Small world! I got his email address so I can ask him geology questions about the landscape when Mark and I visit places.

I’ve produced one painting since we’ve been living in Abu Dhabi, which I brought back with me to get Tina’s advice on the final touches. The day after I saw Tina at 88 Cups, I went to the Tuesday class in Carson City, about 15 miles from Minden/Gardnerville. Since all my painting supplies are in Abu Dhabi, I borrowed from my friend Debbie. I had done the painting on a piece of linen canvas which I had cut off of a roll and packed in my suitcase. Now, thanks to Tina, the painting is finished, and I’ll glue it onto a board and frame it.

Sailing Lake Tahoe

The first weekend I was in the U.S., I was invited to crew with our friends Jim and Jamie Casey on their J124 Pleiades in the annual Tran Tahoe sailboat race on Lake Tahoe. As usual, the race was postponed for an hour until the wind came up. The slowest boats started first, so we were the last start. We got into a little altercation with the other boats on the starting line. Once we started we had steady, if shifty, breeze, took second place in the race, and celebrated with shrimp tacos afterward.

“Beer can” races are a summer tradition in the sailing world. These are (supposedly) relaxed and friendly “fun” races. So on Wednesday night I again found myself on Pleiades, but this time with a somewhat greener crew, including my Abu Dhabi pal Lucy, who is in the U.S. with her 93 year old mom, who happens to live in Fernley, Nevada. This world is full of coincidences. Jim and Jamie are always so gracious about taking people out on Wednesdays, so it was no problem when I invited Lucy.

We got onto the boat, and WHOA! Was it windy! With gusts in the high 20 knot range, we played it conservative. I wasn’t sure how I would explain to Tom if we lost Lucy in the Lake Tahoe mountain water, which is as cold as the Arabian Gulf is hot this time of year. The elevation at Lake Tahoe is about 6225 feet, and the water in the lake is all snowmelt. At that altitude the air is “thinner,” which means that 20 knots of breeze has less strength than 20 knots of breeze at sea level. Even so, Pleiades is a big, heavy boat with big loads and we opted to run downwind under jib and main instead of using the spinnaker. “Hang on, Lucy!” I kept yelling.

There was too much wind for sailing photos, but the view from the Tahoe Yacht Club is gorgeous.

Back to Nature – Hiking and Walking the Trails
My work with The Nature Conservancy and the Carson Valley Trails Association has given me a great appreciation for trails and wildlife. The photos in the following albums are from four hikes/walks that I have done since I arrived:

· Carson River at River Fork Ranch near Genoa, Nevada

I went on this walk with Charles Wolle, my neighbor. He is a U.S. federal judge, appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1987 and still working. And coincidentally, his brother William Wolle was the U.S. Ambassador to Abu Dhabi 1979-1981.

· Faye Luther Trail in Gardnerville, Nevada

This trail crosses the CA/NV state line. I helped build this trail with the Carson Valley Trails Association. The trailhead is just about 5 miles from our house. It’s part of a wonderful trail system that is being developed.

· Lake Winnemucca at Carson Pass, California with Jamie and Lucy

· Meeker Slough section of the San Francisco Bay Trail, in Point Richmond, California with my long time good friend Lori

Next stop: Disneyland, with Kailyn!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Mohammed Ali Mubarak al Hammadi’s Emirati-American Family

Mohammed Cindy anniv gift FB
Mohammed and Cindy on their
30th wedding anniversary.
Mark often comes home with anecdotes about the people he works with at the military base. They’re a mixture of Arab culture and Western influence; many studied in the U.S. One day he came home and told me about Mohammed Ali.

“His wife is American; they’ve been married for 30 years. She’s from North Carolina. You should meet her. Mohammed invited us to visit them.” This invitation to visit, coming from an Arab, is no idle chatter. If you are invited you must go, and be prepared to be treated like royalty. Mark and I wanted to do another road trip, so in just a couple of weeks we had made our plans.

The Mohammed Ali Mubarak al Hammadi family lives in Khorfakkan, a small town in the UAE’s Eastern Region on the Gulf of Oman. We booked a hotel room in Fujairah, about 30 minutes south of Khorfakkan.

Before the weekend arrived, I emailed and called Mohammed’s wife Cindy, to introduce myself and check on their schedule for the weekend. Cindy asked me if I have any kids. Two, grown up and living in California, and a granddaughter; and you? Three; two girls in their 20’s and a boy, 17. All still live at home.

Abu Dhabi - Khorfakkan
The small section of UAE coastline in the Eastern Region is of great economic and strategic importance. 

The Eastern Region is quite a contrast to both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Cindy told me. Life is slower paced and more relaxed. Her voice was quiet and reserved, but I could still hear the familiar All-American southern twang. “It’s nice here,” she said.

Fujairah. The port is on the distant horizon. In the foreground, a Zayed Grand Mosque like the one in Abu Dhabi is being built.
Fujairah 3Dirhams 001
Mountains are being moved.

Fujairah is a port city, so by definition it’s industrial. Khorfakkan is a port as well, smaller but still important. This area is a jigsaw puzzle of lands controlled by the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman. As the only cities on the eastern seaboard belonging to the UAE, and accessible by ship without passing through the Strait of Hormuz, the ports of Fujairah and Khorfakkan are of critical importance. The roads to the Arabian Gulf and the cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi have been improved, and an oil pipeline is being built.

At Al Bidyah Mosque
 That weekend, we spent the better part of two days with Mohammed and Cindy. The first day, we visited Al Bidyah, the oldest mosque in the Emirates, and drove north to Dibba, a town divided into three sections and controlled by Oman and two Emirates, Fujairah and Sharjah.

Our Gulf Cuisine meal included
macaroni and cheese, a favorite of Aisha.
We had dinner with the family at a Lebanese restaurant on the Corniche overlooking the Gulf of Oman, with locals cruising the strip below us in an Arab version of American Graffiti. The next day we went to Mohammed and Cindy’s home for an Arab meal before heading back over the mountains to Abu Dhabi.

Fujairah BBQ 025
Aminah brought poppers
instead of fireworks, which
are illegal in the UAE.

We were charmed by the family. Aminah is quiet until you get her talking, and then she goes a mile a minute, telling stories about her students in English or bantering with her parents and siblings in Arabic. Although Aminah doesn’t have a teaching certificate, she is often called upon to cover for the teachers. So she has decided that being classified as a teaching assistant is not satisfactory, and she is thinking about what to do next. Personally, I hope that she continues in education because she obviously loves the kids.

Mohd & Cindy 30th Anniv 026
Aisha is all smiles at the 30th party.
Aisha, the middle child, is the firecracker. Often the center of attention and the subject of teasing and funny stories, she will protest, “No! Don’t tell that story! For the love of God, stop! I can’t take it!” Aisah is a student in the Applied Communications department at the Higher Colleges of Technology Women’s College in Fujairah, where Cindy also works and she is a budding filmmaker. In fact, hers was one of just a few student films selected for the 2011 Abu Dhabi Film Festival, which was held last October, just before I arrived in the UAE.

The subject of Aisha’s film is the “gambooԐa,” a large hair clip that Emirati girls wear to make it look like they have a huge pile of hair under their shaylas. Titled Super GambooԐa, it’s the story of a young girl who thinks the perfect gambooԐa will give her super powers. Aisha is working on her submission to the 2012 Abu Dhabi Film Festival. This year, it’s a documentary about the children of Emirati and American couples; a subject she is quite intimate with. I hope her film makes it in; she’s said she will get me tickets.


Faisal is the boy, and so of course he doesn’t talk with me as much as the girls do. I do however know that he is interested in mechanical engineering, and is entering a robotics competition. I understand a little bit about this, because I substitute taught in an American Community School middle school robotics class once this year, as well as an engineering class. I know that they use a special kind of Legos to build their robotic devices, attaching special motors to make them operate.


Neela serves lunch
The housemaid Neela cooks the meals
to Cindy's specifications.

All three kids love American fast food. Hamburgers, Subway sandwiches, and Baskin Robbins are frequent requests. Like many Emiratis, they stay up into the wee hours of the morning, order their “dinner” of burgers to be delivered in the middle of the night, and then sleep late into the day. But hey, it’s summer.

Larry, Moe, and Curly?
"Too much food" at the party.

I’ve been back three more times: once with Mark, Tom, and Lucy, for a Rotana beach resort weekend in Dibba and lunch with Mohammed, Cindy and family; once with Tom, Dana and Mark, to attend Mohammed and Cindy’s 30th wedding anniversary party, and one more time by myself.

Mohd & Cindy 30th Anniv 040
Their affection for one another is obvious.

For three days and two nights during the week of July 4th, I stayed with Cindy, Aminah, Aisha, and Faisal while Mohammed was working and living on base, as he has throughout their married life. He comes home every weekend.

I went to visit this most recent time for a very special purpose. The first weekend that Cindy and I met, she told me some stories about how she came to live in the UAE. “People tell me I should write a book with all these stories I have,” she said, her southern accent seeping through, “but I’m not really a writer and besides, I don’t really have the time.”

“Well …” I said. An idea was hatched.

A few days before my trip, Cindy told me that we were invited to a July 4th barbecue at an American co-worker’s house. “I’ve never been to a Fourth of July barbecue in the UAE before,” she said. “So just to let you know … and we’re supposed to wear something red, white, and blue.” I didn’t have much, but I packed a blue skirt, white top and red sandals.

Fujairah BBQ 014
American Independence Day spirit.

I needn’t have bothered. Cindy and her daughters had not one but two identical t-shirts with the American flag in the shape of a heart on them; I wore one and Aisha wore the other, under her abaya. Cindy had brought them back from one of her trips back to the U.S.

She went back less frequently after September 11, 2001. After 911, it was difficult to enter the U.S. as an American mother with children who held Emirati passports. So the kids and their American grandparents lost out during those years that they were growing up. Now that they’re adults, their Emirati passports aren’t questioned. As an American, you can hold passports from two different countries, but it’s against Emirati law. The benefits of being Emirati are too great for them to give up their status as nationals.

The t-shirt looked great with my long white skirt, which I had brought thinking that I would feel comfortable wearing it if I went out with the other women in their long abayas. The party was great fun, with a fully loaded potluck table, barbecued burgers and chicken, and the house decorated to the hilt just like in the USA.

Fujairah BBQ 018
I didn't have any Dolly but
Cindy has the whole collection.
You could tell the hostess was a teacher, and a young mother; she had games and prizes, even a piñata. At one point she announced that there was a prize for the person wearing the best Red, White & Blue. I tried to point her in the direction of Cindy, Aminah, and Aisha, who were decked out in Old Glory colors, but in the end, I was given the prize, a “Dolly Parton Favourites” CD. I guess that’s British for “Dolly Parton’s Greatest Hits.”

Now, we have begun our collaboration on the book. Cindy and I spent three days talking and recording our conversation. I learned how she met and fell in love with Mohammed in the U.S. and came to live in Khorfakkan as a young, inexperienced small-town southern Baptist girl. She made a life for herself, learned to speak Arabic like a native, but remained an American. She raised a family, taught herself skills and became a fixture in the community, a person of importance and value, a resource. She has taught English, parenting skills, crafts, cooking, computer skills, and more. When she first arrived, she was known because of who she was: the American wife. Now she is known for what she does: things that no one else can do. Things that everyone else needs help with.

I’ve always wanted to write a book, and now I am busy transcribing Cindy’s words, researching, and writing. Thanks to Cindy and Mohammed, I have a book project! It’s the story of this American woman and Arab man who fell in love and remain a happily married couple 30 years later, told in the context of the United Arab Emirates and the rapid changes it has undergone. We hope that their story will foster greater understanding of the Emirates, and Arab culture, among other people.

Mohd Cindy wedding cake
Cindy photo collection 069

Monday, July 2, 2012

Wandering by Board and Bike

Gates and doors, even the neglected ones, are works of art.

It’s hot, and I mean, REALLY hot now. As I type this it’s 40 degrees C or 104 F which is not that hot for here, but with 47% humidity it feels like 120 F.

Still, I try to go outside out for a few hours each day. This means either getting out early in the day, or spending my outdoors time in the water.

Exploring takes my mind off the heat, somewhat. Yesterday it was the paddle board, and today the bicycle.

Neighborhood Board and Bike
This map shows the range, in the context of the rest of the city. The paddling route is about 3.3 miles, which took about 1 1/2 hours, including a stop on a mangrove island and a swim.

The photos in the album below have descriptions and other comments attached.

Today at 8:30 a.m. Waldo and I went for a cruise around a nearby neighborhood with small businesses and lots of workers’ housing. The second I got outside I thought, I might not last long. But surprisingly, as I cruised slowly around, I got used to the heat and the slight breeze on my wet (with sweat) clothing cooled me.
I saw many businesses with interesting and sometimes amusing names. I found restaurants and bakeries, and fruit and vegetable stores that I am going to start patronizing. I also found out that, if you take a photo of someone, they might ask you to give them a digital copy of it. And why not? If they have access to a computer, as this fellow did, they can send photos of themselves at work to their family member back home.

Here are the photos, with comments to put them in context.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Road Trip to Oman: Muscat and Bar Al Jissah

Shangri La Oman 010
The hole in the rock drew me through time after time.
Snapshot 1 (6-28-2012 12-27 PM) copy
The Brahmin bull barely fit in the little pickup.
It’s always interesting to see large camels, often two at a time, riding placidly to market or camel races in the back of small pickup trucks. Even more remarkable was the Brahmin bull we saw shortly after leaving Nizwa.

Along with camel racing, bull fighting is popular in Oman, and this bull was no doubt on its way to Barka, a town along the coast east of Muscat. I’m not going to pretend to know anything about camel racing or bull fighting, because we haven’t seen either one yet. I wondered if this bull was on his way to a bloody battle to the death, so I did a little research on it. Animal lovers will be relatively happy to read that the Omani bull fighting is not like Spanish bull fights.

Barka bullfight action. Photo by Lars Plougmann“The fort of Barka & its old bull fighting arena where the bloodless bull fight still takes place is not (to) be missed during a trip to Oman where Brahmin bulls of a similar size are pitted against each other in a boisterous battle. The fight is fairly short, but enthusiastically received by the audience, and the bulls suffer little or no injury, unlike in Spanish bull fighting.

Bulls were traditionally brought into the Middle East for heavy labour, such as for pulling ploughs and turning waterwheels. With tractors and machine-driven water pumps, the traditional role of the bull has diminished, while the popularity of the bull-fighting sport has increased amongst expatriates and locals alike.

It is difficult to pin point when bullfights will occur as they can be quite spontaneous affairs. On the whole, they are held on holidays and celebration days, either early in the morning, or late afternoon, when it is cooler.”

I love this view of Old Muscat.
About an hour later, we were turning right and heading west into Muscat. We drove through the business district toward Bar al Jissah, bypassing the Mutrah, with its picturesque bay and bustling souq, because we planned to go there on Saturday.

Yet we took a wrong turn, rounded a curve and there was Old Muscat below us, one of my iconic visual images of the Middle East. We drove down and through the district; Lucy and Tom could see the Al Alam Palace.

We didn’t dawdle though, as we were anxious to get settled into the resort lifestyle. We pulled into the portico, and our car was whisked off by a valet as our luggage was loaded onto a cart, a large portion of which was taken up with my inflatable ULI board and Mark’s two sets of snorkeling gear. After what seemed an inordinate amount of time getting checked in we were happy to find ourselves in adjacent water view rooms on the ground floor with easy access to the beach. Between us and the beach flowed the “Lazy River,” where you could jump onto an inner tube and float between two of the resort’s three hotels.

012There’s not much point in going into detail about the hotel. If you are interested just go to the website

As for the rest of it, the pictures tell the story. I spent countless hours on my board paddling around and through the rock formations. Lucy’s favorite thing to do is paddle around while listening to music or a book on her IPod; she has a special waterproof case and earphones. Tom loves to sleep on the beach in the sun; he must be part lizard. Mark swam and caught up on his “restation” and television watching.

Beautiful coastline. The green line is my paddling range, about 2 miles total.

Turtles look a little bit like this when they
poke their heads up to breathe.
This however is Mark.
One morning as I paddled I came upon a person snorkeling. It was Mark, who told me that he had seen turtles. The Gulf of Oman and Arabian Gulf are hawksbill and green turtle breeding grounds from January to July. The turtles come onto the beaches and lay their eggs, leaving telltale tracks so that the nests can be identified and protected. The beaches at our hotel had sixteen nests that were marked off with ropes and signs so that no one would dig them up. Each sign included the expected date of the hatch, which guests are encouraged to witness. I went snorkeling later with Mark, but we didn’t see any turtles. However, Lucy saw a turtle when she snorkeled early the next morning.

Incense burner landmark.
Friday at about 3:30 p.m. Mark and I decided that we wanted to do a little shopping in the hotel complex. We heard there was a shuttle to the shops in the small Heritage Village onsite. We were directed out through the lobby and onto a small bus. We were the first onboard; eventually the vehicle was loaded to capacity. Just as the last people were getting on board and others were turned away, I said to Mark: “This doesn’t feel right. I think this bus might be going to Mutrah.” Oops! The door shut and we were on the road. Sure enough, as Mark began to grumble under his breath, we found ourselves cresting the hill, driving through Old Muscat and along the Corniche. I sat back and enjoyed the scenery, talking with a young American man in the seat next to me who has been living and working in Abu Dhabi for nine years.

Presently we pulled up and stopped at the entrance to the Mutrah souq. “Be back here at 6:30!” the driver instructed us. “Are you going back to the hotel now,” I asked? No, the driver said. We explained that we had gotten onto the wrong bus by mistake and needed to go back to the hotel immediately. “No problem! I will drive you back. No problem.”

This is an example of the friendly and accommodating way that Omanis treat their visitors. On the way back to the hotel, the driver told us about his family, and that he lives on the other side of Muscat. If we hadn’t needed a ride back, he could have gone home for two hours before picking up his passengers. Yet he could not have been more pleasant telling us that no, he wasn’t planning to do that today anyway.

He dropped us off at the Heritage Village, which was so close we could easily have walked. We found a shop and owner that we really liked, and promised to come back the next day to buy. Which, as it turned out, I had to do because I left my sunglasses behind by mistake.

Muscat Oman 004
We had an opportunity to see the palace at night.
The next day was our planned outing to Muscat. Around mid-afternoon Mark and I piled into the car with Tom and Lucy, and just as we were pulling out of the portico an attendant said, “Your tire is low.” It was, in fact, completely flat. First the car isn’t running right, and now a flat tire!

What made it worse was that the tires were brand new. And second, our used Cayenne came without a spare. All we had was a can of fix-it goo. So while Lucy and I walked over to the Heritage Village to get my sunglasses, the boys assessed the situation. Eventually they got a ride into Muscat in a hotel van, and the tire was fixed. It’s still a mystery as to why it was flat. Mark theorizes that perhaps it wasn’t installed properly, or maybe when the hotel parked it they jammed the tire against a little rocky curb. Lucy says she heard a whistling noise coming from it when we pulled up at the hotel the day before. We’ll never know.

Muscat Oman 014
Trinkets at the souq.
That took hours. Eventually we did make it to Muscat but not until after dark. We had dinner at our favorite seafood restaurant, took a quick tour through the souq, and headed back over the hill to Bar Al Jissah. It was Saturday, the night before the holy day, and the streets were packed.

Muscat is perhaps Mark’s and my favorite place in the Middle East, so far. We love the sense of history and adventure that permeates this country, its beautiful landscapes both lush and stark, and the work ethic of the Omani people who still farm the land, fish the Gulf of Oman, run small businesses and drive taxis. Its seafaring history appeals to us, and I love the complex geology. There is so much left for us to discover about this country.

Postscript: After we got home, Mark did some work on the car. The air filter wasn't properly installed, and there were a couple of other adjustments. Now the car runs fine, but he still doesn't trust it.

Thanks for reading.