Dish-dashing around with Muscat-eers
Trip Start Oct 12, 2011
14Trip End Nov 02, 2011
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Aboard the MSC Lirica
The show was the best yet and was an array of glitter and colour. It was called ‘Spirit of the Dance’. It was a mix of Riverdance meets a satanic phantom of the opera. The beast of the moment was a pale-faced demon with curly horns that fancied himself as a bit of a Paul Daniels. The only difference was that we all liked this…a lot!!!
The finale was something special. The lights dimmed and 2 of the singers stood either side of the stage and started singing ‘We are the world’. Illuminated words started to float in to the middle of the stage and began to form the words; A-N-I-M-A-T-I-O-N T-E-A-M
I finally solved the puzzle that was bugging me for the whole cruise. Who was the Animation Team? The name appeared on a daily basis in the Programme. I imagined a series of cartoonists who were in the process of producing an animated version of our cruise. However, it transpires that the Animation Team is no other than what we used to call, in the olden days, the Entertainment Team!!!
Our final gala dinner took longer than expected. Between the main course and our sweet we waited about 45 minutes. It is traditional to have the March of the Baked Alaska on the final gala evening. This is when the waiters and chefs parade through the restaurant holding aloft the baked Alaska. We have been on the late sitting so normally finish our dinner and leave the table by 10pm but tonight it was 10:40 before we were served with our pudding!! We rushed up to the Lirica lounge where we had arranged to meet our new quiz team, Philip and Ann together with 2 ladies from Melbourne, Jo and Sue.
It was a movie quiz
Muscat is capital of Oman. However, Muscat is made up from a larger grouping of small towns and communities strung some 40kms along the coast of the Gulf of Oman. The city boundary doesn’t stretch more than 4-5 kms inland. This string of towns forms a sort of necklace sandwiched between the sea to the north and a very rocky, primeval-looking range of barren mountains to the south.
Wouldn’t it be great if a resident of Muscat is known as a Muscateer??! Who know’s maybe they are!!
We had planned to do our own thing in Muscat. Eddie, a seasoned cruiser from South Wales had loaned us a map of Muscat so we could get our bearings. We had planned on heading for the grand mosque but on referring to the map, this seemed to be about 20km from where the ship docks. As we will have the chance to visit mosques later on our trip, we decided to wander through the ‘old town’, known as Muttrah, only a few minutes walk from where the ship docked
We were in Muscat from 8am until 4pm so there was no hurry to get ashore.
Roisin and I left the ship about 10am, on to the shuttle bus that took us to the port gate. From there we had to run the gauntlet of 1000 taxi drivers who all wanted to charge exorbitant rates to take you on a private tour. We had already heard stories from Salalah that they were charging 40 Euros to take you in to the town but by the time you have arrived at the front of the queue, the price had risen to 80 Euros!!! I heard one tax driver quote 20 euros for 1 hour. We declined politely and headed for the Corniche.
The Corniche is a posh word for Prom. This is a coast road that follows the bay around. It has a wide pavement, well preserved and every few hundred metres, a bus shelter sort of thing for taking a rest as today was another scorcher.
Roisin and I both decided to wear long trousers and respectable shirts in case we found ourselves in places that required the covering of all our ‘bits’!!!
Across from the Corniche are dotted shops and hotels scattered amongst a mosque or two as well as the entrance to the Muttrah souk.
Omani men can have up to 4 wives. However, he must treat each wife equal. If he buys wife number 1 a car he the has to buy all his other wives a car
One of the planned excursions is dolphin watching. This seemed to be a bit of a gamble to pay €57 for a boat ride where you may see nothing more than a few floating plastic bags. There is a disclaimer to say that dolphins may or may not be spotted!! Along the Corniche we spotted many dolphins. However, they were in a sculpture form. Maybe that’s what the dolphin watching is all about. They take you in to the bay then give you a telescope and point you toward the Corniche. ‘How many dolphin’s can you spot?’ You have to spot the one wearing the red and white striped dishdasha, spectacles and a red and white kuma. A bit like ‘Where’s Wally’ Omani style!
We arrived at the foot of Muttrah fort. Wow! It was a long way up. There were stairs winding up the side of the rock. We couldn’t see anyone moving around on the ramparts. Maybe no-one was at home. We shall never know!!!
We started to walk back the way we came, along the other side of the Corniche. The temperature showed 35 degrees celcius (102F). We passed the Mosque that appeared to be closed. A sign at the engrance stipulated (in English!!) ‘for Muslims only’ Is that allowed in this day and age?? We now came to the entrance to the Souk. This is what we envisaged a souk to look and smell like. It was a covered souk so any shelter from the heat was welcome. The smell of spices and aromas was fantastic. It was like ‘the Body Shop’ meets the Taj Curry House’. The shops and stalls sold everything from textiles to spices from all corners of the arabian peninsula. There were a fair amount of bric-a-brac and tat knocking about. It was a hustle and bustle. The allayways were narrow and most of the patrons seemed to be locals. Roisin rushed ahead but I got stuck behind what looked like a train of dwarfs. There were 4 women all dressed from head to foot in the black abaya. None seemed to be taller than 4 foot 6!! They were following in the stride of a tall distinguished looking gentleman in is dishdasha and patterend turban
Every few yards, yet another salesman would leap out and show us the quality of their Kashmir scarfs. Why would anyone want to buy a scarf in 100 degree heat?? Roisin was quick to point out that kashmir keeps you warm when it is cold and keeps you cool in the heat. I gues it is the thermos flask of clothing!!!
We popped in to a few stalls to check out the nick nacks. We thought we had this haggling thing off to a fine art. We got the individual price on 3 small items that came to 6.5 rial (£13). I produced a 5 rial note from my pocklet and offered him this. He asked for 6 rial. I explained that this is all I have and I don’t even have anything left for a cup of tea. This seemed to work and he reluctently took my 5 rial. I personally think he was only playing the game. Never the less £3 knocked off was a result in my book. That was until I heared about a transaction from a fellow passenger.
There is an Iranian lady on board. She is a UK citizen but still has a lot of ties with the Middle East. She was advised that a bag of frankincense was 5 rial. She ended up with 3 bags for 1.5 rial. Now THAT’S how to do it!!!
That evening as Roisin and I were sitting out on the aft deck after a Caribbean dinner that seems to resemble the French dinner several days before but with added pineapple to the meat that was renamed from Guinea-fowl to chicken, one of the men in blue appeared with binoculars. He started looking out to sea through them. I followed his glaze. All I could see is pitch black. One thing we have both noticed on this trip is the lack of a moon. The moon was last seen over Genoa in its ‘full phase’. Since then there has been no moon in the evening/night sky. Very bizarre. After several minutes, the man in blue disappeared back inside. We’re guessing that the binoculars must have been night vision goggles. Not sure why we still need the bodyguards as we are well passed the danger zone, crossing the Gulf of Oman heading toward the Straits or Hormuz and in to the Arabian Gulf.
We are now in the home strait. Staring down the twin barrels that are Dubai and Abu Dhabi ready to be blown away!!!