Indeed, there is no other word most suited to Oman but the word: exquisite. Oman exudes class over its more crass Middle Eastern neighbours and remains relatively untouched by commercial influences. Its shopping malls are modest, ostentatious sky scrappers completely amiss from its urbanscape; souk is the shopping hub, and cultural centres and religious institutions are its prized buildings.
The most exquisite building is its Royal Opera House, made from Burmese teak, Omani limestone and marble. A monarchy state, Oman is ruled by Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, a graduate of Britain’s Sandhurst Military Academy, who loves music and is also known to have his own symphony orchestra. This explains the construction of the Opera House and English being adopted widely by the Omanis. The Sultan’s contributions can be seen in other ways too: wide roads, world class healthcare facilities, even private yachting and property developments like the Greg Norman Golf Course. Malls, for some reason, have been spared from the development frenzy and you don’t find yourself trapped inside the vast expanse of air-conditioned environments. Souks, sea fronts, fruit and fish markets make up for it instead.
Oman has been able to find a fine balance between the Arabic culture and the western sensitivities without being extremely commercial like Abu Dhabi and Dubai or conservative like Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Men wear dishdashas – the flowing white long tunics with caps and khanjars or filigreed daggers. They do love their mobile phones and sun glasses – a quintessential accessory in the sunny climate.
The other most exquisite place is the Grand Mosque. Visit it on a hot day and you can find the cool interiors of marbled floorings a relief to your senses. The interiors are fitted with a 10-tonne chandelier almost resembling the solar system, carpeted flooring and stained glass windows that literally take your breath away. It is apparent that a lot of care has been taken to create something so beautiful.
The daily catch at the fish market – a must visit when in Muscat
The Royal Opera House – a treat to the senses. Made from Burmese teak and marble
Built using 300,000 tonnes of Indian sandstone, the Grand Mosque was built in 2001.
Bedouin women in Muscat
Catch of the day
Grand Mosque, Muscat
Exquisite craftsmanship: Grand Mosque, Muscat
Sands of time
Carved Burmese teak door
Opera House, Muscat
Royal Opera House in all its grandeur
Boys and their toys – they absolutely love their mobile phones
Fish market, Muscat
Grand Mosque, Muscat
The chandelier above the praying hall in the Grand Mosque was manufactured by company Faustig in Italy
Stained glass windows in the Grand Mosque. A major feature of the Grand Mosque is the hand-woven prayer carpet which contains,1,700,000,000 knots, weighs 21 tonnes and took four years to produce. Its design is influenced by the ancient Irani carpeting techniques and uses traditional vegetable dyes. It is the second largest single piece carpet in the world and was produced by Iran Carpet Company (ICC) at the order of the Diwan of the Royal Court of Sultanate. Absolutely worth visiting to see the object of beauty.