Helping the Captain to Steer the Ship

20150606_161020 Me, steering the ship

July 5, 2015–There are a couple of things I forgot to mention in my last post about Dubai: Hotel DJs have a huge hip hop music playlist, the biggest movie billboard in the world (it had to be)  was plastered across the main highway, advertising The Rock in St. Andreas Fault, and Nikki Manij, looking very chic and sophisticated in a short bob and pink glossy lipstick was featured on billboards advertising sunglasses. Represent, girlfriend!

With Dubai an astounding memory, we set sail for Muscat, Oman and that’s when I discovered my seafaring expertise. But first, I have to paint a picture of Quantum of the Seas, our Royal Caribbean ship, that called itself The Smart Ship for good reason. It was six months old, all steel and glass with a Robotic Bar that served drinks (so cool!), a promenade with shops, bars and a casino, and positive messages painted on walls and stairways throughout. Internet service was spotty, but patience is a virtue, right?

I found a perfect spot in the Solarium in the foremost section of the deck, by one of the ship’s three pools where anyone who wanted to could find me on a daily basis. Surrounded by an unobstructed view of endless water that defined the color blue and really made it seem like we could fall off the earth just beyond the horizon, I realized that this huge ship of 16 floors and 3,000 guests were the sole responsibility of an overworked Captain. So, from that day on, I stretched out in that location, and between my book, Ipod, naps and drinking lots of water, I would either point my toes to the left, right, or straight ahead, to help our Captain navigate to the next country. I’m sure he appreciated it as so many others did, who I shared this story with!

We sailed for two days to Oman when a city surrounded by mountains appeared from out of nowhere. To the right was a giant incense burner, built atop a hill surrounded by a children’s playground. But there were no children in sight, maybe because it was 104 degrees.

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Left, center, right: Dancers at the port, Margo Williams taking pictures; the giant white incense burner landmark; a city street along the beach.

We disembarked listening to a group of musicians who danced in a circle in natural rhythm to bagpipes. Hundreds of passengers lined up to pile onto waiting busses and started our tour where we could hop on and off at various locations. I think my pictures say a lot about this country, that 50 years ago was filled with tents and dirt roads. Today, Muscat looks like a perfect, newly designed Hollywood set.

Muscat has a multi-ethnic history. Most people are not native to the country, which includes British, a long line of Gujarati merchants, and Portugese. Arabic is the primary language along with English, Balochi, Swahili and South Asian languages such as Hindi, Gujarati, Malayalam, Tamil and Urdu. Islam is the predominant religion in the city, with most followers being Ibadi Muslims. Non-Muslims are allowed to practice their religion, but may not try to convert people publicly or distribute religious literature.

Our bus weaved in and out of shopping and residential areas, all painted bright white, that blazed in the hot sun, past air conditioned cars–lots of Mercedes, BMWs and Toyotas–and a Ford dealership. Unlike Dubai, there were no skyscrapers here. But there was an ancient city that seemed to be coexisting with all that is new. Beautiful.

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Left to right: Fountain entering Muscat, Oman; Royal Opera House.

Next: India Beckons

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