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Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

After the family reunion on Koh Samui I flew back to Bangkok for 3 days while I waited for my flight out and for more last minute dental work. And got to meet up with Tim who I knew from Couchsurfing forums and who was also waiting for his flight back to England. A lovely man!

Then I flew out to the Sultinate of Oman, a small Arab state on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by the United Arab Emerates to the northeast, by Saudi Arabia to the west and Yemen to the southwest. Off the north coast is Iran, and on the south coast is the United Arab Emirates and Musandam, an exclave of Oman. At its narrowest, the strait is 21 nautical miles (39 km) wide.

It is on the Hormuz Strait which is the body of water between the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf. It is the only sea passage from the Persian Gulf to the open ocean and is one of the world’s most strategically important choke points. About 20% of the world’s petroleum, and about 35% of the petroleum traded by sea, passes through the strait making it a highly important strategic location for international trade. (Which is why the U.S. has ships anchored there.)

Muscat is spread out for 40km along the coast. The whole metropolitan area of Muscat has about 800,000 people spread out over about 580 square miles with the rest of the population, mostly tribal, in small towns and villages in the mountains.

I was picked up at the airport by my Couchsurfing host who I stayed with for 3 days near Muscat…the capital city. She is from Australia but is in Oman teaching English. The day after I arrived, she needed to attend a meeting so she drove me to a gas station out on the highway where I could pick up a taxi to the Mutrah Souk (indoor market with winding aisles and goods galore), sit along the corniche in view of the sea and just people watch. There is a port here (there were 2 cruise ships docked here) so the locals are used to seeing tourists walking around in this part of Oman.

It was my great good luck to be in Oman during the Muscat Festival when Omani customs and practices were demonstrated and we had permission to take photos of people although some women did wave us away. At the airport, upon arrival, I was given a bag with a cup, a thumb drive, a white polo shirt, a couple promotional DVD’s concentrating on eco-tourism and a slick-backed tourist book listing the week’s festivities which included an international biking competition through the mountains.

Click on this link for a video:
Omani Tribal Ritual

I also took a tour of the city on a hop on hop off bus although Muscat is fairly uniform in color (country code (white)) so there wasn’t much to see. My knee was hurting so I didn’t stop off at the palaces and museums. Sigh. I mentioned to my host that the neighborhoods looked similar to the newer white-washed suburbs of Las Vegas! She is still probably shaking her head and telling her friends about this remark from a stupid American! LOL

After the third night with my host I moved to a hotel, the Husin Al Khaleej Hotel Apartments (a huge suite of rooms apparently for big families) for about $30US) in Seeb City Center, a coastal newish middle income section with large homes, located several kilometres northwest of Muscat City. No tourists there!

My own experience as a solo foreign woman was interesting indeed. I saw no foreigners in a week in the country other than Europeans who got off cruise ships at the port in Old Muscat. And a few young people headed into the mountains to off-road in the mountain washes. And I was the only foreigner that I saw in Seeb City. I saw only a handfull of women on the street although I did go to a mall about 20 minutes away by taxi where I saw plenty of women…all covered of course.

So where to eat. There were a few Turkish tea houses nearby with men only that opened about 4pm until about 4am. So I asked the Muslim receptionist in the hotel where I could find typical Omani food. She sent me to a restaurant with a narrow walkup to several small tiny private rooms where I sat on the floor and ate alone. I should have paid attention to this.

The next couple days I walked down from the hotel a couple blocks and found 2-3 small take-out cafes. I ordered and ate at a table on the sidewalk in front…crossing my legs and having a cigarette after. Finally (low-wage people are usually Indians) I got the feeling that the Indian waiters were uncomfortable with me there. On the third day one of them handed me a menu and told me in English to go back to my hotel and call in with an order and they would deliver it.

I noticed that hardly anyone went into these cafes either to eat or to take out. Men would drive up on the service road and honk. A waiter would run out, take the order and return with it whereupon the men would drive off…presumably to their homes or work. I also have to say that no Omani men looked at me in a lewd way. In fact they didn’t look at me directly at all and I didn’t look directly at them. But I felt very conspicuous and I found myself oddly wishing I could cover up like the local women. Even though I had been in Muslim countries before (Egypt and Morocco) in the past, I was in areas that were either inundated with foreign tourists or in big cities like Cairo. And indeed in Egypt I WAS propositioned. “30 minutes I give you banana.” Whatttt? I see no bananas. Duhhh!

What I didn’t know while in traditional Oman was that people, when they are not working, mostly stay home.

Homes Are Peaceful Abodes For Muslims

So, I was a woman…a foreign woman…dressed in (what in virtually every other country I have been in recently…even Turkey) the ubiquitous black tights and top. And I was on public display. I still want to talk to my couchsurfing host about this.
[read on]

Around The World Again 2012-13

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Well, Facebook has cut into my blogging time. But since I am living in Mexico I love to keep up with my couchsurfers and friends I have made traveling besides friends left behind in the U.S. People say they prefer face-to-face interactions with friends but in my case that is mostly impossible.

Anyway I’m off on another RTW journey using AirTreks which is less expensive and less trouble than trying to negotiate multiple airline web sites. A friend I met through Couchsurfing will be renting my apartment until April when I return to Oaxaca.

Left Oaxaca Nov 1 for Oregon where I had multiple medical check-ups and in the process missed my flight out to Hong Kong to see son Josh. But I will be seeing him at a family meet-up the end of January on Koh Samui Thailand.

So this is my itinerary this year:
Oregon>Bangok Nov 18
Bangkok>Oman Feb 12
Oman>Istanbul Feb 19
Istanbul>NYC Mar 13
NYC>Oregon Mar 19
Oregon>Las Vegas not scheduled yet…sometime after 1st of April
Las Vegas>Oaxaca middle of April

So if any of you friends out there will be in any of my travel destinations at the same time as I am give a holler! 🙂

Better Make Way For The Young Folks in Egypt

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011
I have been glued to Aljazeera on my computer for a week. I am bleary-eyed. This youtube video posted today was a bit uplifting. Notice all the women.

Following Uprising in Egypt on Twitter

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011
Protests going on from early morning and people will remain in Tahrir Square all night. It's spread all over the country and other countries. Three dead. It's after midnight there and twitter, cell phone, TV and all the ... [Continue reading this entry]

The Enemy That Almost Isn’t

Saturday, March 7th, 2009
Iran: The Enemy That Almost Isn't Posted: 23 Feb 2009 02:00 PM PST Crooks And "One of the things that I've found most disconcerting about American news coverage of Iran is the complete disconnect between what our own (and international) intelligence reports ... [Continue reading this entry]

Trouble In Egypt

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009
An explosion has taken place in the ancient area of Al Hussein-Cairo, Egypt, the number of killed and wounded is still unsettled.  How the bomb was exploded is not exactly specified.   It's the most glorified and valued area for Egyptian ... [Continue reading this entry]

Last Speech By Founder of Pakistan

Saturday, December 13th, 2008
..............I shall watch with keenness the work of your Research Organization in evolving banking practices compatible with Islamic ideas of social and economic life. The economic system of the West has created almost insoluble problems for humanity and to many ... [Continue reading this entry]

The Art Of Obfuscation

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007
I wondered what my Iranian friends were thinking as I sat squirming in my chair during the indelicate introduction to President Ahmadinejad's remarks at Columbia University yesterday. And I squirmed some more trying to follow Ahmadinejad's obfuscated logic. And I ... [Continue reading this entry]

Dual Pricing

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007
Found a hilarious travel article on Bootnall today about the luxury tax...or dual pricing for foreigners as it is called: The Luxury Tax - Asia, Europe, South America By: Adam Jeffries Schwartz The following is a guide to how the luxury tax is ... [Continue reading this entry]

The Looming Tower

Thursday, February 15th, 2007
Have recently finished the acclaimed "The Looming Tower" by Lawrence Wright which is a history of Islamic radical fundamentalism beginning in the 1930's and 40's and ending with the bombing of the World Trade Center. Including the ridiculous and ... [Continue reading this entry]

Shirin Ebadi

Wednesday, August 16th, 2006
In Bangkok, in April of 2005 at the Thailand Foreign Correspondent's Club I listened to a talk by Shirin Ebadi...a strong brave woman lawyer who won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for defending human rights in Iran. Yesterday the ... [Continue reading this entry]

Walking Out On The Iranian Ambassador

Thursday, July 14th, 2005
The Foreign Correspondents Club hosted another panel discussion last night with the Iranian ambassador to Thailand, H.E. Mohsen Pakaein Western observers were confounded by the surprisingly strong victory in Iran's recent presidential election by dark-horse candidate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a conservative ... [Continue reading this entry]

A Talk By Shirin Ebadi

Thursday, April 14th, 2005
Bob has been in the north for the last week so I joined the Foreign Correspondents Club the other day as a way of meeting other English speaking people in Bangkok. Membership is reciprocal with Foreign Correspondents Clubs around ... [Continue reading this entry]


Tuesday, April 30th, 2002
gvSQ2vhpltKkixr9PjGld0-2006186175750571.gif Israelis Bombed 9/11? While waiting for the others to come out of the temple at Edfu, and when it became apparent that Bob wasn't going to buy anything, Bob was invited into a seller's ... [Continue reading this entry]

Search For Truth In Egypt

Tuesday, April 30th, 2002
Cafes and Food You can have what Bob calls "mystery meat," which in Egypt is called kebab-lamb or chicken sliced from a vertical spit-very good in pita bread. Kofta is ground meat peppered with spices, skewered and grilled. ... [Continue reading this entry]

A Felluca Ride Up The Nile

Tuesday, April 30th, 2002
gvSQ2vhpltKkixr9PjGld0-2006186175750571.gif In Aswan, a felluca, an ancient sailboat of the Nile, is a common means of transport up and down the Nile River. It has a broad canvas sail and the boat itself has ... [Continue reading this entry]

Cultivating Hate In Children

Tuesday, April 30th, 2002
gvSQ2vhpltKkixr9PjGld0-2006186175750571.gif On the same day that Arafat finally condemned the terrorism against Israel, his wife, who lives in Paris, granted an interview with an Arabic-language magazine, Al Majalla, wherein she endorsed suicide attacks as legitimate ... [Continue reading this entry]

US News From Egypt

Tuesday, April 30th, 2002
News in the International Press Subjects we have been reading about lately have often covered the European Union, deregulation of the labor market, global economic trends, immigration problems, agricultural pollicy and the issues stemming from the World Trade Organization agreements, market ... [Continue reading this entry]

A Coptic Christian Guide

Monday, April 29th, 2002
gvSQ2vhpltKkixr9PjGld0-2006186175750571.gif In Luxor we did have a tour guide and it made all the difference. We were able to enjoy the sights without being constantly by the touts. A Coptic Christian, he explained ... [Continue reading this entry]

Driving & Cueing in Egypt

Sunday, April 28th, 2002
Drivers have immense patience with each other-each car gives way to the others like a million fish in a school swimming this way and that...narrowly missing one another but gracefully swerving away in time...implicit cooperation you would never see in ... [Continue reading this entry]

Diplomacy Egyptian Style

Sunday, April 28th, 2002
As westerners we are not used to the constant demands for "baksheesh" (tipping) that make you want to blow your stack...and then they want you to be happy about it! Salaries and wages are so low that baksheesh becomes ... [Continue reading this entry]

Images of Egypt

Friday, April 26th, 2002
All we have to offer regarding Egypt are images.Very little understanding. We were open; wanted to understand, feeling generous and happy. Smiling. Saying hello to everyone. Thinking we were making we have only flashes of ambiguous feeling... When Americans ... [Continue reading this entry]

Cairo Egypt

Sunday, April 21st, 2002
gvSQ2vhpltKkixr9PjGld0-2006186175750571.gif On April 21, 2002 while waiting for our flight from Athens to Cairo, we visited briefly with a gentleman sitting next to us who was on his way to Alexandria for what we thought ... [Continue reading this entry]