Saturday, February 1
Georgia: Ashley went for a run and had a nice breakfast, I came picked her up, and together we went to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in the center of the city. We arrived at 10:50am (we barely made it, as it closes to visitors at 11am not noon as we’d been told), and we were obliged to buy scarves to enter (I selected red, Ashley blue). We ran around the colossal marble edifice barefoot for about a half an hour, trying to see everything before we got kicked out (in anticipation of the midday call to prayer) because we didn’t have time to take off and retrieve our shoes at each successive stop (and it’s quite a large complex, so wherever we had left our shoes at the beginning became increasingly remote as we explored). We were also preoccupied taking ever so many selfies.
Ashley: So grateful we didn’t miss the Grand Mosque. The amount of marble was just amazing.
Georgia: Then we went for lunch on the balcony of PAUL, the French bakery, in the Muscat Grand Mall. We both consumed delectable croissants (mine chocolate, Ashley’s za’atar at my suggestion), sumptuous sandwiches, a fruit tart, and way too much water. After briefly stealing Wi-Fi at Costa coffee below (we had to insta some #selfies lezbehonest), we drove to Matrah with a very explicit Kelly Rowland song playing quite loudly and my car windows very much down…like a boss. For the record, the windows-down-music-driving idea was Ashley’s. The Kelly Rowland cd was all my fault, however.
In the old city of Masqat (just past the Mutrah port to the northeast), we did a quick visit to the Qasr al Ilam, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos’s official palace. Here I befriended the guards because Ashley asked me to ask them something. However, our à-travers-the-wrought-iron amity was cut tragically short because Ashley and I wanted to return to Mutrah and visit the famous old souk there. In true fashion, I tried on ridiculously large antique silver color-necklaces worth hundreds of rials, Ashley thoroughly scrutinized an array of “99% silver” rings (probably not a scam), and ultimately we both gave up on haggling. Being characteristically obnoxious, I deliberately spoke in Arabic to the store owner (knowing full well that he was Bengali and spoke poor Arabic) in front of two (possibly drunk?) Spanish hooligans who were causing a ruckus in the shop, in what I realize in hindsight was a subconscious effort to prove the classically know-it-all point that you are not exempted from a social obligation to try to learn Arabic just by virtue of your whiteness.
Ashley: This was not my first haggling rodeo (I do live in the PRC afterall). I’ve lost some of the fight to get down those extra few bucks. I also had (actually, still don’t have) no idea how much the rial is to the dollar (I’d transferred RMB in the Doha airport) and sometimes you just have to embrace being a total tourist and paying too much.
Georgia: Together, we took a memorable Instagram video that involved Ashley doing a snake-charmer head-bob in a plastic gold mesh hat
Ashley: Sometimes, you really need to just own your tourisitness.
Georgia: Finally we drove back to the hotel and enjoyed a celebratory beverage by the pool. (I had a glass of Moscato [hey there Alex], because I mean, where do you think that grape was invented, kids?) We next went to the grocery store, which cracked Ashley up because it was so much better than the “western” grocery stores in China. In fact, food shopping was her “favorite part so far.” (Weird.)
Ashley: (Seriously… so much better. Georgia had prepared me for so much about life in Muscat that was really crazy… like insane driving…that truly, when compared to life in China, felt relatively tame.)
Georgia: *Amazing* food in tow, we went to Adam’s apartment, where the evening basically involved Georgia cooking, Ashley drinking wine (there was a lot of cheesy toast as well), and Adam being very forgiving.
Ashley: (Adam and I both enjoyed a memorable lentil soup. We really bonded over our shared love of lentils.)