She looked mysterious and intriguing, her hair and face hidden from view by the burqa which many Omani women wear. Gold bracelets jingled on her wrists and her dark brown eyes smiled from behind the traditional black mask as she gently placed a similar one over my face hoping I would buy one.
Now I come to think about it – having seen the photograph – rather than giving me a demure smile I’m convinced she was trying hard to muffle a hearty laugh as, instead of looking mysterious and exciting, I looked like Batgirl gone wrong.
How strange it is to mingle in the narrow streets of the ancient souk (market) with men in their long white dishdashas (long white robes worn by Muslim men) and walk alongside women draped in their jet black abbayas and shielding burqas (a long cloak-like garment and a mask that covers nose and mouth); to hear the dulcet tones of the muadhdhin calling worshippers to the mosque to pray, to listen to the bubble of sheesha pipes being puffed in quiet corners, and to smell burning frankincense wafting through the maze of alleyways.
…And then to return to a modern sumptuous hotel oozing luxury from every nook and cranny – rich Persian carpets and shimmering marble under foot, twinkling crystal chandeliers above; to savour canapés and cocktails in the trendy Piano Bar, and to see bikini-clad women fooling around on the beach or laying prostrate on poolside sun-beds topping up tans which had overflowed days before.
But how enjoyable it is… to soak up the sun especially in January and February when it hibernates in the UK but is in full bloom in the Sultanate of Oman – a fascinating country which only opened its doors to the West after the present ruler, Qaboos bin Said Al Said, overthrew his tyrannical father in a bloodless palace coup in 1970.
Explore Oman… it’s a country so diverse it is likely to captivate you - as it has me.