The magic continues. We ended the old year in celebration and brought in the new watching lanterns filled with hope floating out into the sea.
December 31 opened with breakfast on the patio followed by a few hours of reclining on lounge chairs on the 80-acre lawn stretched along the beach. Palm trees provided shade as we read, ate (always eating!!), and people watched. Attendants had spread towels out on our chairs, then brought us a cooler full of water bottles and served sandwiches when we were ready.
Eventually, we had to return to our room to get ready for our sunset ride off shore to get a different view of the city. I had been suffering bad-hair karma since arriving; I blame it on the mean things I have said about Rand Paul’s curls. First, my hair wrapped itself into
my own set of curls, and now, I burned it with a straight iron. No more curl problem. With tons of healing hair product, I was able to appear in public. When Anna, our contact with Ocean Blue Oman, arrived to pick us up, we were delighted to have a face to match with the name at last. Her parents, who were visiting from Poland, would join us in their own private boat, where we were later served wine, nuts, fruit, dates and water as we cruised along the coastline past our hotel, communities, fortresses, mosques and the Sultan’s old palace.
Back at the hotel again, we quickly prepared for the evening. Finally, I would be able to wear the lovely blue frock Tom had bought me way back in July in Old Colorado City just for this occasion. We took pictures by the grand Christmas tree then went out to the patio
where we were seated and elegantly served all evening. After three and a half hours of dining, we strolled out onto the lawn and found ourselves a comfortable spot to sit on a lounge chair to the side of the band. Although we could not get reservations for the beach party, we ended up with the best seats in the house – we could see everything. After a satisfying performance, preparations began for the midnight hour. People at beachside tables lit fires to warm the air in huge lanterns at their tables. On cue, these were released at the same time and floated into the air and away toward the sea. Then, we had our countdown to the new year, kissed and sang. It was all very moving and exciting – more than I could have guessed. Tired, we returned to our rooms and dropped into bed.
The next morning – today – we were awaked by room service encouraging us to get up so they could clean. Merciless thugs. We put them off an hour then breakfasted on the patio before retiring to the garden by the pool to lounge and read. We were next to a pool with eight palm-tree islands growing out of its waters. At noon, we enjoyed our three-hour New Year Brunch. So much wonderful food. I must stop!!! It was Friday, the Muslim holy day, so after eating, we rested a couple of hours until the stores would open. After, I bought hair serum to get my hair through its crisis until I get home and could have a hot air treatment. Then, we caught a taxi to the souk.
We were able to finish all our shopping. Two stores, which Anna had recommended, were especially helpful. At one, the owner explained the various qualities of pashminas and showed us examples of each. I bought two men’s headscarves from a pile we were shown. Tom took a video of a demonstration on how to wrap the scarves on a head. At another shop recommended by Anna, we were shown khanjars. Tom picked out two for our son and son in law, and one for himself, a beautiful one, silver, inlaid with gold, made after the pattern used by the house of Said. Very lovely! From other, shops we bought pashminas and small gifts, but then . . . We came to the gold market.
On both sides of a long alleyway were small shops with counter and wall cases filled with with gold jewelry – 21 and 22 carot gold, the color so rich it looks fake to a westerner accustomed to looking at our 14 carot jewelry. I cannot imagine the millions of dollars in wealth represented by what I was seeing, and not a security guard insight. Ah! And all those women we had been unable to find? They were all here in the gold souk, little black bundles lined up against the counters waiting their turns to talk with the proprietors. There must have been over 100 black-shrouded ladies of unknown ages, mostly with eyes visible only. The jewelry was sold by weight plus a charge for fabricating.
I found the shops full of women overwhelming and had decided to come back during the day when the local ladies would be at home. But then, Tom and I found an empty store and decided to go in. It proved to be a wonderful choice. The young Omani man behind the counter had gone to school in England and was both willing and able to talk about his life and customs. His father owned the shop, and he had eleven brothers and sisters. After high school – college he called it, distinguishing it from university – his father brought him home saying the university would spoil him. We bought three sets of earrings from him, one each for Jodi, Dawn and myself.
With the purchase of myrrh and amber, my shopping was complete. I would have liked a little box, but they were too big. And I had a lot of boxes. So, Tom and I climbed stairs to get a bite to eat by the market gate. There on the wall was my new favorite of the ubiquitous pictures of the Sultan. Most showed him looking benevolent, intelligent and stately. In this one, he was in a military uniform with the warrior’s strong, hawkish demeanor, ready to attack or defend, capable protector of the nation. Our taxi ride home was accompanied by something that sounded like a stock report – lots of numbers. Again we dropped exhausted to our beds.