Wizars and Masars in the Opera Galleria


January 5th was our last day in Muscat.  The day had been added onto our trip expressly for a Folk Concert that was to take place outside the lovely National Opera.  The First Royal Band was to perform traditional music, but in the end it was cancelled for “technical problems”.  But, we had a fun day anyway.

Late in the morning, we took a taxi to the Opera Galleria where we enjoyed seeing the luxury shops.  There was an Omani Heritage shop there selling a variety of crafts.  Included among their merchandise were wizar.  Our search was over!  A couple of months earlier, I had brought conversation to a complete halt at a charity banquet dinner table when I asked if anyone knew what Omani men wore under their dishdashas.  I guess that even for people that know me this was a bit unusual.  A dear friend who had spent a lot of time in the Middle East (spy) explained a few items I might expect to find there, the most interesting of which was a thing called a wizar.

Doing a little more research, I learned that the wizar was actually Indian and had been adapted for use in Oman.  It is a long piece of fine cotton fabric about a yard wide that is wrapped around the waist like a long skirt.  I learned that European women loved to use them as festive table cloths.  Some of their husbands enjoyed wearing them at home with a long-sleeved shirt instead of blue jeans.  Well, I set my sites on buying a couple and succeeded in embarrassing any number of male shop attendants as I came in, a Western woman, inquiring about their underwear.  The search had come up dry until we came to the Galleria heritage shop.  The salesman there was clearly accustomed to Western women’s odd requests and didn’t blink an eye when I told him what I wanted.  Rather, he opened up a cabinet to reveal a whole series of wizars of various styles and lengths.  I picked out two that I liked (can’t wait to have folks eat dinner on my Omani undies!!)

Another shop I enjoyed at the Galleria sold masers, which were worn on the other end of male bodies.  These were the awesome scarves wound around the head into marvelous turbans.  Tom and I had bought a couple at one of the stores that failed to stock my wizars (or SAID they didn’t).  I think we had paid about $120/scarf.  At the Opera shop, I learned that these were on the very low end.  I saw masers priced at $2500 and higher!!! The vendor was very sweet and showed me a wide variety of styles even though I had explained I couldn’t afford them but just wanted to appreciate them.  We saw him later and he again greeted us warmly.  Love Omanis so much!

Galleria2We followed our shopping with dinner at a traditional Omani dinner at a restaurant next to the plaza on which the concert was to occur.  After eating, we were shown around all the rooms and told what they were used for:  among them, one more private room for couples, and another for the Sultan and his staff when they wanted privacy.  The latter had a sliding door rendering the room sound proof when closed.  As we left, our hands were again sprinkled with rose water.

There was a conspicuous absence of activity in the plaza, so we walked over to the main door of the Opera.  It was here that we learned that the concert had been cancelled.  While we were disappointed, we were downtown and had seen a huge Lulu’s department store earlier.  Tom flagged down a cab and we gave him directions.  This was the only time a cabbie had taken advantage of us while we were in Oman, but it was our own fault – we failed to clarify the cost of the trip before we got in.  We paid at least twice what it should have been – shame on him!  He was a poor representative of his country.  Lulus’s reminded me of malls we used to see in Germany.  I don’t remember their names.  And there was a mall with similar structure in Seoul when we were there; felt very familiar.   Lulu’s was lone store in a bigger mall, which we also toured.

When we were done, we again found a cab, returned to Al Bustan, and packed our bags.  The next morning we sadly had to leave.  We had experienced a beautiful week in wonderland, a true second honeymoon for us.  Actually, a first honeymoon, after 46 years! (When we got married, our honeymoon was a drive around Lake Superior up into Canada during the last week of January.)  At the hotel, everyone knew this was our last night and each was especially nice (and the cynical Susan says, tip time!).  Carlton-Ritz definitely stands a head above all the others.  We had had so much fun here.  It was a New Year’s Celebration we would never forget and a week of bliss as we pampered ourselves, or rather, let them pamper us!

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M.A., Middle Eastern and North African Studies. Wanderer. Author, "When Freedom Called: at the front and home front in the Gulf War", 2011.

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