. Usually, I try to avoid countries where alcohol is nearly impossible to procure, and/or illegal for the local population. Of course, this attitude will lead to the exclusion of much of the Muslim world, which, as an American, also has the additional bonus of being a place that is thought to not like people from where I am from. This is the kind of thinking that I clung to before I realized that 1) most of the world’s truly ancient ruins and historical sites are in the middle east, and 2) I could probably learn to drink less when I travel. My destination Oman
on the Arabian Peninsula taught me that my anticipation of anti-American sentiment was also way off. People from Oman are incredibly friendly, warm people, and really don’t seem to harbor any resentment toward an obvious American like myself. (Although it probably helps that Bush is no longer president.)
Oman, in the Middle East, has developed more rapidly then any other country in the world over the last 40 years. It is one of the most developed and, in spite of the recent unrest in the region, stable countries in the Middle East. I flew into Muscat, the capital and home to some incredible sights. The Al Jalali fort is an amazing remnant of the Portugese occupation. It looks like an actual sand castle. The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is the third largest mosque in the world. Totally worth seeing, architecturally beautiful. The Royal Palace is also kind of awesome, if for no other reason than that its where a real live Sultan lives. The Mutrah Souk is a giant marketplace, which has that awesome movie like feel of a middle eastern marketplace, while being modern enough to accept debit cards.
From Muscat, I traveled southeast to Bahla, an oasis town in the desert. The fort there, which was built by a local tribal power in the thirteenth century, is a world heritage sight. It has 7 miles of walls and is located in a great city, where a tree in the middle of the marketplace is said to have grown in a spot where a wizard was killed. At least, I think that’s the story. I heard it from a friendly, grinning man who was proud of his country and wanted to share it; his English was not the best. But he didn’t mind trying, he was happy to speak to me no matter where I was from.