I arrived in Oman through the airport of Muscat, capital of Oman. It was extremely hot and I was travelling during Ramadan. At the airport I paid fifteen euros for the visa that allowed me to enter the country. The Sultanate of Oman is situated in the Arabian Peninsula and borders with Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
I was barely out of the airport when the heat first stroke me. What a stuffy and hot air! I waited over one hour for a bus to take me to the city centre and eventually gave up. Instead I took a cab and went to the hotel to check in. Before leaving the hotel the receptionist was very friendly and helpful. She did not let me leave the hotel before explaining the value of the coins as they were all written in Arabic.
Muscat is a true oasis in the desert, surrounded by cliffs and located on the shores of the Gulf of Oman. It is a beautiful, tidy and charming city. White is the predominant colour of houses and buildings.
Being in the Middle East, looking around and observing the influences of the Portuguese is an amazing experience. Muscat was conquered by Afonso de Albuquerque in 1507 and was under Portuguese rule over a century. The fortresses of Al Jalali and of Al Mirani are a good examples of the Portuguese colonisation in this country. I couldn’t stop contemplating these sublime jewels.
It was the middle of Ramadan, so I ate, drank and smoked on the sly. Ramadan is a fasting ritual which Muslims perform every year for a period of 29 to 30 consecutive days. During this period and as long as the sun is risen, they deprive themselves of food, beverages and sex. So most of the times I hid myself to drink water or to smoke a cigarette. Since this is a period of absolute privacy, all establishments were closed. Since my arrival a couple of hours before, I had not found anything open. I ate the few cereal bars that I had brought with me and water was getting scarce. I walked like crazy and could not find anything to eat.
I went through all the alleys looking for some open shop. I felt I was the only one on those streets under the burning sun. The charm of this city became temporarily unimportant. I didn’t even take photographs. A few more hours and I was without food or water. Desperate, I stopped in all the shades I saw along the way.
I felt very weak, faint and without any energy. It was almost four o’clock when I finally saw a half open door in an establishment. Desperate, I peeked stealthily and politely asked if I could have something to eat. The truth is that the owner was quite understanding so I finally got to buy water and two cakes that looked like samosas. He even offered me a third one. I hid myself in the first small alley I found and devoured the cakes with all my strength.
At night the city metamorphosed itself as if the golden touch of Midas suddenly touched the city. The desert and silent streets gave way to a busy and extroverted city. Muscate was finally alive and it felt like a magical city where the natives wandered in their white robes and everywhere people were drinking tea. People were very friendly at me waving as I passed by and I had no difficulty with taking pictures. In the end of the evening I engaged in a conversation with a seller. When I told him that I was Portuguese, he told me the name of all the players of the Portuguese national team. He also invited me to enter his shop, where he proudly showed me his collection of old Portuguese banknotes.