Riyadh -Old Diriyah -Ula -Al Deerah Heritage Village – Elephant Rock -Jeddah -Muscat beach & city tour
Oman Mix Cultures
In Muscat’s souq, Arabic, Baluchi, Urdu, Hindi, and Malayalam mix freely, alongside a variety of fruits and flowers like tamarind, beidham (Indian almond), lychee, persimmon, and hibiscus from the Indian subcontinent, East Asia, and the Persian Gulf. Dress shops display ornate and colorful designs from Baluchistan and Tanzania in between the latest Bollywood styles. Men speaking Arabic in long, white dishdasha and colorful East African kumma caps walk along the seashore promenade, where a blue-tiled Iranian-style Shia mosque dominates the view. Just past the mosque is a small walled neighborhood called Sur al-Lawatiya, where a language found nowhere else on Earth is spoken that combines Sindhi, Persian, and Arabic.
Welcome to Muscat, the capital of Oman, where the Arab World meets the Indian Ocean. Due to centuries of Omani seafaring, empire, and trade, Muscat is today a spectacularly diverse port town that looks more to the seas east, north, and south for inspiration rather than to the barren flats and scraggy mountains of the Arabian Peninsula to the west. Oman is a kaleidoscope of Indian Ocean worlds, connected to Sindh, Zanzibar, Baluchistan, Iran, and Yemen just as much as it is to the Arab world, and it’s not afraid to admit it.
While in the other Arab countries of the Persian Gulf ethnic diversity has often been downplayed in favor of a unitary Arab identity, in Muscat, the multilayered heritage of the past – and the way it has shaped the city’s present – is celebrated and remains an undeniable part of contemporary urban life.
By Alex Shams
Alex Shams is an Iranian-American writer and a PhD student of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. He was previously based in Bethlehem, Palestine, where he worked for Ma’an News Agency, the largest independent Palestinian news agency.