Category Archives: Blog

Dune Waves…

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Stunning Oman (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

It was awe-inspiring to cruise through these desert dunes in Oman that stretch to the sea — sand/sea serenity…

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Salt Scene…

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Exploring Oman (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

It was a surreal experience to explore this salt flat in the desert while traveling around the Sultanate of Oman…

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Rock Garden…

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Duqm adventure (Photo:Emily O’Dell)

I enjoyed exploring bizarre rock formations in the desert of Duqm — a developing port city in the Sultanate of Oman…

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Traffic Report…

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On the road in Oman (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

We ran into some unexpected traffic in the middle of the Sultanate of Oman on our long desert drive back to Muscat…

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Rock Yoga…

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Waking up in Oman (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

I was inspired by this rock formation to do some morning yoga in the Rock Garden of Duqm in the Sultanate of Oman…

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Picnic in Khaluf…

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Lunchtime! (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

My friends and I stopped for a picnic on Al-Khaluf beach, while exploring sugar dunes in Oman (potato chips included!).

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Ferry Surprise…

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Surprise! (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

Omg, look what I came across today on the car ferry from Masirah Island to the mainland of Oman — quite a surprise!

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Turtle Tracks…

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Communing with turtles in Oman (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

My friends and I discovered these turtle tracks today on Masirah Island — home to one of the largest turtle sanctuaries in the world. When I lived in Lebanon, I used to swim every day at sunset with turtles in Beirut — so it’s been great fun to explore turtle life here in the Sultanate of Oman. In fact, four species of turtles nest on Masirah’s pristine beaches: loggerhead, green, hawksbill and olive ridley. Having spent today sunning on the white sand beaches of Masirah and wading in its crystal clear waters, I can now say with confidence from personal experience that I understand why so many turtles pick this tiny remote island in the Arabian Sea to lay their precious eggs — in paradise.

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Masirah Island…

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Yay Masirah! (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

I was thrilled to finally step foot on Masirah Island — a gem in the Arabian Sea halfway between Muscat and Yemen.

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Arabian Sea Adventure…

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Cruising the Arabian Sea (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

My friends and I took a car ferry yesterday from the mainland of the Sultanate of Oman to Masirah Island — a remote Omani desert island in the Arabian Sea.

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وادي ضــم

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Wadi Damm (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

While on a road trip this week in Oman, my friends and I visited the breathtaking Wadi Damm/Dhum. Fortunately, many of its tranquil pools were filled with water, so we were able to take a dip after our long hike to the furthest flowing water channels (marked with moss and slippery waterfalls). Since we ended our hike in the late afternoon (in January), the temperature of the water was freezing when we considered taking a brave dip.

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Taking a dip (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

Slinking into the ice cold water for a swift swim down this inviting teal water channel was no easy feat. The water chilled me to the bone — all of my aches and pains from the challenging hike immediately disappeared (we couldn’t feel our limbs). Body numb, my mind also chilled — into a serene state of extreme calm (I was reminded of a Mongolian shaman in Ulaanbaatar teaching me the healing effects of cold water on the mind, body, and spirit). As you can see from these photos, being completely immersed in nature by swimming through the wonderful wadis of Oman — even in winter — is a magical experience unlike any other. So come to Oman and try it for yourself!

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Peace from Oman (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

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Tonight in Oman…

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Royal Opera House Muscat in Oman (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

It was a delight to watch opera legend Placido Domingo conduct the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra tonight at the Royal Opera House in Muscat. The program included Beethoven and Tchaikovsky and featured the exceptionally talented (and young) pianist Beatrice Rana (23 years old!). During his performance earlier this week and his conducting tonight, I enjoyed seeing Domingo make the hand gesture above when he received applause and showed appreciation to his fellow performers (and the audience). Below is a video of Rana performing Tchaikovsky beautifully — as she did tonight in the Sultanate of Oman.

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Graffiti in Oman…

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Exploring Oman (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

I was delighted to come across this graffiti while exploring a faraway wadi in the Sultanate of Oman. The image is of the Sultan of Oman, and the corresponding Arabic words extol His Majesty Sultan Qaboos as a man of peace and offer a verse of poetry in praise of him. Most people do not associate street art with Oman (unlike Beirut where I last lived), but in the video below, you can see Omani graffiti artists at work during the Muscat Youth Summit. Here’s to more art — of all kinds — in the Gulf and around the world in 2017.

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Sudan Sanctions…

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At work in Sudan (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

I woke up today in Oman to the news that the United States is going to lift sanctions on Sudan — which is my favorite country in the world. From doing research in Egyptology, archaeology, and Sufism to following in the footsteps of Malcolm X in Omdurman and Khartoum, it’s where my spirit feels most at home (I love working there and cannot wait to return).

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Swirling in Oman…

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Hiking in Oman (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

I find myself in the darndest places — like this whirlpool swirl in a wonderous wadi I explored this week in Oman…

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Desert Island…

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Exploring Oman (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

My friends and I stumbled upon the most amazing crumbling fort in the middle of this wadi — it must look stunning (like an island!) when the water rushes through…

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Wadi Surprise…

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Exploring Oman (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

I came across this unexpected graffiti while wandering at sunset through a wondrous wadi in the Sultanate of Oman.

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Placido Domingo in Oman…

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Royal Opera House Muscat (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

It was thrilling to hear opera legend Placido Domingo sing last night at the Royal Opera House Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman — from opera favorites to West Side Story, it was truly an experience of a lifetime.

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دار الأوبرا السلطانية مسقط

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Royal Opera House Muscat (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

Moon over Muscat! I enjoyed a delicious dinner and latte at Fauchon before hearing opera legend Placido Domingo perform last night at the Royal Opera House Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman.

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نو جلفا‎‎ / Նոր Ջուղա

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Exploring Christianity in Iran (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

While I was in Iran this fall as a guest speaker for the Commonwealth Club of California, I had the opportunity to visit churches in the Armenian quarter of Isfahan — which dates back to the reign of Shah Abbas I (who personally established this Christian colony by edict).

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Finding Jesus in Iran (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

We especially enjoyed visiting Vank Cathedral — which is surrounded by a museum (filled with Christian art), a library, and an Armenian Genocide Memorial. There are fourteen churches in this unique historic quarter.

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Appreciating Armenian (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

A compulsive polyglot, I was delighted to find this colorful plaque with Armenian writing hanging over a church entrance. Every inch of the interiors of Bethlehem Church and Vank Cathedral is decorated with beautiful Christian murals. In fact, one set of murals in the Vank Cathedral displays scenes of Armenian martyrs being tortured in the Ottoman Empire.

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Christian art galore (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

If you go to Isfahan, do not miss these treasures of Christian history, culture, and art. It was truly an amazing experience to learn more about the history of the Armenian community in Isfahan, and observe the contemporary practice of Christianity in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

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Exploring churches in Iran (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

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Merry (Orthodox) Christmas!

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Orthodox Christmas in Oman (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

My Russian and Ukrainian friends in the Sultanate of Oman treated me to a festive Russian feast for Orthodox Christmas (we spoke Russian all night, such fun — love being a Slav!).

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Exploring churches in Moscow (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

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مسجد امام

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Exploring Iran (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

I love the designs and colors on this charming corner of the Imam Mosque in Isfahan — a colorful feast for the eyes…

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आगरा / آگرہ

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Exploring India (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

Go ahead and whirl over to the city of Agra (home of the Taj Mahal) this year — it’s ranked #3 on the New York Times’ 52 best places to travel in 2017…

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Whirling ’round the world (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

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Bukhara Bliss…

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Enjoying Uzbekistan (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

I experienced one of the best meditation retreats of my life in this turquoise treasure in the heart of Bukhara…

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