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