March 10, 2010
Posted: 1816 GMT
Editor's note: Inside the Middle East's Raja Razek shares her experiences of going to Oman to film the above story.
I arrived in Muscat on a cool, sunny afternoon. As a first time visitor, I opted to stay on the sea-front Corniche to be close to the Gulf of Oman.
As we took the winding road from the airport, I noticed the mountains were dotted with traditional houses, mostly painted white. The contrast of the blue skies, brown mountains, and white buildings made for what looked like a beautiful painting.
An Omani friend of mine says he thinks of Oman in colors.
Salalah down south is, surprisingly, green like the vegetation on its lush mountains. Sur in the East is blue in honour of the long tradition of fishing and ship building in that part of the country. Musandam to the north is brown like the color of the bare mountains that you might more typically expect to find in the Gulf country. Muscat, the country's vibrant, multi-ethnic capital is violet, a combination of all the colors.
The minute I arrived, I rushed to see the "Jewel of Muscat" - the replica 9th century Omani sailing ship I had come to shoot a story about - at the port.
Captain Saleh Al Jabri and his crew were preparing for the big day. "Jewel" was to set sail in the morning and they were tired, excited, and nervous.
Their planned journey will retrace the trading route between Oman and Singapore that their ancestors would have traveled along. It may be nostalgic, but it is also dangerous: They will be traveling using 9th century navigation techniques, have limited water, and will have live animals on board for food!
Jabri gave me a tour of the ship and we go below deck to were the crew will sleep and supplies are stored. The limited space is obvious. They put their supplies on their beds and rearrange it all every night when they go to sleep. I ask the captain, how they plan to stay dry and have room aboard for all 17 members. He says, it is tough, but “this is the life at sea. This is the life at sea.”
In the evening, I went to the souk on the Corniche. It sells souvenirs, traditional silver jewelry, clothes, and anything else you can think of that a tourist would like. I opted for the jewelry shops. It was interesting as they sell hand-crafted Omani jewelry and other items from the Far East. A few precious stones are imported from Singapore and made into necklaces. Of course I bought a necklace: What better way to remember my visit to Muscat to cover the launch of the "Jewel of Muscat's" journey to Singapore!
Early next morning I headed to the port to see the ship set sail.
There was a big crowd there: press, dignitaries, and families with their children holding flags and waving goodbye. Many of us followed on boats to see the ship off and the "Jewel" looked absolutely beautiful in the middle of the sea.
With the sun beaming down, it was very easy to understand how limited water can become a problem. I was dehydrated in no time but, luckily, not too far from shore. While sitting in the sun looking at the ship with the sailors onboard, I thought how this must be such an adventure for the sailors, as well as a tribute to their sea-faring ancestors.
As we waved goodbye to the captain and his sailors, I couldn't help but wish I was going with them to sail the great sea to Singapore.
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