Monday, January 08, 2007

There was a cruise ship in Mutrah today, so the port was full of people speaking German, and also men possibly from Kuwait (although they didn't come off the cruise ship). It was the first time since I've been here people assumed I was a tourist. Usually, they assume I live here or have family that does, and they want to know what project my father works on, etc. (Bechtel. Aluminum smelter in Sohar).

There doesn't seem to be a commonly accepted system of transliteration for Arabic like there is for Chinese, for example. Pinyin makes no phonetic sense to an English speaker--but I'm not sure any system of Chinese transliteration would. But pinyin is helpful. Arabic words written in the Roman alphabet will be spelled several different ways, depending on who is doing the transliteration and who is doing the pronouncing and where and when all of this happens.

I like Mutrah (or Mutra, or Mattra), but I would, I'm a tourist, and Mutrah is an old port with narrow twisty streets and old forts and old cemeteries and mangy dogs and scrawny cats and nasty smelly overflowing garbage cans and old buildings--some restored, some not--that Mary says remind her of Baghdad (especially the wooden balconies) and fishing boats and commercial ships and a souk with a mosque so close your brain will vibrate with every call to prayer and coffee shops and old hajis with long beards sitting on stools. There are no goats.

Mary and I did a short but fairly steep hike up over the mountains from Mutrah to Muscat and back along the ocean. We passed a small abandoned village. The cistern still had water in it, but the aflaj had broken down. The houses (or ruins) were made of stone, unlike those on the coast. The trail followed a wadi for about half of its course, and the wadi had some water in it, and the water had tadpoles in it.

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