When you hear the name Middle East, what are the first three words that pop up in your mind? The words that come to my mind are sand, uncivilized, and terrorism; however there are more to this peninsula than those three words. Through my experience of the nature, culture, and hospitality of Oman, my stereotypes of the Middle East have been broken and changed.
Although the desert landscapes dominates most of the of the Middle East peninsula, the wadis of Oman have brought me to a completely different world of nature. Even though the term desert by the sea sounds very self-contradictory, Oman has one of the best water natures in the desert. It was through my adventures in Oman that the word Wadi submerged into my entire being. As I stumbled out of the car into sunlight, I was in awed at what I saw. A wadi is a deep valley that flows with underground water that supplies surrounding oasis. They are like the Grand Canyons filled with pools of sapphire water cascading throughout the entire valley. As you follow the flow of water, you will see sparkling crystalline pools that are so deep in depth that can be dived in with countless marine life enveloped around you. The wadis of Oman infused with seas of palm trees will undoubtedly change your views of nature in the Middle East.
In spite of the negative views that Europeans have seen from Arab refugees as “uncivilized” or “uneducated”, the Grand Mosque in Oman has proven to me that the Arab people are one of the most cultured people in the world. The Grand Mosque in Muscat Oman is one of the most elaborate mosques in the world; its magnificent architecture and elegance in its geometric designs is nearly incomparable to other structures that I have seen in Southeast Asia and South America.Its architectural design are infused with Islamic art from around the globe; the Grand Mosque blended together with its own Omani culture and art produces a master piece far grander than the Taj Mahal itself which I have seen. With every white marble imported from Italy and the potpourri of colors blended with the mosque’s geometric design, the amount of culture and beauty reflected in the Grand Mosque of Oman far surpasses the past 34 countries that I have traveled to from East Asia to Europe.
Even though the natural beauties of the Wadis combined with the magnificent design of the Grand Mosque are absolutely stunning and extraordinary, the hospitality of the Middle East far outshines those two wonders. One of own my own experience of Middle Eastern hospitality was from a caretaker of a public facility in the mountains of Oman. During my road trip in Oman, my family camped in various places to get through the night. It was near sunset when we found a large public facility equipped with a spacious parking lot and a public restroom. When we asked the caretaker for his permission to camp near the facility, the caretaker not only agreed with eagerness but also invited my whole family to his house for tea. It was at his carpet floor of his humble home that our experience of Omani hospitality began. We were greeted with an abundance of Omani coffee and dates; our cups and hands were never empty. Even though we had a language barrier with the caretaker, he still made a lot of effort to talk to my family. Despite being total strangers, the caretaker was so friendly and hospitable to my family that we felt like old friends in a matter of seconds. After conversing with him for a few hours, the caretaker bid my family goodnight and invited us to tea again next morning! The hospitality of the Omanis is unimaginable that the experience will last you for a lifetime.
Through my experience of the nature, culture, and hospitality of Oman, my views of the Middle East is forever changed. The rich lushness of nature from the wadis, the intricate fine detail of the Grand Mosque, and hospitality of the people are the real pictures of the Middle East. The desert overlooks the beauty of the sand dunes, the Arab migrants overshadow their magnificent heritage, and the acts of terrorism have utterly engulfed the hospitality of the Middle East. Media has put our world’s view through a looking glass, it is up to our duty to drop our looking glass and see the world with our own eyes.