My trip to the Middle East was planned approximately three months in advance in terms of booking plane tickets, hotels, and tours. I started my trip by flying to Oman from London a few days after my work experience this summer.
As this was my first time travelling alone and to the Middle East, I was extremely excited and nervous at the same time. Having learnt about the rich culture and rapid development of the Middle East from lectures and the media, I have yearned to explore this world.
During my first few days in Oman, I discovered its capital city Muscat. I visited the old Muttrah Souk market to absorb the perfume-laden alleyways packed with colourful little shops stacked with old silver khanjars, Bedu jewellery, and frankincense. It was truly an experience bargaining with the shopkeepers! As the Omanis very much respected their Sultan, who had recently been returned back to his palace after being ill this year, I went to see the Sultan’s Palace to get a sense of Oman’s national pride. Perhaps what I was the most impressed with in Muscat was the Grand Mosque. The Grand Mosque is truly a magnificent piece of modern Islamic architecture, which was built as a gift to the nation from Sultan Qaboos to mark the 30th year of his reign. The Persian carpet is the second largest hand-loomed Iranian carpet in the world and the chandelier was made up of thousands of Swarovski crystals. After going to museums, mosques, and the Royal Opera House in Muscat, I ventured outside the city to the dessert and valleys in Oman. I rode a camel for the first time in the desert in the temperature of 50 degrees Celsius and then travelled to Wadi Shab to swim and hike in the valleys.
Having spent six days in Oman, I travelled to the UAE to visit Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The built environment of Dubai was very much developed and modernised with many shopping centres, condominiums, and financial buildings. Yet, the city also made effort to preserve its Islamic architecture and culture with its grand Jumeirah Mosque. While Abu Dhabi was not as cosmopolitan as Dubai, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the city. Besides from the mosques and palaces, one interesting place I went to was the Falcon hospital. Falcons are such an integral part of the traditional Gulf culture and it was amazing to see the process of restoring the birds to health.
In terms of accommodation and travelling, everyone in Oman and the UAE were orderly and polite. Hostels were difficult to find but I did manage to stay in three star hotels which were safe and air-conditioned. Food in all the places I travelled to were slightly more expensive than in a developing country so my advice would be to save money for food.
All in all, this trip is one I will always remember. I am back to Murray Edwards as a more independent and worldly young woman.
Ashley Anh Nguyen