Muscat, land of substitutions.

11 Feb

This is the Sohar, a boat named after the hometown of the famous Omani seafarer, Ahmed bin Majid. The boat is a replica of one sailed by Abdullah bin Gasm in the mid-8th century to Guangzhou in China. It was built in the boat yards of Sur from the bark of over 75,000 palm trees and four tons of rope. Not a single nail was used in the construction.

That’s all from the Lonely Planet guide. It reminded me of the Ship of Theseus, a relic of the Athenian state. In this ship the hero-king Theseus had returned from Crete together with the Athenian youths, destined for sacrifice, whom he had rescued from the Minotaur. According to Plutarch, the ship “was preserved by the Athenians down even to the time of Demetrius Phalereus [that is, late fourth century bce], for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their place, insomuch that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same.”

Much of the architecture could be described in these terms. Old seeming but spanking new.  New, but looking like it must be based in something old. Everything looked like a substitution.

And then there’s the Royal Palace. I really didn’t know what to make of it, but I loved it.  Maybe someone can tell me what it is substituting for, but in this case I think it might really be one of a kind.


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