Taking Candy From Strangers

 

Just another night at the souq

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While visiting Muscat, Oman, I spent my last night in town at the Mutrah Souq ("souq" basically = market in an Arab city). I had rented a car for the duration of my stay and was trying my best to find a parking spot, though even on a Sunday evening the streets were packed. After circling my destination for 20 minutes, I decided to investigate a small strip of space with a painted curb. I pulled in, got out and began my research - walking up and down the length of the painted area, rereading the signs half a dozen times. It was still unclear. Frankly I don't remember if the signs had any English on them so let's assume my "rereading" was more "staring blankly at some Arabic words". A car pulled in right behind me and the occupants exited with a confident air that just screamed "we believe this is a legal parking spot." I approached the driver to confirm my suspicions, said hello in Arabic and then made gestures to the sign and curb indicating my confusion. Luckily the driver spoke a bit of English and was friendly. He and his friend were intending to grab a bite not too far from where we were standing so he suggested we exchange numbers and assured me he would call if the cops showed up because he was NOT sure we could park there. 

Leaving the souq about an hour and a half later, I get a call. My friendly stranger was calling to invite me to dinner as he and his friend were leaving their first stop; I said yes. We met up at our parked cars, I got some stuff out of my rental, locked it up and hopped in the backseat with these two strangers I had just met. They were Iranian and on vacation too and just about the sweetest guys you could imagine. The backseat had bags of sweets and pistachios from their native country which they generously shared. Later that evening when we finally parted ways, they refused to let me go without accepting a stash of their foreign candies.

There were many adventures over the course of that night; it was a whirlwind of unexpected locations, people and situations. We drove all over Muscat, Arabic club music blasting, meeting up with some of their family members and eating Polynesian food in a hotel while listening to a salsa band. Only one of them spoke any English so we communicated mainly through Google translate - Farsi to English and vice versa. The point is, I took candy from strangers and it was the best trip I ever had.