My trip to the land of Arabian Nights was no less than a fairy tale.
In the last week of October 2014, I traveled to Oman, Arab world’s natural beauty destination. With no second thoughts, I absolutely agree, the Sultanate is naturally blessed. Along with everything that Oman is known for, it is an Undiscovered Middle Eastern Treasure.
Beautiful and Varied Landscape
They say and it lives up to it... The Sea of Oman, Arabian Sea and the Straits of Homuz make up Oman’s gorgeous coastline. And more, it has a wide range of variety in its geographical features and makes for stunning landscapes, rippling dunes, lavish mosque, precious historical forts, ornate souqs, un-spoilt beaches, age-old traditions, helpful locals and incredible beauty. Until you land up there, you really don’t know whats up there for you.
Muscat, the Capital of Oman
Reliving my adventures of the time spent in the capital city of Oman, let me tell you about Muscat and its myriad personalities. With two fellow bloggers from India, Aseem and Mithun, I had a very sweet and memorable trip exploring the ‘Pearl of Arabia’ which Muscat is fondly called.
I arrived in Seeb International Airport, Muscat at around 11 a.m. in the morning. Thanks to Oman Air’s morning flight from New Delhi. The driver who came to receive us took us from the airport to our hotel, Radisson Blu. On the way we talked about our backgrounds and exchanged curiosity as to what the next five days had for us. It was a first time for both Mithun and I while Aseem was familiar with Muscat. The first thing that caught my fascination on the road were the craggy hills spaced us in unique designs and the traditional buildings, low in height but sparkling white.
By the time the three of us freshened up, it was time for lunch. Thus we started our trip with some authentic, scrumptious Omani food. At Kargeen Cafe, we lovingly digged into the Arabian flavors. The ambiance and the whole traditional setup about the place was delightfully comforting. Being non vegetarians, we had enough delicacies to gorge on- from Lebanese choices, hummus, spiced stews, chicken rice, grilled meats, aubergines to fresh seafood.
At Kargeen Cafe
Its always good to start from the history…
After being stuffed to full, I couldn’t wait to see the views of the sea, the rocky coastline and the local Souq or market that every article on Oman never forgets to mention. Our guide had planned it all for us. As per the itinerary, we speeded to Bait Al Zubair Museum. The long, wide, endless roads are lovely in Muscat.
In the museum we were restricted from taking photographs but yes I remember it well, it had everything to tell us about the Omani Heritage. The traditional antiques of the Royal people, weaponry, jewelery, modern day costumes, fashion, utensils told us a unique story about the country’s past and present. The paintings on the highest floor of the museum were lovely. I also quite liked the cafe/reading place in the vicinity of the museum.
From there, a short ride to Mirani and Jalali forts extending to Al Alam Palace is an obvious thing. Built in 1970, Royal Sultanate Palace is the ceremonial building used by the king, Sultan Qaboos of Oman. One can’t miss noticing that the beauty of this royal house is mirrored in its interesting architecture, subtle pastel colors (gold and blue) and trumpet-shaped flaring columns. And yes, this palace is about Oman’s modern renaissance in architecture and style. Though palace is not open for visitors but I quite liked the marble courtyard, English garden on its sides and it definitely made a great photo-stop attraction in Muscat. But what stood out for me here was the seaside facade, the view of the sea, and the coast road beside the Mirani fort.
Vibrant and Colorful…
By this time, evening had descended and we were all anxious to check out the main port arena as well as Oman’s most famous souq which is built facing the Sea of Oman. The Corniche is a beautiful 3 km long beach road along the sea and its difficult to find a parking place around it. Its located in the heart of Old Muscat and is definitely an attractive location in the capital. I am sure the locals love to return here quite often, the number of cars parked around gave me this impression. We landed there just at the right time when it was breezy and vibrant. As a tourist I walked-around, observed the locales, crossed the road, looked fascinatingly at the royal ship on the sea and it all filled my heart with love for Muscat.
With the sunset, it was time to head to the famous Muttrah Souq, one that locals call as Al Dhalam (Darkness in Arabic). As one walks in the souq, fascinating waft of fragrant and therapeutic frankincense takes control of the senses. And then the eyes notice, closely built stalls, colorful with little chaotic appeal, arabic displays and endless lanes. Muttrah souq houses stalls of silverware, artifacts, Omani sweets, handicrafts, frankincense, antique khanjars, garments and spices galore. This marketplace is a shopper’s delight but somewhere I felt it was losing its local appeal and becoming commercialized. I did not buy much but as a traveler it was fun and satisfying to walk till its end and also explore all its narrow bylanes.
By 8, we landed up back to Radisson Blu and dinned (Ala Carte) at the hotel restaurant. On the dinner table, I felt relaxed as well as hungry. It was seriously extreme fun to talk about traveling and about the day’s experiences over good food. And we bid goodbyes by 10 because there are a new day that was waiting after a sound sleep.
Muttrah and Port AreaPort Area in Muscat, Muttrah Chroniche
Dolphin watching was the highlight of the trip which we did on the second day. Its captured in the post.
Oman is beautiful, trust me you will love it. I have only one suggestion to make and that is choose your months to travel to its different parts because the temperatures soar in few months of the year. But if you do end up in the humid months, the mountains, wadis and the beaches are a great get-away and Oman has them in plenty. If you are coming from the cold countries, you will love it for its warmth and sunshine.
P.S. I won this trip to Oman through a blogging contest and Ministry of Tourism of Sultanate of Oman hosted it. The views and experience stated above are completely of my own.