Muscat, Sultanate of Oman

Since we first arrived in the region, Oman had been on our list of places to visit. Only an hour or so flight away from Doha, we’d heard stories about the natural beauty of the country – it boasts amazing desert landscape, lush green wadis, and of course the majestic Hajar mountain ranges.

We planned our visit during the Eid Al Adha festivities, which had provided me with three days off. So along with the weekend, that gave us five days for exploring Oman.

Our night time flight into the country’s capital Muscat was smooth, we pleasantly found out that being a resident of a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) country, it only had to pay 5 Omani Riyal (OMR) for our visa, equivalent to about 15 USD, as opposed to 20 OMR.  A taxi from the airport to our hotel on the Muttrah Corniche was 8 OMR. We were lucky to have gotten a room facing the corniche – allowing us full view of the boats in the harbour, and the bustling activities on the riverside road.

The following day we decided to explore the Muttrah Corniche, with the thought of perhaps visiting the Muscat Fort and then heading to Old Muscat. We stopped for brekky at a local cafe for some kebabs. A further walk along to the fort and we noticed it was not open for entry. We walked a bit further along the corniche but figured it was a bit too hot to walk the full 8 km to Old Muscat. Instead we caught a cab (the driver was a friendly Omani who refused to accept a fare for the short ride – but we paid him anyway!) and explored the outside of Sultan Qaboos’ Palace (Al Alam Palace), the Mirani Fort and the Al Jalali Fort.  The current Sultan Qaboos of Oman, who overthrew his father in 1970 during a bloodless coup, is well adored in Oman it seems. He is known to have modernised the country, during an era referred to as the Renaissance. There are posters of him everywhere. Old Muscat was pretty quiet, with only a few tourists wandering around the sites.

By the time we’d finished with Old Muscat it was only midday. I suggested we go to one of the dive centres for a snorkelling trip (The Gulf of Oman is also famous for its exquisite marine life) and called the Oman Diving Centre located about 20 minutes from Muscat in Qantab. The centre has boats that depart every afternoon on snorkelling trips, based on weather and visibility. We took a cab to the centre and had a swim before the boat departed.  The boat trip was basically a crew of young Spaniards who were working in Dubai, and us. The boat took us to a reef about 20 minutes away from the dive centre and we anchored there and jumped into the water – amazing coral and fish, giving us a relaxing afternoon of snorkelling.

Muttrah Fort from the CornicheView of corniche from Muttrah FortMuttrah Fort from the Corniche
Arched hall leading to the Al Alam PalaceAl Alam PalaceSonya under a tree outside the Al Alam Palace grounds
Al Khawr mosque with the Al Mirani Fort in the backgroundAl Jalali Fort taken near Al Mirani FortAl Jalali Fort taken near Al Mirani Fort
Omani sitting on a bench near to the  Fish MarketView of the Oman Dive Center private beach from the jettyView of corniche from Naseem Hotel
Entrance to the Muttrah SoukOne of the many walkwaysVarious Arabic knickknacks
Omani frankincense burningSome jugs and containersOne of the decorated dome ceilings
LocalsSonya at the Muttrah SoukLots of Arabic lamps
Colourful head scarfsShop filled with knickknacksColourful tapestry

Oman Diving Center snorkelling trip