Muscat, Oman is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited it. The city is rich in character and history. By far my favourite portion of the trip.What made it even more appealing to me is that Muscat is a more unconventional place for tourists to visit compared to areas like Europe; I felt like I was experiencing the city without any preconceived notions of what to expect, which made it even more of an adventure!
Day 1 was the hardest. Dad was in meetings, and I wasn’t familiar enough with the city (or the safety of the city) to know where to go on my own. We were staying in a beachfront hotel, so I explored the beach and the local cafes along the water. Early March is considered the end of the Arabian “winter” (their winter is almost the equivalent of a Vancouver summer), so you’ll find many people enjoying coffee or tea on the waterfront terraces; come a few weeks later when the heat increases and everyone will have migrated to the air-conditioned indoors. My favourite advertisement I saw was in Starbucks, it said, “Winter will pass slowly… let’s hope so.” You wouldn’t see that in Vancouver.
That evening we visited a restaurant that my friend back home had recommended, Kargeen. The food was delicious. Oh, and since Oman is a Muslim country and you can only be licensed to serve alcohol if your restaurant is connected to a hotel (which Kargeen wasn’t), the juices and smoothies are amazing!
My second day in Muscat was marked by extensive exploration (hence so many photos). I learned about the Big Bus hop-on-hop-off tour around the city, and decided to give it a try since dad was in meetings again all day. The tour also included a shuttle to the Grand Mosque in the morning. I was on the first shuttle, only myself and two other couples. As we were driving I realized, I can understand the language that these two couples are speaking to each other. They’re speaking Italian – and a dialect I can understand! So I worked up the courage to speak to them in broken Italian. They were surprised and delighted that I could converse a little bit in their language. They were the sweetest people, and it was fun to not have to tour the Mosque by myself.
The Grand Mosque is kept very pristine. The architecture and the intricate designs are beautiful. Since Muslims will not fashion any graven images, you won’t find stained glass of Mohammed or anything like that. Instead you have these beautiful patterns and designs everywhere you turn.
Two of my Italian friends – Michele and Anita.
My Italian friends only did the Grand Mosque shuttle, so I ventured the rest of the day alone. The first place I hopped off was Parliament. There wasn’t a ton to see since you couldn’t go passed the gates, but I did happen to find a gate leading up the RitzCarlton hotel, and this gate had stairs to the top and some beautiful views of the mountainous area.
The next stop I took was in Old Muscat. Here is where you find many of the old guard towers on the mountaintops, as well as a couple forts. The Sultan’s palace is also here (you’ll notice it’s the only building that isn’t white or beige). I took my time walking around, especially because I wanted to see the fort, which was a further ways away.
Heading to the bus stop after being in Old Muscat for almost an hour and a half, I was almost there when another tourist saw me and said, “Oh no, you just missed the bus!” I was choked; I didn’t want to wait another 40 minutes for the next bus when there was so much else to see. In my frustration I prayed, Lord, would you let this be an opportunity for a divine appointment. And was it ever!
In Oman you don’t hail a cab, cabs hail you. They can tell very easily who is a tourist, so they always honk at you to ask if you need a ride. I got a cab and pointed to the next spot on the tour map, asking if he could take me there. We settled of a flat rate and he agreed.
On our way I notice this beautiful historic tower overlooking the ocean. Most of the towers don’t have stairs and you’re not supposed to climb them. I’m guessing it’s because they’re not structurally sound anymore. But this one had stairs leading up to it! The cab driver, whose name was Nasser, asked me if I would like to stop there. Not wanting to pay more, I politely declined. But then he insisted. He offered to wait for me while I climbed and took pictures, and he reassured me that he would not charge extra.
I began the climb, what a beautiful spot! Part way up Nasser decided to join me. By law all the cab drivers in Oman have to be Omani citizens, so they are very proud of their nation. I enjoyed chatting with him about his culture. It was also really nice to have someone to pose in a couple photos for me. As much as I love landscape photography, people are still my favourite.
After that Nasser asked if he could should me a couple more places and once again insisted the he would not charge extra. So he showed me some more beautiful views of the mountains & oceans – places I would never have known about otherwise. What a blessing. Meeting him was truly a divine appointment.
The last leg of the big bus tour was at Corniche, a beautiful harbour surrounded by the rugged mountains. This is where the Souq (market) is.
Day 2 concluded with a lovely stroll along the beach. Watch for Part 2 of the Muscat adventures coming very soon!