“Every country I visit, I feel I leave a bit of my heart but leave as a fuller person. “
Mike de Coster-Milman
Our first night in Muscat was relatively quiet, as we were there for a few days, there was no point in rushing all over the place. We settled for a nice swim in the non rooftop pool and then popped to the restaurant for tea. This was (of course) accompanied by several Gin & Tonics which of course helped me to sleep very well.
We had several things planned for our stay. The first one was to visit the Grand Mosque (Sultan Qaboos Mosque). We hopped into a taxi outside the hotel. Our driver, a local Omani who I would say was in his mid 40’s. A lovely, humble, softly spoken gentleman who had been driving taxis for 25 years. A father of 4 kids and proud to have many English friends. So much so that he even told me all their names!. Chatting on our way to the Mosque he mentioned that we could do a 3 hour tour of Muscat with him, we thought this was a great idea and a good way to get to see the area. The Mosque is out of this world, it was an honour to be there, Sayed (our driver) came with us and explained some of the features and a little bit of what happens in a Mosque. We then went to a room where we joined other visitors and had a frank and open question and answer session with the most delightful lady we could have hoped to meet. It was a totally down to earth honest and open chat. This lady was very witty and funny and represented her religion in one of the most humble and sincere way I have ever come across. We were both quite taken aback by this openness. We were served typical Omani coffee, dates, water and biscuits. We left this place in awe of such nice and welcoming people.
After this awesome experience we headed out of town and into old Muscat. At every turn we were just amazed by the scenery, the cleanliness and the incredible surroundings.
We returned to the hotel having had a fabulous day out. We had a swim and then ventured out in another taxi to Souq Muttrah. This is a proper traditional souq. You can spend days and days lost in the labyrinth of little shops and stalls, beyond any shadow of doubt, the best souq we have ever been to. We had some tea in one of the local eateries, I’m not entirely sure what we had but it didn’t kill us so it can’t have been all that bad!
August 23rd – Katja’s Birthday!
One of the reasons why we came was to celebrate Katja’s birthday. We wanted to do something special for her on her day so we had (before we left Doha) booked a dolphin watching and snorkelling trip. The beauty about the Middle East is that you can plan anything as far ahead as you want and you know you will have dry weather! Sayed picked us up at 9 and we were off to Marina Bandar Al Rowdha near old Muscat. We left at about 10am. It was hot and sticky but at least the sea was relatively calm! We searched for dolphins and about 1.5 hours later we found a school of dolphins. These majestic creatures put on a magical show and an enormous smile on Katja’s face! After this, we headed off snorkelling. We anchored about 100 yards from the beach, put some flippers on along with masks and jumped into the warm sea. The clear waters enabled us to see loads of fishes and wildlife swimming below us, a truly spectacular way to end the tour. Annoyingly and stupidly, I left my main camera at home, all our photos were taken using our iPhones which are rubbish for photos, to top it all off, we ran out of memory!!
We headed back to our hotel and then let Kati decide where to go for lunch. She asked to go to MacDonald’s. Fortunately there was one a few kilometres from the hotel, so we did as birthday girl asked. When we were ordering, Kati mentioned it was her birthday. Well, straight away she was given a balloon and bag packed with toys, this, of course, made her extremely happy!!
We headed back to the hotel once more, had a swim in the pool then had some tea. We mentioned that it was Katja’s birthday, without any hesitation, the manager asked us how you spell her name and to wait for a “surprise”
After tea we headed off to an amusement park down the road. At the entrance you purchase a card and add credit to it, every ride you go on, they deduct money from the card. Not knowing how much each ride was, I added plenty of credit to make sure we had a fun evening. After going on most of the rides we had had enough and it was now time to go back, it was still very hot and we had had a wonderful day. As we still had (a lot) of credit on the card and we were’t coming back, we decided to give it anyone we found near us. There was a young couple with a kid running around. We thought we would give it to them. We approached them and told them we were leaving and we would like to give them our card which still had some credit. They offered us money which we refused. They were very grateful and got chatting. It turned out that the husband was the operations manager of the hotel where we were staying! He asked for our room number and left it at that. We said our goodbyes and headed off to our hotel, it was now getting quite late (late for us anyway).
At around 22:45 hrs, just before going to bed, there was a knock on the door, much to my surprise, there was a waiter with a freshly baked birthday cake for Katja, courtesy of the operations manager!
Last Day in Muscat
Our final day in Muscat we took it relatively easy. After all the excitement the day before we had a relatively quiet day. We popped to Mall of Oman to buy some provisions for our trip the next day and decided it would be well worth investing in a proper GPS to make sure we got back without too many issues, especially as we were going back a slight different way. In the evening, we popped out to souq Muttrah to make sure we brought back some souvenirs! after that, it was an early night after tea!
Next Part: Muscat to Abu Dhabi