During the first month of our stay in Dubai, when I still wasn’t working, we decided to go spend a weekend in Oman. We found quite cheap flight from Dubai to Muscat with Flydubai airlines. So, on Friday morning (weekend in UAE and Oman starts on Friday), after one hour of flight we landed in Muscat. We got our visas on arrival (10 min. and 15 USD) and changed some money in the airport currency exchange.
We didn’t really have time to check anything before arriving, so we didn’t even know where to ask the airport taxi driver to take us. In Muscat taxis don’t have meters, so basically before going somewhere it’s good to bargain the price with the driver. So, we got in the taxi, asked the guy how much will he take to go to “the city center”, and after negotiating a fair price we left the airport. Omani people don’t speak English very well. So, we weren’t sure if he understood us well. After maybe 10 minutes the taxi driver stopped in front of a shopping center called “City Center”. Almost in the middle of nowhere, a strange, doggy shopping mall, almost totally empty – it was around 9 am Friday… Good beginning. But wait 🙂 Next, we told the driver it’s obviously not what we meant and asked him to take us to a place one girl at the airport recommended us to see. 20 minutes in taxi and again we are in a strange place, some street full of shops and a lot of locals (only men) enjoying their morning coffee in a small trashy coffee place.Nope, this can’t be the center of Muscat. We wandered around a bit to see if there is anything at all worth our attention, but as it was getting closer to midday, we knew it’s better not to get stuck on some strange streets during the worst heat. So, taxi again. Fortunately, this time the driver spoke English a bit better and knew where to take us. Muscat is beautifully placed in between the rocky, harsh mountains along the coast. We got to the Old Muscat – the historical part with old forts (we found out there is even a Portuguese fort Jalali from 16th century) and sultan’s palace. It’s quite different from the rest of the city, feels more like a small, old port town. We walked along the Mutrah Corniche promenade, saw the Sultan’s boat and palace and entered a dark, narrow and charming streets of the local Mutrah souq (market), well known for its silver craft shops, perfumes, souvenirs and much more to buy.
After couple of hours of walking around the city in the heat (around 35 degrees), we decided to go to Ruwi, the modern part of the city and call our Couchsurfing host to meet him and leave our backpacks at home. When I called him, he told us he had two more guests staying at his place the same night, who were currently at a very nice beach next to Muscat. He told us it’s worth to see it and recommended us to call Irma and meet with her. We quickly went to buy Renato swimming shorts (we were not expecting to go to the beach), had a coffee and took a taxi to the beach.
We landed in a very peaceful and small resort, with a nice hotel and bungalows by the sea. We found Irma relaxing at one of the bungalows with couple more middle-aged people from different countries.
Very nice people. We stayed until late night, having beers and dinner at the local bar. We were quite surprised that the alcohol was so easy to buy, as we thought Oman is much more conservative than UAE. But not really. Later, we met an extremely funny Omani guy, who takes care of turtles. He works in the nearby hotel and during the breeding period, he makes sure the new born turtles safely get from the beach to the sea.
At night, we came to our Couchsurfing host Ashit, very kind doctor from India, who gave us his bedroom and slept on the couch in the living room. In the middle of the night another German couchsurfer arrived, so by the morning the house was full of travelers and good atmosphere.
After a quick breakfast, we went to visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. Apparently, it’s the only mosque in Oman open to non Muslim tourist. It was built only in 2001, has capacity for more than 20 000 worshipers and has the world’s second largest single piece hand-woven carpet. It took 600 women and 4 years to make it 🙂 The mosque also has a huge (14 meters) wonderful chandelier.
In the afternoon we went with the other couchsurfers to another beach, had a swim and walked along the coast.
In the evening, we said goodbye to our new friends and left to the airport to go back to Dubai.