Muscat At A Glance

I actually had no idea what really brought me to Oman. I once heard somewhere that this country is known for their friendly people. It gave me curiosity to prove with my own  experience to see how friendly the Omani people are. Later, by chance I saw that Emirates airlines gave its promo ticket to Muscat. Alright, it was not totally by chance. I checked the price of Emirates airlines regularly, tried to find the cheapest one that could bring me anywhere in this planet. And Muscat is the cheapest one that I could find that time.

So, here I am. Sitting on Oman Air, on my way from Khasab to Muscat. I chose Khasab as my first stop due to my curiosity of its cost which is known as Norway of Arabia. After spending two nights there (I could not spend more, even if I wanted to. Khasab was out of my budget), I headed to the capital. We were on the air. An Omani man sat next to me. He just move his seat ten minutes after a woman refused to sit next to the man who was not her mahram. The flight attendance asked me if it’s possible if that guy changed his seat next to me. I told the flight attendance that I don’t mind.

“So, first time in Oman?” The Omani man tried to make the conversation.

“Yeah,” I answered.

“I am from Nizwa, “ he told me. I never heard about that city. Honestly, I did not do so many researches about places to visit in Oman since I just made this decision less than a week from my departure date.

“I am sure, it must be beautiful city,” I said again politely.

“Me, No English. Sorry,” said that man again.

“Please don’t be. No need to be sorry. Since I don’t speak Arabic either,” I said.

However, that man became my good companion during my one hour flight to Muscat. With his limited English, he told me about some places that I must visit in Muscat. When we landed, he gave me some candies written “Love” on their cover. My friends, Aziza and Eno could not stop laughing when I told them about this.

“Nice to meet you. Enjoy Muscat,” he said when we said good bye. Well, I have witnessed one of the nice person in Oman. Oh no. Actually, the second person. The first one was the hotel manager who was so kind to lend me his car and driver to drive around Khasab.

I arrived in Muscat International Airport. The hotel where I would stay was located in Mutrah, moreless one hour journey by car from the airport.  I went straightly to the taxi counter, and hop onto taxi in the next five minutes. Muscat has wonderful road. In one hour journey, we passed smooth asphalt road with the width that could be passed by five cars (for one way). So you could imagine how width it is for two ways road.

 

Road in Muscat

Road in Muscat

Muscat City

It is still within the city. After having the modern life and road, less than 10 minutes, I had this view.

I arrived at the hotel. It was not the luxury one. Actually it was the cheapest that I could find within the city. In term of cost and their high currency, Muscat is not backpackers friendly city. There was no hostel, guest house or homestay in the city. However, from my hotel I was spoiled with beautiful scenery of mountain rocks. So I did not find any complain during my stay there.

View from my window

The hotel where I stayed in located closed to the old town. From there, when the heat was not too much, I could walk to the a center of the old town. The market (souq) is worth visit if you’re a shopaholic or loving the window shopping. Well, it apparently not a window shopping. It’s more like having shopping in the bazaar. The bazar itself looks like the other bazar commonly found in this area. Even, this Mutrah Souq reminds me of Grand Bazar in Istanbul.

The neighborhood is enlightened by lights

Mutrah Souq, if you are a shopaholic

Mutrah Souq. It was stil busy in the evening.

Mutrah in the evening

Mutrah Souq. It was stil busy in the evening.

Mutrah Souq. It was stil busy in the evening.

For architecture lovers, Muscat is influenced by Portuguese architecture, after Portuguese conquered the city in the 16th century. Some Portuguese fortress remains in the city. One of the famous fortress is Mutrah Fort, located few steps only from the Souq. It was too bad. When I was there, it was not opened for visitors. So, I just could see it from outside. Some museums are available. Most of them are not expensive, except a private cultural museum, Bait Al Zubair, which is more expensive compared to other museums. The museum consists of many buildings inside. So, in my personal opinion, it was a worth visit to spend few hours in inside.

Mutrah Fort, Muscat.

Mutrah Fort in the evening

Bait Al Zubair

Bait Al Baranda. Another museum in Muscat

Ghalya’s Modern Museum of Art

Muscat is full of rock mountains. During the day in the summer, walking could be unbearable. Taxi was the only options since there was no public transport available within the city. I tried as much as I could to avoid this taxi. Not because I have problem with the taxi driver, but the costs were really exceed my budget. For example, to drive me for one kilometer only, it could cost me like 3 to 4 Omani Riyal. It sounded a small amount. But if I converted to dollar, it would cost me almost 10 USD for one very short journey.

One day, I decided to visit Bait Al Zubair, located not far from my hotel. Seen from GPS, it looked like only two kilometers from my place. I estimated that If I walked slowly, I could arrive there in 30 minutes. So, I started to walk. Unfortunately, the google maps did not work really well that time. The place looked so closed from where I was. But, when I started to walk, it was still far. Many streets were  separated by a big rock mountains. So to move from one street to another, I had to take another long walks. And still, I could not find what I looked for. I was thirsty and my bottle water was finished since the last twenty minutes.

One taxi came closer. The driver asked me where I was heading to.

I just answered politely, “Thank you, Sir. But I just want to walk around only,”

I kept walking. But after fifteen minutes, I could not find any sign of museum but rock mountains on my left and right side.

Another taxi came closer. That was previous taxi driver who asked where I was heading to. Okay, this time I gave up. I would taxi taxi, no matter how much it would cost me. I was thirsty to dead. I told the driver about the museum.

“Come inside,” he asked me. I came inside the car. Oh my God. It was the best things happened in this entire day. After walking in the heat for almost one hour, sitting inside the car with the AC on was so priceless.

“I have no idea, why I could not find the museum,” I talked to taxi driver. “It looks really close from the maps,”

“Yeah, It’s close if you could pass inside that rock mountains, but unfortunately you can’t. There was no tunnel. So, we must take another road to get there,”

We arrived after ten minutes driving. Once we arrived at the museum, I asked the price of the taxi.

The taxi driver told me, “You don’t need to pay. I intended to help you since I saw you for the first time. I thought you got lost, walking in the middle of the heat,”

Well, I can’t believe what I heard. I tried to get him to get my money.

“But, Sir. I can’t accept your kindness just like that. And you did this for living. God will curse me,”

“Not at all. Since my purpose from beginning is just to help you. Don’t worry about me. In return, one day, you can do the same thing to somebody else,“  and he left me.

I could not thank him enough. Another proof that Omani people are nice.

To reduce my expense for transportation, there was other way. I took hop on hop off us where it passed most of tourist atractions in Muscat. Compared to the taxi, it was cheaper. The price was depends on how many days you want to have. I took four days since I stayed in Muscat for 5 days. This buss passed many landmarks of Muscat, such as: Mutrah Fort, Mangrove Lagoon, Ruwi Clock Tower, Al Alam Palace,Parliament Building, Mutrah Corniche, Qurum Beach, Royal Operah House Muscat, etc.

 

Big Bus Tour Muscat taking me around Muscat

Parliament Building, Muscat

Al Alam Royal Palace. It is not opened for the public. But visitors may roam around inside the yard.

The yard of Al Alam Palace

Ruwi Clock Tower

Mangrove Lagoon

Mutrah Corniche. When It is not that hot, it could be a pleasant afternoon to walk by the sea

The other part of Mutrah Corniche

This kind of gazebo is commonly found along Mutrah Corniche

Qurum Beach

Dusk at Qurum Beach, Muscat.

Muscat Gate Museum. I remember that there was no free entrance required when I entered this museum. But tat was in 2015.

The new city

Al Shatti Beach, Muscat

Royal Opera House, Muscat. It also has stunning architecture inside

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. It definitely has to visit when you are in Muscat. It has stunning architecture

There are many foreigners living in Muscat. As its neighbor Dubai, it is common to find many people coming from Asia and Europe within the city. Therefore, there were so many options for the food when I was in Muscat. I found it easily to find Indian food or Chinese food as easy as I found the Omani cuisine. I am not the foodie, so I always forgot to take a photo of the food while I was traveling. Moreover, I was not that picky in term of food. I ate whatever I found first everything my stomach started to cry.

So, one of the best ice cream that I ever tasted

A cruise ships stepped aside to Mutrah Port

Mutrah, Muscat, Oman

Somehere in Muscat

Somewhere in Muscat

Al-Riyam Park. A play ground is available nearby.

Sculpture in Muscat

Along the road in the old town, there are many benches like this available.

Mutrah neighborhood

Mutrah neighborhood

Some claim that the ethnic both in Muscat and Dubai came from the same roots. Therefore, there are some similarities between these two cities. Nonetheless, unlike Dubai which is more artificial and full of concrete jungles, in term of nature and culture,  I found that Muscat has more to offer for the cultural geek as me. Its exotic, unusual, historic, stunning landscape and people known for their warmth and hospitality are enough to put Muscat on your list.

 

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