After writing a not so favourable article on our visit to Dubai, travelling to the Middle East was still on the agenda but for our next trip it would just not involve Dubai. We still wanted to experience the real Middle East and so decided to pit stop in Oman on our way to Sri Lanka.
Our first day we visited the Mutrah Souk. An indoor market full of local craft, antiques, speciality fragrances and the usual imported tat from China that you can get anywhere. We had dinner at Tableyah restaurant recommended by our driver which was located on our way back from the market to our hotel and had a few other restaurants within the same precinct called The Cave.
Day two an early start for a three hour journey to the Wadi Bani Khalid a popular destination to see an oasis, I find long road journeys tedious and with two kids it’s not ideal as you have to think about the route back as well. I would advise something to read and activities for the kids. With plenty of water and snacks. Aside all this I napped and did some writing on the way. The landscape is breathtaking, the mountainous backdrop mesmerising as you see local housing built in and around the middle of nowhere amongst rubble and rock. The wadi was worth the long arduous road trip. It was extremely hot but we were able to dip our feet in the water for a little pedicure from the local fish. We didn’t eat there as the food options didn’t look good so we left to eat at our desert accommodation on the route back, The Oryx Desert Camp.
Day three we enjoyed visiting the Sultan Qaboos Mosque, a stunning delight of architectural beauty which we ultimately compared to the Sheikh Zayd Mosque in Abu Dhabi, but there is no comparison you can’t compare a building from one magnificent scale to another that is a wonder in its own right. The structure is white as snow and pure as the hearts of those who pray in it.
We followed our visit to the mosque with a tour inside The Royal Opera House.
Majority of our time was spent in Muscat. A beautiful city full of hidden treasures, Muscat was ruled by various indigenous tribes as well as foreign powers such as the Persians, the Portuguese Empire, the Iberian Union and the Ottoman Empire at various points in its history. Oman’s roots and culture runs deep and it is evident within the infrastructure even with the extensive development taking place. They don’t want to be another Dubai. Skyscrapers are forbidden, the Oman government prefer to have the stunning landscape of the mountains surrounding them to be completely visible. The infrastructure is sparse and stretched over excavated mountainous land, unlike Dubai we are not in the desert.
Places of interest:
Sultan Qaabos Mosque
Albeit not as grand as the Shiekh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi but just as beautiful and breathtaking
Royal Opera House
The leading arts and cultural centre in the capital Muscat. Open to the public for daily tours around the building it is unique and contemporary in Omani architecture. You will also find on site cultural markets, restaurants and retail surrounded by formal landscaped gardens.
Wadi Bani Khalid
The best known Wadi to visit in Oman is this one, located in eastern region a three-hour drive from Muscat. Extremely picturesque and blissfully relaxing you have to walk alongside a small stream to get to the area, there isn’t an appropriate pathway and is unsuitable for buggies. Wear decent footwear and if you fancy a dip in the cobalt blue waters don’t forget to pack your pool essentials.
Shangri La, Muscat
We stayed in several different areas of Oman and the Shangri La is a must, located on a beach and the hotel’s buildings span across a jagged, serrated landscape with the view of the Arabian sea endlessly looking back at you. The food experiences are nothing less than of what is expected. I would recommend Shangri La if you plan to stay there for the entire duration of your stay as it can be a bit of drive to get out to get to places of interest if you are planning for daily excursions.
Oryx Desert Camp
In the middle of nowhere of Sharqiya Sands you will find five-star luxury tents offering guests an Arabian Bedouin experience. Made for a great pitstop on route back from Wadi Bani Khalid
Coral Hotel & Apartments, Muscat
Great location for places of interest we stayed in a two-bedroom luxury apartment. Perfect when travelling with children and is affordable. Typical Omani buffet breakfast in the morning in more of a canteen like set up. Rooftop restaurant is spectacular in the evening for dinner.
Love Road/Al Qurm Street
Is a nice place for a drive in the evenings and ideal romantic spot for couples.
We ended up in down town Muscat because I had forgotten my Mac Book charger and needed to get a cheap one to use to get me through our travels. It was lovely to see another side of Muscat which is completely different to what we were seeing every day.
Is a cave like complex of seven different restaurants in Muscat, recommended by our driver it made a convenient family friendly place to eat.
We had an overall pleasant experience with the airport coming in and out. Visa costing £50 per person at the time.
We would highly recommend Oman to anyone traveling with kids or alone, I felt extremely safe there and it was easy getting around with the kids.
Travelling through in late November, we were told it is the ideal time to go. Weather wise anytime right up until February. We used it as a pitstop on route to Sri Lanka.
Oman has kept old traditions and preserved the history within the land. Tourism here is on a slow rise but we would prefer to label it as off the beaten track and therein lies the beauty of an authentic travel experience.