A beautiful sunny morning after the storms in Jebel Shams and, despite a few minor floods to negotiate on the way, perfect weather for the scenic drive back down the mountain to the coast.
We stopped at the spectacular Nakhal Fort on the way to stretch our legs and explore. Couldn’t resist taking hundreds of photos of the stunning views across the city and the massive oasis behind it.
Great recommendation – thanks John!
Unfortunately the good weather didn’t hang around for long and the next downpour started just in time for our arrival in Muscat. We stayed at the super-fancy Shangri-La by the beach, which, although amazing in every other way, was totally unprepared for any kind of rain. We tried to brave our way through the ankle high water to get to the nearest bar but, after I stacked it spectacularly and embarrassingly up the slippery wet stairs, we decided to play it safe and watch the storm from the safety of our balcony. Not that safe, it turns out, as I then managed to run straight into the glass door the next day…
Luckily the sun was back in full force by then and, bruises aside, we had a lovely day exploring Muscat.
First stop, the Mutrah Souq!
Way more interesting and colourful than the souqs in Dubai. We found a cute little store where the owner had pictures of himself with all the ‘celebrities’ who had visited. Can’t say I recognised many of them, but he was particularly proud to point out John Kerry for some reason.
Muscat itself is completely charming and we’ve fallen in love with the city already. So much more beautiful than I’d imagined and one of the cleanest cities I’ve ever been to (at least until you get around the corner and spot all the rubbish dumped just off the main roads!).
The Al Alam palace and the Sultan’s many other spectacular buildings are stunning, and I particularly loved the pretty colourful doorways and the equally colourful mosques. Maybe it’s the time of year, but it doesn’t seem too overly touristic yet either which makes a nice change to Dubai.
I’ve also come to the conclusion that Omanis are the most polite people ever. Everyone is so smiley and friendly, stopping to say hello to us as we walk past and going out of their way to help. We had a bit of drama trying to work out how to pay the parking meter for the souq (turns out there are Baisa coins after all, but no idea how you track them down!) and both a bank teller and a policeman gave us the money to pay and wouldn’t accept anything in return. We also couldn’t believe it when we realised that the cars actually slow down to a stop on the main road to let you pass, regardless of whether there is a crossing or not. Apparently Oman has the highest rate of traffic accidents in the Gulf region so I’m not sure whether this is totally representative, but it was lovely nonetheless.
Once the rain cleared, we were also able to make the most of our stay at the incredible Shangri-La.
This place has everything you could possibly need and more, including a pillow menu, which is possibly bordering on a little ridiculous…
The snorkelling is amazing out here and we took a boat trip out to Turtle Bay for a little swim. The bay lived up to its name – turtles everywhere!! So much fun swimming alongside these happy little surfers.
The beach just down the road from the hotel, Yiti, was also one of my favourite stops in Muscat.
Totally unspoilt with not a resort in sight, just a little fishing village with the most spectacular views of the coast.
And I even found some more goats!
Overall, an amazing three days in this beautiful city and we had to drag ourselves away and back to Dubai ready for Christmas.
Back in the villa now for a few days of detoxing before our Christmas Day brunch at the Observatory. Doesn’t feel remotely festive but it’s 28 degrees so I’m not complaining too much.
Here until the 28th when I fly to Goa and Jamie rejoins the adventure, so the next blog will be coming to you from India!