A Travellerspoint blog

Another Wadi

Christmas Eve

According to Janey's guide book there should be a nice, circular route which takes in a couple of famous forts. We set off intending to visit them, but got side-tracked up a wadi.

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But we did see a very small fort, just from the outside.
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The view up the valley.
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We had half expected the road to be a gravel track, but it was a newly built, fast road, with vicious speed bumps at random intervals to catch us when we were least expecting them. Some were nicely painted with yellow stripes, others were road-coloured and almost invisible.

The mountains were steep, and majestic. Every village had its own mosque, we saw several new ones being built.
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Here and there, there were oases and at one stage so much water crossing the road that we thought we might float the car!

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We stopped for a very late lunch (even by Spanish standards) in a little town which must be famous for its tailors. At one end of the town we counted 12 ladies' tailors, and at the other end 6 Arab men's tailors. A good number of barbers and bicycle repair shops, although we have hardly seen any bicycles.

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Note the camel in the poster ...
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Lunch was a big surprise. The cook spoke only a few words of English. "No sandwich" and "chicken, rice, one and two" so we ordered 2 chicken and 1 rice.

Some time later two large bowls of rice were set before us. No sign of the chicken. Then a little plate of salad, a bowl of curried lentils and an omelette for each of us and finally a bowl of chicken. Wow! It all tasted delicious, and we never touched the rice.

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By now it was 4 pm and time to head back to Muscat. We stopped for a couple of late afternoon photos.

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The hotel had a special seafood buffet served by the pool on the roof tonight, so we booked a table for our Christmas Eve dinner. It was excellent, the highlight being half a grilled lobster. The local tuna steaks, flash grilled were also very good.

The evening was rounded off with coffee and a wee dram of the whisky we luckily brought with us from Heathrow.

Posted by AnnieBusch 07:42 Comments (2)

Exploring a Wadi

23rd December

Today's destination was Wadi Mayh.

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The first part of the trip was on an excellent expressway, but once we reached Yiti, at the entrance to the wadi, the road was not so good and soon after became a newly graded track. The track was in the dry river bed, and for a track, was very good, no problem for our Suzuki saloon.

We passed a couple of tiny villages, each with its prominent mosque, and then came to a small cluster of houses, with several photogenically arranged abandoned cars and a three piece suite. We thought this was a good photo opportunity so parked the car and took several photos.

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We also noticed a small mosque with seating, and more importantly, a handy loo next door.

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We made use of these and then walked further along the wadi. There was a considerable palm plantation, and plenty of running water. The countryside was surprisingly green.

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Once we had exhausted the photo possibilities, we drove back to the largest of the villages in the wadi.

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There was a fine mosque which we were busy photographing when we noticed 2 guys approaching us. The youngr guy spoke very good English, his uncle none at all. They thought perhaps we were taking photographs of the road with a view to asphalting it. Something which they have long been waiting for. We were sorry to disappoint them. We chatted about life in the village, 11 families live there, all related to each other. The uncle invited us to his house, we hesitated and the young man didn't press us, so we assumed he was rather hoping we wouldn’t accept. The uncle asked a second time, and looked rather sad that we didn’t accept. We thought afterwards that we were silly not to have accepted.

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We drove on to Yiti where we hoped to find a coffee house. There were none to be seen, so I stopped a young lass and asked if she could tell us where to go. She said she was almost sure there was no coffee house in the village, and said she would be happy to serve us tea in her house. Once again a dilemma, but I thanked her and explained that we were hoping to find somewhere for lunch. So we drove on through the village wondering where to go, when we spotted a group of coffee shops, and one had an open door. But by the time we had parked, the owner was locking up and leaving. We tried the door, just in case, and luckily he spotted us and came back. He didn’t speak any English, so called his friend in India to translate for us! We negotiated 2 wraps each, filled with omelette and shredded cabbage and with cucumber and tomato on the side. It was delicious and the bill came to £3.

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After lunch we stopped once or twice more, trying to get a photo which conveyed the majesty of the mountains and the peace and quiet (apart from bird song - hoopoes, magpies and little brown jobs).

There are very few flowers; just a tiny yellow one and a purple cabbage relation, which grows in my garden as a weed. The butterflies liked the latter.

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Some donkeys jogged past.

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We then drove down to the sea and found a magnificent, wide, sandy beach. We walked its length and ended up in an abandoned and ruined village. We wondered what had happened to cause all the houses to fall down.

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A bit further along the coast there were some curious rock formations in the sea. Three guys stopped us for a chat. Everyone is so friendly; keen to know where we are from, tell us about Oman, and happy to have their photo taken.

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We tried to get a cup of tea or an ice cream at a very exclusive hotel beside the sea in the next bay. But access was by key card only, so we gave up on that idea and drove home. It was a long day and we are both feeling pretty tired.

So home for a cuppa, and a zizz before supper. We will be trying Thai tonight.

Posted by AnnieBusch 07:42 Comments (1)

A drive along the North Coast

22nd December

First on the agenda this morning was a visit to the Grand Mosque, the only mosque in Oman open to non Muslims. We were there by 9.30 and joined a couple of coach loads of tourists fixing head scarves and removing shoes.

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The first building we entered was, we thought the main mosque, and rather disappointing.

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But, as we put our shoes back on, I overheard a guide telling his group that there was more to see around the corner. So we followed him, and sure enough, there was plenty more to see! We had been in the female prayer hall.

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The men's mosque was an altogether much more magnificent affair. It was completed in 2001, and until recently boasted the largest carpet and the largest chandelier in the world. The records have been pinched by the Emiratis and the Quataris.

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A section of carpet

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The ceilings and walls are covered in beautiful mosaics, and the chandelier really is magnificent. After walking around and taking pictures, we went outside where there was more to see. Around a paved courtyard there are corridors (rather like cloisters), with alcoves of stunning mosaics.

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The gardens were lovely as well, and there was an army of gardeners tending to everything.

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At 11 the mosque closed to the infidels and we were hustled out and back to the car. It was 25° in the shade, and we were glad to take out head scarves off.

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We joined the expressway and headed further west along the coast, until we came to Al Seeb. Janey's guide said give it a miss, the Lonely Planet said don't miss it if you would like to see a typical Omani town. So we thought we would give it a chance. The corniche was promising .

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The waterfront in the centre of town was given over to the souk and a huge number of shops selling live birds and animal feed.

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We wandered along the 'paseo' and watched a group of Omani men playing cards. In no time at all we were invited to join them in a cup of Omani coffee called Qahwa - not too strong coffee with cardamom. We had a nice chat and then moved on to investigate the souk.

In the souk we chatted to two guys selling dried lemons. I asked if I could buy 4, they gave me half a dozen as a gift.

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Now it was time for lunch. We fell on our feet, finding a restaurant dedicated to fish and sea food. We chose our fish, ordered rice and a salad and waited for the fish to be grilled. It was coated in garam masala, and absolutely delicious. The only snag was that we were expected to eat it with a plastic teaspoon! After much searching around two forks were found, sent to the kitchen for a wash and then delivered. No chance for a knife though. Our meal was accompanied by songs from the Koran. We could read the translation on a TV on the wall, karaoke style! The little restaurant did a thriving trade in takeaway. A steady stream of men came, and went clutching a blue poly bag with an aluminium tray of food.

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We drove a little further west to Barka, but there wasn't much to see there; a rather dirty beach with lots of identical fibreglass fishing boats and a mosque in the sand.

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Interestingly, there was a mosque every 500 metres along the beach.

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This one had outside seating!
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Then we rejoiced the expressway and headed back home.

Posted by AnnieBusch 12:20 Comments (5)

To Nizwa

21st December

We drove 125 km to Nizwa. On the newly built dual carriage way, it took us a little less than 2 hours. The traffic wasn't too heavy, but if I go one km over 120, the car sounds a penetrating beep, which doesn't stop until I slow down. The majority of private cars were doing well over the speed limit, and if I was in their way, they sat on my rear bumper until I let them pass. This meant that I often got stuck behind slow moving trucks, which I didn't like at all!

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Once there we found a huge, almost empty car park outside the entrance to the old town, so we parked and headed for a coffee, and a look at our guide books. In the 6th and 7th century, Nizwa was the capital of Oman, it is famous for its huge fort; the largest of many in Oman, and its splendid souk. By now it was 12.45, and the souk, we learnt, shut at 1. So we went to visit the fort.

This is how it looked in 1959 when the RAF bombed it during the Jebel Akhdar war over access to Oman's oil wells.

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And today....

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They were crafty builders of forts in Oman, and must have given us the word "pitfall". Behind each door up to the top of the fort, there were holes in the floor, normally covered with wooden planks. But if the enemy came up the stairs, the planks would be removed and he would fall a dozen metres into a pit. That is if he had survived the boiling date molasses which had been poured on him from above, before he got to the door!

By 2 o'clock we were hungry, and found ourselves a shady table at a little café where there were plenty of locals. We had wraps and lemon and ginger juice all of which was excellent and cost just £2 each.

We walked back to the fort, mainly to visit the loos, and then discovered we had missed a big part of the fort. Especially the palm gardens. These reminded me very much of the parks in Elche, and it seems that here the palms are free of the terrible red beetle plague.

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Donkey in the Shade

It was still too early to visit the souk, which was due to open at 4, so we wandered the back streets looking at the enormous project to renovate the old houses. There were noises of hammering and grinding coming from many of the ruins, and one or two almost finished houses to show what it might look like one day.

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At 4 the gates of the souk opened, and we entered full of expectations, only to have them dashed! On Saturday afternoons, it seems, very few of the stalls open up. So we had a very quick wander, pleasantly surprised by the lack of pushy salesmen. They were very friendly, said hello and asked us how we were, and left it at that. Perhaps they have learnt that pushyness doesn't pay?

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There were several spice stalls, but judging from the price of £2 for a small packet of black pepper, no bargains to be had.

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The area is famous for circular mats:

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And silver jewellery....

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And daggers for the men:

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So, then back in the car, and the long drive back to Muscat. On the outskirts of Muscat we stopped to fill up with petrol, and were pleasantly surprised to find that diesel is just 50 pence a litre.

Posted by AnnieBusch 09:53 Comments (3)

19th December

Finding our feet

We had an excellent, direct flight to Muscat with BA. Apart from too many small children, and taking off late because one of the passengers was too ill to fly, so his luggage had to be off-loaded with him, we couldn't fault the flight.

We didn't have a lot of time for sleep between supper being served around 10pm and breakfast at 2am (which was 6am local time). It didn't take long to get our luggage and then find the hire car agent. We have a Suzuki saloon, which is big enough for all our luggage, and small enough to park easily.

A 25 minute drive along an almost empty freeway brought us to the outskirts of Muscat. Here the traffic was much heavier, and everyone drives pretty fast. We found our hotel quite easily, right next to the freeway, and, although only 9 am, we were able to move into our apartment. A very luxurious 2 bedroom affair, with a large lounge and a neat little kitchen.

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We unpacked and went straight to bed. At lunchtime we walked around a few nearby malls looking for a place to eat, but found nothing at all apart from a KFC which was right beside the entrance to the hotel. As that sort of food goes, it was quite good, especially the coleslaw.

Then a walk along the expressway to the nearby Carrefour, where we bought everything we need to make breakfasts. We also looked, without success, for some beer. No chance! It will have to be the hotel bar. We have booked supper on the roof top terrace by the pool. It is promised to be a barbeque, it is also likely to rain, so we shall see.

It did rain, torrentially. The dining area was covered by canvas sails, and the rain found its way onto us through the gaps. We kept shifting our table so that we could keep as dry as possible. The buffet was impressive, and the barbequed meat, excellent. However, we learnt to our dismay that our hotel is dry! Our waiter assured us that the lemon and mint mojitos were so good, that we wouldn't notice that they were non alcohol. Well, they were excellent, but....

December 20th Friday

We got up at 8.30 am (4.30 UK time), it really felt like getting up in the middle of the night! As it was Friday, and everything would be closed, we thought it would be a good idea to visit the port area and the old town. It was still raining, and there were some enormous puddles / flooding to negotiate. We found parking on the corniche and walked along it until the rain got heavier. The beautiful beach was almost deserted, hardly surprising in the rain!

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Then Janey navigated us into the port, where we walked some more. By now it had stopped raining, but the souk was closed as was pretty well everything else. There were two small cruise ships moored in the harbour, both painted a curious cream colour, we guess they may be the King's royal yachts. A couple of dhows moored as well, otherwise all rather empty.

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We then drove to the old town, parked on the outskirts and walked down to the sea. It was very disappointing; the dominating feature was a modern fort, all painted white and stretching for maybe 500 metres. We were hoping for some restaurants, narrow streets and pretty houses! We were hungry, and rather sad that this place was closed!

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However, shortly afterwards we found this little restaurant, where we had an excellent lunch. Overseen by the king.

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After lunch we continued on our drive south, along the coast. We stopped a couple of times and walked down to the beach. The mountains come right down to the coast, and are very rugged.

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For supper we walked a few hundred metres to an enormous shopping complex, where we had spotted earlier a Wagamama. I had never heard of the chain, but Janey had eaten in one in England and enjoyed it. We had a very nice Japanese style meal sitting outside, where it was warmer than the over air-conditioned inside. We had been warned that Oman would be very expensive, but, eating with the locals we find it very reasonable.

Posted by AnnieBusch 10:30 Archived in Oman Comments (2)

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