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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

23 Mystical Muscat

Muscat has remained a mystery to us since it was a missed port in 2011, but today it was our time to visit.  Moving cabins paid off.  We woke early looked out our doors and saw that we were just arriving into Muscat harbour.  It only took a second to throw on some clothes and jump out on to the balcony and watch the rest of our sail in. A lovely sail in as dawn was just breaking (this was around 6 am).  We were probably herded into the port early as we had the cruise ship Amedea was on our tail.

Right next to where we dock there was one of the biggest private yacht berthed we had ever seen. It belonged to his Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said.....  Just next to that was another small ship which is actually the supply ship for the yacht.

There was shuttle that took you to the port gates where we were to meet our guide. Having made arrangements to meet at 7.30 am only the night before, we got there and waited and waited and waited.. We started to worry as it got closer to 8am. It was hot, we were being pestered by the local taxi drivers and we were getting anxious knowing that we had such a short time in Muscat.

We were using Marks Tours and we had never had any problems them when we first booked them in 2011 even when during mid cruise we had to change our tour to Salalah.  Ashok was great at organising our tour at the other end of Oman.  We used them again last year when we once again visited  Salalah.  Now finally in Muscat and after 2 phone calls chasing our tour, Garry was just about the negotiate a taxi van, when a mini bus came flying around the corner with Marks Tours boldly printed on the side.... It was a no brainer stick with the large mini bus.

Don our guide was apologetic and obviously Ashok had emailed me one thing and told his guide another.  Don was a great guide and very informative.  He is actually Sri Lankan but lived in Oman for many many years as a naval officer.

Off we went for the 25 mile drive to the Grand Mosque.  Unfortunately for us it was a Friday, which is the Muslim religious day so the mosque is closed to the public. We could only admire it from the outside. As beautiful as that was with it’s 22karat gold dome and beautifully landscaped gardens we missed it’s exquisite interior with its Swarovski crystal chandelier and supposed largest single piece carpet.

This visit gave our next stops time to open as it was so early.  Next we visited the fish markets that were doing a roaring trade.  Fish of every shape and size were on sale. Once you bought your fish you could take it down the back where you could pay for someone to clean and fillet the fish for you.

From one market to another, not far from here was the Muttrah Souk.  This reminded of a light version of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar without the carpets or leather coats LOL...  As usual the women love these stops and the husbands loyally followed their wives in and out of each stall.

Next stop was the Bait Al Zubair Museum.  A snapshot of how the Omani’s used to live, not able to take photos inside ... just outside ... I loved the beautiful elaborate clothes that were on display.

Then we went to the Sultan’s Palace.. A stunning building surrounded by beautiful gardens  on one side and the sea on the other.  The sultan does not spend a lot of time here, as now at the age of 82 he spends his time a little further out of town at another grand complex. The Palace is also flanked by the 16th Century Portuguese forts of Jalali and Mirani.

We drove along the Corniche and watched as the beautiful vistas passed us by.

Always seems funny to be back on the ship at lunch time which then gave us the rest of the day to enjoy the ships activities and to prepare for our visit to Dubai the next day.


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