In December 2018, we decided to spend the Christmas holidays in the Middle East.
First stop: Muscat, the capital.
What struck us immediately, was the smell of oil in the center. Normal, since this is an oil producing and exporting country. We only stayed for 1 full day and visited the highlights, such as the sultan’s palace, the bazaar and the beautiful Sultan Qaboos Grande Mosque. The most impressive though was the Royal Opera House with the shiny pavement, as if it were water. That night (remember, it was the festive period) there was going to be a concert and the violinist was practising. We stayed for at least an hour, just listening and enjoying. It turned out to be a very nice walk. We had rented a taxi at the hotel and the driver was friendly enough to drop us of in the center, give us an hour to explore the surroundings on our own, then pick us up and do some sightseeing.
There were hardly any tourists, which made the experience all the more special.
After our trip, on our last day in Oman, we stayed in Muscat again and visited a workplace where they hand-make traditional wooden boats. New Year’s Eve was also spent there. We had hoped to see some fireworks along the boulevard but this being a muslim country, there were no festivities (and no alcoholic beverages allowed). We did have a very nice dinner though, in a traditional wooden restaurant.
One of the beautiful and reclusive destinations in Oman is undoubtedly Al-Hamra. There was no one in this peculiar little town. These are some of the oldest townhouses of the country, hidden behind an oasis of palmtrees. Very impressive view from above.
We also got a spectacular treat, a rescue operation. Our imagination was running wild of course …
The highlight of our trip to Oman must be the desert. To be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to it. All that sand and all … But it turned out to be a magical place.
Quite a difficult feat to get there though! Follow the directions, they said. What directions?
First stop was a petrol station. We were told to let the air out of our tyres. Easier to drive that way. Took us quite some time to find someone to help us with that. It took some doing (a lot of doing is more appropriate, I would say) to reach our destinations (I think we saw the same sand dunes a couple of times – but it could just as well have been others), but honestly, it was so much fun! And believe it or not, suddenly there was a signpost … In the middle of the desert!
On our first night (we stayed 2) we went dune bashing and got treated to the most magical of all sunsets. One of the things I absolutely wanted to see, were the red sandy waves and I got more of my fair share of those.
The second day, in between camel rides, we went for a sandy ride with our own car and … got stuck in some faraway dune. While all the men (husband and sons) were trying to get the car unstuck, I jumped out and ran (or rather, crawled through the sand) back to base camp to get some help. It was getting dark already so yes, there was a slight hint of panic. In the end they managed to get out of the sand and pick me up underway.
Desert adventures, I can only recommend!
Enjoy this beautiful scenery with me!
Unesco World Heritage, the beehives – prehistoric site, supposedly a necropolis (although very little is known).
They are not accessible and can only be seen from the road. That combined with a mind-numbing drive of a few hours … Not really worth the effort after all.
This was fun! A real sinkhole in which you can swim and bathe. Again the road to our destination was not very inspiring (to say the least – sand, sand … and some more sand). And although it doesn’t really show on the picture, this was your typical tourist destination. We missed the entrance, had to drive a few kilometers back and forth, but there we were, finally. We took the endless stairway to … the sinkhole, dipped our toes and went back up. It was late afternoon, the sun was setting and the water was a bit chilly.
Now, this was beautiful! Me like!
It’s called Diana’s viewpoint because obviously princess Diana stood at the exact same place as where I am standing. This mountainous region is famous for its terraces surrounding where vegetables are grown.
This is one of the more ‘dangerous’ areas of the country and our car was thoroughly checked before entering it (one road, going and back). They also noted our numberplate and checked under the car.
The travel guide said this was a spectacular ride, so we had high hopes, but were disappointed. Apparently a lot has changed since the guide was published. It was still beautiful though and one of the nicer rides we had in Oman, because of the greener and varied surroundings.
A beautiful white beach on one of our rides to somewhere … There are nice bays along the coastline here.
1 word … Wow! The terrace walk, as this is called, is stunning, breathtaking, impressive. Worth every step we took – however hard they were in the end.
It all started on the way to our hotel. A day-trip from the previous hotel through some nice landscapes of rocks, moutains … Very mineral. But strangely beautiful! We were looking very much forward to our hotel, it was a mountain retreat, where we would celebrate Christmas. Around one of the last bends, we saw some rudimentary huts and jokingly said: that’s our hotel! It turned out to be exactly so … and it was almost a disappointment, but in the end it was a fine location (they were rudimentary, yes, but not half as bad as they looked from afar).
But freezing cold, that yes (and I hadn’t really packed any real warm clothes, silly me). No wifi either, which was a nice change. Again, this is a muslim country, so there we no real efforts made for Christmas – there was a small tree and we got some sweets when we left for our next destination, but the Christmas vibe was absent. Ah well, we didn’t expect it anyway.
We decided to leave early to go hiking, to avoid the heat and that was a wise decision! We could really use the jackets we had put on AND we avoided the crowds. End destination of the walk was the rock looking out over the gorge. Gorgeous! Absolutely gorgeous!
Going there was fun, but on the way back, we were challenged and were really worn down. It went uphill again and the sun was out by that time. One of the highlights of our trip!
In Oman, there are a lot of old desert forts. We visited a few, one of them was Nizwa. Unfortunately, something went wrong with my camera and I lost my pictures. Luckily I still have these 2.
Handmade ceramics are a big thing here. Needless to say I bought my fair share of plates and dishes.
On the road ...
Enjoy these snapshots from underway. You see tiling, deserted roads, funny signs with camels (beware!), the best food, the sultan (of course, you see the signs everywhere – he has died in 2020, may he rest in peace).
The View is the name of the hotel where we stayed. And rightly so! Wat a view, in the middle of the mountains. In the night, you see all the lights flickering on the opposite site, all little mountain villages.
It took a lot of cool-headedness to enter the pool, it was free-zing cold! But we just had to take a dip in the infinity pool.
Again, what a view!
Wadi Bani Khalid
One of the excursions we did from the deserts, was this wadi. The road to our destination was bo-ring (how much sand can there be …), but the wadi itself was wonderful. But we had to face the facts, this is a muslim country and women were not allowed to bathe, unless they cover their body completely. Needless to say I didn’t feel like bathing at all anymore – unfortunately!
The kids did though and they enjoyed themselves enormously. They were not the only ones. A crazy amount of people came here, kilometers of parked cars and huge crowds, incredible.
A secret hideaway we discovered by accident on the road to somewhere. The wadi was dry, but it was a stunning view nevertheless.
Wow … just wow!
As always, a lot of people and a real tourist attraction. We were taken by a little (and hugely expensive) boat to the entrance of the wadi and went on our walk. A mere 5 km, they said – but forgot to mention that it was a little bit more – and one way. We kept walking and walking … and walking some more. But it was worth every kilometer, what a beautiful wadi.
A must-see if you ever visit Oman!
Oman is one of the places where turtles nest all year long, here in Raz Al-Jinz. We booked a trip – of course – and hoped to see baby turtles crawling to the sea.
We didn’t get to see that, but we did see mummy turtles laying eggs and going back to the sea. No pictures of that of course, but we will never forget the experience.
We stayed there for 2 nights (1 would have been enough) and went to the beach with the small group (you had to book and only so many people were allowed). We got to see turtles and were very impressed. On our second evening we were less fortunate – nothing to see, apart from fluorescent plankton.