"We travel not to escape our life, but to stop life from escaping us"
We flew early in the morning for our first day in Oman. This gave us a day to get the feel of things and also to explore Muscat. Muscat is Oman’s port capital city and has a history dating back to antiquity which means that there is a lot to see.
N.B. If you are wondering how the ‘on arrival visa’ process works it’s pretty simple. When you land you’ll head into the terminal and see a Travelex money exchange and a country to the left. This is where you pay for your on arrival visa. At the time I write this the charge is 20 OMR per person. Once you have your receipt head right and take the receipt and your passport to the customs agents to be checked and stamped, after that you are all good to go grab you bags and head outside.
There are a couple of options in Muscat for getting around. First you could go with a prearranged private city tour. These are usually on the more costly side but do guarantee you see everything you want. Second there is a double-decker bus that travels to all the most popular sites its hop on and hop of so pretty convenient however it is timetabled so if you miss it then you have to wait for the next one to come along. Also with this option you will be getting on and off with (in general) lots of other people going to the same spot at the same time, which can feel a little crowded. We went for option three, once we got the hotel and put our bags in we called for a cab and then asked the cab driver how much it would be to just have him drive us around to the sites for the day and then back to the hotel. After a little back a forward the great price of 30 Rials for 6 hours of touring was agreed upon and we jumped in and headed on our way (we had 3 adults and 2 kids so this was a great deal compared to other options).
Seeing The Sites
We wanted to see the main site but also had a few spots we wanted to see. Here is the order we went in and some notes about what we got up to:
Sultans Palace, you aren’t able to go inside the ground so most picture are through or in front of the big gates out front but the palace is beautiful and the area outside is great to stretch your legs.
Al Mirani & Al Jalali Forts, these forts are pretty cool to visit. They flank each side of the harbor and provide great view. You can also get a view of the back side to the Sultans Palace and gardens.
The Watch Tower, this light house looking tower is tucked away behind some rocks of the Al Bahri Road. You can park and climb up to the top for a great view all around.
Incense Burner & Riyam Park, across the road from the watch tower you can see the beautiful incense burner that overlooks Riyam Park. The burner is closed to the public but still amazing even from the bottom of the hill. The park offers a beautiful place to walk and also if you have kids a play park.
Mutrah Souq, this large market has a multitude of offerings from pots and pans to gold to souvenirs. Definitely take a couple of hour to really get lost and have a look around. Also never pay the first, second or even third price that’s offered especially on souvenirs, you can get some great deals with a little bartering.
Blue Mosque, although not the famous blue mosque of Turkey this one is just up the road from the Mutrah Souq and has a very beautiful minara (minaret) decorated in patterned blue.
Snacks At The Market And Back To The Hotel
According to lonely planet Al Ahli coffee shop is a good place to check out inside the Mutrah Souq but we could find it for the life of us. What we did find just down the road towards the mosque with a blue decorated minara (minaret) was a small coffee shop that did a good plate of samosa’s, falafel and bhaji’s for just over 1 Rial (including two bottle of water). If you are hungry for a snack definitely check it out.
As our time came to a close Jimal our friendly driver for the day, meandered us back toward our hotel and offered to take us out further afield tomorrow. We had already pre-planned travel for the next few days but he happily gave us his card and told us if we were back in Muscat to give him a call to drive for us again. What a great driver, and what a great day.