Muscat & Hajar Mountains
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Having little to do during the Muslim EID holidays, we decided to visit Muscat, the capital of Sultanate of Oman. As it was a spontaneous decision, we were extremely disappointed not to be able to any flights to Muscat at short notice. In the end, we decided to drive to Muscat, which turned out to be a good decision as it gave us the flexibility to drive to the Hajar Mountains. We clocked about 1600 km for the round trip from Dubai to Muscat and to Jebel Shams (the highest mountain in the magnificent Hajar Mountain range).
Oman is the second largest country in Arabia with cities lining up the coast facing the Arabian Gulf, imposing mountain range spanning from east to west in the northern part of the country and extensive deserts on the inland.
Highly recommended hotel to stay in Muscat is the Crowne Plaza but only in the sea facing rooms as the view is fantastic with the sea just in front and the distant Hajar Mountains on the horizon. An interesting hotel to visit or stay in Muscat is the Al Bustan Palace Intercontinental. It is every bit of an Arabian palace with its unique architecture and mosque-like lobby. Really the epitome of five star finery!
From Muscat, we drove to Jebel Shams and the Hajar Mountains range. Along the way, we came across the abandoned Persian village of Ghul. From a distance, the ruins were a pretty sight sandwiched between the irrigated farm land at the bottom and the bare mountains to the back.
We also visited Nizwa which was another 200km from Muscat. There was another ruins but not as impressive as the ruins of Ghul. The Nizwa fort was one of the main attraction of this town.
The most pleasant surprise from this trip was experiencing the Omani hospitality in a town called Saham while driving back to Dubai. We pulled up in front of a house to ask an Omani man for directions and were invited to the house for tea. Apparently they were just as curious about us as we were about the Omanis. Soon his five kids, two wives, father, mother, uncle and some other relatives all came out to greet us.
Although language was a barrier with the elders and the youngsters, their hospitality was nevertheless felt. They also insisted that we stay for lunch. Although we were a bit hesitant initially about imposing on them, we were actually honored and happy with the invitation as it was a great way to experience the Omani culture first hand.
Within half an hour, a feast appeared in front of us, placed neatly on the carpet in front of us. The main dish of lamb was stunning, even through I am not a mutton fan because of the smell. For the first time, I tasted really delicious and succulent mutton that was cooked in the traditional way with the meat being cooked briefly, then wrapped in foil and buried underground for several hours. It was so good that I had a second helping!
What an unforgettable experience with the Omani hospitability.