Old Muscat

Muscat Travel Blog

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Arrival at Muscat airport

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” - Mark Twain

Two enthusiastic chauffeurs pick us up at what my brother fondly calls “0-dark thirty”.

Gate Museum, bridges over the main highway as you enter Matrah
Joel and Tina had come to pick us up as we finally left the customs hall at 430am. You'd never know that it was so early, they were so wide-eyed and bushy tailed. We drive up to their white walled house, with amazing Arabian architecture. All the windows are arched and doors are a piece of art. Every building has these beautiful features, and they are all a varied shade of white or cream. No building is taller than 4 stories. After getting instructions for the next day, we finally and gratefully crawl into bed.

Still March 8th

We finally woke up from our stupor around 11am (we are 12 hours ahead of Vancouver.) After quick shower, we depart to explore Muscat. Joel and Tina have generously left their car for us to use while they headed to work with a colleague.

a fort next the the royal palace in Muscat
We drive around the massive round abouts and head on the main highway through Muscat. The city is set up a bit like Vancouver with the city running east and west, but a bit backwards with the mountains on the south, and ocean on the north. It helps us keep our bearings. 

We drive to Old Muscat, checking out the Gate Museum, which was an informative but tiny museum located over a four lane highway along the way.

It has a large model of the area, with a computer set up with an audio presentation, explaining the history of the area, complete with coordinated lights.  We parked our car, and walked around, checking out the royal palace and the fort.  I notice a woman in traditional Muslim clothing, covering everything but her hands and her eyes, talking on a cellular phone driving a Mercedes.  It was one of those moments that makes you aware of the lack of understanding we have of other cultures.  These are a people that are quite with the times, although prior to the 70's they might as well have been an ancient civilization.  Sultan Qaboos has been building his country into the 21st century in only a few short decades.  Many still live in what amounts to clay and brick shacks, but own cellular phones, and have electricity in the most remote of areas.

a watch tower overlooks the city of Matrah
  Every city now has a school and medical clinic.  He is currently building a huge Opera house in the middle of Muscat, and new highways have been built to be more compatible with the tourism business he desires for his country.  

Everything here shuts down for a few hours in the afternoon, like the Mexicans and their siestas, so we were unable to check out the Bait Al Zubair museum of Omani heritage until 4pm. So we drove down to the Al Rowda marina, to make sure we knew where our scuba tour was leaving from on Wednesday. We had a nice lunch at the marina, then headed back to the museum. The museum is full of antiquities. Chris particularly likes the room full of ancient guns, knives and weapons.  We are particularly impressed with the amount of English signage in the museum, as well as the proper grammar used.

There are rooms with traditional clothing, on mannequins as well as rooms, with old nautical equipment, photos of the old city, coins from the byzantine era.

We headed back to the house, stopping on the way to check out a watch tower on the side of the road, with a staircase leading to the top.

Dinner at an outdoor restaurant. Chris' lamb shuwa, Tina's skewers on a burner.

We met up with Joel and Tina, and went back to town to visit the souk, a market, like most markets in the world, bustling with merchants selling clothing, pashminas, saffron, frankincense, perfume, silver and other goods.

We then headed for dinner, in an outdoor restaurant. I had the biryani dajaj, an Omani chicken and rice dish, which has an Indian influence. Chris is surprised at my choice, especially since there was pasta and pizza on the menu.

Chris had the Shuwa, a meat dish, that is cooked in an in ground pit oven, wrapped in banana leaves and served with rice.

Back at the house, we crawl into bed, ready for our next adventure.

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Arrival at Muscat airport
Arrival at Muscat airport
Gate Museum, bridges over the main…
Gate Museum, bridges over the mai…
a fort next the the royal palace i…
a fort next the the royal palace …
a watch tower overlooks the city o…
a watch tower overlooks the city …
Dinner at an outdoor restaurant.  …
Dinner at an outdoor restaurant. …
Incense Burner on the right, wat…
"Incense Burner" on the right, wa…
a mosque near the Sultans palace
a mosque near the Sultan's palace
Matrah souq (market)
Matrah souq (market)
The Sultans Royal Palace
The Sultan's Royal Palace
stairway up to watchtower
stairway up to watchtower
photo by: JP-NED