For a long time I have been wanting to visit Oman, the Sultanate of Oman, to give the country its correct name, and now I am here with a small group of eight companions for a 10 day trip organised by ‘Wilderness Travel’, and following an itinerary which takes us to cities and villages, mosques and markets, mountains and deserts, sand dunes and coastlines. Our trip began in the capital city of Muscat, and then we travelled in a convoy of four land cruisers to Sur, Al Ashkharah and Raz Al Jinz on the east coast before heading into the desert region of Wahiba Sands. Then, after being based near Nizwah for a couple of days to explore villages, forts and markets we flew to Salalah in the far south for a final three days.
In this first blog of several, the focus is on Muscat, Oman’s port capital, which sits on the Gulf of Oman surrounded by mountains and desert. With history dating back to antiquity, it mixes high-rises and upscale shopping malls with clifftop landmarks such as the 16th-century Portuguese forts, Al Jalali and Mirani, looming over Muscat Harbor.
A stylised map of Oman showing the key cities and areas we visited on our travels.
The old city of Muscat on the coast protected by a fort.
However, the modern city of Muscat is a sprawling mix of magnificent new buildings, wide streets,
markets and plenty of classy hotels.
The beautiful lights within the Shangri-La Hotel in Muscat.
A more traditional style restaurant in Muscat.
An important element of any tour of Muscat must be a visit to the magnificent Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. It is a fine example of modern Islamic architecture with its soaring domes and marble columns. It is the only Omani Mosque open to non-Muslims and after the visit, we were welcomed into a visitor’s centre for coffee and dates, and a relaxed talk with knowledgeable men and women about Islam and the Sultanate.
The golden Dome of the Grand Mosque of Muscat.
Looking through an elegantly carved archway to the mosque’s minaret.
Elegant chandelier and stained glass window in the women’s prayer room.
Sunlight patterning the floor of a corridor.
A view of the interior of the Grand Mosque.
A part of the wonderful mosaics below the grand dome.
Looking directly up to the chandelier and mosaics of the dome of the mosque.
Along the side corridors of the mosque are beautifully decorated niches to hold copies of the Koran.
And a close up of the spine with beautifully tooled lettering of the Koran copies.
The chandeliers and arches looking through to the corridor along the side of the Grand Mosque.
One of the entry gates to the Grand Mosque with wonderful arches, which are echoed in the doors and in the corridors.
A warm welcome to the Visitor’s Centre where we were treated to coffee, dates and information.
During our stay we have visited many markets, or more correctly called ‘souq’ and have browsed through stalls selling all and everything from traditional clothing, antiques, jewellery, guns and daggers, frankincense and spices.
One of the ceiling panels in the main souq giving an idea of what can be bought in the stalls below.
A fine display of ‘Kumma’ – hats for men in the souq.
A stall owner making sure he has plenty of his wares on display.
Turquoise and coral beads aplenty.
A stall owner invited passers-by to examine his collection of antiques and household wares.
Beautiful lights, boxes, coffee pots and ceramics on display.
A proud father of a 4-month old baby girl poses proudly.
An evening cruise along the coast in a traditional dhow is very pleasant and gives an opportunity to see the forts and old city from another perspective. There was also a little convoy of young yachtsmen learning to sail along the coast.
Part of the coastline showing the sheer cliffs reaching right down to the sea.
Our traditional dhow for the evening captured just before we sailed.
Our friendly captain.
A hotel dwarfed by the rocky crags behind.
Fortifications at one of the entrances to the harbour.
Our local guide Mohammed, relaxing under the awning on the dhow.
Another dhow lit up in the national colours of red, white and green for the end of the harbour tour.
A view of old Muscat from the sea.
Golden sunset outlining the giant frankincense smoker and a lone figure on the rocky outcrop below.
For the next blog, we venture out of Muscat along the coast to Sur and beyond.
Thank you for following me on this adventure in the wonderful Sultanate of Oman.