In and around Muscat, Oman
Muscat is a laid-back city on the coast, divided between Old Muscat where the Muttrah souk and the Sultan palace are (we got to see his maaassive yacht in the harbor.. the biggest private yacht in the world…there’s a lot of biggest, tallest, richest in the Arabian Peninsula…) and New Muscat, where most hotels are located. The Chedi hotel is the talk of town in Muscat. It’s not particularly geared to families but the staff is very accomodating, the food is delicious, and with 3 incredible swimming pools, there’s something for everyone. There are a few other big-chain charmless hotels, and no welcoming independent little ones as far as my research took me.
Muscat is a good base point for day time activities. About 2 hours drive inland, there is a great wadi (aka canyon) called Nirzwa, which start with a typical oasis. We did not walk up the canyon as it’s not advised with young children (Amalya, 2, was too young but Marcelo, 6 would have been ok) and of course, that day, we had forgotten our backpack..but still, the oasis is worth the visit and the landscape is dramatic.
Another popular attraction outside Muscat is to pay a visit to the many turtle-nesting sites at night. Inside the city, the fish market is on everybody’s list. It’s small, but still atmospheric, especially for the children.
And it takes a good hour to visit Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, inaugurated in 2001. It’s very grand as you would expect, at times peaceful and beautiful with clean lines, high ceilings and white marble everywhere so white that it make you blind with the light of the Arabian sun…
…and at times way over the top, opulent with enormous chandeliers hanging everywhere. Pay attention to the times of the visits, and don’t forget to bring a shawl to cover your arms, legs and head if you’re from le deuxieme sexe. It’s worth the visit.
Another visit on everybody’s list is the Muttrah souk in the old town, although I must confess I was not terribly impressed by the quality of the handcrafts. I guess it’s hard to live up to the beautiful souk in Marrakech, or the big bazaar in Istanbul…
Marcelo and Amalya were definitely happy to visit the souk and we managed to leave with 2 complete outfits…
Meet Princess Amalya and Bedouin Marcelo….
All together, I didn’t feel Muscat should be a destination in itself, but we were pleased to stop there for 2 nights at the end of our Omani vacation, and discover a city in the Arabian peninsula that has retained charm and authenticity while being oil-rich and very modern.