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Old 27th February 2023, 17:43   #1
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My Travel Diary | Rediscovering Oman, a journey of nostalgia and exploration

PROLOGUE



As someone who spent most of their childhood in Oman, the country holds a special place in my heart. I was thrilled when I received the chance to visit for a few days, more than 20+ years had passed since I last boarded an Indian Airlines flight from Seeb International Airport. The thought of returning to Oman filled me with nostalgia and excitement, as I was curious to see how much had changed in the past two decades. I was eagerly anticipating the trip and could not wait to rediscover the country that left such an indelible mark on my memories.

Coincidentally, my wife grew up in Oman as well. As we explored different places during our trip, we came to know that our respective families had frequented the same places and spots, making it entirely possible that our childhood selves may have crossed paths! Life works in mysterious ways!



A bit about Oman...

Oman is a country located in the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west, and Yemen to the southwest. To the south and east, Oman has a coastline along the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, and the Strait of Hormuz.

The capital area of Oman is Muscat, located on the northeastern coast of the country. It is the largest city in Oman. The interior area of Oman is known for its rugged mountain ranges and vast deserts. This region includes the Al Hajar Mountains, the largest mountain range in Oman, and the Wahiba Sands, a large desert area known for its red sands and stunning sand dunes.

The Empty Quarter, also known as Rub' al Khali, is a large desert region that covers parts of Oman, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Yemen. It is the largest sand desert in the world, covering an area of approximately 6,50,000 sq km.


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Oman is a country with a rich and fascinating history. The region has been inhabited for over 5,000 years, with evidence of ancient civilizations such as the Sumerians and the Persians. In the 7th century, Oman was converted to Islam by Arab conquerors, and it soon became an important center of Islamic culture and scholarship.

During the Middle Ages, Oman was a flourishing center of trade and commerce, with the port city of Muscat emerging as a major hub. The city's strategic location on the Arabian Gulf made it a crucial stopping point for traders and travelers between India, East Africa, and the Far East.

In the 16th century, the Portuguese arrived in Oman and established a stronghold in Muscat. They ruled the region for over a century before being driven out by a local ruler, Ahmed bin Said Al Busaidi, in 1650. Under the Al Busaidi dynasty, which still governs Oman today, the country became a powerful maritime nation and a major center of trade and commerce in the Arabian Gulf. In the 19th century, Oman's influence began to decline, and the country fell under the control of the British, who signed a treaty with Oman in 1856 giving them control over the country's foreign affairs and defense.

In 1970, Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said overthrew his father in a bloodless coup and ushered in a new era of modernization and development for Oman. The sultanate has since made significant progress in modernizing its economy and infrastructure while preserving its unique heritage and traditions.

Today, Oman is a peaceful and prosperous country known for its stunning natural beauty, rich history, and welcoming culture. Its strategic location at the crossroads of trade routes between East and West continues to play an important role in its economy and cultural identity.
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The Indian community is one of the largest expatriate communities in Oman, with estimates suggesting that Indians make up around 20% of the country's population. Among the Indian expatriates in Oman, a significant number are from the southern Indian state of Kerala.

Kerala's ties with Oman date back to ancient times, with the region's spices and other commodities being traded with Oman through the Arabian Sea. The Indian diaspora in Oman, including those from Kerala, began to grow in the 19th century with the arrival of Indian laborers who were recruited to work in the country's burgeoning industries.

Today, the Indian community in Oman is diverse and includes professionals, businesspeople, skilled workers, and laborers. Kerala's contribution to this community is significant, with estimates suggesting that over 500,000 Keralites live and work in Oman. Many of these individuals work in sectors such as construction, hospitality, and healthcare, while others have established successful businesses in Oman.
During our trip, we stayed in the Ghubra area of Muscat, which provided me with ample opportunities to explore the capital region. While reflecting on whether the region has changed beyond recognition, my answer would be both yes and no. Initially, I found myself completely disoriented during the first couple of days, struggling to navigate my way around. However, as time passed, I gradually became more acquainted with the area, recognizing several roads and buildings. Remarkably, some of the shops that I remembered from over twenty years ago were still operational and thriving today, which was a pleasant surprise. Despite some changes in the region, I was able to revisit old memories and form new ones during my stay in Muscat.


Now, let's delve into the travelogue. As this was a family trip, I won't be able to provide a detailed chronological account of our travels. However, I will be sharing pictures and descriptions of the various places I visited during my time in this beautiful location.



Places Visited

1. Jabreen Castle
2. Nizwa Souq
3. Muttrah Souq
4. Khairan Beach
5. Sharqiya Desert / Wahiba Sands
6. Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque




The Ride

Our ride for the trip was the Mitsubishi Outlander 4x4 belonging to my in-laws. This sturdy machine had faithfully accompanied my father-in-law through challenging terrains such as Jabal Akhdar and Rustaq in the interior of Oman for years. While exploring the Sharqiya desert, we were able to make use of its 4x4 capability for some light off-roading.

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Last edited by GeneralJazz : 21st March 2023 at 09:58.
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Old 11th March 2023, 18:26   #2
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re: My Travel Diary | Rediscovering Oman, a journey of nostalgia and exploration

Landing in Oman




Back in the day, when we returned to Oman after our annual vacation to our home-town, the sudden shift from green to brown was quite jolting. The stark contrast in scenery visible through the window during the flight from Kerala to Oman, where the view transformed from lush greenery to dazzling blue of the Arabian sea, and finally to rugged brown landscape of Oman, was quite a dramatic experience.

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As one approaches the capital, the rugged hills give way to the sight of cities, where buildings and roads stand as a testament to the blood, sweat and tears of millions of migrant workers who toiled tirelessly and braved the blistering sun to transform this rugged terrain into habitable metropolises. I know this first hand, I grew up among them.

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What a surprise! I didn't expect this. It's the Al Mouj golf course, situated right next to the airport. The bright green colour of the course in the middle of the desert looks quite unusual.

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The Muscat International Airport now boasts of a sleek and modern new terminal. The Seeb Airport, which I was so accustomed to, has now become the old terminal.

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All this time, I clung onto the hope that I would recognize the roads and the area surrounding the airport. However, my hopes were dashed as soon as we hit the road, as everything had become unrecognizable. Within just a few hundred meters, I found myself utterly lost. There were so many new flyovers, roundabouts, and other structures that I could hardly recognize even the Sultan Qaboos Street, one of the most crucial and iconic roads in the capital!

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Old City, Muscat

In the evening, we visited the historical neighbourhood of the Old City of Muscat, which is situated in the heart of Oman's capital city, Muscat.

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The neighbourhood has narrow streets lined with traditional Omani architecture, including white-washed buildings with beautifully carved doors and balconies.

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Muscat Gate

This is the Muscat Gate, which was built in the 16th century and served as an entrance to the old city of Muscat.

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Al Alam Palace

Al Alam Palace is the ceremonial palace of the Sultan of Oman. It features a facade adorned with gold and blue accents, flanked by two Portuguese forts from the 16th century. The palace serves as the official residence of Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said for official functions and ceremonies, while he resides in another palace nearby. Al Alam Palace is not open to the public.

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Last edited by GeneralJazz : 21st March 2023 at 10:01.
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Old 12th March 2023, 00:08   #3
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re: My Travel Diary | Rediscovering Oman, a journey of nostalgia and exploration

Nizwa



Quote:
Nizwa is a historic city located in the Ad Dakhiliyah region of Oman. It served as the capital of Oman during the 6th and 7th centuries and is renowned for its rich cultural heritage and traditional architecture. The city is home to many important landmarks, including the Nizwa Fort, which dates back to the 17th century and is one of the most iconic forts in Oman. Nizwa is also famous for its bustling souq, which offers a wide range of traditional Omani goods such as pottery, silverware, and textiles. The city is surrounded by stunning mountain ranges and is a popular destination for outdoor activities such as hiking and rock climbing.
Nizwa is about 160kms from the capital region. Even though there is a direct route, we took a detour to see the Sharqiya Expressway Tunnel.

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The Sharqiya Expressway Tunnel is a major tunnel that runs through the Al Hajar Mountains in the Sharqiya region. It is part of the Sharqiya Expressway, which is a major highway that connects the capital city of Muscat to the eastern coast of Oman. The tunnel spans approximately 9.5 kilometres and is considered one of the longest road tunnels in the Middle East.
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As we departed from the highway, we traversed through a series of inner roads, manoeuvring through numerous quaint towns and villages. It was quite remarkable to observe that even in the most secluded and diminutive settlements, one could easily spot an individual from the Indian subcontinent!

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We had to slow down as we approached a camel crossing, where the Camelus dromedarius, commonly known as the "ship of the desert," was passing through. Those who have resided in the Middle East understand the perils of camel-related incidents. These animals' towering height means that any vehicle colliding with them could cause their legs to crumble, resulting in their colossal half-ton weight falling onto the car's roof, potentially crushing its occupants. I recall a close encounter we had several years ago while travelling on the Sohar-Al Ain route.

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The landscape became more and more rugged as we approached Nizwa. The long winding roads snaking across the rocky hills was a mesmerizing sight indeed!

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Jabreen Castle

Jabreen Castle is a fortress located in the Al Dakhiliyah region. It was built in the late 17th century by Imam Bil'arab bin Sultan Al-Ya'rubi and served as a centre of learning and cultural exchange. We can explore the various rooms and halls of the fortress, including the Imam's living quarters, the reception hall, and the prayer hall. The castle also offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape and is considered one of the most well-preserved castles in Oman.

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The courtyard of Jabreen Castle is a large open space located in the centre of the fortress. It is surrounded by a two-story arcade that features intricate Islamic architecture and design. The courtyard also features a central fountain that provided water for the castle's residents and visitors.

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The castle is known for its impressive collection of pottery, which is displayed throughout the fortress. The pottery dates back to the 17th century. The pottery on display includes a variety of items, such as plates, bowls, jars, and vases. The pottery is made using traditional techniques and materials, such as clay and glaze.

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Jabreen Castle features several meeting rooms that were used for various purposes, including education and cultural exchange.

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The view outside the window includes the rugged and mountainous landscape, with its rocky outcrops and valleys. You can also see the date palm plantations that surround the town.

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The castle comprises numerous passageways and staircases, leading in various directions. It didn't take me long to lose my way amidst the maze-like architecture. Despite the sweltering heat outside, the interior was remarkably pleasant, with well-illuminated rooms and passages, and the walls were pleasantly cool to the touch. After wandering around for some time, I finally arrived at the top of the castle, where I could see the majestic mountains towering above everything nearby.

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The visitors centre in the vicinity features a cafeteria and hygienic restroom facilities.

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After spending a considerable amount of time admiring the stunning scenery from the top, we descended towards the exit. While walking, we stumbled upon a gorgeous open area that seemed to be a part of the kitchen. The most striking thing about the place was how immaculately it was maintained. There was not a speck of litter or graffiti in sight!

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As we stepped outside, we made our way to a nearby shop to quench our thirst. It was then that my eyes fell upon something intriguing - bottles of camel milk! Although I had tasted camel milk as a child, I found it fascinating that it was now available for purchase in bottles.

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Bahla Wall

The Bahla Wall is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates back to the 13th and 14th centuries. It is a massive fortification wall that surrounds the ancient city of Bahla which was once an important center for learning and a major stop on the Arabian Peninsula trade routes. The wall is made of clay, straw, and mud bricks, and is over 12 kilometers long with a height of up to 15 meters in some places. It has numerous towers and gates, including the famous Bab al-Bahrain gate. Its often considered as the "Great Wall of Oman". Its currently in ruins and there are several broken sections that exist around Bahla and Nizwa.

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Nizwa Fort

Nizwa Fort, is a castle, built in the 17th century and served as the residence of the Imams of Oman. It is one of the most prominent landmarks of the city and is known for its massive circular tower, which stands at 40 meters in height.

Regrettably, upon our arrival, we discovered that the entrance to the castle was already closed. Nevertheless, from the exterior, the enormous edifice appeared to be quite intimidating.

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Nonetheless, there was an accessible structure in the vicinity that we decided to climb. From the top, we were able to behold a stunning panoramic view of the fort and almost the entirety of Nizwa town on the opposite side. We spent a considerable amount of time relishing the refreshing evening breeze while admiring the town's beauty.

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Nizwa Souq

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Nizwa Souq is a traditional marketplace located in the city of Nizwa in Oman. The souq is known for its unique Omani architecture and bustling atmosphere, and it is one of the oldest and most popular souqs in the country.

Visitors to Nizwa Souq can explore a wide variety of stalls and shops selling everything from spices and textiles to pottery and silverware. The souq is particularly famous for its handcrafted silver jewelry, which is produced by local artisans using traditional techniques.

In addition to shopping, Nizwa Souq also offers visitors a chance to experience traditional Omani culture and hospitality. Many of the shops and stalls are run by local families, who are happy to share their knowledge of the souq's history and offer samples of traditional Omani food and drink.
The souq gate is an archway that marks the entrance to the traditional marketplace. The gate is made of wood and is decorated with intricate carvings.

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The souq is brightly illuminated and remarkably clean and organized. It wasn't overly crowded and the pleasant coolness of the evening added to the experience. A wide array of stalls offered various types of pottery and handicrafts, all crafted in the traditional Omani style. These items are rather costly, and haggling skills could prove useful.

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Numerous snack shops could be found selling refreshments. We relished savouring hot kahwah while strolling through the souq.

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This is one of the numerous alleyways in the souq. My father-in-law is highly proficient in Arabic and familiar with various local dialects. Thanks to his skills, we were able to score some outstanding bargains on handicrafts and jewellery.

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Upon leaving the souq, we noticed this guy in the parking lot. Suzukis are a rare sight in Oman, and the Jimny appeared minuscule compared to the full-sized SUVs surrounding it!

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Old 12th March 2023, 22:41   #4
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re: My Travel Diary | Rediscovering Oman, a journey of nostalgia and exploration

Muttrah



Quote:
Muttrah (also spelled as Mutrah or Matrah) is a historic port city located in the Muscat Governorate of Oman, situated on the coast of the Gulf of Oman. It is known for its bustling Muttrah Souq, a traditional Arab market where visitors can find a wide variety of goods such as textiles, jewelry, spices, and souvenirs. The Muttrah Corniche, a scenic promenade overlooking the harbor, is another popular attraction that offers stunning views of the sea and the city's architecture. The city also boasts several historic landmarks, including the Muttrah Fort, the Bait Al Baranda Museum, and the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. Muttrah is considered one of the most important commercial and cultural centers of Oman, attracting both tourists and locals alike.
We explored Muttrah for the day, which included some shopping. While at the apartment parking lot in the morning, I came across some stunning beauties that left me in awe. I was so captivated by them that I could have easily spent the entire day there!


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Muttrah Souq

Muttrah Souq is a marketplace where people can buy all kinds of things like jewellery, clothes, spices, and souvenirs. It's a busy and colourful place with many shops and stalls selling traditional Omani items. We could also smell the perfumes and spices sold in the souq. It's an old and iconic market that shows Oman's culture and traditions.


Wow, the front entrance to the Souq has undergone a significant transformation since my previous visit!

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The central area of the Souq resembles a wagon wheel, with each spoke leading to various passages. We spent several hours inside the souq, immersing ourselves in the vibrant lights and colours, and above all, relishing the exquisite fragrances!

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We strolled through the passages and alleys without any concern of losing our way as language was not a barrier. Those who are fluent in Hindi and/or Malayalam will find themselves at ease here. During our visit, we made several purchases, including traditional garments and fragrances.

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As we left the souq, we found ourselves on a bustling shopping street where we caught sight of the lookout tower perched on the hill near the market. The tower dates back to the 16th century and was constructed during the Portuguese era. It was primarily utilized as a watchtower to monitor the movements of ships as they entered or departed from the harbour.

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From the front of the souq, one can see a scenic view of Muttrah Harbour, which is a natural harbour nestled amidst hills.

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Last edited by GeneralJazz : 21st March 2023 at 10:29.
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Old 17th March 2023, 09:27   #5
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re: My Travel Diary | Rediscovering Oman, a journey of nostalgia and exploration

Bandar Al Khairan



Quote:
Bandar Al Khairan is known for its pristine beaches, which are some of the most beautiful in Oman. The beaches in the area are characterized by their clear blue waters, soft white sands, and dramatic rock formations that make for stunning scenery. The main beach in Bandar Al Khairan is called Al Khairan Beach, which is a secluded beach located in a sheltered bay. The beach offers a tranquil atmosphere and a great place to relax, sunbathe, and swim. Visitors can also enjoy a range of water sports such as kayaking, snorkelling, and stand-up paddle boarding.

Another beach in the area is called Bandar Jissah Beach, which is located just a few kilometers from Bandar Al Khairan. The beach is also known for its stunning scenery and crystal clear waters, and it offers a range of water sports and activities.
This picture from Google Maps shows the Khairan Beach and the bay. The bay is surrounded by rocky hills, and the water is crystal clear! The red circle shows the area for boating.

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Bandar al Khairan is located around 50 kilometers away from Muscat. The journey to Bandar al Khairan is quite pleasant as you leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind and drive through the rocky terrain. As you approach Bandar al Khairan, you'll find yourself on Khairan Street, which leads you to the beautiful waterfront area.

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We were driving past Yiti when we decided to take a different route and go to Yiti beach. It was a favourite place for my in-laws a long time ago. On the way to the beach, we saw some beautiful places like a small wadi (A wadi is a dry riverbed or valley that only has water during the rainy season or after heavy rainfall) and some fields with date palms.

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When we arrived at the beach, we were very disappointed because we couldn't go in. The whole area was closed and there was a lot of construction happening. Some companies that build fancy resorts bought the whole beach area. The part of the beach we saw is now owned by Trump International Golf Club.

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Bandar Al Khairan

We drove straight to Khairan and couldn't help but notice the massive development happening on the beach side. As we neared the town, we stumbled upon a small area by the road, with a bunch of boats and some fishing huts. We decided to take a stroll on the beach and saw fishermen hard at work, fixing their boats and nets. They were also offering boat rides around the bay, but their prices were a bit steep. Luckily, my FIL managed to haggle and got us a good deal.

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And off we went, my crew and I, on a blue boat, sailing on the blue waters under the blue, blue sky!

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Our boatman expertly guided us around the bay, ensuring we had a safe and enjoyable ride. As the sun shifted its position, we noticed a change in the colour of the water. It went from crystal blue to turquoise, and back again, creating a beautiful spectacle. The last time I saw something so stunning was at Pangong Lake.

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As we bobbed around in the bay, the rocky hills that hugged us were like a box of surprises waiting to be opened. Each one was packed with thrilling goodies like secret caves, grand arches, and secret sandy nooks. Our captain, who knew the hills like the back of his hand, navigated us skilfully through the rugged terrain.

Suddenly, we spotted an unexpected sight - a cosy bed with sheets and pillows all tucked in a hidden cave. It was like stumbling upon a fisherman's secret lair where they come to nap in peace. We couldn't help but chuckle at the thought of these burly men snuggling up in such a cosy nook, dreaming of the day's big catch.

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Our boatman steered us into this mesmerizing cave! I tried to snap a pic, but my camera just couldn't do justice to the incredible sight. The water was doing a wild dance, reflecting off the cave walls and creating a hypnotizing show. It was so pretty that we wanted to camp out there and spend the whole day just gawking at the view. But alas, we had to move on and leave the cave's charm behind.


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We could see the rocks clearly because the water was so transparent. We also saw a shoal of small fish swimming around them in beautiful patterns, which was pretty cool.

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We stumbled upon a secluded beach that caught our eye. At first, we thought it was occupied by random visitors, but as we approached, we noticed the tents were too well organized. It turned out that a nearby resort had set up a camping area for their guests. The idea seemed brilliant, to camp out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by calm and crystal-clear waters, and falling asleep under the starry sky.

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Making a splash!

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We had been on a scenic hour-long tour of the bay with our boatman when we spotted a fishing boat on our way back. Initially, we thought it was deserted, but we noticed some movement below deck. It was an incredible spot to relax and unwind!

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Bandar Al Khairan Viewpoint


Once we returned to solid ground, we headed towards the viewpoint. As we drove, the road grew steeper and steeper until the land was no longer visible. But our trusty Outlander didn't bat an eye and powered through the challenge without any trouble at all!

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As we reached halfway to the top, we paused to take in the view. And there it was, a spectacular sight of the bay that left us in awe!

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After what felt like an eternity, we finally made it to the top! And the view from up there was nothing short of breathtaking! We were treated to a stunning panoramic view of the bay, complete with crystal clear waters, rocky hills, and a bright blue sky. It was the perfect spot for a picture-perfect moment!

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Up on the hill, we noticed several vehicles parked, most of which were sturdy 4x4s. However, one that stood out the most was a modified Man truck that had been converted into a fully-equipped camper. It looked like it could take on any terrain with ease! As we approached the camper, we met the Spanish passengers who were on an epic journey from Spain to Southeast Asia, having already covered more than 20 countries on the way. I was tempted to warn them not to visit Kerala, lest our super friendly MVD challan them for modification.

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The trail continued beyond this point, but it was too narrow and steep for our comfort. As we looked ahead, we noticed a Rubicon parked on a precarious ledge, making us wonder both about the Jeep's and the drivers capabilities!

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Our trusty Outlander rested atop the hill, taking in the breathtaking view. This was just another small feat for a vehicle that had conquered far greater challenges!

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Old 18th March 2023, 19:08   #6
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re: My Travel Diary | Rediscovering Oman, a journey of nostalgia and exploration

Sharqiya Desert



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The Sharqiya Desert, also known as the Wahiba Sands, is a large desert area located in the eastern part of Oman, on the Arabian Peninsula. It covers an area of approximately 12,500 square kilometers and is characterized by vast sand dunes, ranging in size from small to more than 100 meters high. The desert is also home to a variety of wildlife, including Arabian oryx, sand gazelles, and desert foxes. The landscape is dotted with oasis settlements, where date palms and other crops are grown, and where visitors can experience local hospitality and cuisine.The Sharqiya Desert is known for its extreme temperatures, with summer temperatures often reaching over 50°C and winter temperatures dropping below freezing at night.
No trip to the Middle East can be considered complete without experiencing the vast desert landscape and magnificent sand dunes. However, in Oman, despite being classified as a desert country, most major cities, such as Muscat, Sohar, and the Batinah regions, as well as interior regions like Nizwa and Rustaq, are nestled in rocky hilly areas, making it necessary to make a special effort to venture out and witness the sand dunes.

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Located in the Ash Sharqiyah North governorate, our resort is close to the town of Bidiyah, which is nearly 200 kilometers away from the capital region. Upon reaching the town, we had to take a deviation in order to reach the resort. It was at this point that we were treated to our first wondrous view of the sand dunes - an awe-inspiring sight to behold!

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At this point, the asphalt road came to an end, and we had to drive through the desert for a short while to reach the resort. Once we arrived in Bidiyah town, we were presented with two options: either request for a pick-up service from the resort, which would involve an SUV being dispatched to collect us, or, alternatively, drive ourselves if we had a 4x4 vehicle at our disposal. Given that our own Outlander was 4x4 capable, we decided to take the latter option and drive to the resort on our own.

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While we mostly stuck to the track, we could see the locals blasting their way through the dunes! They were racing each other and the powerful LCs never lost their footing on the terrain. Although we started with a 4x2, we quickly became stuck in the sandy terrain. Fortunately, the Outlanders 4x4 came to our rescue and pulled us out of the predicament. After that, we drove the remainder of the distance using the 4x4 mode.

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Arabian Oryx Camp

Following a drive of roughly 10 kilometers through the sands, we finally arrived at our resort. As we entered the parking area, it was apparent that it was an SUV-only zone. Our Outlander, although not small by any means, was dwarfed next to the towering size of the Patrols, LCs, Tundras, and Tahoes surrounding it.

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This is a picture of the nearby sand dunes, which are absolutely huge! Take a look at the people climbing the dunes for scale.

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Located at the entrance of the camp, there is an enclosure that accommodates several Arabian Oryxes. These majestic animals are a subspecies of antelope and hold the status of the national animal of Oman. Once classified as extinct in the wild, the Arabian Oryx has made a successful comeback through conservation efforts.

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Upon entering the compound, rows of cottages and tents of various sizes can be seen. Our accommodation was situated near the entrance, and we hastened towards it to escape the scorching sun, which was beginning to bake us alive. As part of our stay package, we were offered a round of dune bashing in the evening. We were instructed to gather at the reception around 5 PM for the activity. Until then, we sought refuge from the sweltering sun in our air-conditioned cottages.

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In the evening, we gathered at the reception as instructed. Our vehicles, a couple of V8 Land Cruisers, had already arrived. As it was our first time "dune bashing," we were unsure what to anticipate. Our driver advised us to fasten our seatbelts, but I, being overconfident, didn't heed the warning. That was a big mistake. As we soared over the first dune, I was hurled face-first into the back of the front seat. Feeling embarrassed, I quickly scrambled to lock my seatbelt.

Here are a couple of videos we managed to take from the inside.







Oh boy, that ride was like a wild roller-coaster! Even with our seatbelts locked, we were bouncing around like crazy, and my motion sickness came back with a vengeance. We hit this ginormous sand dune and landed hard on the side, and I swear I felt my lunch coming back up. Thankfully, our driver stopped for a little break, and I was able to catch my breath and let my tummy settle down. Lesson learned: next time, I'm bringing a barf bag!

After the wild ride, we stepped out of the car and took a stroll around the breathtaking desert scenery. Here it is, the mighty brute Land Cruiser that had carried us through the rugged terrain.

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After the short break, we hopped back in the Land Cruiser and resumed our dune bashing adventure. At one point, we were barrelling down a super steep dune, and to our surprise, we started sliding sideways all the way down. It was like a scene straight out of an action movie!

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Our next destination was the very top of a towering dune, and boy was it a sight to behold! As we pulled up to the top, we couldn't help but admire the two Land Cruisers parked side by side, looking right at home in the midst of the sandy wilderness.

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To give you an idea of just how massive this dune was, take a look at how tiny the vehicles at the bottom appear!

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The grand finale of our exhilarating journey took us to the very edge of a colossal dune, where our skilled driver parked the Land Cruiser and granted us a front-row seat to the magnificent sunset. As we strolled around, taking in the stunning desert scenery, we couldn't resist the temptation to play in the soft, velvety sand. However, it wasn't long before we realized that the sand had somehow managed to make its way into every crevice of our bodies, leaving us feeling gritty and sandy in the most unexpected places! But hey, it was all part of the adventure, and we wouldn't have had it any other way!

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After we'd had our fun, we settled down on the soft sands to witness the captivating sunset. As the temperature rapidly plummeted, the sand felt refreshingly cool against our skin, but if we dug a little deeper, we could still feel the warmth seeping through. With the sun slowly dipping below the horizon, we watched in awe as the sky transformed into a magnificent tapestry of vivid hues, an Arabian sunset that left us speechless. It was a moment of pure serenity and beauty that we'll cherish forever.

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After the sunset, our driver steered us back to the entrance of the camp, dropping us off to explore and soak in the cool, calm ambiance of the desert night. With dinner still a ways off, we wandered about, taking in the rustic charm of our surroundings. Near the parking area, we noticed the the pack wild V8s had returned to their den for the night.

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As the night settled in, our rumbling stomachs were met with the delectable aroma of a lavish dinner spread that awaited us. With an array of culinary delights to choose from, my eyes were immediately drawn to the pièce de résistance - a succulent Camel BBQ that was calling my name! As I savoured the first bite, I knew I had made the right choice, and before long, I was reaching for seconds and thirds!

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After dinner, we were treated to a traditional Omani folk music and dance performance. Skilled artists put on a great show, and we enjoyed it very much.

Once the performance was over, we meandered back to our cosy cottages under a cloudless, starry sky. With the night sky shining bright above us, we seized the opportunity to capture some stunning photographs of the constellations. Armed with my wife's S20FE, we mounted the phone on a tripod and used long exposure to capture the beauty of the night sky. As we clicked away, we were thrilled to discover that the constellation we had captured was the magnificent Orion Nebula, as per a star tracker app.

My Travel Diary | Rediscovering Oman, a journey of nostalgia and exploration-picture1.jpg



The next morning....


The next morning, I was up early, eager to explore the camp compound. As I stepped out into the misty surroundings, a dense fog shrouded the entire area, making it nearly impossible to see beyond a few measly meters.

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Despite the fact that the sun had risen, its light was obscured by the tall sand dunes. The resulting sunlight filtered through the thick fog, casting a soft and diffused glow over the area.

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As I made my way to the edge of the camp, something caught my eye. It was an unusual sight - a group of camels being herded by *wait for it* an SUV! I had to do a double take and rub my eyes to make sure I wasn't hallucinating.

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As the sun crept up over the dunes, I was delighted to witness a remarkable phenomenon - a Fog Bow, also known as a White Rainbow. It looked like a typical rainbow, but due to the minuscule size of the water droplets in the fog, the colours were pale and almost imperceptible, giving the impression of a white-coloured bow.

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In the middle of the desert, such small plants stand tall. Even though the desert was parched and devoid of moisture, life had found a way to thrive in this harsh environment. A testament to the resilience of nature, that even in the most unforgiving of circumstances, life always finds a way.

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After finishing our breakfast, we commenced our journey back to civilization, which was going to be a long drive. The V8s had given us an enjoyable ride, but it was now time for our trusty Outlander to take the reins and lead us home.

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We stayed on the designated tracks and the rugged terrain posed no challenge to our dependable Outlander. Along the way, we paused near a cluster of dense bushes to snap some pictures. To my inexpert eyes, these appeared to be succulent plants, thriving in the harsh desert environment.

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By the time we rolled into the capital, the sun was beating down mercilessly, and we were all feeling as dry and gritty as the desert sand we had left behind. We were itching for some rest, and above all, we were leaking sand from every conceivable nook and cranny. The thought of a refreshing hot shower beckoned us like an oasis in the parched desert.

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Old 19th March 2023, 22:56   #7
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re: My Travel Diary | Rediscovering Oman, a journey of nostalgia and exploration

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque




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The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is a magnificent mosque located in the capital city of Muscat. It is named after Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, who commissioned its construction. The mosque is one of the largest mosques in the world, and it can accommodate over 20,000 worshippers at a time.
The mosque is known for its impressive architecture, which combines traditional Islamic design elements with modern construction techniques. It features a large dome, minarets, and an ornate prayer hall with intricate carvings, beautiful chandeliers, and a massive Persian carpet that covers the entire floor of the prayer hall.
If you're planning a trip to Oman, there's one place you absolutely cannot miss: the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. Located away near the Sultan Qaboos Street, this architectural masterpiece will leave you speechless.

My Travel Diary | Rediscovering Oman, a journey of nostalgia and exploration-img_20230210_143610.jpg





As we approached the mosque compound, our gaze was drawn to the tall arches marking its entrance. Stepping inside, we were greeted by a paved interior compound.

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Welcome to the main prayer hall of the mosque - a grand space that's among the largest of its kind in the world with a capacity of around 6,000 worshippers.

My Travel Diary | Rediscovering Oman, a journey of nostalgia and exploration-img_20230210_144313.jpg





Stepping inside the main prayer hall of the mosque is a stunning experience. One of the most impressive features is the carpet, which covers an area of 4,343 square meters and took four years to weave by hand. It contains, 1,700,000,000 knots, weighs 21 tonnes and took four years to produce, and brings together the classical Persian Tabriz, Kashan and Isfahan design traditions. 28 colours in varying shades were used, the majority obtained from traditional vegetable dyes.

My Travel Diary | Rediscovering Oman, a journey of nostalgia and exploration-img_20230210_145450.jpg





The chandelier above the praying hall is 14 metres tall and was manufactured by the Italian company Faustig. It weighs 8.5 tons, includes 600,000 crystals, 1,122 halogen bulbs complete with dimming system, and includes a staircase for maintenance within the chandelier.

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This is the Mihrab, which is the spot for the Imam to lead the prayer.

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Conclusion



Alas, our Arabian adventure has drawn to a close! Though it wasn't the most heart-stopping journey or the lengthiest stay, it held a special place in our heart. Revisiting the places of our childhood in Oman was like taking a shot of pure nostalgia straight to the soul. Not only did we relive some of our fondest memories, but we also created new ones that we'll cherish forever. It was like being welcomed back home with open arms after a lengthy hiatus. And now, as we bid farewell to this beautiful land, we take with us memories to treasure and a heart full of gratitude. As the plane takes off from Muscat, we head back to Coimbatore, with a bittersweet feeling of departure.


My Travel Diary | Rediscovering Oman, a journey of nostalgia and exploration-img_20230213_085048.jpg


Until next time, this is GeneralJazz, signing off!

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Old 22nd March 2023, 06:45   #8
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re: My Travel Diary | Rediscovering Oman, a journey of nostalgia and exploration

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 22nd March 2023, 09:10   #9
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Re: My Travel Diary | Rediscovering Oman, a journey of nostalgia and exploration

Thanks for taking me down memory lane. My first overseas job was in Muscat. Your pictures kindled my memories of Muscat- Ruwi, Wadi Kabir, Muttrah etc.
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Old 22nd March 2023, 12:33   #10
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Re: My Travel Diary | Rediscovering Oman, a journey of nostalgia and exploration

Beautiful travelogue, thanks for sharing. To be honest, while planning overseas trips, Oman didn't really figure on my list, until now! Your pictures and crisp descriptions have given a great preview of the country.

Question: Which month of the year did you make this trip? Assuming Nov - Jan would be the best time to visit? Also, are there reliable self-driving options in Muscat, if one were to plan an itinerary similar to yours?
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Old 22nd March 2023, 12:52   #11
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Re: My Travel Diary | Rediscovering Oman, a journey of nostalgia and exploration

Great travelogue and the pics were good, especially the sunset pic was awesome. Makes me want to revisit Riyadh some day, which I am sure would have changed so much especially in the past 6-7 years. Women driving cars and walking around without an abaya is big enough of a change.
Have heard only good things about Oman, except for the obvious less option of job and business opportunities compared to the other GCC nations. Heard that the locals are a friendlier lot than other GCC citizens and also how some coastal areas feel like we are in coastal Kerala.

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Originally Posted by GeneralJazz View Post

PROLOGUE

....as I was curious to see how much had changed in the past two decades. I was eagerly anticipating the trip and could not wait to rediscover the country that left such an indelible mark on my memories.....Coincidentally, my wife grew up in Oman as well. As we explored different places during our trip, we came to know that our respective families had frequented the same places and spots, making it entirely possible that our childhood selves may have crossed paths! Life works in mysterious ways!
For the longest time I had this fancy of my future wife also growing up in Riyadh, and when we meet we would instantly click with all the common childhood memories.

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Originally Posted by GeneralJazz View Post
where buildings and roads stand as a testament to the blood, sweat and tears of millions of migrant workers who toiled tirelessly and braved the blistering sun to transform this rugged terrain into habitable metropolises. I know this first hand, I grew up among them.


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Originally Posted by GeneralJazz View Post
Back in the day, when we returned to Oman after our annual vacation to our home-town, the sudden shift from green to brown was quite jolting. The stark contrast in scenery visible through the window during the flight from Kerala to Oman, where the view transformed from lush greenery to dazzling blue of the Arabian sea, and finally to rugged brown landscape of Oman, was quite a dramatic experience.
Reminds me of my teenage self writing down excitedly the below lines.

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Originally Posted by DicKy View Post
April 2011- Instead of coconut trees and greenery, miles and miles of nothing. Instead of Gypsies and tractors, GMC trucks and F-250s were pottering around the runway. Instead of glass and steel, the beige mosaic covered airport stood just like it did two decades back. Yeah, i finally landed in Riyadh after 8 years

Last edited by DicKy : 22nd March 2023 at 12:56.
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Old 22nd March 2023, 16:24   #12
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Re: My Travel Diary | Rediscovering Oman, a journey of nostalgia and exploration

Great post! I happened to do a revisit after 7 years in 2020 (after having lived there until 2013) and found that a lot of things in the city had changed for the better. The new airport, roads, flyovers etc had all become modern.

It is indeed a beautiful place for an off-beat vacation for tourists and best explored by self driving.
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Old 22nd March 2023, 17:41   #13
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Re: My Travel Diary | Rediscovering Oman, a journey of nostalgia and exploration

Wow, like Rajjay, my first overseas job was also in Oman!
I fondly remember the night drives to Qurum beach to spot cars, the bustling streets of Ruwi and my favourite place to eat, the Saravana Bhavan in Al-Khuwair.

In terms of proper tourist places, I went to Bimmah Sinkhole, Wadi Shab where I first encountered beautiful turquoise blue waters and a canyon.

Your travelogue has rekindled my desire to visit Oman again and cover the remaining gems.

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Heard that the locals are a friendlier lot than other GCC citizens and also how some coastal areas feel like we are in coastal Kerala.
Oh yes! The Omanis are really friendly and they typically come to India for their medical treatments, so they have respect for Indians. One more factor for their affability is that they are a "poor" GCC with oils that is difficult to extract (rocky mountains), hence, the "lower" income levels in GCC.
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Old 22nd March 2023, 22:33   #14
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Re: My Travel Diary | Rediscovering Oman, a journey of nostalgia and exploration

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS GREAT THREAD!

I am someone who has lived in Muscat all his life and still misses the place so much. This was a lovely nostalgic trip down memory lane. My family still lives in Muscat and I had to leave less than a few months ago owing to job opportunities. But Muscat is, will and always will be home.

So so nice to see all the familiar places that you visited, like Mutrah Souq, Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque etc. Im sure that you must have witnessed a lot of changes, although things havent really changed much technically.

My love for automobiles stemmed from the car culture i was witness to growing up in Muscat, and to honour that I made a page on instagram called @parkedinmuscat. If you are on IG, do give it a follow! I am sure you will be happy seeing what all Muscat has to offer wrt automobiles.
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Old 23rd March 2023, 13:42   #15
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Re: My Travel Diary | Rediscovering Oman, a journey of nostalgia and exploration

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Originally Posted by Rajjay View Post
Thanks for taking me down memory lane. My first overseas job was in Muscat. Your pictures kindled my memories of Muscat- Ruwi, Wadi Kabir, Muttrah etc.
Thank you Rajjay. Those are beautiful places, perfect for a peaceful evening drive. I loved spending time late evening in Muttrah, just watching the bay and enjoying the cool evening breeze.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MorePower View Post
Beautiful travelogue, thanks for sharing. To be honest, while planning overseas trips, Oman didn't really figure on my list, until now! Your pictures and crisp descriptions have given a great preview of the country.

Question: Which month of the year did you make this trip? Assuming Nov - Jan would be the best time to visit? Also, are there reliable self-driving options in Muscat, if one were to plan an itinerary similar to yours?
Thank you MorePower. Do include Oman in your travel plans. We went in the beginning of February. I'd say the best time to visit is from Nov to Feb. There are plenty of reliable car rentals available. Hertz and Europcar have stalls within the Muscat Airport itself.

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Originally Posted by DicKy View Post
Great travelogue and the pics were good, especially the sunset pic was awesome. Makes me want to revisit Riyadh some day, which I am sure would have changed so much especially in the past 6-7 years. Women driving cars and walking around without an abaya is big enough of a change.
Thanks DicKy. I'm pretty sure Riyadh has changed quite a bit too. Like any ശരാശരി mallu, I too have plenty of relatives all over the Middle East. They tell me MBS has brought quite a lot of changes to SA.

Quote:
Have heard only good things about Oman, except for the obvious less option of job and business opportunities compared to the other GCC nations. Heard that the locals are a friendlier lot than other GCC citizens and also how some coastal areas feel like we are in coastal Kerala.
Its very true. Omanis are super friendly, especially compared to Saudis and Emiratis!

The coastal place you are thinking about is probably Salalah. Its quite green and has several banana plantations!

Quote:
For the longest time I had this fancy of my future wife also growing up in Riyadh, and when we meet we would instantly click with all the common childhood memories.
Haha! Fingers crossed (or has it worked out already???)


Quote:
Reminds me of my teenage self writing down excitedly the below lines.
As fellow Gelf Kid, I find that perfectly relatable! I grew up in interior Oman, the most common vehicles in my area were Datsun and Daihatsu!

Quote:
Originally Posted by outdoorlover View Post
Great post! I happened to do a revisit after 7 years in 2020 (after having lived there until 2013) and found that a lot of things in the city had changed for the better. The new airport, roads, flyovers etc had all become modern.

It is indeed a beautiful place for an off-beat vacation for tourists and best explored by self driving.
Thank you so much outdoorlover. Muscat has changed a lot in the last several years, but thankfully it has held on to its charm! Its still as beautiful and authentic as it was decades ago.

Quote:
Originally Posted by turbospooler View Post
Wow, like Rajjay, my first overseas job was also in Oman!

----

Oh yes! The Omanis are really friendly and they typically come to India for their medical treatments, so they have respect for Indians. One more factor for their affability is that they are a "poor" GCC with oils that is difficult to extract (rocky mountains), hence, the "lower" income levels in GCC.
Thank you turbospooler! We also wanted to visit the amazing Wadi Shab and also Jabel Shams, but sadly didnt get the time. Next time maybe!

And yeah, Oman is not a financially rich a country as its neighbours (except perhaps the pitiable Yemen). You can find Omanis working as fishermen, farmers, daily wage workers etc.



Quote:
Originally Posted by toyotaguy18 View Post
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS GREAT THREAD!

I am someone who has lived in Muscat all his life and still misses the place so much. This was a lovely nostalgic trip down memory lane. My family still lives in Muscat and I had to leave less than a few months ago owing to job opportunities. But Muscat is, will and always will be home.

So so nice to see all the familiar places that you visited, like Mutrah Souq, Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque etc. Im sure that you must have witnessed a lot of changes, although things havent really changed much technically.

Thanks for the kind words toyotaguy18! A fellow Muscat kid I see! The biggest change I'd say are the malls, and of course Lulu Hypermarkets. There wasn't even a single Lulu Hypermarket in Oman last time I was there, not theres one in Suwaiq! Thats some major change if you ask me!
And yes, I agree with you, Muscat (or in my case, a tiny coastal town in interior North Batinah) will always be home. As a matter of fact, I got a chance to visit my old town, and surprisingly, our old apartment was still there. And even more surprisingly, our old neighbours were still there too, 25 years later!

Quote:
My love for automobiles stemmed from the car culture i was witness to growing up in Muscat, and to honour that I made a page on instagram called @parkedinmuscat. If you are on IG, do give it a follow! I am sure you will be happy seeing what all Muscat has to offer wrt automobiles.
Done! Awesome pics in your collection!
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