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Oman

  • Jan 10, 2013
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Oman

Qantab The first stop of our 8 day tour was Qantab, a small sparse little fishing village 15 minutes from the capital Muscat. We stayed at the highly recommended Green Villa, run by a lovely European couple, 3 minutes from the beach. The houses in the village looked quite expensive; the majority of them were gated, probably to keep the freely roaming goats out.  The houses were quite colourful, which contradicts the rest of the Oman, with their white or sand colour buildings, although the architecture throughout the country was uniform; square low level buildings.  It was unusual to see the absence of high rises. There was however construction everywhere and clearly there is a modernization initiative, led by the Sultanate, who wants to diversify outside of oil.  Hence, I noticed more Asians than Arabs in Oman, working in tourism or construction. Desert Our next few nights were spent in straw huts at a desert camp.  These had no electricity, basic bathroom facilities and proved to be poor barriers against sandstorms.   The 4WD desert safari was like a ride at Alton Towers, although the scenery was a little monotonous.   The highlight was our picnic, under the only trees that were taller than 4ft where our guide Khaled made fresh rotis on an open fire. Nizwa We inevitably we got lost en route and found a small village to ask for directions.  A group of men congregating invited us for a coffee. They brought out a large tray of snacks.   We declined their offer of lunch so instead they gave us their number, in case we required further help, and even offered us money.  This extreme hospitality was so typical of the people we met in Oman. The central attraction of the town was Nizwa Fort, built in the 17th century by Sultan bin Saif al Yaruba.  Inside there was a small fortress and Souks surrounded the tower, from the top of which one could look down onto the murder holes, where people threw sticky date liquid from above onto the enemies.  We were fortunate enough in the evening to receive a night tour by a shopkeeper/Imam, Ali.  He was keen to show us the Falajs, the town’s underground aqueduct system.  We also took in a traditional wedding, a multi millionaire’s house and met his brother, who was keen to tell us that Omanis were not terrorists.  Jabreen /Bahla/Jemel Shams Jabreen, is home to a castle built in 1670AD.  It was quite a large maze but with very modest interiors, high ceilings and interconnecting rooms, sprawled over 3 floors.  As we were leaving we met a group of people having breakfast on the mats outside. A small girl came up to us offering cake and so we sat and accepted their hospitality. This was so typical of Oman! In Bahla, we circled, on foot, a 12th century fort built by the Bani Nebhan tribe.  With the sun beating down we made our way to Al Hamra, at the foot of the never ending Hajar Mountains. The town is famous for its old clay Yemeni style houses but they looked dilapidated in the dirty village. Don’t bother to pay a local to look inside - it’s not worth it! What was worth paying for was the 4WD drive up to the Jemel Shams (don’t pay more than 20 OR). This is Oman’s highest mountain and lying alongside it is the Wadi Ghul, the Grand Canyon of Arabia.  The views were spectacular;  similar to Petra but with fewer colours in the rocks but the drop was incredibly steep.  Our last day at Nizwa was back at the Souk. We didn’t manage to get to the animal market in time, where they trade livestock from Oman, Ethiopia and Somalia. The goats or cows are bought at the end of Eid and kept for a year to be fattened up for the following Eid. Before we could return the Qantab, of course we were invited by yet another Omani to have coffee at their house.  Syed, a father of 10, gave us a tour of some of the mosques which were less well known, followed by a tour of his gardens.  The first one consisted of livestock; goats, chickens, turkeys followed by his fruit garden; dates, bananas, oranges and even roses.  We were fortunate to receive a packet of dates from his garden from his daughter. On our way back to the airport we managed to visit the main tourist attraction of Oman, the Sultan of Qaboos Mosque, the third largest mosque in the world. The chandelier was impressive and the world’s 2nd largest hand-woven carpet is not to be missed either but I wonder if people sit and pray on it? Oman is a fantastic place to visit.  Although historically I gained more from my trip in Jordan and I did a lot more exploring, the hospitality from the Omanis is something I have NEVER experienced in all the countries I have travelled. Friends warned me to be careful, saying it’s dangerous, there are extremists, etc.  That could not have been further from the truth.  There are more extremists and even more letter boxes in London than there are in Oman.

Jan 10, 2013
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Oman

This post has 25 photos Jan 10, 2013114 views

Qantab

The first stop of our 8 day tour was Qantab, a small sparse little fishing village 15 minutes from the capital Muscat. We stayed at the highly recommended Green Villa, run by a lovely European couple, 3 minutes from the beach. The houses in the village looked quite expensive; the majority of them were gated, probably to keep the freely roaming goats out.  The houses were quite colourful, which contradicts the rest of the Oman, with their white or sand colour buildings, although the architecture throughout the country was uniform; square low level buildings.  It was unusual to see the absence of high rises. There was however construction everywhere and clearly there is a modernization initiative, led by the Sultanate, who wants to diversify outside of oil.  Hence, I noticed more Asians than Arabs in Oman, working in tourism or construction.

Desert

Our next few nights were spent in straw huts at a desert camp.  These had no electricity, basic bathroom facilities and proved to be poor barriers against sandstorms.   The 4WD desert safari was like a ride at Alton Towers, although the scenery was a little monotonous.   The highlight was our picnic, under the only trees that were taller than 4ft where our guide Khaled made fresh rotis on an open fire.

Nizwa

We inevitably we got lost en route and found a small village to ask for directions.  A group of men congregating invited us for a coffee. They brought out a large tray of snacks.   We declined their offer of lunch so instead they gave us their number, in case we required further help, and even offered us money.  This extreme hospitality was so typical of the people we met in Oman.

The central attraction of the town was Nizwa Fort, built in the 17th century by Sultan bin Saif al Yaruba.  Inside there was a small fortress and Souks surrounded the tower, from the top of which one could look down onto the murder holes, where people threw sticky date liquid from above onto the enemies. 

We were fortunate enough in the evening to receive a night tour by a shopkeeper/Imam, Ali.  He was keen to show us the Falajs, the town’s underground aqueduct system.  We also took in a traditional wedding, a multi millionaire’s house and met his brother, who was keen to tell us that Omanis were not terrorists. 

Jabreen /Bahla/Jemel Shams

Jabreen, is home to a castle built in 1670AD.  It was quite a large maze but with very modest interiors, high ceilings and interconnecting rooms, sprawled over 3 floors.  As we were leaving we met a group of people having breakfast on the mats outside. A small girl came up to us offering cake and so we sat and accepted their hospitality. This was so typical of Oman!

In Bahla, we circled, on foot, a 12th century fort built by the Bani Nebhan tribe.  With the sun beating down we made our way to Al Hamra, at the foot of the never ending Hajar Mountains. The town is famous for its old clay Yemeni style houses but they looked dilapidated in the dirty village. Don’t bother to pay a local to look inside - it’s not worth it!

What was worth paying for was the 4WD drive up to the Jemel Shams (don’t pay more than 20 OR). This is Oman’s highest mountain and lying alongside it is the Wadi Ghul, the Grand Canyon of Arabia.  The views were spectacular;  similar to Petra but with fewer colours in the rocks but the drop was incredibly steep. 

Our last day at Nizwa was back at the Souk. We didn’t manage to get to the animal market in time, where they trade livestock from Oman, Ethiopia and Somalia. The goats or cows are bought at the end of Eid and kept for a year to be fattened up for the following Eid.

Before we could return the Qantab, of course we were invited by yet another Omani to have coffee at their house.  Syed, a father of 10, gave us a tour of some of the mosques which were less well known, followed by a tour of his gardens.  The first one consisted of livestock; goats, chickens, turkeys followed by his fruit garden; dates, bananas, oranges and even roses.  We were fortunate to receive a packet of dates from his garden from his daughter.

On our way back to the airport we managed to visit the main tourist attraction of Oman, the Sultan of Qaboos Mosque, the third largest mosque in the world. The chandelier was impressive and the world’s 2nd largest hand-woven carpet is not to be missed either but I wonder if people sit and pray on it?

Oman is a fantastic place to visit.  Although historically I gained more from my trip in Jordan and I did a lot more exploring, the hospitality from the Omanis is something I have NEVER experienced in all the countries I have travelled. Friends warned me to be careful, saying it’s dangerous, there are extremists, etc.  That could not have been further from the truth.  There are more extremists and even more letter boxes in London than there are in Oman.

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Jan 10, 2013
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