We stayed at the Mutrah hotel (€38 per night including breakfast), the room was very spacious and comfortable, even if the decor in the hotel was a little dated (obviously our previous hotel, the Landmark, spoiled us!). The couple we meet on the bus, Meena and Hadish, kindly gave us a lift to our hotel. We popped across the road to the supermarket for a few snacks and soon drifted off to sleep.
The breakfast was pretty good, with omelettes, cheeses, fruits, veg, cereal and juices available and we had a bellyful before Hadish appeared. Him and Meena took us to a Hindu temple. Neither of us had been to one before, so it was a new and lovely experience. We were given a little tour of the shrines, and even saw a Hindu wedding take place. There was a tiny bridge in the middle leading to the main shrine where the priest presided of a ceremony that involved people praying while someone played out a simple tune on the gong. They then showed us the Corniche, the port and drove us past Muttrah Souk, then we continued along the coast and through the gate to Old Muscat where we saw the old forts on the rocky outcrops that dominate the city. We got out to see a local art gallery, which had an interesting photography section about Sanaa, Yemen
Meena then dropped us back at the hotel so we could get some lunch and rest a bit. Mark had the chicken cordon bleu and I had the grilled fish steaks and they were huge portions for just €14 between us including 1 drink.
We then slept through the afternoon until Meena picked us up again in the evening. This time she picked up her daughter, Kushboo, and took us to a resort passing through the picturesque mountains to Al Bustan Palace 7-star hotel where we got to see inside and see the sun setting over the beach. We even saw a tiny protected beach with little turtles on it. We then went to her daughter’s place where they were kind even to open a bottle of wine for me. We met Kushboo’s husband Maxol and their baby son. Next the seven of us squeezed into the car and were off to a Vegetarian Indian restaurant where we all had a delicious Gujarati thali (several small pots of curry and veg served on a metal tray with chapatis and rice). The real beauty of travelling is to meet special people such as this family.
Our second full day in Muscat saw us picked up early by Meena who took us to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque (free entry but closes at 11am during Ramadan). Meena had a headscarf for me and we all wore long sleeves out of respect. The grounds were immaculate, and the building reminded us of Abu Dhabi. We visited the women’s prayer hall (smaller because women can pray at home) but the main prayer hall was the highlight. Such a beautiful room, such a dazzling chandelier (made by Swarovski, 2nd largest after Abu Dhabi), and a vast, beautiful woven carpet (made in pieces in Iran, again 2nd largest after Abu Dhabi). After popping in the library, and the ablution areas, we were stopped by an Islamic women who invited us into a room where we learned more about the Mosque and Islam. There was even an 18-year old recent US convert there, doing her first Ramadan, who told us her story, which was interesting. The Muslim women gave us a gift of dates and mugs and invited us to take any brochures we wished. Next we drove to the Royal Opera House to get a few pictures of the beautiful building but we couldn’t go inside because the tours finish at 10:30 am. Meena dropped us back at the hotel where we had lunch and rested a bit. We then went out to get Meena a thank you gift. We walked down the road to a large flyover and turned right from where we could see the giant fluorescent sign of the hypermarket. I found a white ceramic statue of the Elephant God, Ganesh, that I thought she would like. We decided to buy that and a box of Lindor chocolate. We even got our gifts wrapped for free at the supermarket.
The next day we had breakfast and waited for Meena to pick us up and take us to the airport. She didn’t show, so we ended up leaving the gift at reception and flagging down a taxi. We later discovered Meena was feeling poorly but she let us know she was feeling better the next day and she loved the presents, which was nice.
Thanks to Meena, her family, the stunning mosques, hostels and the picturesque mountains our experience in Oman was amazing.
What a lovely place!