Home 5 Oman 5 Hidden Port: The New Muscat Calling!

Hidden Port: The New Muscat Calling!

by | May 9, 2024 | Oman | 2 comments

While in Oman, we had many wonderful encounters with the local people, due, in part, to my speaking some Arabic, as I spent 6 months relearning it before we left. To begin our trip, we spent 5 nights in the capital, Muscat, a beautiful coastal city set between the sea and low dark-reddish Ophiolite mountains. Muscat has managed to keep its historical look and feel even though it has developed into a modern city. We stayed in the area called Muttrah, the traditional part of the city, where families and friends meet in the evenings to walk along the corniche as it winds around the old harbor. Though I had been to Muscat and Muttrah many times in the late 1970s, the city is completely different now, so it was like “Coming home to a place I’d never been before.” 

On our first full day in Muscat, we hiked in the ophiolite hills in the Riyam area with an Omani geologist, Anas. We met him through another Omani, Ali, a local engineer and guide (www.omantripper.com), who I contacted before our trip, and he connected us to Anas. See Julie’s post on Oman Geology for more about the ophiolite. We had coffee with Ali one evening as he wanted to meet us even though he didn’t lead us on a tour. He is an intelligent energetic guy and we totally enjoyed meeting him.

Anas speaks good English, is very knowledgeable about local geology, and is a sweet guy. During the hike, it struck me that even though he and Julie spoke different native languages, they both “spoke geology.” I was mostly listening; I speak some geology from years of travel with Julie, but not so fluently. Anas even took us to lunch after the four-hour hike and then drove us along the coast to some dramatic geologic view spots over the Gulf of Oman. A fun day indeed!

From the harbor in Sidab, a part of Greater Muscat, we went Dolphin watching and snorkeling off a boat. We found the company online and it’s a very good outfit – www.sidabseatours.com. They are super responsive, pick you up at your hotel, have good boats, and take you to an excellent place to snorkel; it was like jumping into an aquarium, surrounded by hundreds of multi-colored fish and numerous green sea turtles as you snorkel along and above the colorful coral reef in beautifully clear warm blue water. The company has been around for years and does various tours in the Muscat area.

In Muscat, we loved exploring markets, and after walking through their lively fish market, we had an interesting afternoon in the famous Muttrah Souq, where you can buy gold, frankincense, and myrrh, for your traditional Christmas celebration. I had been in this market 46 years ago but it was very different now and even the entrance was in a different location (that really threw me??).

When we entered, we quickly moved past the main tourist street, going down various narrow lanes filled with small shops, and had fun buying spices, dried fruit, and of course, frankincense, which Oman is famous for. In a small shop near the gold souq, Julie had some Navajo silver jewelry repaired, so we hung out and chatted in a small shop while two brothers collaborated on the repair work. We enjoy hanging out in shops as you get interesting insights into the different cultures and lives of local people.     

We went through the Muttrah souq and ended up in the back streets where almost all the shops were for dressmaking. Ironically, it was all men working in the shops to make dresses for women in a culture where unrelated adult men and women don’t mix all that much. We wandered around that area, looking for a tailor who wasn’t busy, and finally found a Bangladeshi guy to repair some damaged clothing we had brought with us as we sometimes do when we travel.  

Ladies' tailoring shops on Muttrah Street
There are hundreds of ladies’ tailoring shops on Muttrah Street, just outside the Muttrah Souq

We then explored Old Muscat with many modern buildings built in traditional Arabian styles. The buildings are mostly white and low; the area is clean, quiet, and very manicured, so the overall effect is one of “silent elegance” as you walk through the streets. The National Historical Museum presented a complete look into Omani history with objects and re-creations spanning the last 5,000 years on display. It’s well-signed in English and we spent a couple of enjoyable hours learning about Oman’s fascinating history. We enjoyed a good vegetarian lunch and another fresh juice at a cafe in the nearby Bait Al Zubair Museum.    

The Kindness of Omanis

I often said to Omanis during our journey, “Everything in the country has changed, except for the kindness of the Omani people.” We both experienced their kindness, and I felt the familiarity of their friendliness, rising up from deep in my memory banks. Our gracious Airbnb host in Muscat, Mohammed, took us to the Sultan’s Palace and a favorite place for lunch for a tasty fish dish on the day we arrived. He also spent time with us throughout our stay, sharing stories about life in Oman. The generosity of Mohammed, Ali, and Anas was a sign of things to come throughout the journey.

Until next time, see you on down the road.

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2 Comments

  1. Brenda S Payne

    Loved the pictures and love the commentary…..Happy to be signed on….

    Reply
    • Julie Roller

      Glad to have you onboard, Brenda! All the best.

      Reply

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