Muscat, Oman, the jewel of the Middle East. In September 2016 we made the trek into Oman from Dubai, it was our first real trip/vacation since arriving in Dubai, November of 2015. What should have taken 5hrs maximum to get there took about 9hrs. Apparently gps was trying to screw us over and Google Maps does not cross borders except in a “Route Preview”. Mind you, we had three children ages 3 and under in the car.
Tip: Download the free Garmin directions app and the corresponding offline maps of the countries you will visit. Luckily our trip back was the correct route and amount of time.
Our road trip saga began at our apartment where we got things packed and in the car. One of my kids was running around like crazy and when I got him in his seat he spit up on himself from the excitement. Oh, joy! We proceeded to a small shopping center nearby to get a bite to eat and some food stuff for the car. Once we got on the road we discovered the directions were so jumbled and terrible. We went on our biggest detour ever. We figured it out and were on our way and reached the border quicker than expected. But, apparently the entrance to Oman from around Al Ain is for Omani’s and Emirati’s only. We were told to turn right at the first round about then take 4 more to Kalba and we would be set right to get to Oman. Yeah, that was another extra hour or so drive. We wove through tiny villages in the mountains and wondered why we were even on this trip.
The baby had a blow out and lost his pants privilege for the remainder of the trip, and had to have a few more changes, food, and bottles while we drove. FINALLY, we got the the border at Hatta and made it through after dark. They have recently beefed up the border and there is fencing on each side of the road with barbed wire (which was not there before). At the Visa building we chased kids around indoors while filling out forms and getting Omani car insurance. Another one of my kids then proceeded to have a melt down that was so bad his nose started to bleed. Of course there was a big crowd watching this. Embarrassing! So on the road again. It was taking SO long to get to Muscat. The road we took was very random and took us way off course.
When we finally arrived at our friends home it was after midnight (we left our place at 3pm) and the kids were tired but wired. They stayed up and we switched sleeping arrangements a few times until they fell asleep after 2am.
The next day we visited the beach, it was so beautiful and we had a fantastic time there (Video of the beach on my Instagram). The mountains were on either side of the beach, pebbles and rocks in the sand, and hot but beautiful weather. We stopped by the Sultans Palace afterwards, it was a huge place and quite beautiful (Video at the back of the Sultans Palace on my Instagram). We ate food at a restaurant in a back alley before going back to home base. The food was really good, I think it was Turkish.
On our second day we went to the Royal Opera House (Website), which is said the be the first one on the Arabian Peninsula. Everything had ornate and beautiful detail – the walls, chairs, floor, all with gold leaf. Shimmering chandeliers hung about. The courtyard of the Opera is mopped every morning so there is no buildup of sand. (Video in the Opera House from my Instagram)
We visited a mall for the kids to play afterwards and ate at The Kabab Factory (thumbs up). In the evening we made it over to the Souq and another park for kids to play. Note: The Souq, it is great! It may be my favorite souq compared to those in Dubai. With the help of our friend we got a deal on a hand made chandelier. There were so many shops with handmade jewelry, vases, lamps, chandeliers, toys, clothing, figurines, anything and everything. It’s a must stop shop.
Muscat is beautiful with the ocean close by and mountains all around. The mountains are desert ones, so very little plant life, and it was hot being there at the very end of September, around 104°F and 40°C. It feels like a smaller place than Dubai because they don’t have tall high-rises everywhere, they actually have a height limit for buildings. But, it is still a big place, and the roads are just as confusing as in Dubai. I feel like there is a stronger history and heritage here, instead of trying to be super glamorous and in-your-face, it has a subtle vibe. Overall it is a pleasant place to visit. Beware of the traffic lights though, running a red light means an automatic 2yrs in jail and a big fine on top of that!
We packed up on the final day and headed out early instead of visiting the Mosque for a tour. We were afraid of taking too long to get home and being up really late again, so we will save that for our next visit to Muscat. It turns out that there is a highway that basically follows the ocean all the way from Muscat, to Fujairah, UAE. That is the road you want to take! There is a City Centre in Fujairah to stop at for food.
We made it home safe and sound with a few neat experiences scratched off the bucket list.
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