Friday, April 3, 2020

Oman – January/February 2020 - Part 2
Taxi came in the morning to my hotel in Muscat and I arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare.  Going through security was a breeze so I found a coffee shop and enjoyed my favorite chocolate chip muffin and coffee as I waited for the flight up to Khasab.  I stayed at the Khasab Hotel in town and they picked me up at the airport which was about 10 minutes away. 

Checked in to the hotel and then walked up to the Khasab Fort worked by the Portuguese in the seventeenth century.  The castle was first redesigned in 1990 and again in 2007.  There is an excellent museum in the circular tower with information on fishing boats, architecture, etc. and upstairs are apartments and kitchens with furnishings of how people lived.  In the courtyard are several interesting ships and a house of locks built by a master craftsman.  Well worth a couple hours!

Walked up to Lulu Hypermarket and sat outside by the water at a little restaurant inside.  Had a delicious shawarma with chicken while beautiful classical music played.  Leisurely walked back to the hotel.  There is really nothing else to see in town…Hotel dropped me off at Al Shamaliah where I fresh grilled fish, tabbouleh salad and bread which were all delicious.

The breakfast buffet was rather dismal but there was some delicious dates and honey to put on the toast.  Took a Dhow boat trip in the Musandam fjords for the day and it was fabulous.  There were only 6 of us on our wooden boat and we sailed through a variety of rock formations branching in and out of the ocean with stunning views and it was a really nice sunny day.  Stopped at Telegraph Island to swim which felt wonderful.  Water was warm and refreshing.  Stopped again at Seebi Island but only a few swam there.  Saw some dolphins off and on throughout the day, some running along the side of the boat.  They put out a really nice lunch with warm chicken, fish, rice, salad and tea and water were available all day.  It was a lovely day.  After a nice hot shower and a rest the hotel took me to Aroos Musandam Restaurant where I had the best menu in Khasab, i.e. chicken tikka with yogurt sauce and biryani rice followed by a glass of lightly sweetened mint tea.  Got a ride back to the hotel.

Walked up to Atana Musandam resort after breakfast, located in the northern tip of the Musandam penisular.  It is a beautiful hotel where many of the rooms have a view of the waterway.  I did not stay here but wandered around a bit and then had a delicious lunch outside on the patio at Al Mawra.  My crisp falafel sandwich was freshly made and their signature chocolate dessert was amazing!  It was a cup of chocolate/nut and cream custard topped with a wafer of chocolate and the server poured a rich chocolate sauce over the top, melting the wafer and pouring into the cream.  It was sooo good!  Walked back to the hotel where a guide picked me up at 2:30 p.m. for a tour of Khasab.  Drove the Khasab – Tibat road, a feat of engineering with spectacular views across the Straits of Hormuz.  Stopped at the Bukha fort which was interesting and then stopped at the UAE border.  Watched the sunset from the beach.  Had dinner at Wadi Qata which was rather disappointing, grilled fish, rice and tomato/cucumber salad.  There was no one else in the restaurant and it needed a lot of updating…

Got to the airport in plenty of time in the morning for my 12:30 p.m. Oman Air flight to Muscat and on to Salalah but the flight was delayed so much that when I arrived in Muscat I missed my connecting flight to Salalah.  I had booked my connection with Salem Air and they would not help me with another flight.  A lesson learned.  Had I booked both flights with Oman Air I would not have had to purchase another connecting flight.  However, even though there was no space on the 7:00 p.m. flight to Salalah the Oman Air manager made sure I was on that flight which I appreciated.    My airbnb host Mustafa met me at the airport and took me to the studio next to the Millenium Resort which worked out perfectly.  We walked over to the Resort and I talked with the manager about perhaps having breakfast there for the next five mornings I would be there and he worked out something fabulous for me.

In the morning I walked over to the resort and was offered one of the most wonderful buffets ever, pancakes, Arabian breads, fresh yogurt and fruit, eggs, honey, dates, cakes, etc. plus any type of coffee desired.  I sat outside by the pool every morning and started my day in heaven!!!

Took a taxi to the Frankincense Museum in the morning where I learned about the historic and maritime heritage of Salalah.  I particularly enjoyed the Maritime Hall which dealt with the skills of seafaring and housed several very interesting traditional vessels.  Took a walk around the Al Baleed Archaelogical Park and then went into town and wandered around the fish and vegetable market until meeting Mustafa who would be my guide for the next five days.  We had a very nice lunch at an Indian restaurant nearby, i.e. butter chicken and naan bread and then to the Sumhuram Archaeological Park where we wandered around the ruins.   Stopped at Wadi Darbat to see the waterfalls and took a nice walk.  Every evening we stopped at a beach so I had about an hour to walk alone and see the sunset on my return…We went to the old souq which was rather small but quite nice where I picked up a couple stuffed camels for my grandsons, not realizing until I got home that they were musical as well!!

We picked out some fresh fish and shrimp at the fish market and looked around the market as it was prepared for us.  Sat outside and thoroughly enjoyed the fresh flavor and spices of the fish.  Afterwards we stopped at a special konafa bakery where we shared this delicious dessert which I had had in Muscat as well.  We spent a great deal of time eating together which I thoroughly enjoyed!!

In the morning we drove to the eastern part of Salalah and visited Ayn Razat, the most important source of spring water in Dhofar.  The water flows 7 km to Al-Mamurah Palace, the sultan’s residence when in Salalah.  On to Ayn Athum, one of the most beautiful limestone waterfalls in Salalah.  To Mughsail Beach to see the blowhole but it was quite small. Stopped at a Turkish restaurant for lunch and sharad chicken kebabs and cheese bread, Turkish bread and pita bread!!!   Mustafa picked up an assortment of sweets and we stopped for coffee to enjoy them.  I walked for a bit on Mughsail Beach which was lovely.

We stopped at Souly Eco Lodge, a unique lodge constructed with natural and local materials like stones and recycled wood from the Salalah area.  The bungalows are near the ocean and it looked really nice.  Saw some frankincense trees, camels, irrigation systems, etc.  It was a lovely day.  Dinner at a Pakistani restaurant Al Ghad where we shared spicy butter chicken, kingfish, naan bread, an okra dish and ended with rice pudding and a coconut dessert.  Great food!!  Food in Oman has been really amazing.

Visited Mirbat Castle in the morning, a beautiful location on the beach.  The fort is nicely restored and provides good information about the 1972 Battle of Mirbat.  Stopped by the resort nearby, walked on the beach and then had a cheese “pie” for lunch as there were few restaurants around.  We stopped in Darbat and took a nice boat ride on Wadi Darbat.  Later that evening we went to a camel restaurant where we sat in our own little room on the floor and shared camel shwarma, tiny camel kebabs from young camels and slow cooked camel meat with yemen bread along with some hot tea.  Stopped at another café for kanafe but it was not quite as good as the first one…

Mustafa was busy the following day so his friend Jacob was my guide which turned out very well.  We talked about Oman and he shared some insight into how it is to live in Oman.  First stop was the Sultan Qaboos Mosque which towers over the city and is exquisitely beautiful.  Inside the crystal chandelier hangs from an intricately carved dome and a 20-ton handwoven carpet covers the floor.  On to Taqah Castle about 33 kilometers east of Salalah.  It was built in the 19th century and used to be a private residence for a tribal leader.  It became the property of the government in the first half of the 20th century and is now a museum.  The rooms of the castle are now used to display numerous exhibits such as weapons and cookware and showcases the old Omani way of life.  I really enjoyed this one.  On to Nabi Youns’ tomb also known as the tomb of Job set high in the lttin mountains and the beautiful area of Ayn Garziz..  There is his grave, his foot print, an old praying area and water spring.  Stopped at Nabi Umran’s tomb in the center of the city.  It is a very long and impressive tomb.

Jacob dropped me off at the mall so I could look around and have a coffee and cake at Costa Coffee for a change from all those heavy lunches!!!  Mustafa met me about 2:00 p.m. and we wandered around the vegetable and cheese section of the mall.
Wandered around the caves and springs of Ayn Razat and then took a walk on the beach near the Millenium and watched the sun set.  Dinner again at Al Ghad where we sat in a little room of our own and shared barbecued chicken, king fish, dal and garlic naan.  Also tried a couple of new desserts but they were very sweet.  My last dinner in Salalah!

Had a delicious breakfast at Millenium outside by the pool complete with espresso.  Mustafa met me about 10 a.m. and we went to the mall for our last “meal” together.  We shared a delicious flourless chocolate cake with a gooey inside topped with ice cream and complimented with another rich espresso at dip dip chocolate.  Really fun.  Took my last walk on the beach and then to the airport where I caught a flight back to Muscat.  

My host from the airbnb picked me up and later we went to dinner at Kargeen Café.  Kargeen is the old Omani word for a little wooden cottage and this modern restaurant combines old cosiness with a modern lounge experience.    Sat outside among the trees filled with dozens of lights and some of the cooking was going on outside as well.  The menu is filled with traditional Omani dishes but I decided just to have a meze platter, Arabian bread and some crisp Omani herb bread which was all delicious.

In the morning I walked along the corniche to the National Museum which contains 14 permanent galleries – The Land and the People, Splendors of Islam, Renaissance, etc.  A fabulous collection.  Walked back to the old souq where I caught a taxi to quram beach for a last walk around.  Had dinner at Beach Restaurant in the Chedi Hotel, a very opulent place!  I sat outside overlooking the Arabian Sea and had a very nice (but very expensive) dinner, i.e. mussels with coconut milk, grilled tuna with barcolli beans and my first and only glass of wine in Oman.   A warm chocolate cake to finish.  My host picked me up and drove me to the airport where I caught the 2:15 a.m. flight to Frankfurt, on to Houston and finally Orange County where a friend picked me up.  It was really an amazing trip and I would highly recommend Oman to everyone!

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