Friday, November 27, 2015

Mystical Muscat

By Tony Mariadass

 Explore the secrets of Oman

Muscat, Oman never ceases to captivate visitors with its historical architecture water sports and treasures. An unlikely place one wants to visit, but a visit will reveal how much Oman has to offer, which is unique and experiences which will leave an everlasting memory. It has a variety of experiences awaiting for in inquisitive traveler.

  Not many people would consider Oman a holiday destination but it will surprise with what it has to offer.
The Sultanate of Oman may not boast may 'firsts' and 'biggest' like its neighbours however its rich history, traditional charms and pristine coastlines is gaining popularity among travellers.
Some may not even know where thus Gulf nation is.
Nestled on the eastern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It borders the United Arb Emirates in the northwest, Saudi Arabia in the west and Yemen in the southwest. It also has two enclaves – the Musandam Peninsula and Madha – which is separated by UAE.
Oman overlooks the Arabian Sea, the Sea of Oman and the Arabian Gulf. It also controls the Strait of Hormuz, which is one of the most important facilities in the region, linking the Sea of Oman with the Arabian Gulf. The Strait of Hormuz is a gateway to all ships coming from the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.
Oman is a seaside nation with a coastline spanning 3,165 kilometres!
Little surprise that a wide variety of activities are sea related.
Oman had hosted 2nd Asian Beach Games in 2010 held in Muscat and Almusannah.
A total of  12 sports – bodybuilding, beach handball, beach kabaddi, beach football, beach sepak takraw, beach volleylwoodball, jet ski, marathon swimming, sailing, tent pegging and triathlon – were held.
Among the experiences a traveler can experience include a wide variety of pristine beaches and islands, world class diving, snorkeling and other water sports.
Weekend picnics and barbecues are popular on the beaches and people driving their cars right up to the shore to park and chat is a pretty common sight.
While turtle and whale watching is an attraction, it is the dolphin watching is a main attraction, especially in Muscat and Musandam.
There are various dolphin watching tours, including travelling in boats which has see through glasses at the bottom of the boat.
I indeed had a whale of time watching these beautiful dolphin shoals.
My dolphin adventure began at the Oman Marina, which is home to some of the yachts of the rich and famous. Bobbing next to those huge vessels was this little speedboat that we were to board. It whisked us off, speeding into the open sea.
 Normally it takes between 20 to 30 minutes to spot the dolphins, but there are times when visitors have returned from the trip not sighting a single dolphin. It is the first thing operators warn the visitors stating that there is no guarantee to see the dolphins.
I was lucky that I saw hundreds of dolphin but not before anxious moments that I may return disappointed. It took about 40 minutes into the deep sea before we spotted several other boats who had already spotted the dolphins.
It was truly amazing to see the gentle creatures swimming freely and performing flips, for our entertainment, we presumed. Everywhere we looked we saw dolphins. And they didn’t seem to mind the boat or us, swimming around like we weren’t even there.
We feasted our eyes on the hyperactive dolphins for half an hour or so before the boatman took us back to the marina.
The round trip took about two hours and cost 15 Omani Rial (RM188.00).
If anything, dolphin watching alone is worth a trip to Oman!
Mountains constitute a large percentage of the environment of Oman which would mean that even a short drive to have dinner will involve driving through the scenic mountains. But the highways and roads in Oman are top-class and on a par with Germany’s Auto-Bahn. The only difference is that there is a speed limit and the roads twist and turn around the mountains.
Muscat is the capital of Oman and perhaps the country’s most cosmopolitan city.
Muscat is a wonderful blend of tradition and modernity, which is what makes it so unique. Today, it protected by a stone moat that replaced the walls that had shielded this important city. Walking through some of the older parts of Muscat, you see how the old historical buildings have been beautifully preserved and enhanced with modern additions.
Cultural sites including forts, ancient tombs and prehistoric sites are all there to explore.
One thing that stands out about the city is that you hardly see any building above five storeys.
   The Grand Mosque at Sultan Qaboos St is glorious piece of modern Islamic architecture was a gift to the nation from Sultan Qaboos to mark the 30th year of his reign. Quietly imposing from the outside, the main prayer hall is breathtakingly rich. The Persian carpet alone measures 70m by 60m wide, making it the second-largest hand-loomed Iranian carpet in the world; it took 600 women four years to weave. The mosque can accommodate 20,000 worshipers, including 750 women in a private musalla (prayer hall).
The Royal Opera House Muscat offers concerts and performances at a very affordable prices as compared elsewhere in the world.
The arrival of the Royal Opera House Muscat in 2011 was a high point in the              cultural life of the capital. Built by the same architects as the Grand Mosque, the         understated marble exterior belies the magnificent interior of inlaid wood and 
 Arabesque designs.
 A not to miss while in Muscat is the Mutrah Souq (market and bazzars).

Many people come to Mutrah Corniche just to visit the souq, which retains the chaotic interest of a traditional Arab market albeit housed under modern timber roofing. There are some good antique shops selling a mixture of Indian and Omani artefacts among the usual textile, hardware and gold shops. Bargaining is expected but the rewards are not great, as any discount will be small.
Other experiences in Oman include exploring and experiencing include wildlife tours in the Sultanate’s nature reserves and biodiversity spots.
Desert safaris and adventures is another for adventurous visitors not to be missed.
Trekking, rock climbing and caving adventures is also available besides horse and camel events to watch.
Indeed, one is not short of experiencing something to one’s taste in Oman.
It is an understatement to say that there are many secrets to be explored in Oman.

How to get to Oman:

Oman Air has a direct flight from Kuala Lumpur to Muscat and it takes about seven hours.

One can also fly to Muscat via Dubai or Abu Dhabi or even take a car ride which takes about four hours.

No comments: