First Day: Monday
After breakfast at Muttrah in Naseem Hotel, we took a taxi to Holiday Inn Hotel to pick up the Toyota Prado we had booked from Europcar. The car was ready with a full tank. First, we drove to Lulu’s hypermarket to buy bottled water and take out some cash from the ATM. A 1.5-liter bottle of water costs 200 baisas.
The day was hot (35 degrees Celsius) and, after a short walk on the cornice, we decided to find swimming possibilities. Our only map was the one in the Lonely Planet Arabian Peninsula guidebook. We found Qurum beach from there. The beach was a long stretch of sand, but the water was not as clean as we expected, and there were almost no people in the water. Because of that, we sunbathed for half an hour and then went for a city walk to the walled city of Muscat.
We found the Sultan’s Palace. This was huge and gorgeous. The Sultan spends most of his time at the palace in Salalah in the south. This palace is used primarily to meet with visiting dignitaries.
The current Sultan Qaboos is well-known for easing the country into modernity. It is hard to believe that in 1970, Oman had only 10 kilometers of paved roads, two primary schools, no secondary schools, and only two hospitals. Since Sultan Qaboos took power in 1970, Oman has caught up with its more affluent neighbors. We were especially amazed by the infrastructure of the roads.
Unfortunately, visiting the Sultan’s palace is impossible, but the glory can also be seen walking around. After walking around, we found a small and beautiful mosque near the gates of the Sultan’s Palace. We asked the gardener whether we could enter, and he said we only needed to take off our shoes. It was beautiful inside—all marble. We also used the opportunity to drink cold water and wash our legs to cool ourselves.
We also wanted to see Al Bustan Palace, a 5-star luxury hotel rumored to be more of a palace than a hotel. Unfortunately, the hotel was under renovation, and it was impossible to drive through the gates.
We had dinner at Gulf Fast Food Coffee Shop, next to the gates of Mutrah Souq. There were two coffee shops, and the waiters realized we were looking for food. They were both very aggressive in cramming us into their coffee shop. We ate kebabs and mutton tikka (a ‘2 OMR), and both tasted very good. Fresh juices (a big glass for 1,500 OMR) were exactly what we needed after a hot day and dinner.
After dinner, we walked to the famous Mutrah Souq. We found it very interesting, although it seems that, nowadays, genuineness has gone a bit. In addition to the expected crafts, fruits, herbs, clothes, shoes, perfumes, and jewelry, we also saw plastic toys and household items on sale. In my opinion, those things ruin the atmosphere of the Mutrah Souq.
The trip continues to Yiti, Muscat to Sur.