After breakfast and swimming in the pool, we checked out of Falaj Daris and headed toward Muscat. This was our last day in Oman and, therefore, we wanted to get as much from the day as possible.
We were traveling from Nizwa to Muscat on a modern four-lane highway. Driving on that highway, it’s difficult to believe that in the 1970s, Oman had only 10 kilometers of paved roads. There are street lights along the road. It is really easy to drive around in Oman, as the roads are in excellent condition and all road signs are written in English as well as in Arabic. But one should keep in mind that when asking for advice from locals, not all local people can read English, so there might be no help in showing the map or the name of the place in English.
Driving from Nizwa to Muscat can be done easily in 1.5 hours. We stopped a couple of times on our way to Muscat. The first stop was in Samail. The wilayat of Samail lies halfway on the Muscat-Nizwa highway. Here we enjoyed the Samail Gap, the biggest and one of the most beautiful wadis in Oman. The Samail Gap divides the Al Hajar mountains into east and west chains.
We saw how the wadi in Samail truly gives light and joy to local life. As there was also water in the wadi, children swam there, women washed dishes and did the laundry, and men washed the cars and enjoyed the cooler air under the bushes and palm trees. We also stopped in Bidbid. There is also a wadi, a fort, and a souq.
In Muscat, we felt that, if possible, we would like to spend some hours at the sea. Oman Dive Center has been on our list since the start of planning and therefore we went there. I even tried to contact Oman Dive Center via email before going to Oman for accommodation in a Barista hut but got only the reply that I had the wrong address.
Omani Dive Center (OMD) is less than 10 km from the walled city of Muscat. It is necessary to drive a few kilometers from the Al Bustan roundabout towards Rowi and make the first possible left turn. Then the signs lead to the gates where you need to pay for entrance. On the sign, it said that on weekdays it was 1.500 OMR per person and on holidays it was 3 OMR. We expected to pay 1.500 as the holidays in Oman are Thursday and Friday, but it seemed that here other rules apply. The guy who gave us the checks needed to pay in reception also said that the beach chairs are probably not available…
The beach in OMD is a beautiful bay between mountains; the huts also looked very real. The difference between the beaches and the other places we visited during the week was in the people. They were not locals; all of them were tourists. I believe the place is also run by foreigners, as the prices were different than what we were used to. At the time, the Lonely Planet guidebook (from 2004) suggested that the price per cabin was 12 OMR. At the reception, they told us it would be 57O MR.
There was a possibility for an afternoon snorkeling trip at 2:30 PM, but unfortunately, the sea was too rough for that. So we just enjoyed the sun and swam in the Arabian Bay. We also had the most expensive lunch here, with spring rolls costing 2.50 per person; so far, we’ve paid the same amount, or even less, for four sandwiches and soft drinks. In conclusion, I would say that OMD is a beautiful place and the closest nice beach to Muscat, but if you have time, drive further and you will have much more.
It was 4 PM and we had 12 hours until our flight back. We had the idea of visiting Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and, after that, spending time in a shopping center. This mosque was built by Sultan Qaboos (ruler of Oman) and was completed in 2001. This is a must-visit in Muscat as it is one of the biggest and most beautiful mosques in the world. It is also the only mosque in Oman that non-Muslims are allowed to visit. Entry is free of charge and the visiting hours are around 9-11 am on all days except Fridays. Unfortunately, we were there on Saturday evening, so we only had a chance to walk around and enjoy the views of the huge mosque from the outside.
For shopping, the LP guide suggested the Carrefour complex. As it is near the airport, it seemed perfect for us. We also asked for driving directions, and the guy said that it could not be missed. But this exactly happened as construction was going on, and therefore the huge sign was not seen on the road from Seeb Airport. We saw the Markaz al-Bahja center to our right and went there. There was Marks & Spencer, some other shops, and a cinema, but only a few people. So we decided to continue searching for the Carrefour center, and while driving back towards the airport, we easily noticed the complex.
The Carrefour shopping center was huge, and the parking spots were full of cars. There was an entire floor dedicated to electronics stores, as well as numerous clothing stores for men, women, and children. To begin with, we ate dinner at a food court where various types of fast food were available, followed by a cup of coffee at Starbucks.
Most shops in the Carrefour center close at 10 p.m. After that, we drove to the airport and returned the car to Europcar (you need to go to the arrival part). We changed the clothes for colder weather, calmly backed the bags, and tried to check in at 11:30 PM. We were told that our check-in would start at 2 AM and maybe even a bit later. So we had 3 hours to do nothing. We decided that we would not sit on our bags at the airport – we left our luggage at the airport and took a taxi to the Seeb Golden Tulip hotel. We sat there in the bar, looking at our photos, listening to a Filipino band, and having a beer. Being awake was not difficult because we had an excellent vacation and it was fun to share our experiences and thoughts.