It was only the second time I had ever been on a flight by myself before. It was my first time to the Middle East and I was off to a country I’d never heard of six months ago: Oman. I was primarily going to see Mitch, of course. Long distance relationships are surely a good reason to go to a new country! Wikipedia did a great job giving me a brief history and allowing me to find out where it was actually located. Oman is a rich country, full of oil. Mitch wanted to show me everything Muscat (the capital) had to offer but my budget was limited as we were trying to save for a bigger adventure.
After ten hours of flying, I arrived at 10pm to 40 degree heat, overwhelming to say the least. Even more so when I:
a) found out that my luggage was left in Qatar, nice on Qatar Airways.
b) was carrying too much alcohol! The police were kind to me, just said it was too much and took away the beer I’d brought for Mitch (I could keep my wine). He’d told me to stock up as it was difficult to buy alcohol, evidently I stocked up too much.
I was hot, sweaty, tired, and frustrated but seeing Mitch made things a whole lot better. Thankfully, my bags arrived the next day.
Highlights of Muscat
Muscat is on the coast which means some incredible beaches. Naturally, you have to dress moderately for it is a Muslim country. But the coastline is breathtaking, and I was lucky enough one evening to see this incredible sunset and take a stroll down the beach on a warm summer evening.
A bustling market which sells clothes, jewellery, knick-knacks and much more. You can attempt to haggle your price with the locals (I am awful at this). Although I didn’t buy anything, walking through and taking in the sight is impressive and enjoying a truly Arabic atmosphere.
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
Mitch was working so set me up with a taxi driver to collect me and take me to Sultan Qaboos Grand mosque – named after the current ruler of Oman, Sultan Qaboos. The architecture both inside and out make it a must sight to see. Inside, the colours span across the ceiling and walls in blues and yellows. It’s refreshingly cool compared to the blazing sun outside, and the peacefulness which I often find in many religious buildings I found in here too as I looked around. My taxi driver walked around with me and we talked about Islam and Christianity. He found it astounding that I wasn’t married, given that I was a ‘beautiful, white woman’ – I think he would have happily married me if I had converted to Islam.
Royal Opera House
Knowing that I am a theatre lover (as is he), Mitch took me to to the Royal Opera House to see The Lights of Andalusia. Going to a matinee performance was a wise move to get away from the intense summer sun. The building is very grand and modern and is a great opportunity to get dressed up.
Omani Dive Centre
A manmade private beach where you can wear what you want and have the luxury of alcohol. You can go diving there, as the name implies, but we were a bit late for that so instead we soaked up the last of the afternoon sun. I remember feeling so utterly relaxed. My life in London was fast-paced, busy, and stressful at times. In that moment, I felt blissfully unaware of anything back home and enjoyed the Middle Eastern sun on my body.
About an hour and a half drive from Muscat is Nizwa. As we drove through the desert I was in awe. Apart from a family holiday to Florida, this was my first time outside Europe, and here I was in the middle of the desert. It’s a really spectacular sight if you’ve never seen anything like it before; sand and desert as far as the eye can see.
We arrived in Nizwa and it was hot – at that point we didn’t realise that the temperature would reach highs of 50 degrees that day! The highlight of Nizwa is the fort. From the top you look out across the city, across the palm trees and are greeted with desert. Breathtaking views.
Why Should You Visit Muscat, Oman
These are just a few highlights Muscat has to offer. There is so much more if you can spend a bit more money and go earlier on in the year – I was there at the beginning of June and some days it reached 50 degrees, not pleasant to be in!. Talk to Mitch and his friends they can tell you a whole lot more about the country. What I can say, though, as a traveller, is that Oman is a beautiful country. Just because you may not have heard of it doesn’t make it a bad place. Of course, I respected the laws and customs but overall I felt very safe. I haven’t been to Dubai but from what I hear it’s very built up, and somewhat Western with shopping malls and modern buildings. I got a true sense of authentic Arabic culture in Oman. If that’s what you’re looking for, make Oman your next destination to visit.