A long weekend in Kuwait itself is a motivation for a tour, especially when one of the goals of life is to visit as many countries as possible in our life time. A good company of friends to tour with and a dear brother to visit and a travel package from Oman air was the added attraction and thus we set off to the tour of Muscat and Salalah in Oman on 23rd Feb 2012.This was not the best of time to visit Oman as, Wadis and springs were dry and the beauty of the countryside is reduced to half by the hot season. Still it was beautiful and worth a visit.
Oman/Muscat is known as the most beautiful place in the gulf and it did not fail our expectations at all. It was so different from other gulf countries with its mountains, valleys and winding roads uphill. The city was extremely clean and even the remote villages where well kept, a lesson many Asian countries could learn. The most beautiful was the people’s attitude towards one and all. The Omanis are by and large very hospitable and caring to others. We never had to worry getting run over crossing a road or losing way to a place or people ignoring a request for guidance. It really proved you; don’t need money to be happy. A smile on the face of every one made the country rich.
The Tour Highlights-
Al-Hoota Cave is located in Al Hamra district. It is more than 5km long and traversed by an underground river. Here we got a chance to view the stalactites and stalagmites that occur in limestone caves as well as an underground lake. The stalactite is above, and hangs downward like an icicle; the stalagmite is below and sticks up. An electrical train took us to the cave. The winding roads up the cave needed a well pumped heart to take you through an hour’s walk. The highest peak can reach 800 above sea level. Photography was prohibited inside the cave.
Nakhl is known for its hot spring and a big fort.. The winding roads and the mountains either side were amazing. Al Thowarah Hot Springs where a little of disappointment specially after seeing Pamukkale springs in Turkey. These were much smaller than what I expected. Most disappointing is the scene of a man washing his car in the beautiful flowing spring water, Indicating threat to the preservation of the touristic spots. The Nakhl fort was amazing with a number of rooms at multi levels. The fort included a summer living room, a winter living room and a living room just for the ladies. An interesting part was the jail cell. A funny idea to have a prison room next to living quarters unless it is meant for the husband 🙂 when he is mischievous.
The special feature of Muscat was the absence of high rises in the country and the uniformity of white coloured walls for all buildings. It made the country look peaceful and serene and the mountains looked over powering the low lying building and the city giving themselves a protectors roll. I loved the whole scene. The grand Mosque, Bait Al Zubair Museum and the colourful Mutrah Souq , Oman’s largest Traditional Souq, visit where all worth a trip.
Wadi Bani Awf
The high light of the Muscat tour was the four wheel drive up the winding roads to Bani Awf which is very scenic. Bani Awf (or Bani Auf) is a wadi that links Rustaq to Nizwa. The road in this wadi is made for 4WD cars. The drive was out of this world with beautiful mountain ranges on both sides and deep valleys. The mountains where coloured layers of different kind of stones. We stopped short at 13 km to Satan wadi and entered Omani mountain village built into mountainous hillsides.
The tiny village was spic and span as usual like everywhere else in Oman and the few friends of our tour guide treated us to dates and coffee on plastic mats spread under the shade of trees and provided us company while we as usual ate our veg meal which was carried all the way from Kuwait. Vegetarians still struggle to be fed on their travels as vegetarianism is still not so popular. Like the tortoise carries it is home on its back we carry our food where ever we go. We did offer money for our hosts from the village, for their hospitality which they graciously refused to accept, amazing us as the average individual Omanis don’t belong to affluent backgrounds in Oman but still hospitable for no gains.
A visit to Qurum Park,Krishna temple and kamath’s restaurant spiced the four day Muscat tour and we are off on our way to Salalah