Oman trip

Published November 21, 2010 by Christa Maurice

We had a full week off for Eid Al Adha and were told it was a good time to get out of dodge because this is when Muslims sacrifice an animal and eat it. Much like Thanksgiving at home, but we don’t usually know Tom Turkey before we chop his head off and eat him. Cindy, Lorraine, Paula, Heidi and I had decided to drive out to Muscat, Oman because it’s only 4-5 hours drive from here and we could get a discount on rooms at the Intercontinental because we’d lived in them for so long.

We set off Tuesday at 8AM, zipped through the border with very few hang ups because everybody was at family celebrations. It took about an hour to drive across Oman to the coast. The scenery was very mountainous and Heidi kept saying it looked like Arizona. The first city we encountered was Sohar, the birthplace of Sinbad. From there it took about three hours to get to Muscat. What with driving breaks and the one gas stop we arrived about 3 at the Intercontinental Muscat. First they promised us a sea view room and then reneged because they didn’t have any and put us in rooms overlooking what appeared to be a former shisha bar that they started to tear down and then left as storage for broken equipment. Personally, I didn’t care. That first afternoon was spent at the beach and the pool. The pool was very nice. There was a lap pool and a leisure pool. The leisure pool was sort of a figure 8 and very quiet. The beach was great too, but there were hordes of men walking up and down the sand in their Indian style long pants and loose kurtas and we felt a little on show in our bathing suits. That night we went out searching for an Indian restaurant Lorraine was desperate to try, but couldn’t find it. Since I don’t like Indian, I wasn’t broken up and a cab driver gave us directions to an excellent Turkish place.

Wednesday we split up to do our own thing. I wanted to take a look at the little mall up the road. Very upscale and expensive, but it had a Caribou so I sat down and had a cup of coffee. Then I joined Heidi and Paula on the beach. In the evening we went to the souk which was every bit what it promised. I tried to take a picture, but it’s hard to convey what it really felt like to be in narrow halls filled with people looking at all kinds of exotica while vendors enticed you from all sides to come into their shops. As we arrived, I was telling them don’t let anyone lead you down a dark hall, and don’t go off on your own, stay to the main areas. Then in order to get to the main souk, we had to go through a very narrow passage with all closed shops on both sides. We had planned to meet at the car at 8 in case we got separated so of course we immediately got separated. I stayed with Cindy and we had a good time walking through the souk looking at stuff. Then we went looking for that stupid restaurant again. Lorraine insisted that it must be in this one particular set of buildings so we went around and around them, caught in traffic the whole time because there was a McDonald’s and a gas station right there.

Thursday we went snorkeling. Originally it was just Cindy, Heidi and I, but Lorraine and Paula decided they didn’t want to be left out even though they’re both afraid of swimming in deep water. At first Lorraine wouldn’t get off the boat, but Paula jumped right in. Heidi and I towed her to the shallows so she could stand up and get her mask and snorkel adjusted. I thought she was going to drown me there because she had her arms wrapped around my neck and was pulling me under even though I was standing on the bottom. I kept saying, “Paula, put your feet down. Paula, put your feet down” and she kept saying, “It’s too deep. I can’t reach the bottom.” I was standing on the bottom and after some encouragement she stood on her own. Then we discovered that she had a children’s snorkel. Heidi swapped with her and went back to the boat to get the right size while I got Paula squared away and going. She stayed right beside me while we swam around, but she was fine. We got to see a turtle and some squid and lots of clown fish and parrot fish as well as a bunch of others that I don’t know the names of. That night we went back to the souk to shop. It was Oman National Day. We finally spotted that restaurant, but by then we’d already eaten dinner. Traffic was horrible, but very entertaining. Loads of people with flags, waving and saying hello.

Friday we headed out, stopping at a resort in Sohar to get prices. It’s about 2 hours away (give or take because there’s a border crossing) and we spotted some raggedy Arabian horses to rent. Heidi and I know how to ride, and Paula had just started taking lessons before she left, so the three of us might go out there for a weekend break and go ride on the beach.

It was a fabulous trip and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. Muscat is beautiful and shopping in the souk is an amazing experience. I’m even learning to bargain. Now if I could just find a flight from Al Ain to Muscat that takes less time to fly than to drive it.

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