“The media is not about giving you what you should know. It is about searching and telling you what the people want to know.” -Donia Gharbi
It’s a quote from Donia on one of our conversation whilst we’re in Muscat. She is from Amsterdam, doing internship in a media company in Dubai. Her parents were originally from Tunisia which I have yet to visit someday!
When she asked me if I can come with her to Muscat as Rua (our common friend) can’t come coz of some visa issues, I didn’t hesitate to say yes right away! I want to see more places around Middle-East and this could be a start to it, and I never regret I joined her! Muscat is surprisingly (at least for me) beautiful! It’s very different from Dubai being a cosmopolitan city, here I first realized, oh yeah I’m in Middle East now! ;P
“The Essence of Arabia” is the tourism slogan of Muscat, Oman.
Muscat is the capital of Oman. It is very clean and green, modernized but still maintaining their traditional Omani architecture.
We stayed at Muttrah at a hotel called, Al Fanar Hotel, we tried to search a hotel where we can only place a call for reservation, from the hotel booking websites, the photos looked decent for Twin Bedroom at US$46. But when we get there, I now understand those blogs I’ve read that it is expensive in Oman. The price is cheap but the standard of room and services you’re getting made it expensive! Nevertheless, the receptionists were very helpful and they can speak English. The location is good as this is where you can just walk to almost all the tourist attractions and just opposite the fabulous Muttrah Corniche.
We took the bus from Dubai for a roundtrip price of US$25 only! It took us 6 hours to go there but going back is around 8 hours for some stop over etc. So by the time we reached Muscat it was already in the afternoon, so we started walking and we had a blast! We managed to visit the places we want to see without a map ;)
The water in Muscat runs deep forming 2 natural harbours and making it the “World’s Largest Natural Harbour”. Al Jahar mountain runs around the coastline of the city along with the white residential and commercial buildings and mosques.
Other places we’ve visited around Muscat:
1. Muttrah Corniche is popular place for people to walk and cheap eating places. I also recommend this area for travelers to stay as it is only walking distance to most of the best attractions in Muscat, and also not so expensive hotels.
2. Muscat Gate is a museum that contains displays about Oman’s history from the Neolithic times to the present. It was closed when we were there so we just took photos from outside.
3. Qasar AL Alam Royal Palace is the house and office of the Sultan of Oman. No visitors are allowed inside so you can just take photos from outside. Around the palace are 2 prominent landmarks of Muscat: The Al Jalali Fort and Al Mirani Fort.
4. Al Jalali Fort And Al Mirani Fort are also known as the Twin Forts. It was built at the same time by the Portugese in the 16th century and kept the city from other invaders. These forts represents the glorious martial heritage of the Omani gallantry.
5. Al Riyam Park is one of the destination in Amazing Race 9. It’s a park with fun rides and this giant ornamental Arabian incense with an overview of the Corniche harbour, tho’ the tower is now closed for visitors unlike before. It is kilometer away between Muttrah Souq and Sultan’s Palace.
6. Muttra Souq is one of the oldest and biggest souq in Arabian countries, it is opposite the Corniche and quite confusing to wander inside this maze-like souq. You need to haggle as they will always tell you it is the last price even if they can still go lower than that. Be careful too with buying Oman made products as most of them are from India and China (of course!). There are also coffee shops and eating places inside and around it in a chaper price ;)
7. Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is the 3rd largest mosque in the world and is also open for non-Moslem visitors except Fridays. It has Swarovski crystal chandeliers and the 2nd world’s largest Persian carpet!
8. Qurum Beach is the nearest beach in town. It is nice to view the sunset and walk along the 4km stretch of beach shore from Crowne Plaza Hotel to Intercontinental Hotel. The beach has picnic areas and palm shades that allows visitors to barbecue. Around this area are many jetski rentals and people playing beach football.
There are more places to see few kilometers outside Muscat, but since we don’t have enough time (just a weekend) we can’t afford to see all of those in one trip. We have to come back for sure. Donia and I just decided to spend our last day relaxing and do more talking :P
But I must say, it was one of the most interesting conversations I ever had during a travel! She’s a lot younger than me but I have learnt so much from her, I think I had more questions than she had for me haha! We shared our thoughts and beliefs, what we think of our God, the Asian and Filipino culture, the Arab and Dutch culture, etc etc!
She totally gave me a new and different perspective towards of what I used to think about the Arabs and Moslems. Because of her, I am now more eager to see other Arabic/Middle-East countries without any hesitation for my safety and security :)
Indeed, she was right all along, media has its way to exaggerate news from what was really going on. Media gives people not information, but entertainment. If I have to rely on media alone, I won’t probably traveling around especially in Middle East. Danger is everywhere and we just have to be vigilant and smart.
And if everything else fails, we both agreed that we are blessed that we grew up believing in God as our Protector, and that our faith will save us from any harm. God never promised us a long, trouble-free life on this present earth, but promised security and safety for those who have turned to Him. In this life, we should not fear danger or even death, for in His presence, we are free from pain and sickness and sorrow.