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Muscat Itinerary - July 2006

July 20 Arrive, Muscat, Mutrah

Check in to the comfortable Sheraton in Ruwi. After relaxing and taking a swim, both Pete and I wanted a little bit of home after our trip to Mount Kailash in Tibet, so he went to McDonald's and I went to Starbucks. Ahhh. Then it was off to the old walled city of Muscat, beautifully situated on the rocky coast. After admiring the Sultan's Palace and the Jalali and Mirani Portuguese forts, we walked in the 43C around the corniche to Mutrah. Boy, does the heat suck the juice out of you. Mutrah is even more beautifully situated than Muscat, where we visited the souq and enjoyed a few delicious multi-layered freshly squeeze juices. We walked along the corniche and had dinner before heading back to the Sheraton for a cool air conditioned sleep,

July 21 Day Off

We slept in this morning, and lazed around all afternoon, enjoying a well-deserved rest.

July 22 Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Al Bustan Palace Hotel

Charlotte donned the required dress code where women have to cover almost everything from their hair and neck to shoulders, arms and legs, and we visited the spectacular Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, one of the largest in the world. The main prayer hall features large ornate chandeliers and the largest Persian carpet in the world, which took 600 women four years to weave. After a relaxing swim at the Sheraton, we took a taxi to the Al Bustan Palace Hotel, one of the best hotels in the Middle East, set in 200 acres of lush, green gardens and beautifully situated on the coast with a mountain backdrop. We ate a delicious Chinese dinner at the China Mood restaurant in the hotel.

July 23 Day trip to Nizwa, Misfah and Jebel Shams

Our first stop on our full-day private tour was at Nizwa (174km inland from Muscat), once the home of Sinbad the Sailor. We visited the souq and the imposing 17C fort with its recently restored Round Tower. We then stopped and walked through the tiny village of Misfah, with ancient houses and narrow streets perched in a valley amidst the mountains. We then drove up to Jebel Shams, which is called the Grand Canyon of Oman, being the second deepest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon. We carefully walked to the canyon rim with a 2km vertical drop on our shoulder. After a delicious lunch in the cooler 30C mountain air, we drove back to Muscat. Our driver recommended eating traditional Omani food, so we went for dinner to Bin Atique. In our private room, we ate the traditional way, sitting on a big rug on the floor and leaning on cushions. Delicious!

July 24 Sultan's Armed Forces Museum

We started our day by taking a short taxi ride to the nearby Sultan's Armed Forces Museum in Ruwi. The museum is housed in the strikingly white Bait al-Falaj, a former royal summer home. The lower rooms give a comprehensive outline of Oman's history, and the upper rooms explore Oman's international relations and military prowess. I learned that after the current Sultan came to power in 1970, he had to fight for five years, before stopping a communist attempt to take over the country. We rested the rest of the day.

July 25 Bait al Zubair museum, Depart

Out flight didn't leave until after lunch, so I went to the Bait al Zubair museum in Muscat, set in a beautifully restored house. The museum exhibits Omani heritage in photographs and displays of traditional handicrafts and furniture. One of the highlights was the display of traditional Omani coffee pots. Then it was of to the airport.