| Part 2: Muscat|
24.12: Munich -> Istanbul -> Muscat
27.12: Muscat -> Rustaq -> Sohar
28.12: Sohar -> Ibri
29.12: Ibri, Al Ayn, Jabrin fort, Nizwa
30.12: Ibri -> Bahla -> Misfat -> Ibra
31.12: Ibra, Al Qabil, Wadi Bani Khalid
01.01: Al Qabil -> Wahiba desert
02.01: Wahiba desert -> Sur
03.01: Sur, Ras Al Hadd
04.01: Sur -> Muscat
05.01: Muscat -> Salalah
06.01: Salalah, Taqah, Mirbat
07.01: Salalah, Wadi Dawkah, Nabi Ayoub
08.01: Salalah, Mughsail
09.01: Muscat -> Istanbul
10.01: Istanbul -> Munich
Mutrah, Muscat. 45 OR for a double room to which we have added one
bed (costs 10 OR/day). The room is big, clean, has adjustable A/C, TV,
fridge, telephone, some nice furniture, attached toilet, very quiet,
3km from Muscat centre. WLAN available, but not included in the price
and outrageoulsy expensive (1 OR/hr, 10 OR/day). No electric sockets in
the bathroom. The biggest problem is the shower, which carries very
little water, meaning that it takes forever to rinse away the shower
cold, but not too cold in Munich (must be a few °C above 0) and
overcast. Partly overcast sky in Istanbul, temperatures around 10-13°C,
manage to leave home at 8:10am and reach the airport at 9:10am. Rush to
the check-in counter (we are among the last ones to check in). Not a
too long queue, but we have to wait a bit. At 10:20am we are finally at
the gate, at 10:30am on the Turkish Airlines plane (a Boeing 737-800).
plane takes off at 11:05am, 40 minutes late. It lands in Istanbul at
2:30pm. We go through immigration, change some money, deposit one bag
in the left luggage (12 TL) and take the metro and the tram to
Sultanahmet, arriving there shortly before 4pm.
5:20pm we are there, then we head back to the airport. Actually there
is no need to get back so early, but Shirley is freezing and is nervous
about losing the flight.
The tram is overloaded
We reach the airport at 6:30pm, have some fast food, then head to the
gate. Natasha got some sleep while we were in Sultanahmet and on the
tram, Alissia hasn't slept at all and will be awake until late in the
flight to Muscat leaves at 8:25pm, a delay of 50 minutes. It lands in
2:30am. Then it takes quite a while to get out of the airport. First of
all there is the very long queue at the visa fee counter. We probably
spend one hour there. And it is also quite expensive - 20 OR per
person, also kids pay the full visa fee. It's 80 OR, i.e. 160 Euro of
visa fees, a ridicolously high amount, also considering that Oman does
not have so much in terms of tourist attractions.
to get through immigration and we have retrieved the luggage we proceed
to the exit. One more customs check, in which they X-ray your bags.
the arrivals hall we run into a Nawras (a local mobile communications
operator) stand, where we buy two Nawras
SIM cards for our phones. It's 2 OR for a SIM card with 2 OR of
airtime. We also buy two recharges, one with 2 OR and one with 4 OR.
The guy explains that for 1 OR you get an Internet flat rate which
allows you to use the Internet for 24 hours up to a download volume of
1GB. Quite a competitive price, given that in many hotels the Internet
connection is not free.
Then we take a taxi (8 OR)
to the hotel
Mutrah. The airport lies around 25km northwest of Muscat. We arrive at
5am to the hotel. At the reception they charge us 175 OR for the room.
I sign the
credit card slip, tired like hell at 5am, probably I would sign
anything to get a room at this time of the night.
in the room I
pull out the hotel reservation printout and see the price of 135 OR. I
go down to the reception, and they tell me to talk to somebody at 12pm.
We sleep at 5:30am. In reality Natasha is sick and keeps moving here
and there until 7am.
a mix of sunny and clouds in Muscat. Quite windy and surprisingly fresh
- too cold to swim in the sea today.
We get up at 11am, after a truly short night. Natasha is not
feeling well. She was half-sick when we left home (some kind of stomach
virus, she keeps vomiting everything), and the tiring trip of yesterday
didn't help. Also Alissia is not feeling too great, but is half-way ok.
talk to the receptionist, asking about the room bill. Lots of bla-bla,
in the end he tells me I have to talk to somebody later in the
Shortly after 1pm we get out of the
hotel and take
a taxi to Mutrah (the corniche area). Surprise, surprise, the taxi has
no meter. How much does the trip cost? Only god knows, we settle for 2
OR (later we learn that this is too way much, we should have paid 0.5
OR or less).
At 1:30pm we are at the Corniche. Very
on Saturday noon, lots of shops, tourists (the place is literally
overrun by western tourists, I'm surprised). Nearby is the souq.
have a lunch in a restaurant (kind of a combination of a fresh fruit
juice place and a fast food restaurant), ordering the wrong things.
Actually the fresh fruit juices are delicious and good value, it's just
that the meals we order are not well made. Never mind, at least Natasha
has ended her fasting and is drinking a fresh orange juice.
at the Corniche until almost 3pm, then Shirley gets back to the hotel
in a taxi. I take another taxi to old Muscat, arriving shortly at
3:20pm. Old Muscat is actually a very small place and only consists of
some government buildings, the palace of the sultan, a couple of forts
and not much more. Nice architecture by the way.
area until almost 5pm, then start slowly walking back to the Mutrah
corniche. With several photo stops the walk takes about 40 minutes. By
the way, petrol for the car costs just 0.12 OR /litre (95 octanes).
take a taxi back to the hotel. I ask again in the reception about the
bill and am told to come back after 9pm. In the room Shirley and the
kids just woke up from the afternoon sleep. Natasha has high fever and
receives some paracetamol.
Around 7pm we take a
taxi to a
Chinese restaurant, the Golden Oryx. The food is not bad, but quite
pricey. Then we try to get to the Lulu mall, where Shirley wants to buy
some food and drinks. We wait for a while for a taxi, but none passes.
Chit-chat with some locals who explain us that in this area there are
very few taxis and that we have been overpaying until now for taxis.
walk to the main road, then finally take a taxi to the Lulu mall,
arriving there shortly after 9pm. This is a medium sized mall with
several shops. There is also a children playcentre, which Alissia and
Natasha immediately notice. Natasha is instantly electrified and
apparently not sick anymore. All games are quite cheap (one token costs
only 0.10 OR).
After a while in this kids
playcentre we go
shopping to the supermarket. Shirley buys tons of stuff. At 10
something pm we leave the mall and take a taxi back to the hotel. In
the reception the bill is finally settled. I receive 35 OR back (not 40
because they say that there is some tax I need to pay). The kids sleep
a mix of sunny and clouds in Muscat. Warmer than yesterday, we need A/C
in the car.
Today we get up around 9am. We skip the hotel breakfast and
instead the things we bought yesterday. At 10:40am I take a taxi to the
Budget car rental. It's somewhere around 10km from Mutrah. It takes
some time to settle the car and there are a few differences compared to
what we booked:
1. Mileage is not unlimited as indicated on
the booking form - it's limited to 250km/day (beyond that 0.04 OR/km).
There is no child seat, even if we booked on through the
The car seems to be smaller than what we booked (but the price is the
same). We booked at Ford Mondeo/Mazda 6 class and get a Nissan Tiida
which is smaller.
In addition, the
socket has no power, but we need power for the car navigation system.
When I call the car rental later they suggest that I pick up a new car
at the airport (the office where I took it is already closed). And
they have no children seats and never have had. Strange.
I head to the great Sultan Qaboos mosque, which supposedly is only open
for tourist in the morning. The car navigation system (we are using a
Nokia 5800 phone with Ovi Maps on it) does not work. Later I find out
that I need to update the software.
12pm I'm in
the mosque. I'm there for 10 minutes until I get caught by the guard
who tells me that the mosque is only open for visitors between 8 and
Then I drive back to the hotel, managing to
1pm. I pick up Shirley and the kids, then we drive to the Muscat City
Center mall, which lies a few km after the airport and supposedly has a
At 2pm we are at this mall. Quite big,
upmarket mall. Lots of branded western goods. There is a kids
playcentre as well. We have some lunch in the food court, then shop
around a bit. Shortly after 4pm we start driving back. I get lost a bit
and catch the wrong road. It's impossible to make a U-turn for quite
some time, so I decide to get to the beach and drive along to towards
The beach is relatively unimpressive. It's
and the sea water is not clean. Not nice golden sand as in Jumeirah
(Dubai). Nobody is swimming in the sea.
At 5:30pm we
the Shati Al Qurum beach. We stop here, walk around a bit, then have
dinner in a cafe. At 7pm we drive back to the hotel, arriving at
7:20pm. By 9pm the kids are sleeping.