Mobile phones
Getting around

Part 3: Rustaq, Sohar, Ibri, Al Ayn, Jabrin, Nizwa

24.12: Munich -> Istanbul -> Muscat
25.12: Muscat
26.12: 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

27.12: Muscat -> Rustaq -> Sohar
Hotel Sohar Beach, Sohar. 65 OR for a nice double big room, elegantly decorated and furnished. Breakfast included. Room has everything except an iron and ironing board. Very big bathroom. Resort style, with own pool, beach and garden. Only issue is the high cost of Internet access (3 OR/hour in the business centre). The beach of the hotel has grey/brown sand. The breakfast is ok, but is not at the level of a 4 or 5 star hotel.
Weather: first really warm day. Sunny blue sky for most of the day. Surprisingly it rains around 4:30pm (for a short time quite heavily) near Sohar. Strong wind.

We get up at 7:30am and manage to check out of the hotel around 9:30am. I installed the new navigation software on the Nokia 5800 phone yesterday evening and finally the car navigation works without problems.

Our first stop is the Grand Sultan Qaboos mosque. Initially we try to enter from the side entrance and are told that non-Muslims must use the garden entrance. There Shirley is blocked for wearing an 'indecent dress' (shorts). Since the only option would be to buy a chador for 5 OR, Shirley skips the mosque.

I'm in the mosque until 10:40am and could have spent easily a couple of hours there. It's a beautiful mosque, perhaps one of the most impressive mosques I've ever seen. Remarkable piece of architecture, impressive design. The main prayer hall under the cupola is particularly impressive, mainly because of its rich decorations.

It's almost 11am when we start driving to the next place. The idea is to do the Rustaq loop, then drive to Sohar. At the junction in Barka we stop briefly for lunch around 12pm.

After that I notice that there are several car repair places nearby. I ask a car electrician if he can fix the cigarette lighter socket. It works and for 0.50 OR he fixes the missing/defective fuse. Now we have power for the navigation system and can drive more comfortably.

The Rustaq loop is surprisingly easy to do. The road is mostly straight initially in the plains (sort of an arid savannah), then there are mild curved when we cross through the mountains. It is possible to drive comfortably at a good speed.

On the way to Rustaq we make a few stops in the hilly area. There are some oasis and kind of a creek flowing. Lots of local people playing in this creek. I guess this is the right season for this kind of activities here.

It's 2:15pm when we finally reach the fort in Rustaq. Surprise, surprise, it is closed for restauration and will be so until August 2011. After some time in Rustaq at 3pm we start driving towards Sohar.

Surprise, surprise, the road soon becomes a straight motorway with two lanes for each side separated by guard rail barriers. On the map I have this road is marked as a small secondary road, while in reality it is a motorway.

Strong wind on the coastal motorway, which destabilises the car (Nissan Tiida) and forces you to be very concentrated all the time. Or perhaps it's this car which is not good enough (no airbag by the way).

We drive speedily towards Sohar and reach the hotel at 4:45pm. Everything runs smoothly thanks to the excellent roads and motorways in Oman and the car navigation system. Thanks to Nokia for providing such an excellent car navigation system at no charge.

After checking in, we spend some time in the room. At 7pm we drive into town, initially driving along the beach road, then driving to the Safeer mall. This is a new mall with a food court. At 8:20pm we drive to a Lulu market to buy some groceries.

28.12: Sohar -> Ibri
Hotel Ibri Oasis. 36 OR for a double room, decently furnished. TV, phone, fridge, king-size bed. Toilet which has seen better days. The hotel is 10km out of town, along the motorway. It has its own restaurant, serving a variety of dishes including Chinese and Indian - not bad. Overall the hotel is ok, but it could be a bit closer to town.
Weather: warm, sunny day. Strong wind. Blue sky with some clouds. Fresh in the evening.

We have breakfast around 10am, then check out by 12pm. We initially drive to the Sohar fort, which is currently undergoing renovation. It's a white building near the beach, quite nice.

At 12:25pm we start driving towards Ibri, more precisely to the Bat archaelogical site. The road is quite good, allowing fast driving. Towards the mountains there are more curves, so that you have to slow down. Every now and then there is a small creek or wadi. I'm surprised to see a shallow creek with small fish in the middle of the desert. Lots of local tourists who have picnics at the wadis.

The scenery is, well, not as impressive as I had thought. Or perhaps I'm expecting too much or the real mountains are yet to come.

At 3pm we are the Bat archaelogical site, or to be more accurate, where the Nokia navigation system (Navteq maps) has guided us to. There is exactly nothing there. We are near some village and there is nothing nearby which even remotely would look like an archaelogical site. Must be an error in the maps of the navigation system. It would have been better if I had relied on a traditional road map.

We then drive to Ibri, along the way stopping at a castle. We reach the hotel at 4 something pm.

After checking in we drive into Ibri town. Not much to see there. Supposedly there is a souq, but we can't find it. Ibri is mostly a modern town - no historic centre is visible. We go to a supermarket, buy some groceries, then get back to the hotel. In the evening we have dinner in the hotel.

29.12: Ibri -> Al Ayn -> Jabrin fort (Bahla) -> Nizwa -> Ibri
Hotel Ibri Oasis. 
Weather: same as yesterday. Warm and sunny, blue sky. Still strong wind. but less than yesterday.

Around 11am we manage to leave the hotel. The first stop are the tombs of Al Ayn, prehistoric era tombs in the shapes of beehives on a hill ridge built 5000 years ago, a UNESCO world heritage site. There are no street signs showing how to get to this site. We find it by using maps and the GPS navigation system. The site is impressive, but completely undeveloped. No tourist infrastructure of any kind near it.

We reach this site at 11:45am. The last 500m are on a dirt road, difficult to drive on with a saloon car.  We spend approximately half an hour at the site, then drive to the next place, the Jabrin fort near Bahla.

Getting there takes almost one hour (we arrive at 1:10pm). The fort (entrance fee: 0.5 OR, chidren do not pay) is very well preserved, or to put it differently has probably been recently restaurated. Impressive architecture and impressive interiors. Nicely decorated chambers and halls, with carpets and other furniture items.

It's 2pm when we start driving to a restaurant in Nizwa. Surprise, surprise we run into a motorway which passes very near to the Jabrin fort (the roads from Ibri until here we had used today are good roads, but not motorways).

At 2:30pm we have a lunch in a Pizza hut restaurant in Nizwa. One hour later we drive into Nizwa and explore the historic centre within the city walls. Nizwa is quite touristy and nice, it's just that there are so few hotels in Nizwa.

The Nizwa fort is within the city walls and is also very nice. It's not at the same level of the Jabrin fort, but from the roof you enjoy good views of Nizwa and its oasis.

It's 4:45pm when we leave Nizwa. I first get some cash from an ATM, then refill the fuel, then stop at the two hotels I had seen before and ask if they have rooms for tomorrow. Both places are fully booked.

Then we drive back to Ibri. Not a fun drive, because it's long (150km) and it is difficult to drive in the darkness when there are so many cars driving in the opposite direction and you can't use the spot light.

Copyright 2011 Alfred Molon