We landed in Muscat on Thursday 22nd March. On the Friday, we drove through the mountains to Nizwa,
stopping off along the way at a picturesque fort for photographs.
(You'll see a lot of that pink shirt. I wore it as a jacket and cover-up over my t-shirt, whenever we went out.)
Nizwa is deep in the interior of the country. It was once the capital of Oman. Nizwa Fort was built to defend the sultanate from attack. It is huge and impenetrable. It was restored in the 1990's and is now a museum. Photo of the interior courtyard:
Views from the roof of the fort:
Saturday, DH and I had a lazy day, lounging around his sister's house in Seeb. We mainly watched - and played with - the cats.
Here are the views from the roof:
Seeb is a fishing village on the outskirts of Muscat, with a lovely beach.
(Lots of very bright, white marble at the Opera House.)
Monday, we took a taxi to Muttrah Souk and Corniche, stopping off at the Sultan Qaboos Mosque along the way.
Naturally, I had to wrap up.
It was worth it. The interiors are stunning. This is a doorway in the women's mosque:
Another beautifully carved door:
The chandeliers in the men's mosque are beautiful:
The walls are covered in beautiful mosaics:
This one is particularly beautiful. It is a shelf holding copies of the Koran:
It is a stunning building, isn't it? We went from them to Muttrah, where the entrance to the Souk is on the sea front at Muttrah Corniche:
In the harbour were a couple of old Omani dhow's. I am 99% sure the warship in the background is from New Zealand.
The fort above the harbour was built by the Portuguese, I believe.
We didn't take any photos of the interior of the Souk. It is made up of dozens of arcades, lined with shops. In the main arcade, all the shopkeepers tried to sell me a pashmina (or two). Mindful of my New Year's Resolution to only buy 12 items of clothing in 2012, I resisted. Anyway, I've already got two - who needs more? The other thing they all seemed to sell was frankincense. However, once you got beyond the main arcade, the Souk stopped being focused on tourists and started being a market for locals. Down one arcade, I even found shops selling knitting yarn and crochet cotton. (Unable to identify the fibre content of the yarn, I didn't buy it. I think it was made in Japan.)
Tuesday was another lazing-around day. Wednesday, we went to a shopping mall (highlight: Cinnabon cinnamon rolls), and then to the fete at my SIL's school.
Our next big adventure was the Thursday, when we went out into the desert to spend the night at Al Raha Tourist Camp in the Wahabi Sands region of Oman, approximately 240km from Muscat. The accomodation is basic but Al Raha is where the locals go, including the Omani Royal Family.
The rooms are motel style:
Basically, you drive down the Ibra-Sur road, turn right at the Shell garage at Biddiyah, do another right at the end of the street, then turn left a kilometre or so after the tarmac ends, then continue on until you spot the camp.
After unpacking, we drove out into the desert to picnic and wait for the sun to set:
We played around with the panorama setting on DH's camera.
And were entertained by a scarab beetle:
DH walked down the hill to photograph some camels.
The sunset was worth the wait.
Back at camp that night, we were entertained by several musicians.
Friday morning, we rode camels:
And quad bikes:
Don't we look like good Aussies, wearing our Akubras?
The quad bikes were great fun. I kept feeling like something was missing, then I realised what it was. There should have been a dog sitting on the back of the quad bike, clinging on for dear life as we rounded up sheep or cattle.
We stopped in Baddiyah on the way back to Muscat, where we had a cup of tea. Despite swollen fingers, I did a little bit of knitting.
Sadly, my reactions weren't fast enough to get the shot of a camel being ferried out into the desert on the back of a ute/pick-up truck.
Pretty much the only down-side of the trip (apart from it not being long enough), was that - yet again - I was mosquito fodder. Just take a look at my feet:
They look like I've got chicken pox or something similar. I ended up with 24 bites on the left one alone.