Goodbye Dubai!

As I opted not to get a UAE residence card, I need to leave the country every thirty days for a new visa. I didn’t want to just go to the border, so I decided to go to Muscat to get a taste of Oman, and managed to coerce one of my friends to come with me.

We flew Swiss Airlines, the cheapest option. They do a flight from Zurich to Dubai to Muscat, and a lot of people depart in Dubai. As such, this is how many people were in an aeroplane this big, to my immense amusement.

We flew into Muscat late Wednesday night, and went directly to our hotel. Though I’d heard stories about hotels refusing service to unmarried men and women sharing rooms, we had no troubles. I found this fascinating, as the museum I had worked at in San Francisco had been a historic monument and as such certain parts had needed to be preserved–I guess this applies to things here, too!

My friend suggested we rent a car, and while I had thought it was a ridiculous suggestion when Swiss suggested it as an add-on, I realised he was right and it was a great idea. The company delivered it to our hotel first thing on Thursday morning.

We set off in search of Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and I promptly got us lost. However, I got us lost right next to the Royal Opera House, a structure they’ve recently built. It wasn’t technically open as no operas were happening that day, but we crept in through an entrance and wandered until we were kicked out.

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Because of this, we were too late to go into the Grand Mosque’s visiting hours for non-Muslims, which was a disappointment. From the street, the mosque looks absolutely gorgeous–but really, all of the mosques did. I was perpetually exclaiming over pretty mosques on the side of this road or on the side of that road!WP_007233 WP_007237

A friendly Omani suggested we go to al-Bastan Palace, which was already on my agenda. Since it was a hotel also, we didn’t go in, but admired it from the outside.

The famous al-Bastan roundabout.

WP_007272 (2)When I invited him, my friend had checked to make sure I didn’t plan to spend two days at the beach. However, he suggested that we find a beach, so I used my growing navigational skills to find us a small one. The water is absolutely gorgeous, and of course, though I wasn’t planning on getting wet, I ended up knee deep in water. (Accidentally, I swear. I didn’t know it was going to drop so suddenly…)
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Next, we drove up to the road in search of Al Alam Palace, the Sultan’s ceremonial palace. Unfortunately we weren’t able to go in, as I had wanted to see a flagpole that supposedly has been there for centuries. If any slave were to touch this flagpole, they were to become free.

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One of the few architectural structures that wasn’t overwhelmingly grand, I thought this palace would make a cute cottage if on a smaller scale.
Al-Mirani and Al-Jalai Forts stood stout on the mountainside. Both were built in the 16th century when Oman was occupied by Portuguese. Though I was eager to climb up and explore their outsides, the heat discouraged us.
I loved the boats–I thought they looked like they were straight out of a picture!

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We followed the road to the Mutrah Souq area, where we stopped to have lunch. The Omanian rial is oddly strong, about 2.6 for 1 USD, and hotels are all super expensive. But food, it turns out, is super cheap, and we found a place that had a lot of absolutely delicious fruit juice. For about 3USD, I had a huge glass of lemon soda made with real juice, a burger, and a mango juice to go.

Unfortunately, the souq is closed mid-afternoon, so we decided to head back to the hotel to nap/work.

Unsure what else to do with our evening, we drove through Muscat so I could exclaim over how gorgeous all of the buildings looked lit up.  We had dinner at a mall, which was obviously the place to be for Omanis–though it wasn’t half as big as Dubai malls, it was packed with people.