Outstanding Oman

Another cheeky squeeze of five days off in March and one of my best friends Ellie who I lived with at uni wanted to head somewhere too! We decided on a few days in Dubai and also a little trip to Muscat in Oman seeing as though it’s just down the road from Dubai. You can drive to Muscat and it would take you just short of five hours however we got cheap flights for the 40 minute journey across the border. We left Dubai early (ish) Saturday morning and rented a car from the airport and made it to the hotel by lunchtime.

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We checked in and went up to our rooftop infinity pool for an hour or so of tan time before we got changed and decided to do some sightseeing in Muscat.

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Our first stop was to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. It is the main mosque in the sultanate of Oman and can be seen far across the city.

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The mosque is incredibly beautiful and surrounded by bright vivid flowers of all different colours against the back drop of the mountains that surround Muscat. With the sun beginning to set it gave it that golden glow and just looked truly stunning. A must see when visiting Muscat.

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The only downside was that we weren’t allowed inside the mosque as visiting hours are in the morning. We could kind of see through the open areas and the tiling looked incredibly beautiful.

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Entrance to the mosque is free but make sure you’re covered respectfully. Women must have their hair covered and also their arms and legs. You can rent an abaya for 5 OMR (£10) so to save some money, make sure you’re covered up!

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From here we drove across to Mutrah to see the corniche for sunset. The corniche came up quite frequently as a must see when in Muscat. If I’m honest, I have no idea why. Maybe if you get a good sunset it could be pretty spectacular. We, however, did not. There are plenty of things to do around the corniche though so it’s well worth your visit and parking was also free on a weekend which worked out handy for us.

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When the sun was down we ventured inside the traditional souq. I have visited a few souqs in my time, however I have NEVER seen one as big as this. You genuinely get lost in here. So, if you do find yourself unable to find the exit, just take three immediate lefts and you should stumble upon an exit. Albeit not one that you may have entered through, but still a way out of the charming chaos and bustle of the souq.

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Here you will find gifts and souvenirs of all kinds. You can haggle the price however it won’t drop that much. If you’re a magnet collector (like myself) I cannot stress this enough, buy your magnet here. I struggled to find one afterwards and ending up paying 3OMR (£6!!!!!!!!) in the airport. Here will be your cheapest option.

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After navigating the bedlam of the mosque and a salesman trying to coax me in with the fantastic sales tactic of “Madam, for you I have BIGGER size inside the shop” (rude) we walked along the edge of the corniche to see the Mutrah Fort all lit up in the night. A must visit during the day (according to research and also after seeing how impressive it was in the night time) but something we just couldn’t squeeze into our packed out trip.

We’d made dinner reservations that evening for a restaurant called Bait Al Luban, a name I had also seen pop up multiple times on people’s blogs and with it being right by the corniche it seemed the perfect fit. I must also add, most restaurants in Oman are not licensed. Only a select number of five star hotels have alcohol licences so when eating out it will only be soft drinks.

Bait Al Luban is a traditional Omani restaurant which has an outdoor terrace for views of the corniche and a selection of both traditional and regular seating options for dinner. We arrived a little early to our reservation and we were shown to the waiting area which was a cushioned area on the floor. A different concept but I felt fully immersed in the local culture and it was made extremely comfortable.

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Having a mocktail whilst we waited, we were given menus to chose from the expanse list of dishes before being shown to our table which was again sat on the floor. If floor seating is something you’re not able with and/or wouldn’t be able to eat dinner this way. Make sure you express this in your reservation, which may I add, on a weekend is essential.

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We weren’t overly hungry and decided to share a starter and main. Which I’m so glad we did! As the portions were VERY big. We went for the katchori which was fried potato patties served with a spicy mango chutney, and for main opted for the Samak Mashwi which is a local fisherman’s grilled fish served with Omani brown rice and vegetables.

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The food was delicious and was also served with frankincense infused water. An interesting taste, and not one that I don’t think I’d ever be after again. But it’s always nice to try new things! After dinner, we walked back to the car feeling very full and drove back to the hotel ready for an early start in the morning.

Waking up at 6:30am, we had a full day planned that I was SUPER excited for. Another fellow cabin crew blog that I follow, Jess from The Layover Life a cabin crew member for BA, had a weeks long layover in Muscat. First of all I’m beyond jealous, I wish I got that  long a layover somewhere! But second of all, it’s her posts that made me really want to visit Oman that much more. For part of her trip she went snorkelling to Dimaniyat Islands and we decided to book with the same company Dimaniyat Shells for their morning snorkel trip.

It’s quite a pricey excursion and after a lot of research this one came at the best price with also rave reviews. The cost of a morning snorkel cost £56 per person and we drove across to Al Mouj Marina for a light breakfast before our 8am meet.

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It was a lovely small group of twelve of us on the boat and we all got to know each other very well by the end, and we set off on the powerboat the hours journey offshore to the Dimaniyat Islands.

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The Ad Dimaniyat Islands is a protected area in Oman. The Nature Reserve is located in Wilayat AlSeeb in the Muscat Governorate and lies about 18 kilometres (11 mi) off the coast of Barka (70 kilometres (43 mi) west of Muscat, the capital). It is composed of nine islands with a total area of 100 hectares (250 acres). The reserve has a rich natural heritage and is replete with several kinds of coral reefs, including some examples that are quite rare. The island is home to a large number of sea turtles that lay their eggs and nest there, as well as a magnet for migratory and indigenous birds.

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We pulled up at our first snorkel spot and popped on some short wetsuits (it was deceivingly chilly this early in the morning) grabbed a mask and jumped into the crystal clear blue waters. I couldn’t get over how perfect these snorkel conditions were?

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How insanely clear and blue is that?!

A bold statement here, but one I am willing to stand by. Snorkelling here was better than when I went snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef. First of all, we were the ONLY people here and had one of the Islands to ourself. But there was such an abundance of marine life here! You name it, we saw it.

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At one point, I was surrounded by FIVE turtles. And they were so inquisitive with us. They did not shy away at all. Fish of all different colours shapes and sizes that I didn’t know where to look. An abundance of colourful coral against the bright blue water, and the biggest sting ray I have EVER seen.

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It’s one of the best experiences I have ever had, and the captain of the boat jumped right in the water with us capturing pictures on his go pro and guiding us around the reef.

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I was truly wowed and never in my life have I wished I had my own go pro to capture the natural beauty of the marine habitat. I cannot recommend this excursion enough if you’re ever in Muscat, and if you’re wanting a diving holiday, make sure you add Oman to the top of your list. A truly beautiful, unspoilt but most importantly, preserved environment. There is even a small police station housed on one of the Islands to ensure true protection of this beautiful place.

For our second spot we pulled up to one of the bigger islands that also was home to a beautifully white pristine beach. We docked up on the shore where we were given a few options. We could snorkel again, and then have some rest and relaxation time on the beach and then have some lunch. Or we could have chilled our time on the beach and explore the island.

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A couple snorkelled but most opted for the latter as we were told if we ventured up to the cliffs across the island a lot of times people see the reef sharks circling the deeper waters.

Wading through the shallow water we set up camp on the beach for a couple of hours and dried off quickly in the sun. We then walked across the island on the hunt for some sharks, but sadly no such luck. They weren’t visible that day, instead we wandered around the beautiful island taking in the view saying how this was the best snorkelling trip we had ever done.

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We sat eating lunch on the beach with fruit juices before we eventually ventured back onto the boat and back to the mainland where our morning trip came to an end.

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Our plan next was to drive to Nizwa Fort but it was just after 2pm when we got back to the marina and it was an hour and a half drive over to the fort. Not wanting to to go feeling all salty and wet from the beach, we decided to go and lie out by our lovely pool in the hotel before heading out to dinner in the evening.

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One other restaurant I wanted to try whilst in Muscat was a place called Kargeen, another traditional Omani restaurant with a picturesque outdoor seating area covered in fairy lights.

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The temperature was perfect for outdoor dining and grabbing a couple of drinks we looked through the very expansive menu before deciding on some starters to share. We were much hungrier today after a busy morning of snorkelling and exploring.

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We picked some hummus with Arabic bread and fatit al bashia. The hummus was heavenly but we did not like the latter at all! We definitely picked the wrong thing, but thankfully the main courses were huge and so tasty. I picked the grilled prawns with vegetables and Ellie opted for a sort of lamb shank tagine, and between us we shared a chicken shawarma cause I absolutely love it, and Ellie had never tried it. A must try Arabic dish if you’re ever in the Middle East.

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As the night drew on we were starting to yawn after our very early start, so we drove back to the hotel ahead of an even earlier start the next morning.

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The final morning, we woke up at 6am, finished packing up and checked out of the hotel. We had two places to visit today which were Wadi Shab which is probably the most visited place in Oman and also Bimmah Sinkhole.

First stop was Wadi Shab and was around a two hour drive from Muscat including a little wrong turn where Google Maps actually tried to take us off roading…

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Time to change the route

The scenery on the drive over was absolutely breathtaking, we went up and down windy mountain roads, right through the middle of glorious mountain ranges passing dried up river beds and seeing more goats than we could keep count of. We had the old school tunes blasting and the two hour journey seemed like nothing at all, and with not many people on the roads it made the 153km drive an absolute breeze. We arrived just before 9am, jumped out of the car and sorted ourselves for the hike into Wadi Shab.

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First things first, you have to pay 1OMR per person to take a boat across the water to begin the hike of Wadi Shab. We thought this was quite a lengthy boat ride but it actually took about twenty seconds. It is genuinely just to the other side of the river.

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Without even asking, we had a guide follow us up but it turns out it was very useful as we were one of the first visitors that morning and we may have potentially struggled to navigate our way up to the hidden cave or known when it was essential to get in the water and swim.

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The hike up took around forty minutes and it’s a truly beautiful walk. The water is so clear and calm surrounded by undulating rock, as you wind higher and higher into the wadi.

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Be sure to carry plenty of water with you as its very hot and thirsty work. We both were wearing flip flops which were fine for walking, but there are certain areas where the rock is slippy so be sure to take extra care as there is plenty of bending under overhead rocks, and walking around wobbly boulders.

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We finally arrived at the point where our guide told us it was time to swim, we gave him a phone and he clambered along the mountain side to take some good overhead pictures for us. He was such a dime who went above and beyond for us, as when we got back to this point, there were a lot of guides just sat hanging around for their groups to get back. So thank you so much Ramos for going that extra mile!

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The temperature of the water was perfect and it was SO clear you really could see absolutely everything! The small fish, each and every rock, the definition of the reeds. I couldn’t quite believe how natural this was but also that we had it to ourselves getting here so early!

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We set off swimming (those two bobs in the water are me and Ellie) where Ramos said he would be able to see us after about ten minutes. If you’re not a good swimmer, I wouldn’t suggest doing this without a flotation aid as you can see below, there’s not much around other than slippery rocks.

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Just ahead of us was the entrance to the Wadi Shab cave and you can identify this if you’re alone by the Omani flags that have been strung up along the rock. It looks like you can go no further but there is a very small gap which you can squeeze through to enter into the most fabulous cave with a small waterfall.

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Ellie clambered her way up the rope, but I did not want to risk a broken bone, so I stayed relaxing in the waters completely cut off from the world, listening to the gentle sound of running water thinking what an absolutely unbelievable country Oman is.

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When Ellie finally managed to get back and join me we pulled ourselves up onto a small ledge. About twenty minutes later, a huge tour group of forty people started to come in and we took this as our cue to leave.

We met Ramos back where we’d left our belongings and began the walk down towards the car again. We walked back in our swimwear to dry off and we managed to get a lovely little tan from the forty minute walk back down! We thanked Ramos for all his help and the pictures he took before jumping back into the car.

The drive across to Bimmah was only around fifteen minutes and the sinkhole has been made into a park to help conserve the area against the effect of tourism, but it also such a beautiful area too!

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The water just looked SO inviting and peaceful and I couldn’t wait to jump in as we were so hot after the walk back down from Wadi Shab.

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Just look at that water! So dreamy! The water was actually filled with those fish that like to nibble the dead skin off your feet. You know like you can visit in the salons for a fish pedicure? The water was filled with them. So if you stayed still for long enough, you could feel the tickle of the fish!

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Complete and utter paradise and not ruined by hundred of other tourists either. This is one thing I loved about Oman, it isn’t completely inundated and overrun with tourists but they have implemented strategies to conserve the areas so they don’t become ruined. We could have easily stayed here all day long, but after an hour or so we had to begin the journey back for our flight to Dubai.

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We began the beautiful journey back towards the capital and stopped for a late lunch in Al Mouj Marina before dropping our trusty car back at the rental place. It reminded me so much of the Inbetweeners car if anyone knows what I mean…

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This trip has without a doubt gone up there as one of my favourite holidays ever. Oman surprised me in so many ways. The Omani locals are ever so friendly and forthcoming and want to show of their country as best they can for you, and I don’t blame them! There is so much to see and do here, and I could have easily spent a week here exploring everything they have on offer. It is a little bit pricey here as they have the world’s third most valuable currency. However, a lot of the exploring doesn’t actually incur a cost and is free. A lot of people also camp when they come to Oman so this beautiful destination can definitely be done on a budget. We both spent 100OMR across three days not including hotels or car hire. Additionally, I cannot recommend hiring a car enough. It makes everything so much more accessible and saves you so much money on taxis. There isn’t really one area that has a lot in it in Muscat, so the car really saved us a lot of time, money and hassle. To summarise, book your flights to Muscat as soon as possible. I would love to go back, and I definitely will be at some point.

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Good to know that you covered Oman and beautifully presented in your blog. Oman is undoubtedly the best jewel in the Middle East, having a variety of places to visit. I was lucky to get a chance to work on a project there for about 10 months and have explored almost all parts of this beautiful country. I wrote a diary, including all of them (https://travelsofjith.com/2017/09/13/my-oman-diary/). Perhaps next time you can add a few more places to your itinerary.
    Love reading your blog. Keep travelling.

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    1. Thank you for your comment! You’re so lucky to have explored Oman in such depth. I look forward to reading your travel diaries. When I go back, I’ll definitely have some more things to try out!

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  2. kbiina says:

    The place looked pretty!

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    1. It was insanely beautiful! Really recommend Oman!

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