Intrepid traveller Ali Hussain Mushaima is well-known for his unique Friendship Arabia tours - journeying by road from Bahrain to various corners of the world. The message has remained the same right from the time he launched his first trip, a 3-month drive to Europe, many years ago: spread the word about Bahrain, its people and all it has to offer. Ali's newest tour, a two month journey from June 23, 2010, is titled: "Tylos to Thassos, Voyage of Discovery".


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Caves, blind fish and Omani Halwa!
Written by Maria Ramos   
Sunday, 20 December 2009 05:25

Lion Head Formation at the Al Hoota Cave  

Now imagine this, on one fine sunny Omani morning you take your goats out to pasture and you find a 5km underground cave that ends up becoming one of Oman’s greatest tourism sites. That’s how the more than 2 million year-old Al Hoota Cave was discovered. I just hope the goat herder got some recognition!

Al Hoota Cave is in a town called Al Hamra, 221 Km South West of Muscat. We arrived before lunch, after checking out of our Muscat hotel. Once again we were joined by our Omani friends Mohamed and Faiz who make our trip feel truly authentic.  I absolutely love their ‘kummah’ (traditional Omani caps) and bombarding them with questions. 

The magic of Oman’s mountains. The drive to Al Hamra is spectacular. I love mountains and there is something so indescribably magical about the drive from Muscat to Al Hamra via Nizwa. Peak after peak regally rise all around you. These majestic mocha and beige mountains are breathtaking and so very calming. Your mind just floats above it all. Most striking of all are the scattered clouds painting the mountains with their shadows…

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New Year lunch, sea and stars
Written by Maria Ramos   
Saturday, 19 December 2009 02:01

Marco and Julia

Team members with Marco and Julia who might someday be part of the team

I must start by saying just how great it is to be back in the region and on the road again with my fantastic Friendship Arabia team!  The past few days have been a bit hard for me as I learnt that my granny passed away on the day I set out for Oman. Miles away from Spain, and missing my beloved granny who lived 90 beautiful years, I was very lucky to be surrounded by such a friendly team!

Happy New Year! Today is Islamic New Year, Happy New Year to all the Muslims around the world on behalf of the Friendship Arabia team!

For New Year’s breakfast this morning we were joined by Ali’s French friends Julie and Marco who actually work in Oman. Julie is a famous French photographer, interested in Friendship Arabia’s work and may join the team on one of our expeditions. Look out for her work… 

Bahrain’s triathlon team in Oman. It’s good to see we’re not the only people promoting Bahrain in Oman. By chance Ammar bumped into Sager bin Ahmed and the rest of Bahrain’s Cycling Association in the hotel lobby. The team had just completed a triathlon in Muscat and are vying to build up Bahrain’s triathlon team for the Olympics.  We wish you guys all the best! 

A diplomatic coincidence.  During our last trip in Jordan His Excellency Faoud Salman Al Moawda was serving as Bahrain’s Charge D'Affaires to the country. A year later, we meet again in Muscat where H.E., now Ambassador to Oman, hosted us for a traditional Bahraini lunch at his residence. 

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A (natural) history lesson
Written by Maria Ramos   
Thursday, 17 December 2009 21:25

 Sperm whale skeleton at the Omani Natural History Museum

 Sperm whale skeleton at the Omani Natural History Museum

It’s a 9am start followed by a fantastic buffet breakfast for the Friendship Arabia team.  Next, time for a photo shoot with Mr Francois Galois, the General Manager of our new hotel - The Park Inn Hotel (Al Khuwayr – Muscat).

This is in fact the first Park Inn in the GCC and opened in March this year.  But, Mr Galoisy who hails from Bordeaux is no stranger to the region and has spent around 7 years in the Middle East. Well-travelled and versed in regional tourism efforts, he spoke very highly of our project.

Next, we hit the road in search of one of Muscat’s most popular museums. En route, while searching for a petrol station, we discover that the word shisha also means petrol station in Arabic!

First destination of the day, Muscat’s Natural History Museum, the place to examine Oman’s fauna and flora from time immemorial. The highlight of the Natural History Museum is the skeleton of a sperm whale, which was washed up the shores of Oman in the 1980s. Adjacent to the Natural History Museum is the Faisal Museum which houses traditional Omani weaponry and of course the famous Khanjars.

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Museum offers glimpse of rich history
Written by Ammar Hammad   
Wednesday, 16 December 2009 23:00

Mr Al-Sayegh demonstrates how the scale is used to weigh pearls

Mr Al-Sayegh demonstrates how the scale is used to weigh pearls 

 

We left Bahrain early in the morning of the 15th and it took us about 9 hours to get to Abu Dhabi where we picked up fellow team member Maria Ramos.

From there, we headed straight to Mr. Khalid Al-Sayegh, the famous pearl merchant (more details about him in a future report from Maria) at his private pearl museum. Abu Dhabi TV crew were waiting for us to record the first destination of the team and talk about Mr. Al-Sayegh's role as a prominent pearl merchant.

Mr. Al-Sayegh gave us an interesting tour of his museum, talking about the history of the pearl business in the world and the Arabian Gulf, and also his family's involvement in it. He also showed us some rare pearls and the tools used in the business.

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Adventurer Ali begins new tour
Written by Gulf Daily News   
Wednesday, 16 December 2009 00:00

From the Gulf Daily News » Bahraini adventurer Ali Mushaima and his friendship team will promote Bahrain's pearling industry during a road trip to Oman that begins today.

They will promote tourism and heritage in Bahrain, including a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) nomination for pearling that will be submitted by the Culture and National Heritage Sector in January.

The team includes photographers Ammar Hammad and Haider Akbar, writer Taha Alawi and former Bahrain resident Maria Ramos.

During the eight-day trip from Bahrain to Oman - Manama to Muscat - the group will visit Buraimi, and Niswa.

Following the trip Mr Mushaima will publish 101 Things to See and Do in Oman, which has been commissioned by the Omani Tourism Ministry.

To mark the trip organisers have launched a website competition which will see the winner receiving a certified pearl ring.

The competition is open until January 15.

The team will make another trip, from Bahrain to Yemen, entitled Port of Pearls to Port of Coffee, in January. The last trip will be from Bahrain to Greece, or Tylos to Thessaloniki, in May.

The tour follows on from Mr Mushaima and his team's Friendship Tour of the Gulf in April and a Friendship Tour around the Middle East and Europe last year.

 
The start of a new expedition
Written by Ali Mushaima   
Tuesday, 15 December 2009 01:01

The Land Rover outside Fort Museum

The Land Rover outside Fort Museum

 

It's a brand new expedition as we head out to Oman tomorrow on the latest installment of our Friendship Arabia tours.

On our last trip, we kept Oman as our final destination, and it somehow made sense to continue from where we left off and made it our first point of call this time.

Sector heritage management and Unesco affairs counsellor Dr. Britta Rudollf speaks during the press conference to announce the near tour.

There's so much Oman has to offer - from fjords to desert to rugged mountains. If you are interested in fishing, diving, camping or you want to enjoy one of many secluded beaches, Oman is a fantastic choice.

What make this country even more endearing is the friendliness of its people. You see the smiles from the time you arrive until the time you leave, and once you leave you know you will be back, because you have made many friends you will want to meet again.

Look for more updates on our trip soon.


Don't forget to enter our great new contest, to be launched tomorrow. You could win a genuine Bahraini natural pearl!

 
Gem of a trip coming up
Written by Ali Mushaima   
Wednesday, 09 December 2009 00:23

bahrain pearls

Watch this space for details on a brand new expedition - and a chance for you to win a certified Bahraini natural pearl!

(An advance hint: The contest answers can be found on our sister website Bahrainguide.org - feel free to go ahead and do some reading. 

Meanwhile, here's some more information on the Bahrain pearling project that the expedition is supporting, courtesy the Gulf Daily News:

 

Bid to preserve a 'rich' heritage 

BAHRAIN's heritage experts and researchers are working on a proposal to put Bahrain's pearl diving tradition on the World Heritage List.

Officials from the Culture and National Heritage Sector of the Culture and Information Ministry will submit the proposal to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) by January 1, 2010.

It will take 18 months for the proposal to be reviewed and it will be considered for the World Heritage List by Unesco in 2011.

The Unesco nomination covers three oyster beds north of Bahrain, which range between 25km and 70km offshore, the beach area at the southern tip of Muharraq where boats would arrive and leave, and parts of Muharraq, including historical buildings.

Part of the nomination includes having a three-kilometre historical trail for visitors that will start at the seaside and continue through the streets of Muharraq, including Al Qaysariya Suq, which the sector plans to preserve and turn into a cultural heritage attraction.

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Farewell to fabulous Oman
Written by Ali Mushaima   
Tuesday, 07 April 2009 12:38
Ali presents a copy of the Visitor's Complete Guide to Bahrain to Turkish Ambassador Engin Turker

It is our last day in Oman, and I woke up with a feeling of sadness that our trip through this beautiful country was about to end.

After a quick breakfast, I drove Sarah and Shafiq to the airport. As we began preparing to leave ourselves, we met four young Canadian women, adventurous spirits who had came to explore and write about Oman.

The team with Canadian adventurers Lisa, Jennifer, Hana and Colleen

They are writing about their travels on their blog (www.arabianlala.blogspot.com). We had a good conversation about our expedition and they were very interested to learn more about future trips.

We took group pictures with them before we left the hotel, then drove to the Turkish Embassy to meet the Ambassador Engin Turker. We had first met Mr Turker many years earlier when he was Turkey's Ambassador to Bahrain.

The Ambassador was very pleased to meet us and we presented him with the latest copy of the Visitor's Complete Guide to Bahrain. He talked to us about his love to Bahrain and Oman. Mr Turker is an outstanding ambassador for his country and I personally have learnt a lot, directly and indirectly, from him.  I always call him my teacher. 

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The incredibly hospitable Omanis
Written by Sarah Clarke   
Sunday, 05 April 2009 15:50
Ali presenting a copy of the Visitor’s Complete Guide to Bahrain to the Wali of Ibra, and in turn receiving a commemorative plate

I’m sure you’ve all been there; the moment when you want to put your fist through your computer because your work has disappeared before you managed to save it or the internet fails for the nth time, an unhelpful message pops up on the screen and you just want to curl up in a corner and cry.  

Last night was one of those frustrating times when at the end of a long day we were filing our report home and disaster struck; our files would not go through.  Happily we were rescued by Mahfoodh al Jaffari in the town of Al Askharah on the east coast of Oman who kept his internet café open until well after midnight (even though he normally closed at 10.30) and plied us with mint tea in true Oman fashion while we struggled with an uncooperative computer system.  

For him there was no particular reward other than our heartfelt thanks. For us, it was another example of Omani hospitality and a new friendship unexpectedly forged.

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Four beaches in a day!
Written by Sarah Clarke   
Saturday, 04 April 2009 23:28
Standing on top of the world (or a camel at least) at Wahiba Sands

Camping in the desert is an adventure not to be missed in Oman, if only to experience the peace and tranquility of a moonlit, starry night where the stillness and silence is only punctuated by the swish of the wind.  

I’ll admit to finding the night in my tent a little short, what with being woken at midnight by moonlight pouring through its walls and again at 5am when a watery sun filtered in. 

But, that aside, for me it was one of the highlights of our journey across Oman so far; to see a camel train strolling by at breakfast was slightly surreal.  And, what on earth was that camel driver doing on top of his camel, as mother and off-spring sauntered across the dunes?  Something akin to a circus-act but for me a far superior mode of transport in the desert than the roaring 4x4s in full-on “dune bashing” session this morning; boys and their toys!  

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Oman's terrain a study in contrasts
Written by Sarah Clarke   
Friday, 03 April 2009 00:00

Omani standing at the gate of Nizwa fort

 

This morning we were sad to bid farewell to what had been our “home from home” at Hamad bin Nasser Al Hashimi’s traditional Omani village in Bahla. We planned to visit the famous Al Hoota caves nearby. Unfortunately, due to the heavy rains, the caves were closed for safety reasons and a “Plan B” was required. Happily our guide Mohammad had the perfect alternative; a trip to Wadi Tanuf, a short drive from Bahla.

The approach to Wadi Tanuf took us past the ruins of the old village of Tanuf. Nestled at the foot of mountains, it is a maze of the remains of a hundred or more old buildings and makes an excellent place to explore on foot before heading to the Wadi itself. 

Arriving at the wadi we realized there was a benefit to the rains of the past few days; the wadi was full of rushing water, the vegetation lining the banks was a rich green and a beautiful waterfall was a cascade of shimmering, crystal clear water. 

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