Home Gulf Tour 2009 A very rainy day in Muscat
A very rainy day in Muscat
Written by Sarah Clarke   
Tuesday, 31 March 2009 09:16
A fort and mosque in the port town of Mutrah, just outside Muscat


Greetings from a very wet Oman where we're in the middle of a cyclone! Despite the bad weather we sensed immediately that Oman makes a fantastic holiday destination; an abundance of greenery and the glorious backdrop of rocky, purple hued mountains surrounding the capital city of Muscat make it picture perfect for budding photographers and holiday makers alike.

Even in the face of this atrocious weather, the Omani people have not lost their sunny smiles; we've seen youngsters playing football on the very soggy beach near to our hotel in Qurum, that in better weather would make a wonderful spot for swimming, and people still braving the corniche for their afternoon stroll, undeterred by the atrocious weather.

We started the day early, greeted by grey skies but the weather held long enough for us to visit the Grand Mosque in the dry; a must see destination for any visitor to Muscat. 

Construction of the mosque started in 1993 and was completed in 2001 resulting in a magnificent white domed building, cornered by 4 red/brown minarets. Entering through an arched gateway, we were entranced by the beauty and peacefulness of the mosque courtyard. Tiles of every colour and design line arched seating areas to left and right, drawing the visitor into the mosque itself. 

The team car in the rain

Our breath was taken away by the beauty of the interior of the mosque with its magnificent domed ceiling lined with predominantly blue, white and gold tiles, a stunning floral design, Persian carpet adorning the floor and intricately carved doors on three walls.

Dragging ourselves away from the mosque, we headed along the coast to the port town of Mutrah where the contrast between the new cruise liners moored in the marina and the ancient dhows made an interesting sight. In better weather I'm sure we would have walked along the Mutrah corniche to properly enjoy the view of the sea on the one hand and the backdrop of the mountains on the other. 

Dinosaur exhibit at the Visitor's Centre Bait Al Baranda

We soon reached our destination, Bait Al Zubair, a museum in which we discovered the treasures of Omani heritage in the dry. The museum is packed with traditional khanjar (daggers), hajul (ankle jewelry), khatim (rings) and more. There are even Bedouin drinking vessels that were hung on the sides of camels and ancient coffee grinders. 

Just before leaving the museum, I stumbled on another hidden gem; a gallery full of old prints and photos of Muscat and the Sultan of Oman, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos.  

Taking advantage of a dry spell we strolled around the streets of Mutrah ending up at a magnificent palace under construction which is to be the Muscat residence of the Sultan. It was fascinating to see the traditional buildings of Mutrah, many of which have been newly restored, together with several forts nestled into the mountain side.

Mohammed, our friendly and knowledgeable guide, then took us to Bait Al Baranda a visitors' centre devoted to the geological and archeological history of Muscat. Amongst other things, the Centre includes an exhibition of old maps documenting the history of the Portuguese invasion of Muscat in 1507AD and two small galleries one devoted to the history of Muscat as a harbor, the other to the musical traditions of the city.

Thankfully when the rains struck again, we were safely ensconced in The Arab World Restaurant, which provided us with a Yemeni flavored feast for lunch. And I would be remiss were I not to stress the fact that the food here has been wonderful so far. In fact, last night we had a superb meal as a guest of Hafidh Al Harthi whose three storey establishment, the Beirut Restaurant, not only provided great food and hospitality, but also the wonderful musical talents of singer and oud player Nina.

Sultan Qaboos' new palace