Home Dilmun to Dublin Tour Diary Friendship tour 2009 Caves, blind fish and Omani Halwa!
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…

The frozen architecture of Al Hoota Cave. After a long drive, in the 25-degree heat, we arrived in what looked like a 5 star hotel from outside. Yes you heard correctly. It’s December and it’s snowing in London and hail stones are falling in Bahrain but we’re in t-shirts! Oman is the perfect winter destination! Al Hoota cave opened to the public in November 2006 and has an excellent adjacent geological exhibition and coffee shop for visitors. The cave is located at the foot of Jabal Shams and has a breathtaking room after room of beige limestone formations of stalagmites and stalactites.

One of the most striking formations more or less looks like the shape of a lion. Apart from the lion, the only other life in this cavernous wonder are bats, blind cave fish and spiders. The blind cave fish thrive in an underwater lake that is like an underwater wadi. 

Nizwa fort. Lunch today was at a traditional Omani restaurant called Bin Ateeq in Nizwa right next to the famous Nizwa fort. Built in 1886, it is said to be the biggest fort in the Arabian Peninsula.

The drive to Nizwa 

Unfortunately the fort was closed so we toured the traditional walled souk which has been renovated to blend in with the fort.

Omani halwa. We then went on a mission to find an elusive Omani halwa factory. After asking lots of friendly Omanis for directions through Nizwa’s windy narrow streets we finally found it. Unfortunately the factory was closed as they only make the halwa from 4am to 8am. And once again in traditional friendly style, he gave us some halwa to take home and refused to accept any money.

Back to Mutrah. From Nizwa we headed to Mutrah corniche once again. We have unfinished business here as the famous souq was closed when we visited. We’re staying in Naseem hotel, it’s simple, pleasant and strategically located next to the souq and in front of the sea. There’s a fantastic atmosphere here, the mosque was very busy tonight with Ashoura prayers and a great buzz on the corniche.

Haider and I quickly scanned the souq for ideas and will return tomorrow for some serious pashmina and frankinsense shopping. 

We had dinner on the terrace of one of the restaurants next to the souq and for pudding we shared one of the halwas that was given to us. I’ve eaten so much of this and tomorrow I’m planning to jog along the corniche and down to the famous incense burner before breakfast. Ali and Haider said they might join me…Let’s see! I’ve just had a funny image of all 5 of us jogging along the corniche!

Team members at the Old Souk in Nizwa