Millions of people are fascinated by the glamour of Dubai but very few pay attention to the beautiful country that lies only a few hours away- Oman. In Oman, lies Muscat- the land where you don’t have to choose between beaches, hills and deserts because you can enjoy all the three.
It is indeed a pity that the government is not too friendly about issuing tourist visas. Luckily, my uncle was working there and thus I got an opportunity to visit this beautiful place.
The journey (what to do)
After stepping into Muscat, the first thing I noticed was the lack of public transport. Everyone had a car and that was the only mode of transportation. The second thing I noticed was the beautiful roads, passing by beaches, hills and countless oil rigs. The third thing I noticed was the food and the hookah.
Thus began our journey to explore this beauty. If Dubai dazzles you with scintillating man-made wonders, Muscat will bring you back to nature.
One can go around in the car and will come across numerous beaches, some are small, quiet and empty with waves crashing into the rocks on the side, and some are large, with a few humans, quiet & calm waters.
Most have cafes or hookah parlours right beside the beach and if you are tired of sitting in the sand you can always enjoy the beauty of the beach sitting in the open cafes, eating or taking a drag of hookah.
The best part of the beach is the sunset. This is when the sky is on fire and the sea reflects all its colours dutifully. While sitting on one of the beaches on the first day, I stared as the ball of fire slowly played hide and seek behind the clouds and thus forming a gorgeous lining on the clouds.
Mesmerized by its beauty, I continued to gaze as the sun began to set in between the far-off hills, leaving behind a thousand shades of yellow and red on the sky and the sea. The wind played with my hair while my eyes tried its best to capture an unforgettable picture of the sight and store it in my memory forever. Sunset among the hills, on a windy and partly cloudy beach- what more could I ask for! Alas, I had to part with the beach for the day and return to my uncle’s house.
The next day, we drove around the city, to some beautiful sunset point, a small and quiet beach and a nice park.
The park is a frequently visited place for my uncle who enjoys photography. We enjoyed some time there, relaxing and roaming around till our stomach told us it was dinnertime.
The next day, we packed our bags, emptied a bit of air from the tyres of the car and prepared ourselves for our journey to the desert. The car was now ready to be driven on miles and miles of sand. As we drove to Wahiba Sands, other than a few human souls, the only other thing we saw was camels.
Wahiba Sands has nice accommodation to stay over-night and by the time we reached, it was already time for dinner. There is an area especially made for entertainment of the guests. As the temperature kept lowering, a fire was lit up so that everyone could enjoy some warmth.
Live Arab music was played and it did not take very long to bring everyone into a joyful mood. A few foreigners began to dance to the amusing Arabian music and a few more joined them, while others sat back on the carpet or their chairs, letting the music relax them. We tried venturing out into the dunes late at night but in the darkness it was almost impossible to do. We let our bodies hit the bed only to wake up a few hours later.
It was early in the morning, a bit too early perhaps but we did not wish to risk missing the sunrise. Though we did not get to enjoy a beautiful sunrise, what we did see was indeed a unique sight.
The crescent moon was up in the sky and it looked as if the other half of the moon was made a few shades lighter. It is hard to describe such a sight in words. At this time, the sun began to provide us its light and its rays started to fill the sky.
However, all we could see in front of us were huge sand dunes. In the hope of catching a glimpse of the sunrise, I began to climb one of the big sand dunes. It wasn’t the easiest thing to do, considering my hands had to be kept in my pocket as the temperature was still low and my shoes were filled with sand. Nevertheless, the climb was fun and as I reached the top of the sand dune, I realized how wrong I was.
As I climbed one, I saw countless big and small dunes lying ahead of me. You could keep climbing one, getting down and climbing one more and when you are tired, all your eyes will see is more sand dunes everywhere.
However, I have to agree that it was a pretty sight- a change from all the places I have visited earlier. Sitting on top of the dune, I observed a few camels passing by at a distance and watched as the sun rays slowly reached them. In almost no time, the whole place was lit up and the cold weather was a thing of the past. Eventually, I climbed down from my peaceful zone and made my way for breakfast.
As you drive into the desert, all you can see is the never ending roads of sand filled with sand dunes. You begin to appreciate its vastness and realize how small you are compared to it.
The camel ride is less exciting except for two unexpected jolts. While you are climbing the camel and while you are getting off it, no matter how much you prepare yourself for it, you will inevitably feel you are going to fall down as the camel stands up or sits down.
My camel was slowly walking on the desert when a car slowed down as he knew the owner. The owner casually handed over the rope of the camel to the passenger of the car and thus my camel was technically being controlled by a slow moving car.
The passenger and the owner struck up a conversation in their own language while I enjoyed the ride. Finally, it was time to wave goodbye to the desert. My only regret was not being able to carry a tent and stay in the tent on the desert.
The dolphin cruise
It was 31st December and I wished to end my year on a happy note. What could make me happier than watching dolphins jump in the blue waters! Thus, on 31st December, we took the cruise that takes you deep into the Arabian Sea where dolphins play around.
I went to the front part of the deck and let my legs slide in between the railings. The wind was stronger here and the view better. As we swayed with the waves, the water splashed on to my legs on hitting the surface of the boat.
Very soon the waves were less ferocious and we reached the home of the dolphins. At first you had to stretch your eyes to see them and then they were everywhere.
Some dolphins came in groups and some popped up alone out of nowhere. After a fun-filled time, finally we were on our way back to the shore. Some huge stone structures on the side of some small beaches greeted us on our way back.
Overall, it is a ride worth taking. The rest of the day was spent trying Turkish and Lebanese food. Turkish food is one of my favourite cuisines till date. Not only is the food extremely delicious, the quantity is also worth appreciating. Being a foodie, Turkish and Lebanese cuisines are just perfect for me.
The daylight was final gone and 31st night was spent enjoying a nice dinner at TGIF. With that, my Muscat trip came to an end and it was time to bid farewell to this lovely place.
Finally, I was back after my trip and someone asked me, “So, why Muscat?” I laughed and said, “Muscat- because the beaches are beautiful, because the sunsets are breath-taking, because the desert and the hills are only a drive away, and because if you are too bored of all these you can always go and meet the dolphins.”
Few things to note
Muscat is truly worth exploring. However, it must be noted that it lacks public transport and hence it definitely helps to know someone who stays in the city. Tourist visas are difficult to get and the country overall is not the most tourist-friendly place you will come across. Also, you might get a few stares from the men if your clothes are too skimpy by their standards. Not being a tourist haven, backpackers hostels may be difficult to find. However, on the brighter side, the food is amazing and the middle-eastern cuisine is definitely worth trying. Moreover, at any point of time, if you are standing on the road, you are likely to see some far-away hills and it is indeed a pleasant sight.