Published: July 7th 2008September 26th 2007
Now as neither me or Kat are big fans of the package holiday it was still hard to pass up a bargain trip staying at the Shangri La Al Jissah al Waha resort just outside Muscat in Oman. why not, everyone deserves a bit of luxury now and again!
The Sultanate of Oman is quite frankly stunning consisting of mainly desert, mountains and secluded perfect beaches combined with lush Wadi's dotted about the countryside. It is one of the only countries I have been to that overwhelmed me with the passion people have for where they live. As a visitor to the country we were made very welcome and everyone was exceptionally polite and could'nt do enough for you. Oman is situated on the Southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula bordering with Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen to the South. The Gulf of Oman also boasts some fantastic Dive sites for the scuba lovers of the world.
Even though we were staying where we were we still had every intention of exploring around a bit and trying to experience other areas. First 2 days we did'nt do much apart from laze on the beach and enjoy being
brought melon, having our sunnies cleaned and drinking lots of water.
We were in Oman during Ramadan which lasts for a calender month. During the hours of daylight Muslims are expected not to eat, drink or smoke during the hours of daylight. Tourists are expected to adhere to this in public places although an allowance is made whilst you are on specific resorts.
We met a guy from Desert adventures Tourism called Tilili who gave us loads of information on what what available to see and do in the area. we decided we would take a tour which would take us out in to the desert in a 4x4. Tilli Picked us up at the resort at 8am and we headed 300km south to Wahiba Sands, the trip was quite long but we were entertained throughout by our guide who was an absolute minefield of information. Ironically he was also from Tunisia but now living and working in Oman, you would'nt think it though as he had so much passion about the country.
Wahiba Sands is a huge land mass of red and white sand dunes, as far as you can see is sand and more sand,
just before we arrived we stopped off at a small garage which was run by two Indian chaps who only seemed to change oil, let peoples tyres down ( or inflate them depending on which way you were heading) and repair tyres too! Once our tyres were flat enough to take us out on to the dunes we headed out in to the desert and roared around the dunes in the 4X4. Towards the end I asked if could get out and take a few pictures which turned out exhausting work as when Tilli picked me back up he didn't face down slope and grounded out in the sand. after a brief discussion we decided to dig the tyres out with our hands rather than wait for Tilli to go and find the nearest Bedouin hut and asked to be towed out. 10 Mins later and lacking a few pints of fluid in the 38 Degree heat we were on our way again and headed to a Bedouin Camp.
The Bedouin camp was very basic made using straw for walls and a corrugated roof with sand floors covered with carpet. Bizarre as it may seem there was also a
Tilili Giving it some on the Dunes
huge dresser in there too which looked slightly out of place but showed that although nomadic they have obviously taken a like to more modern objects. The Bedouins spend most of their time out in the desert although some of the family members still choose to go to the cities to work. This camp housed a family of 13 people although we only met one of the daughters and her brother. We all sat down and had black sweet coffee and dates. Best coffee I have ever had I think! quite humbling really as they didn't really have a great deal and yet again everyone there had beaming smiles and welcomed us in to their home with no expectations of anything back.
From Wahiba Sands we then headed out to Wadi Bani Khalid. A beautiful Wadi seemingly in the middle of nowhere yet host to crystal clear waters and very deep lagoons with hardly anyone in sight. We spent the afternoon here and enjoyed swimming in the warm waters of the Wadi. Tilli had packed us a packed lunch and although it was Ramadan they was no one there who would disapprove of us eating during daylight.
was a long day and a long drive but well worth it to see parts of Oman outside of the typical set up of a tourist is a must. Quickly though on the subject of driving the standard of driving there is quite frankly, bloody awful. Tilili our guide informed me that this is a lot worse during Ramadan as people seem to have less concentration on the road as they are thinking about sundown and being able to eat and drink etc. According to available ROP statistics, in the first 6 years of this new millennium, some 4500 people have died on Oman’s roads and nearly 55000 have been injured or disabled. The numbers are staggering in a population of 2.4 million and rising. So its advisable to make sure you are wearing a seat belt at all times.
The following day we decided to go in to Muscat and have a mooch around the city. we went to one of the big Souk markets in the city which to be fair was completely bewildering and also very hard to navigate as it seemed to be one small alley ofter another coupled also with the fact that nearly
every shop was selling the same thing and that every shop owner put on his best sales pitch in the style of del Boy Trotter with a bad English accent we made for the nearest exit. We did but a Frankincense burner and some Frankincense and Myrrh which smelt amazing.
Moving on from there we went to the local fish market, the place was completely buzzing with traders all sat on concrete and tiled floors with loads of piles of different fish all being filleted and prepared in front of you. There were local owners of restaurants haggling over fish and lots of shouting from people offering freshers and better fish.
Through the one door it led to a fruit and Veg market. less bustling but full of local characters including one small old man who looked like he had been there for decades. I asked him if I could take his picture and he beamed a huge smile and proceeded to straighten his head wear, brush himself down and arrange his display of cherries before he let me carry on. This place was definitely one of my favourite places to see as the buzz of business and
trade was amazing and so raw. I think we were the only non local people in there.
As we are both divers it would have been criminal not to have a few dives in Oman so we went to the hotels local dive center run by Euro divers and booked 3 dives for the day. It was an early start to get 3 dives in but myself and Kat had a dive master and 2 boat crew to take us out for the day, It was an amazing days diving and unlike any other dive we had done purely because we had the whole place to ourself and didnt see another dive boat during the whole day. Our first dive was the deepest to 30ft and was a wreck dive which was an Omani Naval ship that had been de- commissioned and sunk 2 years previously. We dived down to a hole in the hull and up through the inside of the ship and then coming out on the the gantry of the first level to be greeted by looking down and seeing a 2m wide electric Ray gliding across the sands below. on surfacing we then carried on
along the coastline and did a drift dive along a big coral shelf which was equally amazing as everything seemed so undisturbed by the lack of mass diving schools. There were so many different types of marine life and more turtles than i have ever seen. I really hope that this place dos'nt get too comercialised in the future and get spoilt like other places we have been.
we stopped for some lunch in a small cove again with no one apart from ourselves to enjoy it and chilled out and then headed off for the final dive which was just a shallow dive but again with loads of coral and marine life. The sea temperature was 31 Deg and perfect. Although Ferras our dive master was still bemused at us just diving in shorts and a rash vest and thought that we would be too cold!
so aside from some more relaxing that was pretty much our trip to Oman. Totally amazing and a place I would recommend to anyone who appreciates culture, diving and a non tourist environment. Cant wait to go again.
( Finishing off this blog seriously later than i should have but
since last Sept I dont know where the time has gone )
There are more photos below