It is always a pleasure to cruise into Muscat. This sultanate is one of our favorite places in all of the Middle East. The handsome Omani people are very friendly, the landscape is storybook and the souk is the best. There is a high level of education and there are even women working in government jobs. Sultan Qaboos is a pretty benevolent ruler who has the third largest private yacht in the world and some very fancy palaces in both Muscat and Salalah. The countryside is spotless and the standard of living is very high for the residents.
Shortly after arrival we went over to the Muttrah Souk with Doug and Annette. The gold, fabric and trinket souks are all jammed together along the corniche fronting the harbor. Oman is noted for its frankincense and the souk is filled with its fragrance. The women still dress in the traditional garb but they are out and about all the time--unlike many other countries in the Mideast.
We hired a taxi to take us to the regal Al Bustan Resort and a drive through the old town. We went by the hospital where we spent time with Dr Tinkle when he
hurt his hip several years ago. Muscat is growing rapidly, especially the government sector. Six star resorts are springing up everywhere in an effort to encourage tourism. Like the UAE, most of the service workers are Filipino and Pakistani. We had lunch at the Golden Oryx which has a Chinese/Middle Eastern menu.
We had a sail-away party scheduled for the fantail of the ship. But since the temperature was 45˚C (114˚F), we decided to hold it indoors until sunset. As soon as we slipped our lines everyone went outside to get a better view of the twinkling lights of Muscat, the big brass incense burner and the forts and palaces lining the shore. It was a splendid bon voyage on a gorgeous Arabian night!
We had an unusual day in Salalah when we hired Ahmed to drive us around the area. When we were last here we went to the goat and machine gun market-- where one goat will buy you one machine gun or vice-versa. Since we were there in the afternoon this time, the souks and mosques were closed, so Ahmed took us out in the country to his favorite BBQ camel restaurant. Strips of drying
camel meat are hanging out to dry while Omani men lounge around sipping tea and smoking shisha pipes. Ahmed bought his favorite dish which was chopped camel meat covered in congealed fat. We ate some--yummy!! Then he drove us to a poor Bedouin camp to see some live camels. He took us on an off road drive to the beach cliffs. Unfortunately we weren't in an off road vehicle but fortunately we didn't get stuck in the middle of nowhere. We had an ongoing contest of wills with Ahmed over the decibel level of his DVD player. At one point as we were bouncing around in the desolate terrain, being blasted by loud Arabic music, the thought crossed my mind...I wonder what Ahmed thinks about the whole Osama Bin Laden deal? But he got us back to the ship in fine shape. No worries mate!
We had our safety briefings, the Israeli "security consultants" were on board, the ship's Gurkha team was patrolling the outer decks, the LRAD acoustic blaster was operational and the high powered water hoses were at the ready. It was time to head out across the pirate plagued Gulf of Aden.
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