Blogs from Oman, Middle East


The resort has installed glass barriers to make sure that none of its guests have their holiday plans disrupted by accidentally falling off the rim of the canyon hundreds of metres down into gorge below. I’m keen to get some happy snaps from a bit closer to the edge so I go for a wander to see whether safety standards might be a bit looser elsewhere nearby. I wander through the outskirts of Saiq and find a spot where I can get right up to the canyon rim above the villages we hiked through yesterday. The views are beyond stunning. I share the view with two European girls and their Omani guide. The guide looks a bit concerned that his charges might be getting just a bit too close to the edge for comfort, and yells ... read more
Downtown Saiq
The Chef’s Garden at the Anantara Resort
Terraces below villages in the canyon

I get up early to take some happy snaps of sunrise over the canyon. There aren’t too many people around, but I’ve got lots of goats for company. This morning we have signed up for a hike through three of the small villages that cling to the walls of the canyon. Our guide’s name is Maher, and we are joined by a Japanese lady and her two young sons, and a couple from Hawthorn in our humble hometown of Melbourne. We haven’t gone too far when we come across an elderly man in long white flowing robes walking very quickly up the steep hill towards us. He greets Maher enthusiastically, and they have an animated conversation in Arabic. The man laughs almost constantly. Maher tells us that he is over 100 years old, and he walks ... read more
Guardian of the Canyon at sunrise
Canyon from Jebel Akhdar at sunrise
Village on the edge of the canyon

Today we will be travelling up into the Omani Mountains where we will be staying for three nights on the Jebel Akhdar, or Green Mountain. We head off on the same six lane super highway that we drove out to the Wahiba Sands on two days ago, before turning off towards the town of Nizwa. We leave the main road and start climbing steeply. We arrive at an army checkpoint. Our driver Majid tells us that this is for “safety and security”, although it’s not entirely clear exactly whose safety and security he’s referring to. There is now almost no traffic, and we are perhaps slightly concerned that the first two vehicles we pass coming the other way are an ambulance with its sirens blaring, and a camouflaged military truck. Soon afterwards we pass a heavily ... read more
The locals, Jebel Akhdar.
Issy drying her hair.  She’s under there somewhere.  Really.
The Omani Grand Canyon from Jebel Akhdar.

Middle East » Oman » Muscat June 23rd 2019

This morning we have booked a half day tour of Muscat town. We are met by our guide who introduces himself as Hamid. First stop is the very imposing Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, which was opened in 2001. The mosque has five minarets, a ladies mosque with capacity of 750, and a main hall which can cater for up to 6,500 male worshippers. Hamid proudly tells us that if the internal courtyards and corridors are included, its total capacity is 20,000. He preempts our question as to why the capacity for female worshippers is so much less than that for the men, by telling us that the ladies are not expected to attend the mosque as frequently so that they can be at home looking after their children and performing domestic duties. The main hall is ... read more
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
Main hall, Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

Middle East » Oman » Ash Sharqiya June 22nd 2019

Today we have booked a full day tour to the Wahiba Sands and Wadi Bani Khalid, both of which are around 200 km south east of Muscat. Our guide for the day introduces himself as Ahmed, and we head out of town on yet another immaculate six lane highway. We comment to Ahmed on how great we think the roads here are, and he tells us that when the current Sultan came to power in 1970 there were only seven kilometres of sealed roads in the entire country. The previous Sultan, the current Sultan’s father, was very much against development, and was determined to keep Oman isolated from the rest of the world. No one has ever been quite sure why he chose to do this. What has happened since 1970 seems little less than economic ... read more
Bedouin camp, Wahiba Sands
Trinkets, Bedouin camp, Wahiba Sands
Bedouin camp, Wahiba Sands

Middle East » Oman » Muscat » Muttrah June 21st 2019

We’re tired, in the wrong time zone, and the weather app says the temperature “feels like” 43, so we decide to spend most of the day relaxing by the pool and on the beach. As I make my way out of the sea up onto the sand, it’s a bit hard not to notice a crab the size of a small dog. I suspect it wouldn’t have too much trouble chomping off one of my feet with a single snap of one of its gigantic claws, so I decide that maybe that’s enough swimming in the sea for today. I take the opportunity to read up on the history of Muscat. The ever reliable Wikipedia tells us that there’s evidence of a settlement here from as early as 6,000 BC, and it seems that the town ... read more
Foyer of The Chedi Muscat hotel
The Chedi Muscat Hotel
The Chedi Muscat Hotel

Middle East » Oman » Muscat June 20th 2019

We get off our flight from Melbourne at Dubai just after dawn and transfer to another plane for the short flight across to Muscat. Visibility isn’t great, but the views from the plane of the rugged Omani mountains poking up through the haze are mesmerising. The friendly young man in the seat next to us introduces himself as Ali. He tells us that he is from Pakistan, and he is travelling to Muscat to ply his trade as a silversmith. Issy asks him how old he is. He says that he thinks he is twenty, but he might be twenty one. I wonder how it’s possible for someone not to know how old they are. I then remember reading somewhere that it’s not unusual for Pakistani cricketers to burst onto the scene as teenager prodigies, only ... read more

Middle East » Oman » Muscat May 6th 2019

Oman: a delighful diversion On this trip (to the Middle East) we were confronted with expensive options that travelled via Europe. The alternative was a more direct route using multiple legs. The latter were daytime flights (our preference) being Australia > Malaysia > Oman > Jordan. Instead of using Oman as an overnighter, we decided to stay a little longer. As always, if you want to see the picture in a larger size, just click on it. Day 1 - May 3: Arrival As the plane descended to Muscat (capital of Oman), the dust haze of the Arabian peninsular gradually gave way to a rocky, parched desert. The bright blue of the ocean contrasted with the beige and brown of the landscape. From the air, there was no evidence of green anywhere! At the terminal, we ... read more
Q'Uram beach
Muscat vista
Sultan's Palace (one of several) overlooking Muscat

Middle East » Oman » Muscat May 6th 2019

As Spectrum of the Seas is a brand new ship, this is it´s first visit to Muscat. When it arrived, the port authority had laid on a special presentation for the captain to welcome him and his ship. Unfortunately, they would not release the ship for the passengers to leave until this was finished, so we were half an hour later leaving the ship than anticipated. Muscat is not really a passenger port, it is more commercial. So they lay on buses and everyone has to be transported to the port entrance. At 8.00am they started giving out numbers for the port buses. When we got there at 8.30am they were already up to number 13. This gave us plenty of time to catch breakfast before our number was called for the bus out of the ... read more

Middle East » Oman » Muscat » Muttrah April 3rd 2019

today the arcadia is leaving the gulf of aden and heading into the red sea. for the past few nights we have been traveling at top speeds of 21 knots making sure to outrun pirate ships. these pirates are not like jack sparrow, they are from somalia. we all had to partake in an anti-piracy drill. everyone with outside cabins had to go into their corridor and sit on the floor away from their cabin door. and if you had an inside cabin they were to stay inside with the door locked. it was a chance to see who all of your neighbours are. we have had armed guards on board and are being escorted by the royal navy. at dusk the promenade deck is closed until dawn with the guards keeping watch. they have rigged ... read more
en route to mumbai

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