Old Muscat

The main road leads via the corniche to the tiny, open-gated city of Muscat, home now to the palace and diwan. It sits cradled in a natural harbour surrounded by a jagged spine of hills. The restored Portuguese watchtower (Map p203) on a promontory out to sea, half way along the corniche, affords a lovely view of the water. Access to the staircase is from Straddling the road between the corniche and the old walled city, this museum (Map p199 9.30am-12.30pm & 4.30-7pm Sat-Thu), with the...

Muscat For Children

Muscat is a safe and friendly city with a few attractions for children, including the following Children's Museum (Mappp194-5 24 605368 off Sultan Qaboos St, Qurm admission 500 baisa What is it about the ice-skating rink that holds such a special attraction for Gulf countries, including Oman No country in the region can take itself seriously without one. Clearly opposites attract, but why the determination to ice-skate when temperatures outside are hot enough to poach an egg Perhaps the rinks...

Food Drink

While local cuisine outside the Omani home tends to be of Lebanese origin, home cooking is nutritious and varied, reflecting Oman's ethnic diversity. Cardamom, saffron and turmeric are essential ingredients, but Omani cooking is not exceptionally spicy. With access to a long coastline, Omanis are particularly fond of fish - sardines can be seen drying in noisome piles from Sohar to Salalah. Until recently, however, shellfish, including the local lobster (actually a large, clawless crayfish),...

The National Psyche

It's easy to imagine that recent events have fashioned a suspicious and bitter mindset among Kuwaitis young Kuwaiti men (together with family heirlooms) snatched from homes national treasures ripped from the nation's museum the Kuwait Towers used for target practice - these and countless other horrors marked the Iraqi invasion. And then there was the almost as agonising threat of the same occurring only a decade later. Despite the trauma, however, it is a credit to the national temperament that...

Environmental Issues

Bahrain has made a big effort in recent years to clean up its act environmentally, and the visitor will certainly appreciate the landscaping of roads with avenues of palms, beds of annuals for a splash of seasonal colour and the topiary of citrus hedges in Manama and along all major thoroughfares throughout the island. Nonetheless, the perennial Middle Eastern curse of the plastic bag is still prevalent beyond the city limits. The main threats to the Bahraini environment take the form of...

Top

The Crowne Plaza, Regency Intercontinental and Gulf Hotel all operate under a pricing cartel and hence charge the same rates, including tax but without breakfast. Crowne Plaza (Map pi 19 17 531 122 www.crowne plaza.com King Faisal Hwy s d BD70 80 ) Situated across from the Bahrain National Museum, this low-rise hotel has a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere, with a large pool area surrounded by cerise-coloured bougainvillea. The rooms, which are arranged almost motel-style around a central hub,...

Getting There Away

Getting to the ferry terminal at Shana'a is theoretically feasible by public transport but not very practical as there is no direct service from Muscat. If you are determined to try, however, take the Route 52 bus from Muscat to Sinaw, leaving at 5.30pm (3H hours, OR2.8OO). The bus stops in Sinaw and there is no place to stay. You will then have to try to find a shared taxi to Shana'a (2Vi hours, OR5) - not that easy late at night. You will arrive around midnight at the earliest. If you're...

Aldakh iliyah region

This dramatic, mountainous region is one of the biggest tourist destinations in Oman, and for good reason. The area has spectacular scenery, including Jebel Shams (Oman's highest mountain), Wadi Ghul (the Grand Canyon of Arabia) and Jebel Akhdar (the fruit bowl of Oman). In addition, some of the country's best forts can be seen in Nizwa, Bahla and Jabrin. Many of the sights from Nizwa to Jabrin can be managed on a long day trip from Muscat, and all tour companies in the capital (p260) organise...

Albatinah region

This flat and fertile strip of land between the Hajar Mountains and the Gulf of Oman is the country's breadbasket and most populous area. Interesting sites include the old castle towns of Nakhal and Rustaq, exhilarating off-road destinations such as Wadi Bani Awf and Wadi Hoqain, the fishing towns of Barka and Sohar, and an attractive resort at Sawadi. Many of the sights can be managed on day trips from Muscat, with a tour company or even by public transport. A more enjoyable way of visiting,...

Tours

The Kuwait Tourism Services Company (Map p159 ( ) 245 1734 www.ktsc-q8.com Ice-skating Rink, Al-Soor St & First Ring Rd, Shamiya) runs tours around the various city sights and out to the oilfields. It mainly caters for large tour groups, but can also arrange similar tours for individuals. Half- and full-day city tours (depending on the choice of activities) cost around KD15 25 per person for a minimum of two people. Nuzha Tourist Enterprises (( ) 575 5825 www .nuzha.com.kw) can organise a...

Midrange

Marina Hotel Mapp197 24 713100 irfansyed1 yahoo.com Mutrah Cornlche, Mutrah s d 0R15 35 For those who have come to Muscat to discover its soul, then the Marina Hotel, overlooking the fish market and participating in the character of the corniche, offers a very good vantage point. In fact, you can see what the city is all about over breakfast the comings and goings of the ancient port of Mutrah can all be enjoyed from the restaurant window. The rooms are on the cramped side but the staff are...

Muscat Walking Tour A Day In The Life Of The Arabian

Start Fish Market, Muscat Finish Al-Bahri Rd, Old Muscat Distance 8km Duration 4 to 5 hours This walking tour follows the sea through the ancient ports of Mutrah and Muscat. Pack a snack and take water. The walk can be segmented if time, energy or summer heat forbids the whole circuit. Begin where the morning tide beaches fishermen and their catch at the Fish Market 1 pl96 . Stop for breakfast at nearby Al-Boom Restaurant p207 . Turning right at fishy Al-Samak roundabout 2 , visit nearby Bait...

Alashkarahs jVl

Wedged between two glorious sandy beaches, Al-Ashkarah is a lively fishing village and important supply point for the Bedouin communities of the Sharqiya Sands. It looks particularly attractive at sunset when it could well be called the 'pink city of the east coast' as the local cement has a pinkish hue. There is nothing to see or do, and nowhere to stay in Al-Ashkarah, but it does have a few picnic umbrellas on the beaches on the southern side of the town, and some camping opportunities. The...

Bimmah Sinkhole JjiUj

The blue-green, brackish water at the bottom of this peculiar 40m by 20m limestone hole invites a swim and a snorkel. Known locally as Bayt al-Afreet House of the Demon , you could come face to face with more than you bargain for in the water, the depth of which is still unknown. If the demon eludes you, look out for the equally elusive, blind cavefish instead. The sinkhole is 1km inland, 6km east of Dibab, right by the new dual carriageway. It's not signposted, but look for a ring of barasti...

Musandam

Tibat Oman Border

Separated from the rest of Oman by the east coast of the UAE, and guarding the southern side of the strategically important Strait of Hormuz, the Musandam Peninsula is a land of beautiful khors, small villages and dramatic, mountain-hugging roads. No longer difficult to reach, this beautiful peninsula with its cultural eccentricities is well worth a visit if you're on an extended tour of Oman, or if you're after a taste of the wilderness from Dubai. A boat trip is a must, as this is the only...

Desert Mushrooms

Near to Mazara, on the graded track that leads to the Qurayat-Sur coast road, are two wonderful examples of a sandstone formation known as 'desert mushrooms'. These form when the wind sculpts away the softer sedimentary rock, leaving a cap of harder rock on top of the eroded column. To reach the mushrooms from Mazara, follow the road through the village, over the wadi and past the fort. The road climbs steeply through the plantation towards a school. Turn left before the school, veer left over...

Oman directory

Accommodation in Oman is limited and expensive though discounts can often be negotiated out of season May to September, except in Salalah where peak season is June to August . In many places, there's no alternative to the single mid- to top-end hotel, and smaller towns often have no hotels at all. Room rates quoted in this chapter include the mandatory 17 tax and include breakfast unless otherwise stated. In this chapter, we have defined budget hotels as being those that charge less than OR35...

Transport in oman

See also the Arabian Peninsula Transport chapter p545 for more information on the following. Entering Oman at Seeb International Airport 24 519223 is straight-forward. The small airport is surprisingly efficient, queues are kept to a minimum outside holiday periods , staff are friendly and your luggage is often waiting on the carousel before immigration is complete. Most visitors require a visa upon arrival. This is easily expedited by filling in a form in the immigration hall and taking it to...

Jalan Bani Bu Hassan Jalan Bani Bu Alia j u

These towns comprise a conglomeration of watchtowers, old fortified houses, forts and ancient plantation walls, all of which lie crumbling in various states of beloved dereliction. There's been little attempt to court the modern world and none at all to woo the visitor, making a visit all the more rewarding. It's worth trying to stumble on Jami al-Hamoda Mosque in the middle of Jalan Bani Bu Ali, with its unique structure of 52 domes and a falaj used for ablutions running through the courtyard....

Dhofarjk

Robat Cemetary Salalah

The southernmost province of Oman is a world away from the industrious north and separated geographically by an interminable gravel desert. With its historic frankincense trade, great beaches, a laid-back atmosphere and an interesting ethnic mix, it's a fascinating place to visit, particularly during or just after the khareef. There are many intriguing sites to visit as day trips from Salalah, including Job's Tomb the heroic town of Mirbat with its beautiful beaches and Mughsail, famed for the...

Gaylah

This exciting destination on top of the Eastern Hajar Mountains is worth the effort as much for the journey through crumbling cliffs and past remote, mountain villages as for the reward of ancient tombs on the summit. The route, which can only be negotiated in 4WD, begins at a right turn for Souqah, just before the town of Ash-Shariq also known as Simayiah - located at the entrance of Wadi Khabbah . Make sure you have water, map, compass and a full tank of petrol. At 3.1km after you leave the...

Black Gold

In the middle of the desert, roughly in the middle of the island, stands a small museum sporting marble pillars and a classical architrave, wholly unbefitting of the landscape of nodding donkeys in the vicinity. But the museum has a right to certain pretensions of grandeur it marks the spot where, in 1932, the Arab world struck gold - black gold, that is - and with it, the entire balance of power in the world was transformed forever. The first well is in the museum grounds, perhaps no longer...

Pearl Diving

Pearl diving in Bahrain has been a tradition and was the backbone of the economy for centuries. While the industry has come to an end, the oysters have continued to grow, uncollected, on the shallow sea beds. If you're interested in learning about pearls, and even diving for them, Aquatique Scuba Centre Map p121 17 271 780 Sheikh Isa Ave 8am-12.30pm amp 4-7.30pm Sat-Thu runs a very informative pearl-diving course. It covers everything from the history of the pearl industry to what sort of...

Museum of Pearl Diving

Originally built in 1937 to house the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs, this museum Map p121 17 210 600 Government Ave admission 500 fils 8am-noon Sat-Wed, 9am-6pm Thu still bears the emblem of weighing scales above the great wooden entrance doors not the Government Ave entrance . The rooms, which can be seen within an hour, contain displays of Bahrain's pearl-diving and seafaring heritage, exhibits of antique weapons, traditional games, medicine, costumes and musical instruments, as...

Mutrah

Mutrah stretches along an attractive cor-niche of latticed buildings and mosques it looks spectacular at sunset when the light casts shadows across a serrated crescent of mountains, while new pavements, lights and fountains invite an evening stroll. Despite being the capital's main port area, Mutrah feels like a fishing village. The daily catch is delivered to the fish market Map p197 6-10am , by the Marina Hotel, from sunrise everday. This new museum Mapp197 24 714262 Al-Mlna St, Mutrah adult...

House of Mirrors

For a quirky art-in-action experience, visit this small museum Map p156 1251 8522 House 17, Street 94, Block 9, Qadisiya admission free in a residential house in the suburbs of Qadisiya. Reputedly, 77 tons of mirror and 102 tons of white cement have been used in the creation of the mirror mosaics that spangle the entire house - both inside and out. The creation of Lidia al-Qattan, the widow of Khalifa al-Qattan, a renowned Kuwaiti artist, the project was inspired by the decorating of an old...