I just came back from a 10 day trip to the Middle East where I was fortunate enough to spend a few days in Muscat, Oman and Dubai, UAE. I’ll have a Dubai post coming up next but for now I wanted to talk about my experience visiting Muscat, Oman.
I’ll admit a lot of people were a bit nervous when I told them I was going to the Middle East, after all it’s perhaps not the most desirable destination for a young Jew; but everything was fine. I had a 16 hour flight from San Francisco to Dubai and then a 45 minute flight from Dubai to Muscat. I flew Emirates which is now my favorite airline for international travel. The food is great, the entertainment system they have is unbelievable, and the flight crew is friendly and top notch. I arrived in Muscat and took a cab to my hotel, the Shangri-La, which I believe is a 5 or 6 star resort situated on the beach near some mountains, it was gorgeous (paid for by a client, I was speaking at their conference). The airport in Muscat is not large but fairly easy to navigate. You have to remember to make sure that you have cash on you. Converting Omani money was actually not possible for me at the San Francisco airport (they said you need to special order it) but don’t worry, you can use the Dubai Dirham in Oman as well (1 US dollar is around 3.7 Dirham and 1 US dollar is around 0.4 Omani Rial). You have to be careful with some of the cab drivers as some of them are crazy drivers and have a tendency to smoke and/or curse quite a bit while driving, I didn’t have that experience but I heard several other folks did. Remember to be sensitive to their culture and religion, remember where you are.
I spent 3 nights in Muscat and while I didn’t get to see as much of the country as I would have liked I did get to venture out a bit to explore. Muscat is a much more traditional country as opposed to Dubai which is very westernized. In Muscat you can expect to see many people wearing the traditional Muslim dress. English is spoken by many and most people you will meet are warm and friendly. I was amazed to see how clean Muscat was, it was actually one of the most cleanest cities I have visited in quite a while. If you venture out to the Sukh (old market) you will see the little harbor which reminds me a lot of being in Italy where you have shops on the waterfront and people just strolling through the night. It’s also worth to take a look at the old city and the palace. On a random side note I was told that Michael Jackson owned one of the villas there. I’m sure Muscat is really nothing like what most people imagine when they think of the Middle East. What you see or read about in the television or newspapers is not a fair representation of all of the Middle East countries (Turkey is another good example).
The Shangri-La resort is absolutely gorgeous but quiet. I had this theory that zombies were roaming around and kidnapping people at night, it was that quiet. The food at the resort is great but of course a bit pricey, as is everything else there. During the day most people just lounge around on the beach and relax, it’s definitely not a place to go if you’re looking to party all night. My favorite thing was the giant chess set that they had set up on the beach. The entire resort is a bit surreal as you feel as if time doesn’t exist. You have several gourmet restaurants, man made canals running through the walkways that you can go tubing on, gorgeous pools, an amazing beach (with came/horse rides available), and a gym/sauna/spa. When I went the weather wasn’t too hot, I’d say it was mainly in the 80′s but it definitely wasn’t 130 which is easily what it can climb to during the summer time.
I really had a great time visiting Muscat, Oman and definitely recommend that you make your way out there one of these days. Have any questions for me? Please let me know!
Here are some videos from the trip (I have HD videos but converted them to MPEG4 to embed on this site, videos weren’t that high quality after I converted them so I might just stick to MPEG vids for the Dubai videos when I put them up). You can find some of my photos on Flickr in the Muscat, Oman and Dubai, UAE album.