Faisel the Tour Guide
Man oh man, where to start? We are in Muscat, Oman right now, and words cannot describe how stunning this country is. Oman is so different from Bahrain, ranging from the smells, to the looks, to the people. We are having a great time so far! Here is what we have been doing.
Day 1: Dolphins here we come!
Bookie had to go to the embassy today, so I decided to take the boys out on a day date. Oman is known for having great diving, but we all know I wasn’t able to do that with the little poop faces (stinkin’ kids), so, we did the next best thing, DOLPHIN WATCHING.
Yes, I took my three boys on a boat by myself, and it was spectacular! We asked the hotel to call a taxi to the marina, and by the time we were done with breakfast, Faisel (the taxi driver) was waiting for us. He was so nice! On the way to the port, Faisel was pointing out landmarks and telling me all about Muscat. It was apparent that he was very proud of his home. Once we got to the port, he asked me how I was getting back to the hotel. I told him that I would just call another cab to get back. He said, “No, No, No, you wait for me here, and I will pick you up. You take the boys to the restaurant, and I will come get you.” I said thank you and as I pulled out my wallet to pay him, he said, “No, you pay when I take you to the hotel”. I felt like this man was so trusting and accommodating, something I have found common in all Omanis I have come across. I took his business card, WhatsApp-ed (an app that lets you send messages without having to pay extra for texting) him the time I would be finished, and went on my way.
Dolphin watching was so cool! We got on a boat with six other people, and went out about 30-45 minutes. When we got to the spot where the dolphins were, the boat driver just stopped the boat, and there were dolphins everywhere. I have been whale and dolphin watching in Califronia, but I have never seen as many dolphins as I did today. There had to have been at least 30, and they were everywhere. Hunter and Mason were so excited to see them. Mason screamed, “Oh My Gooooooosh” so many times! It was hilarious and cute. We stayed there for about 30 minutes, and then went back to the marina. Mason fell asleep on the boat going out, and coming in. Hunter was a little unsure going out, but loved coming back in.
The Omani coast is stunning. Oman has a lot of Jebels (mountains), and Wadis (valleys). The mountains come up to the coast, so the view from the boat was breath taking. The water was a beautiful shade of blue, and the mountains were rocky, and light brown. It was a perfect day to be on a boat. It was sunny, and it was in the low to mid 80s. All in all it was a perfect day. We had a fantastic time. Oman is one of the most beautiful countries I have been to. They know how beautiful their country is, and it is easy to see that they do everything they can to preserve its beauty. This is a picture I took of the port.
Once we got back to the marina, Faisel was at the dock waiting for us. He helped me get the boys to the car, and took me back to the hotel. We are going to fast-forward a few hours because what happened next can only be described as a toddler meltdown of epic proportions. I had a mixture of hungry, and sleep-deprived children, which lead to pure chaos the moment we got back to the hotel. They were perfect on the boat, so I cannot really complain about much.
In the afternoon (after a very long and desperately needed nap), we did a little bit of exploring. We went to the Mutrah Souq to find some dinner and to do some exploring.
The souq was very cool. A little more compact than the ones in Bahrain, but similar in many ways.
We ate at a small restaurant in the souq, and paid about $8 to feed our entire family.
Day 2: Faisel the Tour Guide
I was so beside myself with Faisel’s kindness and love of his home that I talked Bookie into hiring him as a tour guide for the day. Bookie (the master negotiator he is) was able to get a private tour of Muscat for 20 Omani Rial ($51.93) which is a pretty good deal. Faisel took us everywhere. The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, a traditional Omani Restaurant, the Mutrah Souq, the Sultan’s Palace, an old fort, and the Shangri-la Hotel (which I will live in one day… in my dreams). We crammed most of the popular tourist sites in one day.
The Grand Mosque was beautiful. I had to cover my hair with a scarf, and wear conservative clothing to enter the mosque, but that was expected! I took many pictures of the mosque, but none of them do it justice. Look at these:
These are quranic verses written in cursive, and they bordered the entire mosque.
This is the men’s prayer room (because men and women pray in different rooms) The carpet you see was woven in the mosque by 600 Iranian woman on a one year contract with Oman. Sultan Qaboos wanted only one rug in the entire room, so he had it made in on-location, and flew the women in from Iran. It was very pretty and intricate… must be nice being a Sultan! Sadly, the woman’s prayer room was nice, but not nearly as grand as the men’s prayer room (I think we can all draw our own conclusions on why that is).
The whole experience was magnificent. I was able to ask a lot of questions and learned a lot about the Muslim religion. A majority of Omanis are Ibahdi, which a sect of the Muslim religion. Ibadis are known to be peaceful and tolerant people (which is exactly how every Omani person I met was). I didn’t know about the Ibadi sect before I got here, but they are very similar to the Sunni Muslims (so similar that we didn’t get a clear answer about the difference between the two). It was a very great and informative trip.
The next landmark we hit was the souq. Since we were there the night before, we just ran in and bought a few things that we wanted. When we parked the car Faisel informed us that the Sultan’s boat happened to be docked there for the day.
Pretty unimpressive right… What I would do if I could be Sultan for a day!
Talking about being Sultan, here is one of the Sultan’s Palaces
That is apparently his “ceremonial” palace. He doesn’t live in that one, he lives in a different palace in a different part of Muscat (two palaces in one city… life must be nice). Right next to the Palace is an old Portuguese fort.
It is really cool, because the fort is right next to the palace, so you can see the new and the old side-by-side.
We had such a great day with Faisel, and the boys did such a fantastic job being tourists for the day. Here is a few pictures from the day:
The boys with Faisel
Me and Austy-Pants
And finally, my future home! The Shangri-la Hotel. Bookie has been informed that this is where I am going to retire with or without him… Happy wife, happy life, right?
Day 3: Takin’ a break
After all of our traveling, we needed a relaxing day, so we took the boys to the beach with our friends who kindly took all five of us in for a few days. They were rock stars about it! Thank you Brett and Amanda!
If there is one thing Oman has a ton of, it is beautiful beaches. This is the Omani Gulf (part of the Indian Ocean). Being at the beach was interesting. I try to be culturally sensitive to the locals. I generally will walk around wearing “appropriate” clothing because I do not want to offend anyone. Muscat has a lot of European tourist, who mostly walk around in clothes you would see in costal Spain. I decided to do something in the middle. We were at the beach, and my babies wanted me to go into the water, so I did. Walking the line between cultural sensitivity and comfort has been difficult at times, and going to the beach was one of the most awkward and difficult situations (in regards to cultural sensitivity) I have been in. Other than that, the beach was a lot of fun.
Hunter LOVES the water (thank you Kate!), and he couldn’t wait to get in with his daddy!
A cool artsy picture taken by Brett! Mason was playing in the sand during this pic.
Austy getting his first taste of sand (I literally mean first taste! Despite my best efforts, he ate about a bucket of sand)
It was a great well needed break from all the traveling we did! 4 days down, 15 more to go!
Day 5: The Wadi That Puts the Rest to Shame
So far this is the highlight of our trip (and it is only day 5). Wadi Shab! Wadi is Arabic for valley, and Oman has a lot of valleys. Wadi Shab is about an hour and a half south along the coast from Muscat (the 1.5 hour drive was the easy part). Once we got there, we had to take a boat to the trailhead (about a minute long ride).
Then, the hard part. To get to the pools (which is the reason to go to Wadi Shab) we had to hike in for about 1.5-2 hours. It was such an amazing hike. Here are a few pictures of our hike.
The water was so clear. I’ve never seen such great visibility!
This spot is where the Red Bull Cliff Diving Competition is held!
If you look closely, you can actually see the fish in the water!
Austin attempting to participate in the hike
We came across a functioning, falaj (traditional aqueduct).
After all that we finally got to the pools! Hunter walked the entire way! He was such a trooper about it! Now, the best part! This is where the pools started.
I had to leave my camera behind because we had to swim the rest of the way. At first, we tried to take the boys with us, but the water was too deep, and we didn’t have anything for them to float on. Sorry boys, maybe next time! Bookie and I went in separately because we had come to far to just turn around and go back.
If you look at that last picture you will see the pools where we started swimming. The water was low enough that we were able to walk at some parts. Again, we had to do this separately, so Bookie went first, and I went second. The pool was long and curvy, and took about 10 minutes of walking/swimming. As I was following the path of the pool I came across a tunnel. The tunnel opening was very narrow, and I had to swim into this tight tunnel to get to see the most beautiful scene (a beautiful cave).
I found this online. It is a picture of the tunnel.
Inside the cave, cliffs made of the same rock you see in the pictures above formed a circle about 200 feet in diameter. When I entered the cave, the sun was hitting just right, so it poured through three large openings above (directly above the middle was a rock ceiling, but off to its side in three different spots there were openings), and the water was a beautiful teal/blue. There was a waterfall about two stories high, the first story was an unbroken waterfall, with the second offset behind the first by five feet. Next to the waterfall, lapping in the giant pool below was a rope to climb the waterfall, so I did. At the top of the waterfall there was another pool, but that pool was really warm. I walked around for a minute, and then decided to go back into the cave. How did I get back in you ask? I jumped off the uninterrupted first story of the waterfall. It was so fun!! I could have stayed in that cave for hours. One day I will be back to Wadi Shab. It was one of the most memorable moments of my life (apart from getting married, and giving birth to three kids of course…). I loved every part of it.
I swam back to reunite with my boys, and to trek back to our car! Before we left we took a family picture! Oh Wadi Shab, Wadi Shab, I will forever miss you!
Day 6: To be Continued
P.S. Here is a message from the boys. As I was writing this, the said they wanted to say something too.
Hunter says, “I love t-rexes. So (long pause) I like when we went in our cave. Annnd I love when we was in the water (at wadi shab). I miss grandmommy and papa.
Mason says, “my am two. Hmm about Oman, dolphins. We go on a boat then we saw dolphins (true). And then we saw goats (true), we saw cows (false) then we saw cock-a-doodle-doo (false). No, my miss Me-ma and Pe-pa
Austin says, “waaaa waaaa poop poop fart cry waaaaa da da da da da. (my eloquent little booger)