Returning to the Sultanate of Oman was an especially pleasing experience as first time around there was little opportunity to visit beyond Salalah. It was pleasant to discover a diverse and beautiful country with an authentic culture and friendly people.
The capital of Muscat is a mix of the modern and the traditional. The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and Royal Opera House are impressive examples of modern Islamic architecture but there are plenty of opportunities to discover the old city too. Along with browsing the souk at Muttrah where gold and leather products are plentiful, traditional Dhows can be found at anchor in the harbour.
The annual Muscat Festival provides a fascinating glimpse of a nomadic culture, people dress in ancestral costume, providing displays of traditional activities and games. Vendors selling Omani cuisine abound and combining some halwa; a sticky, sweet lump which can be flavoured with nuts, chocolate or rosewater or lokhemat deep fried flour and yeast balls flavoured with cardamom with kahwa; cardamom laced coffee is recommended.
There are further souks to be found in nearby Seeb. A small fishing village where men repair their nets and children play football amongst the numerous fishing vessels scattered on the narrow beach.
Discovering old towns like Nizwa with ageing forts and small villages such as Misfat which still have and use fully operational ancient irrigation systems known as falajs is a delight. A trek through the stunning Wadi Shab provides a pleasant surprise, with its steep sided rock walls, numerous emerald tinted pools punctuating its length and even another falaj, it was a highlight of the trip.
An image of the endless sand dunes at Wahiba Sands would certainly have provided a memorable image of the Sultanate especially as it was my first glimpse of desert dunes. It is hard to imagine the isolated beauty that a range of sand mountains provides. A solitary set of footprints maybe the only sign that humans have been there at all, the light desert breeze soon erasing even these.
In the end though this image seemed most appropriate to represent lovely Oman. It is certainly a favourite of the country, a stunning sunset over the mountains of Jabal Al Akhdar. The rich hues reflected in the low clouds provided one of the most breath-taking sunsets I have ever experienced. The sky almost seemed alive or on fire, the bold yellows and reds broke up the dark almost foreboding clouds set against the silhouetted pavilions providing an unforgettable scene.
There is plenty to discover in Oman amidst it’s friendly population, which smiled, chatted and even invited our group into their homes at times, we were always made to feel welcome. It made for a memorable visit and this image instantly transports me back to a moment which was truly awe inspiring.