Report and Pictures by Dr. Eugene D’Souza, Moodubelle
Muscat, 13 April 2010: Since ancient times, Muscat has been known as a trading port and commercial center serving the Gulf, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. Muscat is a world class capital city blending the best of old and new. Its historical landmarks reflect the city’s role over the ages. The houses of ancient merchants, souqs (markets), towers, gateways and forts have become major tourist attractions in Muscat. The old city of Muscat enclosed by walls and gates display a mixture of traditional and contemporary styles. Muttrah Souq, the most popular market in Muscat is a well preserved traditional place selling verities of commodities such as Arabian spices, fragrance and handicrafts as well as household goods. Muscat’s world class hotels, parks, historic and modern buildings, museums, beautiful beaches and fertile palm tree lined wadis and streets are major tourist attractions which enable them to discover the past glory and present wonders of Muscat.
Though it was not possible to cover many places of interest within a short period of my stay in Muscat, few of us ventured out to visit some of the chief attractions of the city. First we came across four golden horses, two facing opposite directions at the center of the road and two on high pedestals on two sides of the road at Wadi Kabir. A little further, we came across a Roundabout with typical Omani pots and still further before the Al Bustan Royal Hotel another Roundabout with a traditional Omani ship in the center. In the Gulf countries, it is common to have Roundabouts with traditional cultural motifs at the center.
Next we entered the gate leading to Al Bustan Palace Inter Continental Hotel set against a dramatic mountain backdrop on 200 acres of private beach and lush green gardens. The hotel is extremely impressive which was once the Palace of the local ruler. The Al Bustan Palace is in an amazing location just in between two mountains with a fantastic bay and a stunning beach.
The Marina Bandar Al-Rowdha Yacht Club was our next destination. The Marina is located between the warm blue waters of the Gulf of Oman and the craggy Hajar Mountains of northern Oman. It is Oman’s premium marina opened in March 1996 and is located in a truly beautiful setting. The marina has a unique picture-postcard beauty that one can only hope to find in this part of the world. Presently, the marina has both wet and dry berths, which are fully serviced by modern launch and recovery equipment. There is constant supply of fresh-water and electricity available from the docks, as well as a fully equipped marine workshop. Charter boats are available for coastal cruises, whale and dolphin watching, sports fishing and sunset cruises. There is also an on-site scuba diving operator.
From the Marina Bandar we proceeded further towards the Al Alam Royal Palace overlooking the Muscat harbour and nestled between the Al Jalali and Al Mirani Forts in Muscat. The Al Alam Royal Palace is one of the most beautiful buildings of the city. The architecture of the palace manifests grace and chasteness. The Al Alam Royal Palace is the official estate of the ruler of Oman, Sultan Qaboos. Tourists and visitors are allowed only until the gates of this grand palace. They are not allowed to enter the interiors of the palace. The Al Alam Royal Palace was built in the year 1972 after Sultan Qaboos ascended the throne of the Sultanate of Oman in 1970. Tourists can enter this palace through the Kabir Gate in the ancient city walls.
Proceeding further we came across the Muttrah Corniche and harbour. The Muttrah harbour is circular, deep water, natural anchorage, where tankers, barges, ferries and cruise ships can be seen along with traditional Arab dhows. At the northern end of the Corniche there is a fish market and the dhow harbour, where the dhows anchor to unload the catches of the day. The Muttrah Corniche is a beautiful place.
Towards the east of the harbour is the Kalbooh Park with high mountain in the background and the blue waters of the harbour in the foreground. From this park we could see a giant replica of incense burner on top of a hill. Its beauty can be seen in all its glory during the sun set and after its lights have been switched on during the night. The Kalbooh Park is a place of leisure where people go for spending their evening and enjoy the pleasant sea breeze and the beauty of the reflection of the street and building lights in the sea waters. When there is no rush, some of the local boys use the open space in the park for playing football.
We took a walk along the waterfront of Muttrah promenade known as Corniche which stretches for about three kilometers along the harbour. We found the pristine gardens and fountains along this stretch. The gold-topped cupolas and well polished granite statues of different verities of fish such as dolphins at regular intervals on the promenade are added attraction. The Muttrah Corniche depicts the history of Oman since 1970. Maintaining a pace with the current development, this part of the Sultanate still holds its old charms.
The visit of any tourist to this part of the city of Muscat is incomplete without a stroll in the cool dark alleys of the Muttrah Souq (market). One could see the samples of old Arabian style lamps suspended on strong wooden beams along the vaulted alley. The small shops on either side draw the attention of the visitor with their displays of verities of traditional, historical and modern wares such as shawls, cloth, caps, beads, gemstones, khanjars, ornaments, artifacts, etc.
Muttrah Souq offers a kaleidoscopic view of the rich culture and heritage of Oman and provides ample opportunities to search for right items for antique lovers. Having a critical eye, one could stumble on some of the oldest and most stunning antique pieces such as coins, natural sea pearls or jewellery. Muttrah Souq is famous for its silver. One can find on display the khanjars, wooden chests, coins, royal swords, neckpieces, masks, headgears, coffee pots, incense holders, decorative items, earrings, bangles, chandeliers, copper and silver plates and even an old iron. At one spot reclined against the canopy pillar, I notice and took picture of an Omani selling traditional tea known as khawa and another Omani sipping it from a cup.
On the whole, the visit to these exquisite tourist spots in Muscat was a treat that will remain in my mind for a long time. While the ancient mountains with medieval forts are the common sight in Muscat, one cannot ignore the tremendous development that has been taking place in the city with modern amenities and comforts such as well laid network of roads, malls and hypermarkets, luxurious cars and uniform coloured buildings coexisting with the surrounding mountains.
Courtesy-Bellevision Media Network