Oman - The country in the Orient 10/2023
Again and again I have heard that Oman is supposed to be a real insider tip on the Arabian Peninsula.
Moreover, I have read that for divers it is a real alternative to the Red Sea with many intact coral reefs or wrecks. If you are lucky, you can even meet whales, the rare leopard shark, turtles and whale sharks.
Oman is more traditional than the Emirates and safer than Yemen.
Beautiful beaches and port cities, the "empty quarter", the Rub al-Chali desert, but also the various wadis and the Hajar mountains - all this sounds like a very diverse and interesting country, which has aroused my Curiosity.
At the end of September, I will now be able to travel there and see for myself.
Still in the dark, I made my way to the S-Bahn and drove to the airport. There I queued up at the "Privilege Club" counters, because I am allowed to do that since I have the Silver Card from Qatar Airways.
The check-in worked great, at the security check I was also allowed to use an extra entrance and so I was quickly through. Then I went to the Airport Lounge World and enjoyed a great, rich breakfast. It is already something different than I usually know.
Shortly before boarding time, I made my way to the gate. Hardly arrived, they already called me up. I went to the counter and just like that I got an upgrade to the business lounge. I was of course very happy.
When I took my seat I was already greeted very friendly with a glass of Rose Champagne. I treated myself to a sip and then took a closer look at my seat.
There was a little extra, a real blanket, bigger screens and a seat that I could actually extend to a bed. After trying everything out, the stewardess came again and brought me the menu card. I was allowed to choose a three-course meal from each of three different dishes.
Before lunch came, my table was made pretty with a white table server. The food was served on real dishes-no plastic-and the menu tasted excellent.
After I was full, of course, I took advantage of the "bed" and slept for an hour or so, because the early rising was making itself felt. And I slept really well.
Shortly before landing in Qatar, we were politely asked if we had a connecting flight, needed assistance and if we liked it. I thanked them for the great service, which I could really get used to if it weren't so expensive, and declined assistance, however, because I had enough time until the second flight left, and I know the airport really well by now.
On the display board I looked at which gate my connecting flight went and then looked for the Silver Lounge. The young ladies recommended me to visit another lounge near the gate, I got the upgrade from you. I accepted it with thanks and found the Premium Gold Lounge relatively quickly. Here I ate and drank a little something, and enjoyed the time.
The flight from Doha to Muscat passed quickly.
But when I got to the security check, I was startled. An extremely long queue stood in front of it. I decided to pay 10 OMR (the equivalent of just under 25€) to pass the priority passport control, so that I would not have stood there after midnight. I picked up the luggage and walked to the exit.
There was already waiting Oliver, the owner of the guesthouse "Lana Villa" https://lanavilla-oman.com , whom I met in July already in Munich. We drove to the accommodation and he showed me the room.
Before I fell exhausted into bed, I quickly packed my diving gear, because tomorrow morning I finally get to dive again.
Day 1 Diving Day - Daymaniyat Islands
The night was short, because at six o'clock the alarm clock rang again.
When I came to breakfast at half past six, the two ladies from Lana Villa were a bit surprised. Because normally there is breakfast only from 7:30 o'clock. When I explained to them that I was going diving, I got something anyway and could strengthen myself.
Oli recommended me the "OTaxi App". With it I could get to the diving school cheaply. I tried it out and it worked great. Like in Vietnam, where I used "Grab". But the difference is big: it costs much more than in Asia. For just under 3.7 OMR (equivalent to 9 €) they took me to the diving center https://www.molamoladivingcenter.com about 15 minutes away at the harbor. Arrived there I was welcomed very friendly. Everything was already prepared.
I had already contacted Mido in advance. When I mentioned my name he immediately remembered me and explained how it would work today. There were two dive boats with three groups each (4-5 people). I was then shown my dive bag, which was already prepared with everything. I checked everything and then brought all the stuff to the boat. There I assembled my equipment.
On the boat I met a couple from Sydney and a German-Canadian. Viencent, my divemaster, explained everything we needed to know on the boat. Then we left the harbor and headed out to the open sea.
After about three quarters of an hour, we reached the Daymaniyat Islands, a small chain of islands. The islands and the surrounding sea area of 203 km² are a nature reserve established in 1996.
After the briefing, we were assigned to groups and our dive guides. After the buddy check we jumped into the water and dived at the dive site "Sierrra". The water was really clear and so I saw a small turtle right at the beginning at 10 meters.
With almost 29 degrees it was not exactly a cooling but still pleasant to dive, because the normal temperature was 39 degrees. In addition clear visibility. The only thing missing were the sea creatures. Looking for the leopard shark, which can always be found there, we saw many schools of fish and two more turtles. But the rare leopard sharks did not show up. So we resurfaced after about 55 minutes.
On board we exchanged the tanks and the guys from the diving school prepared a small lunch. We had falafel and other Arabic delicacies.
Strengthened we drove to the other side of the island (John Island) and got ready to dive again. This dive site was called "Sierra + West Wall". We dived along a wall but always looking out for sharks, turtles or other beautiful animals. But this dive was unfortunately not so successful, because we saw nothing except a few schools of fish. In addition, my left ear gave me a hard time, it didn't want to equalize the pressure anymore. Fortunately we were already surfacing again.
Around 14:30 we reached the harbor. At the diving school I thanked, paid and booked me with an OTaxi back to the guesthouse.
When I wanted to relax on the roof terrace, I met a German couple who had ear drops with them. I was allowed to borrow them and they really helped.
Nevertheless, I cancelled the diving for tomorrow as a precaution and Oliver gave me good tips as an alternative. So tomorrow morning I will have a closer look at the capital Muscat.
In the evening he showed me a few locations and we went to eat in an Arabic restaurant.
Day 2 Culture Day Muscat
Shortly before eight o'clock the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque opens. It is the main mosque in Oman. It is considered one of the most important buildings in the country and one of the largest mosques in the world. The construction of the complex was decided by Sultan Qabus in 1992. I wanted to be there when it opened because then I would have a chance of fewer people. I booked myself again via the app the almost 3 km an OTaxi.
There was really nothing going on yet, fortunately. But before I was allowed to enter the facility, I had to wrap a headscarf, or my loop scarf over my head and put on my cardigan.
Afterwards, I went on an exploration and photo tour. Since little was going on, I could let off steam in peace with the perspectives and ideas. The plant is huge and really offers many great motifs.
After I had some photos in the box I also went inside the mosque. It was very impressive to see a mosque from the inside and then the largest of Oman.
My second stop was the "Royal Opera House Muscat" which is located in the district "Shati al-Qurm in Maska". Unfortunately, I had no wifi to be able to book me an OTaxi, so I asked someone on the spot for hotspots. Immediately some men came up to me and wanted to offer me a cab, of course overpriced. I declined with thanks, the hotspot I got anyway and so I booked myself another ride.
Arrived at the Opera House I bought a ticket for 3.1 OMR and went on a small guided tour. We were told that the construction lasted from 2007-2011 and the hall has 1,100 seats.
After the tour I strolled a bit through the mall that was right next door, had a coffee and wanted to go on to a market.
After I read on the Internet that it closes at noon and only reopens in the late afternoon, I decided to go back to the guesthouse and take a siesta, because at 39 degrees around the clock on the legs, I can no longer stand.
As I sat in the living room of Villa Lana in the late afternoon waiting for my OTAXI, I met Mr. Eckart von Hirschhausen and his family.
The drive to the market " Mutrah souq" a little south of Muscat took about half an hour.There they built and opened their stalls after the long lunch break. As I strolled through the small covered alleys, memories of Marakesh came up. Similar to that time, it smelled like incense and the merchants try to sell you perfume, fake cashmere shawls and other goods. But I just wanted to take pictures. Some of you thought it was really great and had fun when I asked if I could take a picture.
As the sun was setting I was looking for a nice place to watch the sunset, but I didn't find one and my stomach started to growl.
As I walked along the harbor, a car suddenly stopped and a young woman addressed me by name. Belinda, from the diving school from yesterday had recognized me. She is Swiss and has lived here for three years. She gave me a tip for a restaurant, which I also accepted. It was on the 2nd floor with a view of the harbor.
Afterwards I drove back to my guesthouse. There I secured my photos and packed everything for tomorrow, because then I try it again with the diving and go in search of the leopard shark.
Day 3 - Everything comes differently than planned
Unfortunately, shortly before going to sleep, my ear started to cause problems again. It hurt, so I had to cancel the diving with a heavy heart.
But I also needed an alternative, because just sitting around or lying on the beach, that's not my world.
Oli gave me the tip to go to Nizwa with its fortress and other souks in the interior with a car. But I did not want to rent a car. He suggested me a collective cab.
Said done I drove after breakfast with the OTaxi to the bus station. There was a lot going on and somehow also very chaotic. When asking for a shared cab, they just looked at me questioningly, but when I called "Nizwa" you pointed to the bus. But it said "Salaah" on it. But one affirmed that this also goes to Nizwa. I trusted the bus driver got on and paid 3 OMR.
I ran Mapsme during the ride to see if the bus was really going the right way. There was also WIFi and so the one and a half hours passed relatively quickly. Before the gates of Nizwa, the bus then stopped at a bus station.
On site, they wanted to direct me to a restaurant for dinner, but I refused and asked politely if there was WIFI here. They denied that, but in a small office they gave me access to a hotspot and so I booked an OTaxi directly to the souk.
It was not really busy, so I could look around in peace. Outside were various clay and pottery stalls.
In a back corner four older men sat and drank coffee. When I asked them if I could photograph them, they agreed and at the same time invited me for a coffee, which I gratefully accepted. They did not understand a word of English but somehow it was still funny with them.
We continued to the various market halls. Here it was nice and cool and refreshing. But even there was not really something going on. Maybe it was just the time and quite in the morning and evening is more going on.
Afterwards I strolled a bit through "Old town" until I came to the entrance of the "Nizwa Fort", an impressive fortress from the 17th century.
It has a very large round tower, cannons at the entrance and high interiors. I paid 5 OMR entrance fee and a young student accompanied me and explained some things. She does this besides her studies and the tours are a lot of fun for her.
After the tour and all the stair climbing in 38 degrees, I looked for a cafe with wifi, ordered an iced coffee and ate a piece of cake.
Around 2 p.m., I took an OTaxi back to the bus station and hoped that a bus would also go back to Muscat in a timely manner. 2:45 p.m. was written on a board. But the many OTaxis already called me to them and wanted to drive me to Muscat. 12 OMR they suggested to me. The app said 34 OMR. I negotiated with you 10 OMR, directly to Villa Lana and incl. Hotspot.
Oli and many others told me that it is very safe here in Oman, so after the driver took my deal, I decided to let them drive me to Muscat. In advance I took a photo of the license plate and sent it to Oli as a precaution. The drive was relaxed, we listened to Arabic music and reached our destination after just over an hour.
I paid, thanked him and went up to my room. There I rested a bit, arranged everything for the next two days and arranged to go for a sunset walk on the beach with Oli's German friend Maik and his neighbor.
Back at the guesthouse I saw the moon still shining on the roof terrace, I secured all photos and fell tired and exhausted into bed.
Day 4 Wadi and Desert
Khalfan, my guide from the company Sunrisetour https://www.sunshinetoursoman.com, was there on time at 7:00 am to pick me up for a two day tour. Our first destination was a "Traditional Old Souq of Fanja", about half an hour drive from Muscat.
But when we arrived there was unfortunately nothing going on, so we didn't stay there too long and drove further inland towards Wadi Bani Khalid, one of the biggest and most beautiful wadis in Oman. At 10:30 am the air was already 36 degrees. We packed our things for the two kilometer short hike. We didn't get far, as I saw colorful dragonflies that I had to photograph first.
We continued walking between the canyons, crossing lots of rocks again and again, until we arrived at the bathing place. I already had a bright red head and hoped to be allowed to jump in there, but no go. Our destination was the cave "Moqul cave". When we finally got there, two guys were already waiting for us. One of them went in with us, the other one took care of our things. When they showed me the way, I thought they were kidding me. The ceiling was very low. But ok, I went with the two on the way and ducked we scrambled down. Again and again we met small bats, we saw several spiders, but the snakes, they had hidden. Arrived at the end I was a little disappointed. I had expected something more, more to photograph and marvel at, but the cave was just dirty and dark.
So back again and to the bathing place. In the water I got relatively quickly visit from small fish, which clean my feet. That tickles a little bit.
After we had cooled down and rested a bit there, we walked back towards the car.The thermometer showed 40 degrees in the meantime.Too hot for me.But fortunately we had air conditioning. In a small town of the desert we stopped at a supermarket and bought our food for the evening and the next breakfast. Here we were not always in agreement about the selection, but in the end we found a good mix. Before we drove into the desert, however, Khalfan let air out of the wheels at an auto repair shop. He explained to me that this was necessary to have better grip in the sand. Then finally the time had come: Behind the houses we turned into a street and there it was: the "Wahiba Sand Dessert". It is located in the east of Oman and covers an area of 100 by 250 kilometers. Here the memories of my Morocco journey and the time in the Sahara came up again. Khalfan really stepped on the gas. It was like a roller coaster ride. But it was fun and the desert adventure began.
Somewhere in the middle of nowhere we stopped at a Bedouin tent. There it was explained to me that people used to live in it. But today it is only a tourist place. The Bedouins live in a small village at the edge of the desert. Two women we met or better said, they are already waiting for us, because they were informed by Khalfan that I would like to take pictures of you. Their daughter was working on different headdresses. Her mother came in her traditional garb. First we had coffee together and then I was also given a traditional robe to wear. We took pictures together. I was able to take some great pictures of the mother as well. I thanked her and we drove on.
After I told Khalfan that I would like to find and photograph the Arabian Oryx antelope, he raced like a madman along the dunes until we arrived at a luxury camp. There he showed me the antelope. But what did I find: four Arabian Oryx antelopes in an enclosure. Khalfan had misunderstood a bit. I wanted to photograph them in the wild. Well, nothing came of it and we went on our way again, because time was pressing, it was getting later and later and we still had to look for our sleeping place between the dunes before the sunset came. In addition, I had to fight meanwhile with headache, light nausea and tiredness. But after a lot of back and forth we found a place. It was not so easy, because the dunes were not as high as I knew them from the Sahara and everywhere were small green bushes. My idea of a perfect dune picture disappeared a bit. Nevertheless, I started taking pictures, looking for nice perspectives and Khalfan started setting up camp. I called him to me at some point, because a few photos of him also had to be.
Unfortunately, nothing came of a colorful, beautiful sunset, because clouds had gathered and the wind began to blow strongly, so that we both crawled into the car for the time being, so as not to be completely dusted with sand. Also, I had to protect my camera equipment and Khalfan couldn't start cooking. I used the time to sift through the photos and summarize today. We didn't have dinner because it was already quite late and the wind didn't really want to stop. So we decided to make only vegetables in a pan and a delicious salad.
Meanwhile we could admire the starry sky. Before the moon rose I wanted to try to get a nice clear star picture, but since I do not know much about night photography yet, nothing came of it. But I could catch the moon again beautifully.
Khalfan already cleaned up the food again and I slowly got ready for bed and retreated into my small tent.
5. day Back to civilization
The night in the desert took some getting used to. A bit hard and during the night I also heard some kind of noises. Also, I got up before sunrise, walked along the dunes a bit to find a perfect place to take pictures, which somehow wasn't that easy. But eventually I found one, sat down and waited for the beautiful play of colors in the morning. Every now and then I took a few photos, but also enjoyed the peace and nature. There was no real play of colors in the morning, but still it was a nice experience.
Back in the camp Khalfan was already preparing breakfast. Thereby I also learned who had caused the noises tonight: He pointed to the tracks and explained to me that the desert fox had been here.
The temperatures rose rapidly again, so that we dismantled the camp together after breakfast, quickly inserted a small shooting and then made our way back to civilization.
Once there, the tires were first pumped up again. Then we drove about two and a half hours towards the coast, rather said to the "Wadi Shab".
This wadi is the most famous. It is a huge gorge lined with palm trees and gives impressive evidence of what the power of water flowing down from the mountains can do to nature. Even though I'm used to temperatures above 30 degrees when hiking, the 40 degrees knocked me out after a short while, even though the trail there isn't actually strenuous at all. For me, the 45 minute walk felt like an eternity. Once there, it looked really incredibly beautiful, but I couldn't really enjoy it, because I was just exhausted, so I first took a seat in the shade. Until the very end, to a cave and a waterfall I just did not make it.
Khalfan, however, I treated myself to a bath. When I was halfway strong again, I took a few photos and then we walked back.
Quite exhausted we arrived at the car. I was so looking forward to the air conditioning in the car. About 20 minutes later, right on the coast, Khalfan showed me another one of his favorite spots, with a beautiful view along the coast. But I couldn't get too much out of it. He couldn't understand it at all. So we went on to the "White Beach". I had already read a lot about this and had also seen it. But when we arrived there, I saw a completely different picture: It was dirty and not at all according to the pictures. A bit disappointed we drove on and stopped at an area where there were antelopes. In fact, we saw a few, in addition, some free-roaming donkeys ran us over the way and a few birds, also let themselves be seen.
The last stop of the two-day tour was the "Bimmah Sink Hole". A meteorite is said to have hit there about 70 years ago. Today you can swim here. But I didn't want to swim this time either, because there were too many tourists there. I waited in the shade for Khalfan, who took a shower and prayed here.
In the early evening we arrived in Muscat, at the Lana Villa again. Quite exhausted, I thanked him for the two days, said goodbye and went to my room first. I was so looking forward to the shower and a real bed. Exhausted but unfortunately also a little disappointed by this tour I fell asleep.
Day 6 Diving day
Even though I was pretty tired and worn out from the last days I wanted to dive again, because my ears were fine again. So I took the otaxi again to the dive center "MolaMola", which is a bit north of Muscat. There I was greeted very friendly like the first time. I was assigned to a boat and set up my equipment for the first dive. In my dive group were two other couples and a young woman from the Netherlands. She was also my dive buddy. Nash was our dive guide. Belinda had her family from Switzerland with her who wanted to try some "scuba diving". Two other Swiss kids were doing their open water course with Mido.
When we arrived at "Daymaniyat Islands" we all got ready for the first dive. The site was called "Black Tip". It went down to 19 meters. The visibility was very clear again today. Nash really saw a lot. He showed us some "Nudi branches", shrimps and morays. When I found a really big moray eel, however, he pointed beside it. There was a big ray with almost a meter wingspan . But also on this dive we did not find the leopard shark. After a good 53 minutes we resurfaced together.
For lunch we went to the "Turtle Beach" but stayed on the boat. As on Saturday, a table was set up and Omani delicacies were served. What I found a bit crazy: chips are sprinkled in the bread, on top hummus and falafel or meat. It took some getting used to, but it tasted good.
But we did not last long on the boat and jumped into the water, because there were countless turtles to see. So many on one spot, that I had also never experienced. They had no fear at all, swam towards us, touched us and cuddled on the seabed with your fellow species.
The second dive was on the other side of the island and was called "Three Sisters". Before we descended, I noticed that my regulator was not really tight, so it was changed before we went down. Here we also found a few nudibranches and moray eels, but nothing more. It just wasn't meant to be with the leopard shark. Nevertheless I was very satisfied and happy with today's dive.
Back at the port, I wrote my 111 and 112 dive in my logbook, paid and said goodbye.
Day 7 Last Day - Local Market
Oli and I had an appointment for breakfast at Lana Villa at 7am today, because we wanted to go to a local fish and vegetable market, north of Muscat, afterwards.
There was not much traffic, because in Oman Friday is like Sunday for us. In Seeb, the hustle and bustle of the market was already in full swing. This is exactly what I missed the whole time. A real, local market. The people were friendly, greeted me and were also happy to be photographed.
When we had left the vegetable area, we came to the animal market. There I found it not quite so great, because the chickens as well as other bird species were locked in small cages and that at barely 35 degrees around 8 o'clock in the morning.
But we did not linger long, because we were looking for the fish market. When we asked, we were told that it was about five minutes straight ahead. We walked along the street and arrived there as well.
A real hustle and bustle was going on there. There was trading and haggling, fish were cut up and we were again the eye-catcher. But everyone was very friendly. I was able to capture some great moments there.
After about an hour and a half at the market, we were both so sweaty that we drove back to Muscat. Oli dropped me off at a supermarket near the guesthouse. I grabbed a snack and walked back, rested a bit and packed my things.
In the afternoon I took last photos of the villa, talked to another couple from Germany that was guests here, gave them tips.
At sunset Oli picked me up again. We drove to the "Azaiba Beach". There, mainly in the evening, the locals meet, jet ski, play soccer on the beach or swim. Before we ran along the beach, we drank a delicious mocktail in a café directly on the beach with a view of the sea.
As the sun slowly set we walked on the beach, I took pictures and enjoyed the last evening on the Gulf of Oman.
Back at the Lana Villa, I sat down for an hour on the roof terrace, wrote my last lines of the travel blog, booked me in advance the cab to the airport and went to bed early, because my return flight already takes off tomorrow around 6 am in the morning in the direction of Doha.
Bye bye Oman and thank you for all the beautiful moments!