A few weeks ago I told you about my Kenya trip I have planned for August. I mentioned in that post that I was unsure whether to fly with KLM, a Dutch airline, or Emirates, an Emirati/Dubai airline. Either one would mean passing through Amsterdam or Dubai.
I like to make the most of these stop-overs by making a wee adventure out of them. I tried it when I went to Nepal last year, by taking a few days to explore Dubai on my way home. I would totally recommend it, particularly if you're travelling long-haul. The longer your flight, the more expensive it will be, so you should milk as much exploration out of it as you can.
Anyways, I didn't really fancy Amsterdam. It's so close to my hometown Newcastle that I can easily access it by ferry anytime. But I did Dubai last year, so there really isn't a lot left I'm wanting to see there. After weighing my options, I started to think outside of the box...well, borders, more like!
The United Arab Emirates shares a border with Oman, and Dubai is very close to that border. I looked into Oman a little bit and found that its capital city, Muscat, happens to be right next to that border too! It's so close in fact, that it's only a couple of hours' drive from Dubai, and there is a daily bus service between Dubai and Muscat. 'Yayayayayay!' I thought. That would be a great bonus adventure on my way back from Kenya - another new land to explore!
So what is Oman about? I do admit, I have barely heard a thing about it! It's very rarely referred to in western media and culture, unlike it's neighbour Yemen, which was instantly put on the map after that hilarious episode of 'Friends'.
So Oman does has some good things to see, but you really have to look hard for them. It's not a very high-profile country - neither are the sights too it would seem! I have found a few little things which I'd like to do, depending on whether I stay for 2 or 3 days!
So, here are the things I'd like to do when I'm in Oman:
1) Cycle along the Muscat Corniche
This is probably the easiest thing to accomplish out of this list! Bikes are free to rent in Muscat, and there are many, many docks and ports which all look very Arabian and exotic to cycle along. I'd love to cycle the length of the corniche, admiring the dhow boats bobbing in the tide beneath gigantic, jagged mountains that engulf the bay. I imagine it'll be a searing-hot, Arab version of Llandudno!
And hopefully I won't share this misfortune...
The egg-cup shaped feature in the distance is essentially a gigantic incense burner. Oman is pretty famous for its frankincense apparently!
2) Visit Wadi Shab
Wadi Shab is about 1.5 hours outside of Muscat, into the massive mountain range. It is a magical oasis filled with waterfalls and pools that look like molten emeralds. It's a hike-y type adventure, so I had best make sure I pack my walking boots!
3) Worm my way through the Muscat Soukhs
Muscat has an amazing soukh/market apparently. There, merchants will flog their golds, gems, textiles, spices - everything that you'd expect an Arab to have a taste for. Apparently there aren't many 'tatt' stalls, which soukhs in Dubai often seem to have to cater for the Western tourists. Muscat, quite understandably, doesn't haul in the tourists, so it still maintains its natural, Arabian charm.
Haggling is a customary thing in soukhs. You can argue with a tradesman for quite a while until you mutually agree on a price. I never thought I'd be good at this confrontational stuff, but as I found in Kathmandu, I seem to be fucking great at it!
Oh, and apparently you can have a perfume mixed to your liking to create your own, unique scent!
Now I left this till last, because it's the most expensive and I don't know for sure if I can afford it yet! Dune-Bashing is seen in Dubai, and it's pretty popular there. What would be great about doing it in Oman, is the uniquely mountainous terrain which Dubai Dune-Bashing doesn't appear to offer, and the sands are apparently tidier. It would be about £160 (€300) to do this, which is jumping out of my budget. However, if I happen to spend a lot less than I intend...well...
I book my flights tomorrow! I cannot wait to see the place and share with you what it's like out there!
I'm on my mark, ready, and set to go!