Monday, 11 February 2013

Oman – The first souk



 February 9-10

Hello everyone!

It’s half-term at school, meaning an opportunity to travel once more. Though this Kazakh winter has been milder than the one we endured in 2011, it still has confined us to our flat for much of the last couple of months. The chance to relax and unwind in a warmer climate was thus one that simply could not be passed up. Having a thirst for new experiences, cultures and countries, I wasn’t overly keen on spending a week in the U.A.E., so plumped for its southern neighbour – Oman.





The knowledge I had of Oman before arriving was minimal. I knew that the capital is Muscat, it has a lovely climate at this time of year, and that there were plenty of beaches to lie on. After an uncomfortable six-hour layover in Abu Dhabi airport, we popped on a short flight to the big city.





What awaited us was otherworldly in comparison to the northern big-hitters of Abu Dhabi and Dubai (and, from what I’ve heard, Doha in Qatar). That is no bad thing. Though it is obvious that there is plenty of money in Oman from oil – we were told that to fill up the tank of a very large Ford Escape costs a measly £6 – the Rials are not being blown on an extravagant and bizarre skyline. The city is a bit of a sprawl, but the lovely buildings hark back to an era closely associated to medieval times.


 Muscat has a large coastline, and is peppered with many beaches of different materials – sandy, rocky, and most certainly windy. We spent our first evening at the popular Qurum Beach, and soon had to don light jackets due to the strong breeze emanating in the Gulf of Oman. It seems that the locals keep themselves warm once the sun has dazzlingly disappeared by playing football on these very beaches. Literally hundreds of Omanis took to the sands to pass, dribble and shoot their way along the shore.





The first full day was spent lazily walking through Old Muscat. One of the main attractions of the city is its souk, an Arabic free-for-all market. Even in the morning, it possessed a vibrant and cheerful atmosphere. The sellers were not at all intimidating, and indeed very friendly towards us. The lack of pressure from them was a pleasant surprise, as were some of the items on sale, such as this delightfully tacky hat shown at the bottom of the blog. Bought for 1.5 Omani Rials at the end of the week, if you’re wondering.





We then strolled in the sun along Muscat’s corniche in order to reach the historical district of the city. A peaceful promenade is dotted with luxury liners and, to our delight, the occasional turtle. No dolphins or whales, however, both of which can be spotted along the large coast of Oman.





Oman has a rich history, which will be touched upon in later blogs, but can be seen in Muscat from the old Portuguese forts on the coast of the old town. The bastions tower over this small and eerily quiet part of the city, which is in the process of being converted into the municipal district. This change is most obviously reflected by the residence of Sultan Qaboos, leader of Oman for the last 43 years.





First impressions of Muscat, and Oman, have been overwhelmingly positive. The beaches are lovely, the people very welcoming, and the sun is shining brightly. A lovely start to our time here.







Love you all

Matt

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