Living on an island in the Middle East affords certain travel opportunities. Every place you go from here is a new stamp in the passport, and you can travel to many countries in an hour or 2.
Originally, our family planned to travel to Italy for a portion of our Christmas break. We booked our flights, made our reservations through AirBnB, and made arrangements for our daughters, who are still living in the States, to join us in Rome. As we thought about the week leading up to this trip, we realized we might get a little bored hanging out in Bahrain – not that the island doesn’t have great things to do, but we can do them anytime. We considered our options and thought, “Why not spend the first few days of break in Oman?” So… that’s what we did.
We didn’t know much about Oman, but we heard great things about it from friends who’d recently visited. Again, we turned to AirBnB (no, I’m not getting any kick-backs for mentioning them) and found an amazing place to stay, with a very helpful host, just outside of Muscat.
When we landed, the first thing that struck me was the color green. Green! Everywhere!! After living in the browns of the desert for 4 months, it was incredible to see so many shades of green. Add to that the blues of the water and sky, and you get a place of beauty that completely draws you in.
The Muttrah Souq is as beautiful as it is vast. The tangle of walkways can bring you ever deeper until you aren’t sure which paths you’ve taken and which you haven’t. The shops are a mix of typical tourist fare along with creative hand crafts. The shopkeepers, willing to bargain, are not overly pushy. A simple, “Welcome, Mum,” serves as their invitation to peruse their wares. If you visit, be sure to look up. The real beauty lies in the colorful glass laden ceilings.
Dolphin watching was quite an adventure. Imagine riding a bucking bronco while in a roller coaster in a water park ride. We were supposed to take the trip the day prior, but were told the ocean was too rough. I can’t imagine how bad it would’ve been that day! Once we got out of the bay and into the deep water, the ride was much smoother and absolutely stunning. We expected to see a few dolphins. We never expected to see a few hundred dolphins! It really was breathtaking to watch the dolphins leaping from the water with the view of the rocky cliffs behind them. We also had the opportunity to do a bit of snorkeling at the end of the trip. I spent about 45 minutes with a very peaceful sea turtle and a pair of cuttlefish. I found my happy place.
On our final full day in Oman, we visited the Nizwa Fort and Souq. Our boys absolutely loved walking through all the halls and rooms of the fort. They thought the cannons were impressive. They were excited to see where those protecting the fort would drop boiling date juice on or shoot arrows at intruders. They pretended they were living in the fort and had to protect it from advancing armies. I was surprised by how much they enjoyed their time there. I would definitely recommend a visit to anyone traveling to Oman. It is about an hour and a half from Muscat, but well worth the scenic drive. Keep in mind the Souq follows Middle Eastern traditions and closes for the mid-afternoon. Visit the shops in the morning and the fort after lunch. Learn from our “New Griswold” experience.
Spending the first few days of our break in Oman was a wonderful idea. We were able to relax and enjoy the beauty of the country and its people…and add another stamp to our passports.