Jan. 1, 2016

For the four day UAE national holiday, on December 2nd I drove to Oman to stay at the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and visit Muscat, the capital city.  Many just take the one hour flight but I wanted to do the 6 hour drive to see more of the coast and just enjoy the time to drive into a new country. I stayed at the Al Jissah Resort, about 25 minutes further down the coast until Saturday and took the day to drive back.

The drive was pleasant with a combination of desert and then coast line scenery.  However, crossing the border was a separate adventure all in itself.  Oman made some changes in entry requirements in Novemeber of which I was pleasantly ignorant.  Going to Oman required a 2 hour wait standing in line at a customs station well inside the border to pay the 5 Rials for a tourist visa.  That was part of 4 separate checkpoints between the UAE and Oman; I half expected to see "Checkpoint Charlie" before I finally was in the country. Returning back to the UAE on Saturday took another 2 hours because I waited 45 minutes in line at the wrong border crossing.  Yes, there are two at Al Ain, one for non UAE or Gulf Country nationals about 8 kms from the one I went to.  Good exercise in developing patience, and I did meet some very nice fellows from Egypt and several large families from India while standing in line at the first crossing.

The resort was recommended by a friend at work and surpassed all expectations.  I would put this one at 5 star plus.  I have stayed at some very wonderful beach resorts over the years including Hayman Island in Australia and this one was right up there at the top.  The room was large and superbly appointed with all the little things that add up to luxury.  That, and a private balcony to have dinner and watch the ocean made it about as good as it gets. The Resort is actually 3 separate hotels all connected.  I would recommend paying a little more and staying where I did, at the Al Husn hotel.  It is on a cliff, is quiet with very few children and, most importantly, has a secluded private beach in a cove (see photo album).  The beach was so nice that I put off a planned afternoon touring Muscat and stayed at the beach all day.  Overlooking the cove was a small restaurant just perfect for lunch with a terrfic menu and great view.

I spent a day walking around part of Muscat, mostly at the Mutrah section which is the port and has a beautiful Corniche to walk along.  I spent about 4 hours just walking from one end to the other taking pictures and ending up at the old Portugese observation tower.  I did a short visit to the famous Mutrah Souk. The maze-like souq (marketplace), which also includes a fish market, is often described as the best in the Gulf region and certainly worth the tour just to see all the people and items for sale.  I will let the photos describe the scenery I enjoyed.

I enjoyed my first trip to Oman and only saw a small part of his beautiful country. I would like to return to see other more remote areas further into the county such as  the Wadi Shab about a 100 km south east of Mscat. I have read that this is perhaps the most spectacular of all the easily accessible wadis in Oman near the village of Tiwi. with pools of a vivid Emerald Green color.