After our amazing discoveries of Omani landscapes and hospitality in Salalah and Nizwa, arriving in the car-crowded Muscat was a bit disappointing. Fortunately we decided to pay a visit to Sur and it was the best detour we could have made!
Muscat didn’t give us a first good impression. Our bus from Nizwa left us at 8pm in the middle of a dark street, with highways around us. Trying to find our way between highways and express roads, we walked 20 minutes with our heavy backpacks to find the cheapest hotel room of the city. The next day, we decided to “do as Romans do”, that is to say rent our own car to be able to move inside and around Muscat.
We went to the Sultan palace. Sultan Qabus ibn Saïd is the leader of Oman. He is one of the only two Sultans still ruling a country today (with the Sultan of Brunei). People love him a lot because he is the one who really made the country more developped after he chased his oppressive father from the trone.
We also drove to the corniche and the bazar. Hearing about the corniche, we had imagined a promenade with cosy cafes and restaurants. But no, the corniche was a road, with a pathway for pedestrians but no place to sit under the shades to enjoy the views of the sea…
“It’s time to leave Oman” we thought. United Arab Emirates, our next step, was only 200 kilometers away on the West. But with our rented car, we were now able to drive to some other places of Oman. So we thought about going to Sur on the East coast. We found a Couchsurfing host there and decided to give a try to this city that looked quieter than Muscat.
That’s how we met the amazing Mubarak. He told us “Let’s go in the desert!”. We thought “Wow it’s going to be super hot and dry”. Oasis exist only in your dreams or in movies, right? But after an hour driving in the genuine desert, we reached Wadi Bani Khalid, a valley with super clear, fresh water and palm trees in the middle of the driest landscape ever! Just imagine the feeling to bath in there when it’s almost 40°C outside…!
After that, Mubarak made us meet his cousin’s camels! We went to drive in the dunes and then made friends with the camels. One of them was so found of me after a few strokes that she followed me everywhere!
We also had time to enjoy the city of Sur. It has a beautiful port and the icing on the cake is that Mubarak has his own fishing boat and he took us for a ride in the port!
Finally Mubarak brought us to see the turtles on a turtle nesting beach. We went at night and waited quietly for the turtles to come. Only one came that night. We could see her dig her hole to put her eggs (which have the size of ping pong balls) and close it again. We learnt that the sex of the turtles is determined by temperature of the nest. Warmer temperatures produce mostly females, and cooler temperatures produce a majority of males.
On our way back to Muscat, we stopped in another beautiful wadi: Wadi Shab. We had to take a small boat and walk 30 minutes to reach it, but our bath in the fresh and clear water was our reward. Actually a wadi is a bit different than an oasis. In an oasis, water is permanently there. But in a wadi, there is water only if there were significant rainfalls.
That’s how we ended our discovery of Oman. For sure, this country surprised us by its beauty and the great time we had with Omani people. There were not a lot of tourists there. And the ones we saw were mainly families. Oman’s positioning as a luxury destination for tourists makes it difficult for backpackers to move and sleep for cheap. However, putting a little bit more budget in this trip was really worth it for us! Now see you in Dubai!