October 30, 2016

My Two Weeks in Muscat, Oman (Part II)

Continuing my previous post....

Sights to See

Because my main purpose for traveling to Oman is work, I only had one weekend to go around. Well, technically I had two weekends--the first one was when I arrived in Muscat. During that first weekend, I was able to go one of Muscat's marketplace, thanks to a colleague who has rented a car for the duration of his stay. During the second weekend however, most of my colleagues flew out of the country, so I was left to tour on my own.

Mutrah Souq

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Mutrah Souq (or Muttrah Souk) is considered as one of the oldest marketplaces in the Arab world. It is located near the Muscat harbor, which was originally used to trade goods from India and from China [Source: Wiki]. Nowadays the main corridors of the marketplace contain stalls that sell souvenirs, fankincese, textiles, jewelries, and other dried goods for both locals and tourists alike.


While there are a lot of places to see in and around Muscat, most of the places aren't accessible by public transport. You would either have to rent a car (or a 4x4 if you're headed out to rough terrain), or avail a tour package from one of the tour companies in the city. I don't drive (and if I do, I wouldn't venture out into such strange territory alone), so renting a car is out of the question.

There are a lot of tour companies online, sharing similarly-priced packages. The biggest challenge is in finding "shared" tour packages, wherein a solo traveler can sign up to join a group of fellow solo travelers. Most of the tour packages however, especially the 4x4 ones, rent by the vehicle.

Of all the tour companies I've inquired, there were two that came back with the prospect of shared tours. One is Golden Tours Oman, and the other is Smart Travel and Tourism. I went with Smart Travel and Tourism, since they were able to confirm the schedule first.

And because this is my first time in the Middle East, I chose to avail their full-day Desert Safari Tour:

  • Cost: 136 OMR for one 4x4 rental (Maximum of 4 people)
  • Inclusions:
    • Pick-up and drop-off at hotel
    • Picnic or lunch at a local restaurant
    • Service of an English-speaking guide
    • Private transportation by A/C 4WD vehicle
    • Refreshments during the tour

Wahiba Sands

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First stop of the tour is a desert region in Oman, named after the Bani Wahiba tribe. This desert spans an area of 12,500 square kilometers. with dunes measuring as high as 100 meters [Source: Wiki]. We were the only vehicle in the area when we arrived, so our dune bashing experience was done with extreme caution.

Wahiba Sands is about three hours away from Oman.


Since I only availed of a full-day tour, I did not have the opportunity to view the sunset, the stars, and the sunrise from the desert. Had I the time (and the money!), I would definitely grab the opportunity. There are different options for an overnight stay in Wahiba Sands--you can choose from different levels of comfort: backpack, mid-range, and luxury.

Bedouin Tent

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After the dune bashing activity, we were brought to a Bedouin camp near the edge of the desert. Bedouins are an Arab semi-nomadic ethnic group, whose territories stretch from the vast deserts of North Africa to the rocky sands of the Middle East [Source: Wiki]. Here, we were offered Omani coffee and dates, and a respite from the hot desert sun outside.

There is also an option to ride one of the camels tied outside the tent, but it was too hot that time to want to try something like that.

Wadi Bani Khalid

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Lunch was taken at an al fresco restaurant in Wadi Bani Khalid, some 45 minutes away from Wahiba Sands. A wadi is an Arabic term for valley, more specifically the riverbed in between.

Wadi Bani Khalid is one of the largest wadis is Oman, with constant water flowing throughout the year [Source: Wiki]. Even though there is evidence of man-made developments on the areas surrounding the larger pools, much of the wadi remains natural (or natural-looking, at least). We spent the rest of the afternoon here, cooling ourselves in the freshwater pools.

But wait, there's more to see!!!

Looking at the tour packages Smart Travel and Tourism has to offer, it seems that there are a lot more things to see in Oman besides the desert. There are also canyons among the mountain ranges, a mountain with vegetation, ancient villages in ruins, beaches where you can witness sea turtles laying eggs, and even dolphin-watching excursions.

Oman is definitely a place I would want to go back for leisure.

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