Saturday, November 28, 2009

First Real Trip to Oman

We had decided that my parents' visit would become our opportunity to see a little bit more of the place where we live and the neighboring cities and countries. I have to say that I was really not expecting to find a new favorite place or to see the type of beauty that we were witness to on this trip.

We left Dubai at around 1:30pm heading to Al Ain in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi on route E66. Some of the road was already familiar so it was unremarkable. As we started getting further away from Dubai the landscape started to change. The dunes started out as small mounds and grew into large hills. The sand changed from a pale whitish color to a deep orange hue. Things started to change again as we got closer to Al Ain, which is by the border between the U.A.E and Oman. As we approached the city limit we started seeing the vegetation getting lusher and more frequent. By the time we got into the city center we could not believe that we were still in the desert because the trees were large, the grass was green, and there were flowers everywhere we looked.

Getting out of the UAE was incredibly convoluted and aggravating. The border check point looked like a trailer park and the staff were vague and unhelpful as we have come to expect from anyone in the public sector here (which is unfortunate). Once we got past this point after an hour of waiting for my husband to get things straightened out, we got on our way into Oman. We took road O7 to Sohar which would lead us into road 01 toward Muscat. We had already started seeing mountains in the distance as we approached Al Ain, but we could not really see them clearly. Once we got into Oman the landscape started changing again and this time it was truly awe inspiring. Mountains that were completely barren and each very different from the next. Some looked like sand that had been wet and shaped into imposing hills. Others looked like they had been carved meticulously by master masons. There were also some that looked like they had molten in layers. The colors were very distinct too from one to the next. Some were gray with dark black at the top and the hues changed from this color into almost a deep red. We did not get out of them until well into twilight and it was incredible.

Once we got out of the mountains it was a short distance to Sohar and to route O1 to Muscat. This road was great in terms of the monuments that were placed at its numerous round abouts. However after the mountains it was very lack luster and it was also very scary because of the large numbers of Indian workers that throw themselves to run across the road. This was made especially cumbersome by the poor light provided by the sodium vapor lamps of the light posts and the darker skin tone of the workers. The drive was longer than we would have liked it to be but at long last we arrived in the greater Muscat area and in Ruwi, one of the many neighborhoods of Muscat where our hotel was located. This part of the journey was rather bleak so I won't waste time on it.

Today we woke up early and were out of the hotel by about 8 am and on our way to see some of the places in Muthra and Muscat proper. We loved the many scattered forts all over the rocky mountains by the sea. We even got to go up to one of the watch towers to look around. Unfortunately the lack of good signage and late opening park hours made it hard for us to really experience many of the pretty parks or access the forts, so after a lot of fruitless driving around we decided to get on our way back to Dubai. We stopped to get a real cup of coffee at Muscat City Centre which is one of the newer malls in the area, and then on to find a proper shade and some snacks for the little one to make her trip somewhat easier. We got on our way and got to see the cumbersome road from the previous night in the daylight. It had some nice houses and cool landscape to see, but it was still too long and lacking in any kind of good eating establishments.

We finally got to stop for lunch at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Sohar where we had one of the best buffet lunches we have ever had. It really was incredible the main courses were all incredible, tasty, and well made. The deserts were real works of art with ornaments made of sugar caramel and wonderful fruit sauces to compliment them made of berries and passion fruit. It was all incredibly decadent and I felt absolutely spoiled. Once we were on our way again our tummys were happy and our eyes were in for a treat again because the mountains were even more incredible than we had thought to begin with. It was really a great trip and I think that Al Ain with its many parks and attractions has become my favorite place in the Emirates. I definitely want to go back there to explore it since we did not get a chance to do so this weekend.

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