This past October, I won a chance to fly to Oman, courtesy of Oman Tourism. This wasn’t an invite per se, but a contest win. Indiblogger.in held a contest sponsored by Oman Tourism a few months back and my submission was chosen as one among the three best. Three bloggers won the chance to visit Oman on an all expenses paid guided tour of Oman.
The flight was, of course, by Oman Air.
The visa was arranged by Oman Tourism but we were only sent an e-copy. I had to collect the original from Muscat airport’s visa on arrival section. I had to go back and forth, one counter to another for while, but all was good in the end and I was out in about 30 minutes time. Unfortunately, when I went to the arrivals area, I couldn’t find anybody holding a board with my name on it. It was only after 5 minutes of walking around, I noticed a guy and a girl who looked like they could be Indian bloggers looking just as puzzled. We finally met the man assigned to pick us up as he was holding a board that said “Indiblogger winners”.
The two other bloggers that won the contest aside from me were Aseem Rastogi and Manjulika Pramod. We hopped in the car and made our way to the hotel.
Since it was an early check-in, all three of our rooms weren’t available, so we had to wait in one that was available. I left my luggage in there and chose to step out.
Al Khuwair looked pretty normal, but no matter which GCC country I land in, they all start to the look the same and the sights, the roads, the buildings — all bring back memories of growing up in Bahrain.
By the time I got back to the hotel my room was ready.
After freshening up, we were a bit confused as to where we had to have our lunch. Our itinerary said lunch was at a restaurant called Kargeen Caffe, but we were confused as to how we would get there.
We were on the verge of ordering food when we were finally contacted by our tour organizer in Muscat and told us that a driver is coming to pick us up and take us to Kargeen. We had to cancel our orders and we waited for our driver at the lobby.
When we arrived at Kargeen, we finally met our tour organizer, and expressed our grief over the lack of communication. We exchanged phone numbers and he would give us the details for the next few days of touring.
Unfortunately, no photography was allowed inside and so I had to leave the DSLR in the car. Inside Bait al Zubair was Bait Al Bagh, the main museum. It gives visitors a good run through of the history of Oman. From relics belonging to the sultans, old paintings, maps, coins, weapons, clothes, way of life, etc.
After that, we went to Bait Al Oud next door. This three-storey building contains a large exhibition hall and reception area on the ground floor, with early European maps of the Arabian Peninsula and typical Muscati furniture on the first floor. The second floor includes early prints of the Arabian Peninsula and photographs of Muscat with an exhibit of historic cameras. The third floor also housed a rather large collection of old coins. Again, no photography allowed inside — which was sad, because Bait Al Oud was quite impressive!
After Bait Al Oud, we went inside Bait Al Daleel, an old house restored and renovated to give visitors an idea of how Omanis lived in the past. The house included a majilis (guest lounge), bedrooms and domestic date store. Bait Al Daleel also houses a coffee shop and art gallery – showing Omani artists work that can be purchased.
First impression of Oman? Not very exciting, but trust me, that would change in the coming days. I went to bed early as I didn’t get much sleep since last night. Tomorrow, we were hitting the seas to see dolphins!