Friday, June 7: Today, I meet up with Mario near the Costa Coffee at Qurum Beach. We plan to go on a photo shoot of Muscat to capture “the essence” of the Sultanate’s capital city.
Qurum Beach is a popular area for both tourists and locals. The little shopping center near the Intercontinental Hotel is quite a hub of activity, especially Costa Coffee, a hot spot which sits at a strategic people-watching corner overlooking the beach.
We end up capturing only a few icons of Muscat because of the extreme heat (42 degrees) and high humidity. Getting in and out of the oven of Mario’s car and walking around blinded by salty sweat dripping into our eyes and down our backs is not a pleasant experience, but Mario keeps reminding me: “What’s the worse that can happen? So what, we’re sweating. That’s the worst, right?” And so we go: starting from the east on the harbor side of Al Alam Palace and working our way west, making a stop at Muscat Gate on the way.
Our first stop is at Muscat Gate Museum. The museum is closed, but we walk around and over the gate. Opened in January 2001, the museum contains displays about Oman’s history from the Neolithic times to the present. I’ve never been inside the museum, but apparently it has a number of special exhibits on Muscat’s water springs, the ancient wells, underground channels, the souqs, houses, mosques, harbors and forts (Wikipedia: Muscat Gate Museum).
Al Alam Palace is the ceremonial palace of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos. The palace was built by Imam Sultan bin Ahmed, the 7th direct grandfather of the current Sultan. The existing palace, which has a facade of gold and blue, was rebuilt as a royal residence in 1972. Visitors are not allowed inside the palace, despite the fact that His Majesty normally lives elsewhere in Oman. Al Alam Palace is surrounded by the Mirani and Jalali Forts, built in the 16th century by the Portuguese.
The Palace is used for official functions and receiving distinguished visitors and in January 2012, the Sultan received Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands at Al Alam Palace during her state visit to Oman (Wikipedia: Al Alam Palace).
I’ve visited Al Alam Palace several times while in Oman, but usually we come from the center of Muscaat, which has a long colonnaded approach and is quite picturesque. I have heard there’s a back view, from the harbor, so today we go to the harbor side for pictures. If you want to see the front view, you can check out this post: al alam palace in muscat.
Al-Riyam Park is along the coastal road and is a leafy park with a small fun fair and an ornamental incense burner adorning a rocky crag.
I want to stop and photograph a small mosque I always pass on the highway between Qurum and Ruwi. We stop but the view from the ground is much less impressive than the view from the highway, which sits above the mosque. Too bad it’s impossible to stop along the highway for photos.
The Sultan Said bin Taimur Mosque (جامع السلطان سعيـد بن تيمور) was built in the memory of the father of Sultan Qaboos in 1999. It sits off a roundabout in Al Khuwair near the Radisson Blu Hotel and the Technical College. The mosque is built in the style of Ottoman mosques which are found in Turkey. Sadly, Sultan Said bin Taimur Mosque is not open to non-Muslims. (Oman Tripper: Muscat’s Ten Most Beautiful Mosques)
Here’s a video of the mosque during the Friday call to prayer, with a backdrop of screeching cicadas.
We end the night with an Iranian meal at the Shiraz Restaurant at the Crowne Plaza, at the opposite end of Qurum Beach from where we started. We meet our friend David, whose birthday is today, along with his friend and colleague, Janice, who’s from Marin, California.
I’m exhausted from our hot day, so I stay overnight at my favorite go-to hotel in Muscat: Safeer Suites, near Medinat Sultan Qaboos. It’s really nice not to have to drive back home to Nizwa, as it’s a long tedious drive. However, it’s money I certainly don’t like to spend. Muscat hotels are not cheap. I’ve been saving like crazy for my month in Spain and Portugal and I really don’t want to part with any money in Oman unless absolutely necessary. :-)