Thursday, May 3: I don’t have much time to explore Oman today because I have some very important business to take care of in Muscat: namely, a pedicure for my roughshod feet and a trip to the liquor store for a most essential beverage: red wine. By the time I finish all of this at around 1:30, I meet my friend Mario down at Mutrah, where I check in to the Corniche Hotel. We then take off to visit As Sifah Beach, on the northeast coast of Oman.
By the way, 1:30 p.m. is much too late to get started doing anything at this time of year in Oman as the temperatures are regularly getting up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40 Celsius). At this temperature nothing outdoors is fun, even in the shade.
It’s quite a long and winding road over mountains and past little coves, tidal pools and villages to get to As Sifah. We find a cute little open air restaurant and have a snack of seafood soup and glasses of cool water with cucumber and lemon in it. I’ve never had water with a cucumber in it before; I find it quite refreshing and tasty!
After I change into my bathing suit, we take a walk along the beach, checking out the huge Indian family having a picnic and playing in the water. I go in for a swim; it’s only slightly refreshing since the water is barely cooler than the air. It’s like a lukewarm bathtub. I get out and we continue to walk until we come to an area that’s more rocky than sandy.
At one point Mario finds a sand dollar and tries to figure out how to carry it without breaking it. I tell him he should carry it on his head.
I become mesmerized by the water washing over the rocks. A crab skitters about and gets carried back and forth by the waves. Every time I try to capture him on camera, he disappears under a rock or into the waves. I finally capture him clinging to a rock, but he’s camouflaged and barely visible.
Later we get back in the car and drive toward the big hotel/condo complex called Sifawy Boutique Hotel. The description in the brochure reads as follows: “Designed by renowned Italian designer Alfredo Freda, this unique hotel is ideally located in the heart of Jebel Sifah, along the picturesque Marina Town, what will be the resort’s main entertainment hub offering restaurants, cafes, shops and nightlife activities.”
By this time of day it is sweltering, and it doesn’t help that I have a layer of salt water and my tankini still on. I’m so uncomfortable and sweaty, and I’m really tempted to take a dip in the hotel pool. However, I’m afraid the hotel management will come and throw me out since I’m not a paying guest.
We spend a lot of time wandering around the hotel and condominium complex. The grounds and the buildings are beautifully done and inviting. I inquire at reception about prices and I’m told the standard rooms are 82 rials ($213 USD) a night and the suites 105 ($273) a night. We thought if two people could share a room for about 60 ($156), it would definitely be worthwhile. As it is, 82 rials is very expensive, especially as the location of the resort is quite some distance from Muscat.
At some point the complex is supposed to have restaurants, shops, cafes and nightlight, but right now it doesn’t have any of these. There is a restaurant near the pool, so it seems you would be limited to meals at that restaurant and lounging poolside all day. Maybe there are some dolphin-watching tours or something as well, since they have a marina and boating capabilities.
We leave to drive back to Muscat and we pass a pretty little lagoon on our way out of the mountains just as the sun is setting.
We pass by another little lagoon and find it quite fetching.
We head back to the Corniche Hotel where I am exceedingly happy to take a shower after swimming in the salty sea and then walking around covered in dried salt water all sweltering afternoon. Mario and I take off for the Marina Hotel, which is a few doors down from ours. There we sit on the outdoor rooftop and enjoy the view of Mutrah souq below, the city and harbor lights, all accompanied by a bottle of red wine.
We have quite a good seafood meal, and plenty of fun & interesting conversation as always, and then Mario departs to take a walk on the corniche while I head back to my room. I fall asleep as soon as my head sinks into the pillow. The heat, the heat… !