TOURING MUSCAT, OMAN
DAY 29 - 09 February 2023
AT SEA enroute to Penang, Malaysia
Queen Mary 2 World Centenary Voyage
102 days, 31 ports, 18 countries.
Ellen Frazer-Jameson reporting live from Queen Mary 2
UPDATE from 04 February 2023
Muscat is the is the capital and largest city of the Sultanate of Oman. It is also the seat of government and largest city in the Governorate of Muscat. Since the first century, a bustling trading port between the west and east, Muscat is an important port town in the Gulf of Oman. Since the Ascension of Qaboos bin Said as Sultan of Oman in 1970, Muscat has experienced rapid development of infrastructure that has led to a vibrant economy and multi-ethnic society. Muscat economy is dominated by trade, petroleum and porting. The rocky Western Al Hajar mountains dominates the landscape of Muscat.
One of the enduring reasons I love cruising is that every day, the world turns and the view of the shoreline, the horizon and the county changes. Our ship has moved on. What may or may not have happened in Dubai, stays in Dubai!
After dancing the night away at a Black and White gala evening in the Queens’ Room, following an extravaganza of a superb entertainment show from the Royal Court company, called Apassiontta, the moon shone brightly into my stateroom window.
In the morning, the moon was gone and the scene, large-as-life, was a magnificent view of the Western Al Jahar mountains with a brilliant risen sun streaming through the window.
Overnight, Queen Mary 2 sailed into the port of Oman and berthed in the company of Royalty; alongside two super-yachts displaying the golden crossed daggers of the Sultanate of Oman.
In total contrast to the boastful, future orientated city of Dubai, the city of Muscat presents a more traditional and reflective demeanour. Where Dubai brashly blows her own trumpet, Oman traffic rules outlaw blowing horns on the highway. A road sign illustrates the restriction with a small trumpet and a crossed-out line.
“We are a quieter people, we do not react to traffic frustrations,“ says the Omani government guide whose task it was to explain and apologise for the delay on our early morning sightseeing tour. Due to the return, after three years of an international cycling event, highways were closed to accommodate the race route, and along with hundreds of bumper-to-bumper vehicles, our coach was grid-locked. Two hours after leaving the port, we still had not reached our destination, the third largest mosque in Oman.
The by now familiar official information of population size and ratio of nationals to expats, was revealed by the tour guide; a 50/50% split in this culturally diverse country. Muscat is not highly developed in the tourist trade. I’m tempted to say they seem better for it.
Unlike Dubai, with its skyscrapers, Muscat has a welcoming, small city feel with three and four storeys all painted brilliant white, the Sultanate dictates the design and construction of Muscat’s urban landscape. The Sheraton Hotel is the tallest building, still with a surprisingly modest quota of floors. Moorish square constructions with turrets, elegant aches and latticed windows offer uniformity and vibrant fuchsia and palest peach bougainvillea bushes bloom on the white walls of enclosed residential communities.
Highways are also planted with flowers and the image is only spoiled by miles and miles of above ground high-level electrical cables and telegraph poles. Muscat has modern amenities but urbanisation is not sophisticated. In the city wealth is apparent but not ostentatious.
The Mosque could not be reached, a decision was made, the driver made a U turn and we headed for Bait Al Zubair, a Cultural Museum, Home of Heritage and Art. Restored and renovated back in the 1950s, this former Royal residence of the Sultan and his family allows visitors to step back in time and see how Omanis lived 100 years ago. The historical information is fascinating and the exhibits are loving preserved and representative of a venerable Royal family. The collections of women’s clothes and jewellery are breath-taking.
The Sultan has one wife and two sons; they all live in the current main residence where he conducts government business, entertains visiting dignitaries and local people go to seek an audience with the Sultan.
The local market, Arabian souk, is the local gathering place for all people. As in other souks, traders refuse to discuss cost without the inevitable haggling.
Saturday afternoon is a non-working day and on Friday and Saturday many regular businesses are closed. The market is crowded with families. Ladies in top to toe black covering, handsome Arabian men in their spotlessly white full-length dresses and pillbox hats, and generations of children, grandmothers, aunts and friends. They laugh a lot and every child under five clutches a new cuddly toy animal. That’s all except for one little girl who shook her head, burst into tears and handed back a stuffed camel.
Following instructions to ask permission before photographing individuals, the answer received was often ‘Yes”. Sometimes a nervous “No”. A bunch of old men, vegetable sellers at one of the arched entrances, wagged their fingers as I held up my camera. “No,” shouted the leader. Smiling, I walked away, then raised the camera high to take a photograph of the mountains behind the street market. “Yes,” chorused the young men, all laughing loudly. “He say you can take picture of sky.”
As a wonderful gift, the sky above the Royal Palace provided a perfect picture opportunity. The Palace does not hide itself behind walls; black iron gates with the Royal insignia show the limits of entry but the flower filled grounds are open to the public.
There are no guards there to stop anyone taking photos as a sign of this relaxed atmosphere.
A beautiful young couple in traditional dress, walk proudly across the palace forecourt. Holding hands.
A heart-warming photo of love and tolerance.
At sail away, Oman’s landmark incense burner sculpture can be seen shining out high on the mountain side. The signs are all around – love really does makes the World Go Around.
PHOTO GALLERY: MUSCAT / OMAN
ONWARD - NEXT
Current position of Queen Mary 2: 09 February 2023
Under way from Muscat to Penang
Departure was 5 d 2 hrs 10 min ago. (at 18:00 h local time)
Arrival will be in 1 d 7 hrs 50 min. (at 08:00 h local time)
Traveled distance since Muscat: 2,535.63 nm (4,695.99 km)
Remaining distance to Penang: 655.51 nm (1,214.01 km)
Traveled distance since Dubai: 2,853.14 nm (5,284.02 km)
Happy Sailing ... The Journey continues... Ellen
NEXT PORT - PENANG, MALAYSIA
11 February 2023
Photo of the day (from the archives of JD Schwartz)
Further updates will be posted as soon as we get them from Ellen onboard Queen Mary 2.