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Nizwa-Muscat, Dive center

Omani dive center beach

Saturday

After a breakfast and swimming in pool we checked out from Falaj Daris and headed towards Muscat. This was our last day in Oman ant therefore we wanted to take from day as much as possible.

We were driving by the modern four-lane highway from Nizwa to Muscat. Then driving on that highway it is hard to believe that on 1970-s there was only 10 km of paved roads in Oman. There are street lights all the way along the road. It is really easy to drive around in Oman, as the roads are in excellent condition and all road signs are written in English as well as in Arabic. But one should keep in mind that when asking advice from locals, not all local people can read English, therefore there might be not any help in showing the map or the name of the place in English.
Wadi Samail

The driving from Nizwa to Muscat can be made easily in 1,5 hour. We stopped couple of times our way to Muscat. First stop was in Samail. The wilayat of Samail lies on the half way on Muscat-Nizwa highway. Here we enjoyed the Samail Gap, the biggest and one of the most beautiful wadis in Oman. Samail Gap divides the Al Hajar mountains into east and west chains.

We really saw how the wadi in Samail truly gives the light and joy to local life. As there was also water in wadi children swam here, woman washed dishes and did the laundry, men washed the cars and enjoyed the cooler air under the bushes and palm trees. We also stopped in Bidbid, here is also a wadi, a fort and a souq.

In Muscat we felt that if possible, we would like to spend some hours at the sea. Oman Dive Center has been at our list since the start of planning and therefore we went there. I even tried to contact Oman Dive Center via e-mail before going to Oman for accommodation in Barista hut, but got back only the reply that I have wrong address.

Omani Dive Center (OMD) is less than 10 km from walled city of Muscat. It is needed to drive few kilometers from Al Bustan roundabout towards Rowi and make the first possible left turn. Then the signs lead to the gates where you need to pay for entrance. At the sign it was said that on weekdays it is 1.500 OMR per person and on holidays 3 OMR. By the sign we expected to pay 1.500 as the holidays in Oman are Thursday and Friday, but it seemed that here other rules apply. The guy who gave us the checks needed to paid in reception also said that the beach chairs are probably not available …

The beach in OMD is beautiful bay between mountains; the huts also looked very real. But the difference from the beaches and places we have been during a week was in people. They were not locals, all of them were tourists. I believe the place is also run by foreigners, as the prices were different we used to. Lonely Planet guidebook (from 2004) suggested that the price per cabin is 12 OMR, at reception they told it would be 57O MR.

There was a possibility for afternoon snorkeling trip at 2:30PM, but unfortunately the sea was too rough for that. So we just enjoyed the sun and swam in the Arabian Bay. We also had the most expensive lunch here – spring rolls cost 2.50 per person – so far we have paid same amount or sometimes even half of that for four sandwiches with soft drinks. In conclusion I would say that OMD is beautiful place and the closest nice beach to Muscat, but if you have time, drive further and you will have much more.
Mosque in Muscat

It was 4PM and we had 12 hours to our flight back. We had an idea to visit Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and after that spend time in a shopping center. This mosque was built by Sultan Qaboos (ruler of Oman) and it was completed in 2001. This is a must visit in Muscat as it is one of the biggest and most beautiful mosque in the world. It is also the only mosque in Oman which non-Muslims are allowed to visit. The entry is free of charge and the visiting hours are around 9-11am on all days except Fridays. Unfortunately we were there at Saturday evening, therefore we only had a chance to walk around and enjoy the views on huge mosque from outside.

For shopping LP guide suggested Carrefour complex. As it is near the airport, it seemed perfect for us. We also asked for driving directions and the guy said that it could not be missed. But this exactly happened as there were constructions going on and therefore the huge sign was not seen to the road from Seeb airport. We saw Markaz al-Bahja center at our right and went there. There was Marks&Spencer, some other shops and cinema, but only few people. So we decided to continue search for Carrefour center and at driving back towards the airport we easily noticed the complex.

Carrefour shopping center was huge and the parking slot was full of cars. There was a whole floor for electronics shop and also a lot of clothing shops for women, men and children. For a start we had a dinner in food corner where fast food for different taste was available and after that had a coffee in Starbucks.

Most shops in Carrefour center closed at 10PM. After that we drove to airport and returned the car to Europecar (you need to go to arrival part). We changed the clothes for colder weather, calmly backed the bags and tried to check in at 11:30PM. We were told that our check-in starts only at 2AM, and may be even a bit later. So we had 3 hours to do nothing. We decided that we will not sit on our bags at airport – we left our luggage in airport and took a taxi to Seeb Golden Tulip hotel. We sat there in the bar, looking our photos, listening Filipino band and having a beer. Being awake was not difficult, because we have had excellent vacation and it was fun to share the experiences and thoughts.