We flew by Swiss Air from Dubai and arrived at Muscat airport. We did not need a visa on arrival, like we did in Dubai. For whatever reason, Oman’s visa policy exempts citizens of GCC countries and New Zealand from requiring visas. The countries of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. To this group, New Zealanders have been added for visa exemption. Isn’t this interesting?
Sam came to receive us at the Muscat airport. Ranjeeta had a meal of soft idlies and chutney at home when we reached. There was just enough time for a quick catch up and we went to bed.
After breakfast the next day, 14th October, Sam took us out for a drive around the city.
When Sam showed us how the mountains had been cut to lay the roads, we listened attentively. We have seen this in New Zealand too and so were not dumbfoundedly amazed and were amused to see how disappointed Sam was in our reaction (or lack of it). But in fact, we found Muscat very charming and beautiful.
Then Sam took us to a beautiful location just outside one of the Shangri-La hotels. The natural colour of the rock was quite unique and I picked up two small rocks to keep as souvenirs.
On our way back we passed by one or two farming/fishing villages.
We got to a scenic spot which I’d describe as a narrow bay surrounded by cliffs. It was enchanting, and I waded into the water and sat on a rock for a little while.
Although I was quite a distance away from Sam and Philip, I could hear every word that they spoke. I thought that this was perhaps how Jesus might have been able to speak to large numbers of people at a time without a microphone — using natural acoustics. We did a little experiment where I recited the 23rd Psalm and asked Sam to record it. I was distracted during my recitation by the echo I was hearing and was tempted to stop speaking and listen to my own voice. All in all very cool!
It was a pleasant drive home, taking many more than just the following pictures from the window of the car.
Sam and Ranjeeta’s daughter had returned home from school; we were seeing her after 14 years.
Ranjeeta had made a very tasty biriyani for lunch. Philip said that it was one of the best biriyanis he had ever tasted.
That evening for dinner, we went to Turkish Diwan.
After family prayer, mum and daughter were off to bed as their days begin early — at 4:30 am! Sam took us to Shati Qurum beach, where the cool sea breeze was a welcome contrast to the heat of the day.
On one side of us we could see some locals playing a game of cards. On the other side, we had a group of people having some kind of discussion.
How much more perfect can it get after you have had a midnight chai from a mallu chai place!
The next morning, we went to the Muttra souq (souq/souk means market), possibly one of the oldest in the world, and were in for a unique engagement of our visual and olfactory faculties. The atmosphere smelled of frankincense and other wonderful perfumes. But if you were prone to allergies, then it was the end for you. Poor Philip started to feel quite sick because of the allergies kicking in.
The heat was getting quite unbearable, but that did not stop us from going to the Al Alam Palace, the Flag palace, which is the ceremonial palace of Sultan Qaboos.
Sam drove up a mountain road. On the way down, the city looked beautiful with its white buildings.
When we returned back home, Ranjeeta had made a tasty lunch of fried fish and prawn gravy.
After lunch, Philip went to bed, feeling quite ill because of the allergy. Sam and Ranjeeta put together a milk drink made with ginger and turmeric. It worked. Philip was up, and after the usual family prayer, he was able to even share his thoughts on Jeremiah 29:11-13.
On the 16th, my school classmate Jane and her husband Arvind drove down from Sohar to meet us.
After chatting for a bit, we took this photo and sent it to our classmates in the Whatsapp grouop.
We then went to Mumtaz Mahal for lunch. The ambience was well suited for conversation. We had so much to catch up.
Then we went to Avenues mall.
The Perfume store is a place to visit and learn. I came to know that Oman is known for its frankincense resin.
We then returned home, chatted a bit more. After a prayer, they left. I am so thankful to God for enabling this meeting.
Philip wanted curd rice for dinner, and Ranjeeta obliged us. After dinner, because Philip was feeling up to it, we went to Ghubra beach and took a stroll there.
Our last day in Muscat began with buying heaps of Muscat Halwa for folk back home in Auckland.
We then made a quick visit to the Lulu store in Avenue Mall.
We returned back home to enjoy Ranjeeta’s lime rice and mutton fry. We also needed to try out the new fruits we had bought in Lulu.
We were finally dropped off at the airport at 4:30 pm.