An early start - we were both up at 7.00am as our tour to the Capital, Muscat goes at 9.00am. Just time then to sample the extensive breakfast menu by the pool!
It's a private tour - just the tour of us and a local with a car - perfect! 'Ali' was out guide in his white Toyota
1st Stop - The Grand Mosque in Ghubrah
Nothing could prepare for the scale of this place - it is massive - Built in 2001, it covers 430,000 sq. ft. and there is enough space to cater for 20,000 worshippers. Of course, there are actually two Mosques. The larger is for the men and the smaller for the women (the logic being that more men come to pray because the women are at home, looking after the family). A typical 'service' lasts just 15 minutes.
2nd Stop - The Fish Market in Muttrah
Ahh, the smell of fresh fish - yuk! :) This place had the largest fish (and the largest knives) we've ever seen. In fact, some of the fish (and knives) were about the same size as some of the children helping-out. It was really busy - people were literally filling their plastic carrier bags with sea-monsters or simply carrying them by hand. No sign of 'Captain Birds-Eye'! Just next door was the fruit-and-veg market. Once again very busy, but I think we prefer Waitrose!
3rd Stop - Authentic Souq (Muttrah)
Ali left us to wander through the Souq. No ipods, but plenty of silk material, spices and perfumes - frankincense anyone? Every shop was competing for 'salesman of the year'. To say they were 'in-your-face' would be a literal translation!! We stopped off for a coffee, skillfully avoiding the 'mutton-burger' that was also on offer! Ann used the loo and met some local wild-life in the shape of a cockroach! - Nice!!
We noticed the Sultan's private boat was moored opposite - what a strange colour...a sort of butter-milk and blue - very Dulux! Ali arrived some twenty-five minutes later and we continued our tour.
4th Stop - Old Fort
When we arrived, Ali informed us that we weren't allowed to park because of all the nearby renovation work. Still, he temporarily stopped to allow us to capture this shot of one of the (two) old Forts.
Final Stop - The Royal Palace Area
Another visually stunning scene - and spotlessly clean too. Ali left us to wander around whilst he found a place to park. After a few photographs, we jumped back in the car and headed back to the Hotel.
We arrived back around 12 noon. We had a quick rest and then headed for the lazy-river (where you jump in a big rubber-ring and let the artificial current carry you round). What a laugh - especially trying to get into the ring in the first place (fortunately, no photos are available - not a pretty sight!!!).
1.15pm. Time to lounge in the sun to recover from the previous activity.
2.45pm. Time for a little snack in our room to get us through the afternoon - some tortillas and crispy rolls.
3.30pm. Time for our daily snooze!
6.00pm. Time to get ready for our evening meal. Tonight we're going to 'Shahrazad' - the only authentic Moroccan restaurant in Muscat. We booked a table for 7.30pm.
As expected, the meal was superb! Ann had filo-parcels stuffed with seafood and minced beef, whilst I had minced beef and almonds in a pastry shell. For mains, Ann had the Lamb with Pears and I had the cous-cous with chicken and sultanas.
9.00pm. Neither of us could manage a dessert, so we staggered over the the Piano-Bar and finished off with an alcoholic coffee (me) and an alcoholic hot-chocolate (Ann)
10.15pm. And so to bed....