There is something mystical about Muscat that I did not feel in any other places I had lived. The people of Oman are very friendly and so are the administration. I will never forget the way the Royal Oman Police (ROP) helped us when our car wheels got stuck in the loose gravels off-road. That is another story to tell. If we believe that nice people are gifted with nice surrounding then there can be no better example than Oman. I have lived in Oman and later on went back periodically on business trips.
Watercolor on a canvas
The city of Muscat nicely situated with a mountain range on one side and the open ocean on the other. First time I saw these mountains it appeared to me like barren hills with no character or appeal. But a closer look put me in trance, those mountains were standing as if they have just come out of water after having a bath.The mountains quite literally show distinct signs that those have been under water forever, even if it was a few million years ago. We could still see the shells of various sea organism deposited all over their body and the most most dominant signs are the water marks. The constant flow of water have left their permanent marks on the sides and the shape of those marks gives a reasonable idea of the alignment and gradient of the waterscape. Driving on the roads between these mountains took me dreaming and having goose bumps with the realization that today I am driving in the place where huge sea creatures had been swimming not many years back.
The watermarks on the mountain
That might be too many years back in time but the sign of recent civilization and history of that place is abundant and equally interesting. Last time I visited Oman, I had my wife travelling along as we clubbed the weekend to my business trip. It was an opportunity for me to visit places where I have not been before. We went up Jabal Akhdhar the green mountain, where only a 4x4 vehicle is allowed. It took us about 30 minutes to reach there but it is amazing that human being used to live there long before cars were invented. They used to do step terracing for cultivation and had an intrinsic network of water channels (aqua ducts) to maximize the utilization of whatever little quantity of water was available. Even today exotic fruits are cultivated on top of this mountain. On our way up we crossed a few old settlements, which have been now abandoned but this was the first time I have witness civilization in form of entire settlement on top of a mountain. The most intriguing of all was a house carved out on the mountain side and hidden so well that it would have given all the protection that the owner of this house had desired. We could only view it at a distance while we were on the other side of a huge gorge but could not reach it.
The other interesting thing we did was driving on the Wadi (river/ stream) which is popularly known as "wadi bashing". It was a stream between the mountains which has a very quiet and harmless look to it. We have been told that when it rains in the mountains, these streams turns devastating, taking away everything that comes on their way. We got down of the car to pick some pebbles from the wadi bed we had scores of local kids joining us in search for nice collectibles. On our way up we met with other children having bath and some trying to make some money selling locally woven handicrafts. Somehow "made in China" products have not penetrated the handicraft of this region.
The town of Nizwa had a fort which is also a museum. It has a very nice souk (market) where one can pick up antiques of the region. Coins , swords, Guns, postage stamps and other accessories of yesteryears.
We could not enter the Al Hooty cave this time as it flooded due to flash rains in the mountains the night before.
There are footprints of old civilization scattered through out this country. But one of the grandest symbol of modern architecture and construction technology in my opinion is the "Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque". A monument of strong character and respect for minutest of minutest details.
There are hundreds of other places that we could have visited only if we had more time to spend there. We shall probably shall go back soon to the mystical call of Oman.