Oman – Muscat, Salalah & Nizwa

National day for Oman is November 18th and celebrates Oman’s independence from Portugal in 1650. We arrived 2 days before the celebrations to find the entire country draped in patriotism and national pride with Omani flags adorning most public buildings. What a colorful time to visit Oman! After crossing the border from UAE, we visited several mud castles and forts, most of which had been heavily restored. Next on our quest was discovering Oman’s UNESCO world heritage beehive tombs which were found hidden in Oman’s mountainous interior near Bat and Al Ayn. Then we made our way towards Wadi Ghul (Oman’s Grand Canyon), stopping to visit Jibreen Castle en route. The canyon was a spectacular 2 hour hike and well worth the effort for our truck to make the laborious climb up Jebel Shams mountain. The beautiful coastal city of Muscat was up next and we spent 3 nights here, long enough for us to coordinate a SCUBA adventure to the Daymaniyat Islands and check out Muscat’s highlights (Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Mutrah Fort, Mutrah Corniche, Mutrah Souq and Al Alam Palace). After leaving Muscat, we swam in the Bimmah sink hole and then visited Wadi ash Shab. What an unexpected surprise and this gorgeous place ended up being one of our top Oman experiences! Our visit started with a short boat ride to the trailhead of the canyon where we hiked through the narrow gorge. Gorgeous emerald colored water appeared during the next phase of this journey and we swam from one turquoise pool to the next and eventually arrived to a hidden waterfall in a cave. Just magical and the perfect location for two of our fellow truck mates to get engaged (congrats Leanne and Ryan!). From Wadi Shab, we made our way over to Ibra’s old town (a crumbling maze of mud built houses) before visiting the dhow factory of Sur and then camping overnight at the Ras al Jinz turtle reserve. There we were able to join a tour to witness a green sea turtle laying eggs and also got to see dozens of baby sea turtles hatching and making their way to the ocean! On the long drive from Ras al Jinz to Salalah, we stopped at the Duqm rock garden, a pink lagoon (more like a pink puddle), Mirbat Castle and the gorgeous Wadi Darbat. Then Salalah for 2 nights where we were able to rent a car to visit the Maghsail Blowhole, Hidden Beach, Fazayah Beach and Al Haffa Beach for its fresh coconut juice and sunset. Spectacular day exploring Salalah and it was nice to have our own wheels for the day! After departing Salalah, we stopped at Wadi Dawkah, a natural park of Frankincense trees and a UNESCO world heritage site. Then we pushed on to reach the historic town of Nizwa to get PCR tests for onward travel and visit the magnificent fort and souq. After Nizwa, we visited our final two sights in Oman –  Al Hoota Cave and Bahla Fort. What a whirlwind tour of Oman which definitely impressed! 2 countries of our Arabia Overland tour complete, 6 more to go. Next up will be Saudi Arabia which everyone on the truck is super excited about.

Camping near Bu Baqara Robby at As Sulaif Fort; Ibri Nautilus fossil near As Sulaif Fort Blacktail toadhead agama lizard View of a mosque from the crumbling ruins of As Sulaif Fort Sulaif Castle is over 600 years old. The caretaker is very handsy with women so keep your distance! Sultan Haitham bin Tariq's image on a flag for Oman's National Day Ibri Castle Fortress Children dressed up for Oman's National Day; Ibri Fort Robby gets into the spirit of Oman's National Day with a matching hat and flag Wadi Al Ayn (valley of the springs) Wadi Al Ayn’s ancient beehive tombs Courtyard view of Jabreen Castle, a beautiful 17th century fort Interior of Jabreen Castle Staircase leading to an upper level of Jabreen Castle Omani Rial (this is worth about USD $1.30) The abandoned mud village ruins of Al Hamra, a 400 year old town in Ad Dakhiliyah region The mountainous road leading up Jebel Shams Taking a picture at Wadi Ghul, also known as Oman's Grand Canyon A goat sticks its tongue out; Wadi Ghul A yellow spotted eel; Daymaniyat Islands A school of blue and gold fusilier fish Yellowmouth moray eel A yellow spotted eel nestled into coral Valentin's sharpnose puffer The tiny islands of Daymaniyat are Oman's only marine national reserve and we found it to be prolific in marine life A pair of eels cohabitating in harmony Porcupinefish and filefish Hawksbill sea turtle Torpedo ray Cuttlefish A zebra and a gray moray eel nestled together A pair of green sea turtles Colorful pillowcases for sale; Mutrah Souq Traditional Omani kuma hats for sale at the souq in Muscat Carpets for sale; Muscat souq Women shopping at the souq Silver jewelry for sale; Mutrah Souq Souvenirs for sale; Mutrah Souq Dried flower tea Gold market; Mutrah Souq Waiting area of the Bait al Luban Omani Restaurant; Muscat Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is the country’s tallest structure with an imposing 90 meter (295 feet) minaret Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is Oman's largest mosque The massive chandelier at the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque weighs a whopping 9 tons and is 45 feet tall and 26 feet wide Mihrab of the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque Arched corridor; Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque Sitting in front of colorful tilework at the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque Fish market; Muscat A sleeping vendor; Muscat fruit and vegetable souq Two vendors in a heated discussion; Muscat fruit and vegetable souq Mutrah corniche Mutrah Souq View of Muscat from the Mutrah Souq The gorgeous waterfront of Muscat as seen from Mutrah Fort Robby behind an artillery gun; Mutrah Fort Fishing boats; Muscat Muscat Gate Museum Tile mural; Muscat Robby with some friendly Omani boys Al Jalali Fort, a 16th century Portuguese Fort, sits in the harbor of old Muscat Al Alam Palace Fort Al Mirani Dramatic mountain scenery on the drive from Muscat to the Bimmah sinkhole A beautiful natural pool at the Bimmah sinkhole Visitors are welcome to swim at the lovely Bimmah sinkhole It quickly becomes obvious why Wadi ash Shab is the most popular hike in Oman - check out this beautiful view The hike in the narrow canyon leading to Wadi al Shab Swimming through the pools at Wadi ash Shab At the end of the Wadi ash Shab canyon is a secret waterfall inside a cave! Ryan picked this spot to propose to Leanne Robby and Dan; Wadi Shab Waking up to a gorgeous sunrise at our beach campsite A clock tower roundabout in Sur Ruins of a house in Ibra old quarter Door detail; Ibra old town A restored house in Ibra old quarter Traditional living room; Ibra old quarter Becky with Salim, the friendly caretaker; Ibra old quarter Dhow factory of Sur where artisans use centuries old techniques to build traditional Arabian ships Shipwreck; Sur Men working at the Dhow shipyard; Sur The 300 ton dhow vessel Fatah al Khair on display at an open air museum; Sur Souvenir artwork; Ras al Jinz A large green sea turtle laying approximately 80 to 160 eggs; Ras al Jinz turtle reserve Over 20,000 turtles will nest at the Ras al Jinz turtle reserve between April to August Fossilized druzy shell; Duqm rock garden Fossilized sand dollar Robby at the rock garden in Duqm Duqm rock garden Renee and Dan at a supermarket decorated with Omani flags Yield to camel sign Whale bone at the pink lagoon Lauretta preparing dinner Curvy mountainous road on the drive to Salalah Dan, Tim and Robby capturing a timelapse of our drive to Salalah A lookout point on our drive towards Salalah At long last, we finally reached the coastal road to Salalah Robby photobombs this cute goat photo Becky in front of a herd of camels Be careful of speeding in Oman because camels frequently cross the road! Wolfgang on a canon at Mirbat Castle Camels fleeing their herder; Wadi Darbat Sunset at Wadi Darbat Wadi Darbat is a series of limestone pools and water cascades Camels in the rear view mirror Camels eating by the roadside; outskirts of Salalah Coastline near the Al Mughsail blowhole Fisherman near the Mughsail blowhole Marneef Cave near the blowhole Robby on a rock structure near Marneef Cave Our first view of Hidden Beach (Masood Beach) Old boat; Hidden Beach The gorgeous turquoise water at Hidden Beach Enjoying Masood Beach with Renee, Dan and Tim Robby and Dan fixing our flat tire A wild camel at Fazayah Beach A mother camel shows off her baby; Fazayah Beach Fresh fruit stands at Al Haffa Beach Sunset at Al Haffa Beach One of dozens of frankincense trees at Wadi Dawkah, a UNESCO world heritage site Truck loaded with hay bales Kids excitedly striking a pose for us; Wubar Khanjar dagger sculpture at a traffic roundabout; Nizwa Locals sampling madluka, an Omani dessert made from date paste mixed with ghee and sesame seeds Portrait of an Omani man; Nizwa Fort One of 7 wells in the Nizwa Fort complex View from the top of Nizwa Fort The city of Nizwa is surrounded by palm plantations Iconic dome and minaret of Nizwa Mosque Staircase in Nizwa Fort The 17th century Nizwa Fort is one of the oldest forts in Oman Detail of silver jewelry on display at Nizwa Fort Oman handicrafts; Nizwa Fort An Omani man weaving baskets from palm leaves Omani woman preparing a crepe; Nizwa Fort Bedouin tent; Nizwa Fort A camel tied to a palm tree; Nizwa Fort Livestock; Nizwa Fort An Omani man smiles for a photo; Nizwa Fort Oman flags decorating the street; Nizwa Pottery souq; Nizwa Vendor; Nizwa Souq A wide range of dates for sale; Nizwa Souq Traditional tent to enjoy coffee/tea and dates; Nizwa Souq Antique Inn; Nizwa Robby meets a new friend in old Nizwa Visiting Al Hoota Cave Bahla Fort View from Bahla Fort Mihrab; Bahla Fort Madventure truck in front of Bahla Fort video lightboxby v6.1

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