Masjid al-Rasool al-A'tham (mosque of the great prophet) dominates the skyline of Matrah. Locals call it al-Lawatiya Mosque. It is modern construction but faithful to traditional Islamic architecture. Its mosaic-covered onion dome and blue minaret make it one of the more beautiful mosques in town.
My traveling companion Louise and I hop aboard Al-Khanjry Tranport’s Muscat Dubai Express bus from Dubai to Muscat, Oman. We clear immigration at the border of the UAE and Oman and arrive to the Muttrah district of Muscat in the evening. We check into a hotel room with a nice view of the corniche and the Gulf of Oman beyond. Folks in colorful robes are walking along the corniche adding to the exotic feel. We decide to take a stroll. It is the season of Ramadan and once the sun sets, people stop whatever they are doing and throw down a picnic wherever they find themsleves, be it on the side of the road, in a park, or even in the middle of the sidewalk. Friendly offers of invitation to join come as we pass the different picnicing groups.
We wander around Muscat during the day. Most shops and cafes are closed and the city is quite mellow because of Ramadan. I do find a couple of shops managed by folks from the subcontinent. We climb the rocky hills that encompass Muttrah half way up to a fort that sits on the peak. The views of the corniche and sea beyond are quite nice. In the eveining we visit Souq Muttrah, perhaps one of the oldest marketplaces in the Arab world.
In the morning we walk south of the hotel and visit the Muttrah Fish Market. Vendors are assertively selling their fresh fish. We walk to Old Muscat and tour the surrounding grounds of the Al Alam Palace. We cannot go inside. We book tickets for the all-night Salalah Line Transport bus to Salalah. Before we leave at 7pm, I run to the store and buy snacks and water. When I come back the bus is leaving early, without me, so I make a run for the bus and they let me in. My traveling partner is relieved that I make the bus.
We arrive to Salalah at 6:00am and exit the bus into the dusty lot of the ONTC bus station. We walk a few hundred meters and check into the Salalah Hotel . At this exact moment my traveling companion and I part ways and I never see her again. Unfortunately the rest of my gear is back at her apartment in Dubai so I have a mystery ahead trying to figure out where she lives and how I can get into her place to get my stuff. I try not to worry too much about it at this point. I take a morning nap and walk around town in the afternoon. Being Ramadan, the town is mostly deserted, except for a troop of foreigner construction workers building a mosque. The massive dome is covered in an intricate scaffold of bamboo and rope. In the evening, once the sun sets, the activity picks up and many locals are out and about.
I rent a car and drive around Salalah. I drive up the hills to the east to the Nabi Ayoub's Tomb. I drive south and visit Wadi Darbat and climb to the top of its waterfall. I am amazed there is so much water in such a dry place. It is a graet view. I then drive north to a beach hotel and take an evening walk along the beach. The sunset turns the sky a beautiful golden hue. For dinner I find a Lebanese restaurant with outdoor seating, order a middle eastern feast and watch the evening Ramadan scene unfold. Families are scurrying around everywhere dining, shopping and having fun.
Rest day. I board the Gulf Transport bus at 2pm for SLL > DXB and we drive off into the deep desert. Once the sun sets we pull over to a care in the middle of no where and have the iftar break fast meal. It is quite a jovial experience.
Exit Oman in the early morning and arrive to Dubai, UAE.