“Beauty has an ad­dress” is the tag line of Oman and on a re­cent trip I dis­cov­ered just why. The beauty of the place lies in the end­less sights of moun­tains and deserts cre­at­ing pat­terns in brown in­ter­spersed with well-planned build­ings. In­ter­est­ingly, the

MillionaireAsia India - - News - BINDU GOPAL RAO

A writer and pho­tog­ra­pher, Bindu Gopal Rao be­lieves that writ­ing gives her an op­por­tu­nity to meet peo­ple from var­i­ous elds and ex­plore new places, which makes the jour­ney very fullling.

Start­ing the Oman tour in the cap­i­tal city of Mus­cat, is a great way to ex­pe­ri­ence lo­cal cul­ture and food. I start my day by vis­it­ing the Grand Mosque, an or­nate, large mosque in the heart of the city that is an ode to Is­lamic ar­chi­tec­ture and al­lows nonMus­lims to visit the place. I am ad­vised to en­sure that I am fully cov­ered and the women in the ofce en­sure my head is cov­ered by us­ing my stole to con­vert into the right head­gear! As I en­ter the in­te­ri­ors I am stunned at the sheer size and my guide tells me

mosque is spread over a whop­ping 4,16,000 square me­tres! The or­nate in­te­ri­ors have in­tri­cate mo­saic work, carved wooden doors, beau­ti­ful hand wo­ven car­pets that cover the en­tire oor and mas­sive chan­de­liers. The mosque has sep­a­rate prayer halls for men and women and is in the middle of well-land­scaped lawns and gar­dens. In­ter­est­ingly, at the end of the tour, I reach the ofce, where I am served Ara­bic cof­fee with dates (a tra­di­tion in all places here) and I meet with young women who ac­tu­ally coax me to ask them any ques­tion, a clear in­di­ca­tion of the fact that the Omani’s have a very open mind. Close to the mosque is the famed Amouage Per­fume fac­tory, one of the most highly rated per­fumes in Oman in the world. You can take a tour of the fac­tory to see the process that con­verts fresh ow­ers to the per­fume. Th­ese are quite pricey be­cause of the fact that they use es­sen­tial oils of the ow­ers. An in­house store is the best place to buy th­ese per­fumes where you can also pick up a line of ex­clu­sive de­signer leather bags too. While you are here, do take the time to stop by at The Al Alam Palace, the cer­e­mo­nial palace of Sultan Qa­boos, one of his six royal res­i­dences. Also, the Al Bus­tan Palace is now con­verted as the Ritz-Carl­ton Ho­tel and also has a pri­vate beach. A photo op at Barr Al Jis­sah, a beau­ti­ful cove with beige cliffs gives you some stun­ning views of the ma­rina with sleek yachts in the pris­tine blue waters, is some­thing to do too. As dusk sets in, head to the water­front cor­niche for a walk along­side the cool waters. Lo­cated di­ag­o­nally op­po­site is the Mu­trah Souq, old­est shop­ping mar­ket in Mus­cat com­plete with a labyrinth of stores that sell lo­cal sou­venirs, clothes, sil­ver jew­ellery, in­cense and more. For a his­tory x, stop by at the Na­tional Mu­seum or the Bait Al Zubair mu­seum that is smaller but show­cases the art and cul­ture of the coun­try quite holis­ti­cally. Do not for­get to catch a show at the state of the art Royal Opera House as well as go dol­phin watch­ing at the DMC (Des­ti­na­tion Man­age­ment Com­pany).

Once you have your ll of the city and its buzz, head out to Nizwa, an old town that houses a fort which dates back to the be­gin­ning of the 11th cen­tury and is a ne ex­am­ple of an earth-lled, stone tower over­laid with tra­di­tional ce­ment. The Cas­tle here (Al Husn) was con­structed in the 9th cen­tury and ren­o­vated in 1624. This has sev­eral rooms for dwelling other uses and the perime­ter wall has a sen­try walk for sol­diers and loop­holes for ring mus­kets. The Nizwa souk here is a must visit as this is where you will nd a range of dates like the kha­las, khu­naizi, bunaringah, fardh, meb­selli, qashtabaq, khasab,

naghal and qashkantrah. Also, this is the place where you can buy the famed Omani spe­cial halwa, Frankincense halwa, saf­fron halwa, honey halwa, brown sugar halwa, golden halwa,

and gs halwa! The craft souk here has a won­der­ful col­lec­tion of ter­ra­cotta pots and pans too.

Driv­ing through the coun­try side in Oman, throws up many in­ter­est­ing sur­prises. At one end you see end­less date palms, so many, that it is said, the coun­try has over 7.6 mil­lion of them, more than the num­ber of peo­ple who live here! We also stop by at Falaj-Al-Khat­meen in the Al-Dakhiliyah re­gion which is one of the ve Omani ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems ( Aaj) that is in­scribed in

World Her­itage List. Th­ese are tra­di­tional water de­liv­ery sys­tems that ex­isted 2,000 years back and are a tes­ta­ment to Omani engi­neer­ing in­ge­nu­ity to ir­ri­ga­tion, agri­cul­tural de­vel­op­ment, hu­man set­tle­ment and tra­di­tional man­age­ment sys­tems. Also, stop at the Al Hoota Caves at the foothills of the Jebel Shams moun­tain, only cave in the Ara­bian penin­sula where you can see species like the blind sh, that has adapted it­self to the dark en­vi­ron­ment by not just los­ing its eyes but also part of its scales and pig­ments! A great way to soak in the sight of the Ja­bal Shams Moun­tains is to check into The View lo­cated 1,400 me­tres above sea level that gives you a bird’s eye view of the en­tire area. Another in­ter­est­ing place is the Wadi Shab in Tiwi part of Sur in Al Shar­qiyah that has a pris­tine water body cre­ated with the fresh water cas­cades from the top of the moun­tains when it meets the briny sea water on its banks. Hop on to a boat that will take you deep in­side or take a hike through the fo­liage here. The wa­ter­fall in the cave here can be ac­cessed with a 40-minute walk and wad­ing through the water. Another lo­ca­tion nearby is the Hawiyat Najm Park, Bimmah Sink­hole, a water body with turquoise green waters formed due to the ero­sion of the lime­stone rocks around it. The sink­hole base can be reached by walk­ing down a ight of 80 steps and is a favourite with swim­mers.

And, just when I was think­ing of the many in­ter­est­ing sights here, I found the best part of this trip at the Ras Al Jinz Tur­tle Re­serve. Oman has a coast­line that ex­tends over 3,000 kilo­me­tres and the Ras Al Jinz Tur­tle Re­serve hosts an av­er­age of 30,000 nest­ing green tur­tles (Ch­elo­nia My­das) each year. Al­though the sea tur­tles spend most of their life in the sea, they nest on land and re­turn to nest on the same beach on which them­selves hatched decades ear­lier. They reach ma­tu­rity be­tween 37 and 49 years and nest­ing may oc­cur up to 5 times in a sea­son with in­ter­vals of upto 14 days be­tween nest­ing and 2-3 years be­tween sea­sons. On an av­er­age about 100 eggs are laid in a clutch and they hatch 55-60 days later. At Ras Al Jinz, the peak sea­son for the egg lay­ing is June to Septem­ber, but for ev­ery night through­out the year, at least one tur­tle emerges from the seas of Oman onto its beaches to lay eggs. As we take an early morn­ing trip to see the young tur­tles hatch and scram­ble for life to­wards the sea as they face the preda­tor sea gulls, it teaches you a thing or two in life lessons too. As the sun rises, the sky turns into mag­i­cal shades of yel­low and or­ange and soon the sea is lled with a golden glow. I could not have asked for a bet­ter sight to end my trip to this Middle Eastern coun­try!

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