We touched down in Muscat, and checked into the very swish Chedi boutique hotel. With its understated elegance and amazing infinity pool, this was a definite improvement. Well, we didn’t actually move in as it was rather expensive but we did use their pool during the day and pretended that we were staying there.
We actually stayed at a charming Arabic house called L’Espace which was lovely apart from a couple of things. Its proximity to the desalination plant and the mosque. Now, if people want to wail themselves tunelessly to prayer at five o clock in the morning, who I am to quibble? But do you have to do it with the aid of giant speakers situated outside my bedroom window when I am trying to get a bit of shut eye?
L’Espace was beautifully furnished, overlooked the beach and the turquoise waters of the Gulf. The proprietor Sophia, was fluent in three languages and a brilliant source of information about her country. She had an exotic Arabian hound which turned out to be a miniature Yorkshire terrier with a French name (coquin – ‘rascal’) who was born in Thailand. A multicultural household indeed.
Muscat – the Zanzibar BBQ
L’Espace was also next to a car park where some Africans set up their Zanzibar BBQ. They rocked up every night in their white van about 5.30 and set things up. There was a queue of fancy Omani cars from then until the kebab supply ran out.
Naturally we gave it a try, and the Travelodge tree enjoyed a chicken/prawn/squid combo along with us. Oman used to rule Zanzibar and there are still close links between the two. Espace had a beautiful roof terrace and this was an ideal place to take a moment to enjoy Oman’s perfect winter weather and a view of the local fishermen in the bay.
We quickly realised that we had to hire a car in order to make the most of this intriguing country. So, after a false start when we drove up the motorway squealing in first gear for a while before getting into automatic ‘drive’ mode we set off in search of the real Arabia…
Oman desert adventure