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Ashore in Muscat

As I said in an earlier post, today we’ve been in Muscat, Oman. We’ve actually docked in the port area of Moutra – I think that’s how it’s spelt (it seems to vary). This is a classic bay with a dock area at one end, shops, mosques and a Souk around the centre of the sweep, and a park, etc, at the end opposite the port. It’s about 5 kms from ‘Old Muscat’ – keep going on beyond past the park area, round at least a couple of rocky headlands, and you’ll reach Muscat old town which is situated around another, smaller, bay. Very sharp, rough and rocky hills/mountains rise immediately behind the bay, so the immediate scenery is quite dramatic.

We berthed just before 8 o’clock and I went ashore on the shuttle bus shortly after 10 o’clock. There’s a lot of politics here – because the local taxi drivers are very powerful there are objections to the P&O running the shuttle bus as such, so it’s described as an excursion – “Muscat on your own”. Then there was a pantomime using the bus. A group of us piled onto a coach next to the ship, and after a few minutes the bus set off. After about 150 metres (alongside the cruise terminal) it stopped and we all got off. We walked through the terminal, had our bags scanned, walked outside – and then got back on the bus, which had driven alongside the terminal while we were walking through it.

We were dropped off at the entrance to Moutra Souk, which is a classic Souk: narrow alleys crowded with people in all manners of dress, innumerable small shops all with their owner at the door imploring to get you inside, and all manner of sounds and smells. Especially here – I gather that Muscat is famous for perfume, and especially frankincense, and many of the shops were perfume shops and/or had incense sticks burning. So that was very characterful.

I was interested in visiting a small museum in this part of Muscat, and also walking along the promenade/corniche to a large sculpture of an incense burner set up high at one end of the promenade. I did not attempt to get into Muscat Old Town, which is some miles away from where we docked. The port talk about Muscat mentioned using taxis, said that they were never metered, and advised us to negotiate a fee before entering. Readers, I chickened out – I am not one of nature’s hagglers. One of the pleasing things about using the taxi in Abu Dhabi was that no sooner had I climbed in than on went the meter, without me asking. But, apparently, not here. In any case I didn’t think I would have time to do too much – I think to explore Muscat fully you need more than one day. I finished my exploration by 2 o’clock and found a street side cafe where I had a huge glass of mango juice and a chicken tikka kebab.

P&O are continuing to offer mistaken advice regarding currency, in my opinion. The port information sheet talks only about Omani Rials, which is the local currency. However, Horizon specifically says “Currency: US$”. I think some people may have been encountering problems with only having dollars. So one strong recommendation I would make is, whenever possible use the local currency. I used an ATM and withdrew 20 Rials – about £40.

This was also the first really warm day on the cruise, with pretty much unbroken sunshine and the temperature somewhere in the mid to upper 20s. A lovely day.

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