Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Highlights of Muscat

 You saw our trips to the camel race, Wadi Shab, and Dubai.  This post will show you what we did in and around Muscat!  I tried hard not to make it look like another Holmes family photo album, but then I just gave up.  You are warned!

First day in Muscat.  We went for a drive around Muscat late in the morning.  This is our favorite Starbucks, on Shatti Qurum Road.  A little caffeine to help adjust to the 10-hour time difference!

We then had a late lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, The Turkish House.  Jared and Amanda got the cantaloupe drinks.  They were like a smoothie.  We had hummus, hot turkish bread, fried calamari, oven-cooked chicken, fatoush salad, and oven-cooked hammour fish fillets.  Yum!

The next day was a Sunday, which meant work for Joe and school for Austin and Savannah.  The rest of us headed to the souk!  The kids are at the corniche, the road that is along the harbor.  This whole harbor area is my favorite part of Muscat.

Amanda picked out some Turkish bowls for part of her Christmas present.

Someone was trying hard to make a sale.  Great picture, but Jared wasn't buying.  :)

Next, we  had lunch at Sliders, in Shatti Oasis.  Great views and good food.  We ended the afternoon with a trip to a local mall.  Nothing like a mall for great people-watching.

On for more fun.  On Monday, Joe was still working and the kids were still taking finals, so the four of us headed off to Nakhal Fort!  I love this place.  It was my second time to go and I have a whole blog post on this fort.  It is only an hour from Muscat, and such an amazing fort, location, and views!  There is also a pretty wadi nearby, but we didn't have time for that this day.

Oh, all the photos I didn't include.  After touring the fort, we went back home to pick up Austin and Savannah, who were done for the day.  We drove out to Shangri-La (the opposite direction), for their lunch buffet.

Beautiful place

This is a glimpse of  Shangri-La's Barr Al Jissah resort. We ate at Al Tanoor for their fabulous lunch buffet.  My kids loved being able to try Omani, Indian, and other types of cuisine.

The view as you are leaving.  I promise Austin and Savannah were with us.  They just didn't get out of the car.

A few days later, after Dubai, everyone went on a hike.  I was home, in bed with a bad cold.  I sent them off to do an "Easy Hill and Wadi Walk", according to my book.  It was a beautiful hike, but definitely not easy.  Maybe they took the wrong path.  I don't know.

The path (in my book) starts from the parking lot at Riyam Park, close to the odd white sculpture you see in the far distance.  What a view!

Doesn't look easy.  I will blog about this hike later.  Too many outstanding pictures!

On my kids' last day here, we went to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque.  We got there fairly early, about 8:30, just ahead of the cruise ship crowds.

You must be well-covered to tour the mosque.

Inside the women's prayer hall.

Photo bombed!

This was actually Joe's first time to tour the mosque.  He was impressed!

Jared took this great panoramic photo of the inside of the men's prayer room.  The central chandelier is all Swarovski crystals and over 40 feet high!!

My handsome Jared

Amanda, Joe, Jared, me, and Savannah.  Austin is home, sleeping.

Savannah, wearing her abaya

After the mosque, we toured the Royal Opera House of Muscat.  Beautiful, but maybe it shouldn't be visited right after the Grand Mosque.  :)

Final afternoon in Oman, and the kids want to go back to the souk.  If you have visitors to Muscat, plan on going to the souk twice.  It is hard to take it all in the first time and such a neat place to go.  Jared took this great picture of the crashing waves.  And unusual stormy day in Muscat.

So ends the sightseeing in Oman!  There were a few things we would like to have done.  We actually rented a boat for snorkeling and dolphin-watching, but the seas were too rough, as seen above.  We had no time for desert camping, something I would really like to do.  And no beaches.  Just a little too cool for that.  But we did do a lot!

A couple of glimpses into our Christmas celebration throughout the week.  (No fireplaces in Oman!)

No matter how beautiful or exciting the outing, there is nothing like just hanging out at home with family.

Peace out, everybody, from the Holmes family!  Happy New Year!

Taking the Kids to Dubai!

While Austin and Savannah were at home taking finals, the rest of us went to Dubai!  We debated on flying vs driving, but decided to drive.  It took us just under five hours to drive from Muscat.  We also wanted our kids to see a bit of the Oman countryside and mountains.

Border crossing into the United Arab Emirates.  Don't always know how long it will take in here, but there was no line.  You must have your passport stamped when you leave and when you come back.  It is not very clear.  We learned this the hard way.

Arriving in Dubai!  The Burj Khalifa towers over the skyline.  We stayed at the Al Murooj Rotana, right across the highway from The Dubai Mall.  We checked into our apartment (but they also have rooms) and walked over to the mall.  There are safe, convenient crosswalks.

We had lunch at Texas Roadhouse, as usual, and walked outside to take a look at the Burj Khalifa.

The Christmas tree in Bloomingdale

The 3-story aquarium

Although I have been to this mall several times, I don't remember seeing this section of it.  Always something new to see.

The main Christmas display in the mall

We are creatures of habit.  This is the patio at Urbano's, an Italian restaurant right across the bridge from the mall.  We always sit for dinner right before 6 pm.  The fountain shows, my favorite thing in Dubai, occur every 30 minutes.  This lets us enjoys 3 or 4 shows during our meal!  The food is fine, but we don't come here for the food.

The 6:30 show (us girls were doing a little shopping and got to our table a wee late.)


We had dessert at Garret popcorn.  Just as good as in Chicago!

Dubai is known for its nightlife.  I am sorry that I can't really tell you much about that.  Some of us shopped some more (malls stay open till 10pm), and some of us headed back to the pub at the hotel.

We had bought tickets the night before to go to the top of the Burj Khalifa the next morning.  You can buy them online for about $30 a person, in advance.

Very light crowds at 8:30.

That is actually our hotel at the bottom of the picture. It is more of a complex.  After going to the top, we ate breakfast at mOre cafe, close to the Burj Khalifa exit.  Then it was off for a little tour of Dubai and heading to the Mall of the Emirates.

We drove around, and went down Jumeira Beach road. This is the best shot we could get of the Burj al Arab.  We had been on a beach with much better views the last time we were in Dubai, but couldn't seem to find it this time.

The beautiful atrium and ceiling ornaments in the Mall of the Emirates

Their Christmas display.  I never saw Santa.

The first time I had heard of the Mall of the Emirates, was in a TV special.  One of those shows about great engineering feats.  It was talking about the challenges of building a ski slope in the desert.  I never dreamed I would ever see it in person.  Here it is!  Seth went skiing and Jared and Amanda went to play in the snow.

It was a winter wonderland inside.  A very cold wonderland.  The temps were below 30 degrees F. Joe and I were shopping and drinking coffee, so these pictures were taken by my kids.

Amanda and Jared.  The price to play is about $50.  This gives you the clothing and two hours of skiing.  Or unlimited time playing in the snow.

There were inner tubes to slide down on.

And giant balls to roll around in!

Amanda and Jared both had a ball!  In the ball.  (I couldn't resist.)

After a couple of hours of snow fun, we went in search of lunch.  Amanda was amazed to see a Shake Shack in Dubai!  I have never heard of them, but they are a big deal in New York City.  The one by Seth's office actually has a Shake-cam, to let you see how long the line is!!  It was a very good hamburger and delicious frozen custard.

So ended our 26ish hours in Dubai!