Friday, January 8, 2016

Wadis and Beaches


After visiting the inland, mountainous areas of Oman, we set off back to the coast. We went to Wadi Bani Khalid on the way to Sur. All year round water flows from a natural spring in the wadi, so there is a lot of vegetation on the wadi floor.


The water in the wadi collects in a series of deep pools. The water was an amazing turquoise colour.


This man crossed the pool on a sort of stone bridge - with his donkey!


Lunch - a pack of dates (delicious).


We stayed one night at Sur. We were hoping to get to see the Turtle Beach, but in the end decided that it might be a long drive and at the end of it we might not even see any turtles.
  

The following day we walked around Al Ayjah - a small, sleepy place with a large lighthouse and several watchtowers.





Then we set off for a drive north of Muscat, stopping at the way at Yitti Beach.


Our final night in Oman was spent on the coast at Al Sawadi.  The coastal resorts were very quiet, which was a surprise considering it was still the holiday period.  The beach was practically deserted, except for the seagulls.





Lots of seagulls at the Daymaniyat Islands



Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Castles, Forts and Mountain Villages


After a lovely day in Mutrah, we set off for the mountains to Nizwa.  On our first afternoon there we decided to visit Nizwa Fort.


The fort was built in the 1650s by the second Ya’rubi Imam, although its underlying structure goes back to the 12th Century.  It is Oman's most visited national monument. The main bulk of the fort took about 12 years to complete and was built above an underground stream. The fort is a powerful reminder of the town's significance through turbulent periods in Oman's long history. It was a formidable stronghold against raiding forces that desired Nizwa's abundant natural wealth and its strategic location at the crossroads of vital routes.


The design of the tower, complete with battlements, turret, secret shafts, false doors and wells incorporates a great deal of architectural deception.  Access to the top is only by means of a narrow twisty staircase barred by a heavy wooden door studded with metal spikes to exhaust the enemy and impede their progress to the top of the tower. Those who did manage to run the gauntlet of hurdles risked being burnt by boiling oil or water that was poured through shafts which opened directly above each set of doors. Date syrup, a liquid that oozed from bags of dates stored in special date cellars, also came in handy as an alternative to oil and water.








Just outside the fort is Nizwa Souk.  It's an amazing place for pots, silverware and frankincense.


Bahla Fort was built in the 13th and 14th centuries and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.



The following day we got up early to travel up into the mountains to the mountain village of Misfat.  It was a great drive!


View of the Hajar Mountains in the Al-Dakhiliyah region.


We stopped for breakfast in the lovely old mountain village of Misfat, where the stone houses cling onto the mountain amid date plantations.



Breakfast at Misfat Old House

Muscat


Every year on our way back to Mumbai after the Christmas break we do a stopover.  We've been to Istanbul, Sri Lanka, Jordan and now to Oman.  After an overnight flight we landed bright and early in Muscat and hired a car to get to Mutrah.


Oman is very historic.  At one time it was ruled as a Portuguese colony and a lot of forts and castles remain from this time.  Today the country is ruled by Sultan Qaboos as an absolute monarchy - however he seems popular among the Omani people and his photo appears everywhere.  There are lots of watchtowers around Mutrah and Muscat.

 

Our first day in Mutrah was spent walking around, through the souk and along the Corniche to Old Muscat where the Sultan's Palace is.


The Sultan's Palace - built on the site of the former British Embassy!


Hats in a window in Mutrah souk

Monday, January 4, 2016

London in Winter




After spending time with Mum, we then went down to London for the weekend and stayed with Joal. On the Saturday I took Lex for a walk through Limehouse - where my grandfather used to work.  The place is certainly different from his time!


On the Sunday we went to see Vanessa.  There was a lot of rain - but I quite like the effect of taking this rainy photo through the car windscreen.



On the Monday we were due to fly to Oman, we visited my cousin Sally in the morning.  She had fallen and broken her collar bone, so until she got back from the doctors Lex and I drove up to Alexandra Palace.  It was a glorious winter's day and we had a great view right across to the City of London.


After a brunch in Highgate with Sally we went for a walk to Highgate Cemetery.  It sounds a bit morbid but actually it's a really interesting place where many famous people are buried.