Day 27: Muscat, Oman with Holland America

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Covered up to comply with local customs

Day 27: Muscat, Oman with Holland America

Holland America Africa Explorer Cruise – 49 Days from Rotterdam to Cape Town

Date: Thursday October 23, 2014

Weather Forecast: Sunny; 34 C/94 F

In Port: 8:00 AM to 11:00 PM

All Aboard: 10:30 PM

Dress Code: Smart Casual

Holland America Line ms Rotterdam in Muscat, Oman

Location Information:

Located on the Arabian Sea, Muscat is the capital of Oman. Due to the strategic location of the city, traders settled in the area long before the Persians invaded and before the region became an Islamic nation in the 7th century. There are low, jagged hills that are near the waterfront and a mountain range behind the city. The city is very clean, has many new buildings, and bustling with construction projects. The currency is the Omani Rial, but many businesses will accept US dollars.

  • Oman has a population of about 4 million.
  • Muscat uses desalinated water for irrigation – very clean with lots of trees and greenery.
  • The country celebrates the Sultan’s birthday with a big celebration on November 19 – he will be 74 on his next birthday.
  • There are approximately 1 million expats working in Oman.
  • Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque: Took 6 years to build – from 1995 to 2001. The mosque has separate prayer rooms for 6,000 men and 700 women and was financed by the government of Oman. It is only possible to visit until 11:00 AM – then only open for prayers. There is a 70 meter long carpet that was made by 600 women. The chandelier is Swarovski and the marble is Italian.

Note: As per local authorities in Oman, alcoholic drinks and fresh foods are prohibited to be brought ashore. Books, magazines, printed matter and video cassettes are subject to censorship. Visitors are required to observe “No Photography” signs. It is not allowed to wear beachwear, tank tops and sleeveless shirts in public places. Shorts and skirts should be below the knee.

How women in Oman should dress in public

Port Shuttle Service:

A complimentary shuttle service was provided by the Port of Muscat – from the ship to Muttrah Souk. Service was available starting at 8:00 AM until 10:00 PM. Travel time was about 10-15 minutes. It is not permissible to walk in the port area.

WJs Day:

This was our first visit to Muscat and other than the oppression of women that is evident (very few women were to be seen anywhere), we enjoyed seeing the sights and learning about the history of the city.

Tour of Muscat and Muttrah

We joined a small-group (8 people) independent tour, arranged by a fellow ms Rotterdam passenger, for a guided 4-hour tour of Muscat and Muttrah. The price was US$47.20 per person and a good way to see the area. We met our tour bus outside the port entrance; the guide, Rashid, had a very thick accent, which made it difficult to understand the information he was sharing with us.

Sultan Qaboos Mosque

First we visited the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque where we spent about 35 minutes exploring on our own. Our guide was rather lazy as every other tour group we saw had their guide with them, providing information as they went through the mosque.

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat, Oman

After leaving the Grand Mosque we drove back to Muttrah and visited the fish market for about 15 minutes.

Fish Market in Muscat, Oman

Exploring the fish market in Muttrah, Oman

Next we went to the Muttrah Souk (could have done that on our own via the free port shuttle) before driving to the old city of Muscat – stopping for a photo at a point overlooking the city.

Muttrah Souk

View of Muscat and Fort

Arriving in Muscat we then visited the Bait Al Zubair Museum (display of Omani artifacts and a very good exhibition) for 30 minutes before driving to the Sultan’s palace (Qasr Al Alam Palace of HM Sultan Qaboos was rebuilt in 1972) for a photo stop, then continuing past Muttrah Fort.

Bait Al Zubair Museum

Sultan's Palace in Muscat, Oman

By 12:05 PM we were dropped off at the port gates (had to take the port shuttle back to the ship). Our 4-hour tour was actually 3 hours and 15 minutes long – the guide rushed us through all sites. It was a good overview of the area, but definitely not the best tour or value.

Port Sultan Qaboos in Muscat, Oman

As we’ve had nothing but problems trying to get WiFi access (both in port and on the ship since leaving Greece) we decided to try our luck at an internet cafe in Muttrah. That turned out to be a complete waste of time as there were about 50+ passengers and crew all trying to get on the same service (US$3 for 60 minutes – a good deal if it worked). It seems that most people are having issues getting onto various email accounts and social media is pretty much blocked in this part of the world – censorship at its finest!

Back aboard ms Rotterdam we enjoyed 1001 Arabian Nights from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM around the Lido Pool – an Arabian culinary feast.

Following the 1001 Arabian Nights feast, the Marriage Game (hosted by Cruise Director Michael Langley) made for fun entertainment. Three brave couples took the stage and the winning couple left with a bottle of bubbles.

Entertainment tonight in the Showroom at Sea was “The Music of the Rotterdam” – Rotterdam Singers and Dancers, plus Maddy & The HALCats.

Next – Sea Day – Sailing Towards Abu Dhabi, UAE

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