After crossing the UAE-Oman border, the long (and seemingly never-ending) drive and spending some time admiring the white houses, we finally drove straight into the Muttrah—one of the largest seaports and commercial area of Oman. We arrived around 6pm, tired and hungry. So we woke up early the next morning—a difficult task—to explore the place and take pictures.
The following picture reminds me of Marine Drive in Mumbai…
So just to make things clear: Oman is the country, Muscat is the province and Muttrah is a city in Muscat. We didn’t know that. So off we went to stop the first Omani guy we saw on the road, and asked, “How do we get to Muscat from here?” Perplexed, he replied, “This is Muscat!”
We loved Muttrah. It’s also called the Old Muscat, and it felt like we were in a totally different time. Did you know that this port was once occupied by the Portuguese? By the 17th century, however, the Omanis have had enough of them. They not only kicked the Portuguese out of their ports (and country) but controlled trade and territories along the African, Iranian and Indian coasts up until 1970.
I find these fish rather disturbing; they appear to be eating each other! There are several fish-themed displays such as this along the entire corniche. And the famous Muttrah souq is also located nearby. Pressed for time, we opted not to venture into the souq. But you can read all about it here.
Another dilemma was finding an inexpensive hotel to spend 8 hours in. When we checked online, the cheapest rate we could find was 20 riyals (200 dirhams) per night for a one-star hotel, without breakfast. That was still expensive for us because in Dubai or Sharjah, one can find a three-star hotel with that rate!
Traffic that evening at the Muttrah corniche was bad, so we parked our car and walked around to check the nearby hotels. There are several hotels facing the corniche. We went and saw three, then finally decided on the Corniche Hotel.
It’s also a one-star hotel. We had a double room for 15 riyals (17 riyals, if you want breakfast) inclusive of taxes. The staff and their manager were all very friendly and polite. And the rooms, although very basic, were really clean.
I had a very restless night, tossing and turning in bed due to severe headache, and by 4 am the phone began ringing—I felt like my head was going to explode with the sound—and turned out to be a wrong number. A couple of hours later, Masood left to pray faj’r in a mosque just a few steps away from the hotel. I couldn’t muster the energy to go lock the door, and I didn’t want Masood to lock me in either. My sisters were asleep in the next room anyway, so I asked him to leave the door unlocked.
“Five hundred,” he replied.
“Five hundred?!” I choked on my paratha.
“Five hundred baisas,” he said.
“Oh. Why didn’t you say so in the first place,” I resumed eating.
500 baisas = 4.5 dirhams = $1.5
That is a very large incense burner of Riyam Park. Some tourists initially think it’s a space ship.
It looked prettier at night…
And then of course, there were boats…
And more traditional boats…
Another beautiful structure at Muttrah is the the Al-Lawatiya Mosque…
It is officially named Masjid al-Rasool al-A’tham or the Mosque of the Great Prophet. Its striking mosaic-covered dome and blue minaret dominate the skyline of Muttrah. This mosque is the central place of worship for members of the Lawati community.
And then there’s this fort. The Muttrah Fort…
Perched on a rocky hill and overlooking the town, this is one of Oman’s oldest forts. Originally, this beautiful sixteenth century fort was built by the Portuguese during their occupation and was used for keeping prisoners. We tried to find ways to climb up, but it appeared like it has been closed down to public for safety reasons.
Overall, Muttrah Corniche is a must-see for anyone who’s visiting Muscat. Parking is not an issue at all (at least it wasn’t for us, and we were there on a weekend). And if you don’t have your own car, there are lots of taxis available. The only thing that we had a hard time finding was a decent desi meal.