29 Sep - 25 Nov 2007 Muscat

Indian Ocean
Gulf of Oman
Sultanate of Oman
Port Sultan Qaboos +96824714000 
SY "Kamu II" at anchor, off the Muttrah corniche, right opposite the friendly and cooperative Royal Oman Coast Guard station, at 4 m of depth, on sticky mud and sludge.

Click below for an interactive satellite view of our safe and secure anchorage in Muscat's dirty dhow harbour:

Negotiating a package deal with the money-grubbing special agents of the Muscat Shipping Agency +96824591770, eventually, paying teeth-gnashingly the amount of US$ 300.- in agent fees to these sharks (a shipping agent is compulsory in Port Sultan Qaboos), and receiving (i) a great and cheesy Arabian grin and a huge basket with very sweet dates, (ii) a smooth, accurate and professional in/out-clearance with customs, immigration and harbourmaster, (iii) a hassle-free prime anchorage for the duration of two months inside the dhow harbour, right off the Muttrah corniche and between the just renovated 15th-century CE Shiite Mosque of the Great Prophet, the principal mosque for the Lawati tribe in Muscat, and Sultan Qaboos bin Said’s 125-m long amphibious transport ship “Fulk al-Salamah” (made in Germany), (iv) a secure dinghy landing inside the compound of the Royal Oman Coast Guard station, and (v) numerous lifts with their pick-up truck for provisioning, shopping and sightseeing - not a bad deal altogether; thank you and no hard feelings!

Shelling out OMR 12.- or US$ 32.- for two 30-day single-entry tourist visas and OMR 12.- or US$ 32.- for two 30-day visa extensions at the sultan's friendly and efficient Directorate General of Civil Status.

Laundering our dirty linen for OMR 0.100 or US$ 0.25 per piece at a nearby Pakistani laundry (washed and dried).

Visiting the interactive Bait al-Baranda museum +96824714262 in Muttrah and studying the collection of sea charts which told us stories of invasions and colonisation, of victories and freedom, and how Muscat evolved through the ages, noticing that many old sea charts from all over the world feature a special inset about the port of Muscat which emphasises the city’s historical importance as an essential berth on the classic international trade routes of that time: the Incense Route, the Spice Route and the Silk Road.

Bargaining with the sly merchants of the oldest market place in the Arab world, the Muttrah Souq, who have centuries of experience fleecing the most intrepid traveller and taking afterwards comfort in countless delicious and creamy avocado milkshakes at Al Ahli's famous and inexpensive coffee shop, located right in the middle of this maze-like souq, which has been in use since well before the Portuguese fortified Muttrah's crescent shaped harbor with forts and which retains the chaotic interest of a traditional Arabic market albeit housed under modern barasti roofing.

Doing many pleasant walking tours along the coast, mostly between the ancient port of Muttrah and Old Muscat, and visiting en-route interesting landmarks such as (i) the 16th-century CE hill-top Muttrah Fort with its three circular towers and old cannons, (ii) the old merchant houses of the Al-Lawati people (who had built their fortunes on seafaring trade) and (iii) the Sultan’s 200-years old and very clean Al Alam Palace, built by Imam Sultan bin Ahmed, the 7th direct grandfather of the current sultan, and surrounded by the defiant Al Mirani and Al Jalali Forts constructed in the 16th century CE by the Portuguese.

Being startled by the still visible extensive damage caused by super cyclonic storm Gonu, the strongest tropical cyclone on record in the Arabian Sea, which had hit Muscat only a few months ago in June 2007 CE, and watching on-line on our laptops, riding at anchor in the shallow dhow harbour, the unnerving satellite pictures of the forming and fast approaching Deep Depression ARB 02 aka Tropical Cyclone 05A on its way through the Arabian Sea towards the Arabian Peninsula.

“I was in another lifetime one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness a creature void of form
'Come in' she said
'I'll give you shelter from the storm'
I've heard newborn babies wailing like a mourning dove
And old men with broken teeth stranded without love
Do I understand your question man is it hopeless and forlorn
'Come in' she said
'I'll give you shelter from the storm'

Rendezvousing with fellow yotties Lori & Fred (who had left their SY “Kind of Blue” behind on the hardstand in Salalah) and bundu-bashing in a hired 4x4 Toyota Land Cruiser 80 Series the rugged Western Hajar Mountains for three consecutive days, thus visiting Oman’s oldest mosque, the Mazin Bin Ghadhouba Mosque aka Masjid Al Midhmar, well hidden in the lush date plantations near Samail, exploring the spectacular Mountains of the Sun aka Jebel Shams and the Green Mountains aka Jebel Akhdar with their labyrinths of wadis and terraces where the cooler mountain air and greater rainfall encourage gardens and orchards with prize pomegranates, apricots and other fruit to grow, climbing the forts at Nizwa, Bahla (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Jabrin and driving through the fantastic Wadi Ghul, the Grand Canyon of Arabia, and Wadi Bani Awf, famous for its ancient but sophisticated aflaj water supply system (another UNESCO World Heritage Site) where the precious water is diverted firstly into drinking wells, then into the mosque washing areas and at length to the plantations, where it is siphoned proportionately among the village farms; what a great trip, many thanks Lori & Fred for being such wonderful travel buddies and godspeed for your still ongoing circumnavigation!

Matt: Stamping around on the world's largest hand-woven Persian carpet (measuring 70 m x 60 m and produced by the Iran Carpet Company at the order of the Diwan of the Royal Court of the Sultanate of Oman) which covers the floor of the breathtakingly rich prayer hall of Muscat's Grand Mosque, a personal gift to the nation from gay Sultan Qaboos (with space for 6,500 male worshippers and only 750 female worshippers) to mark the 30th year of his absolute and benevolent reign.

Enjoying excellent views over the Al Batinah Plain from one of Oman’s most dramatic forts at Nakhal which has a history that dates back to the pre-Islamic period.

Touring the Ash Sharqiya region’s beautiful beaches with a hired 4x4 Hummer H3, thus visiting (i) Yitti Beach with its dramatic sea arch, (ii) isolated Dibab Beach, where we pitched our tent for two nights and had delicious alo gobi with Aussie friend Keith, and (iii) the beaches near the small fishing village of Qurrayat, famous for its unique triangular watchtower, and tracking through the spectacular Wadi Mayh with its towering limestone cliffs, sand-coloured villages, back garden date plantations, straying goats and feral donkeys.

Meeting up with our friends and French fellow cruisers Nicole & Jean (who had left their SY “Reskebil” behind on the hardstand in Salalah, right next to Lori & Fred's SY "Kind of Blue" - it's a small world), having together a good time in Muscat and taking a stroll down memory lane all the way back to Jordan and Egypt where we met for the first time. 

Purchasing two 6-month multiple-entry tourist visas (OMR 23.50 or € 42.70 per person, including one huge Indian courtesy flag for our starboard spreader) for the Republic of India, the world biggest bureaucrazy and a mishmash composed of dirt, swamp, sparks, haze, spice, mind, ignorance, enlightenment, bliss, discrimination and egos, all wrapped tightly in void, from the crowded but friendly Indian Embassy +96824684500 in Ruwi/Muscat. 

Preparing our ketch SY "Kamu II" for the next leg of our sea journey, thus, amongst others, (i) investing in a new inflatable as a second dinghy for emergencies (a handy Quicksilver 270 S with wooden floor, for only OMR 280.- or US$ 750.-) and topping up one of our two 9-kg LPG cylinders for OMR 3.- or US$ 8.- with the help of the reliable but pricey special agents from the Muscat Shipping Agency.

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