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Muscat:Places,Travel,Food

          Beautifully Adorned in Shades of Blue,White & Gold: The Al Alam Royal Palace,Muscat

It is sometimes, a chance that we miss becomes the chance that the life owes to you. A year and a half back when I was backpacking Maldives, it was my heart’s secret desire to watch the Dolphins wild in the open. But it was such that even though we saw the most beautiful Sunset in the coast of Maldives and then made several rounds in the middle of the sea where my boatman said those jumping cutie Dolphins come every day but today the sea is rough, the chances are less. I still kept pondering on that little left hope I had, but no signs of Dolphins anywhere. Maldives then complimented it with great Food, Dance with the locals at local Maafushi island (which is also a Dolphin island), staying in a sandbank with no trees and be so happy about it that almost forgetting that it was the Dolphins I wanted to see, but couldn't.

To read all my Previous Posts on Oman Click



      No wonder why the Dolphins chose the Gulf of Oman as their Home.It's rugged and mysterious,may be that's why,they couldn't find a better home :)

Muscat bought light to my suppressed desire to watch Dolphins .Aha! They were there, they were everywhere, 100's of them flipping in and out and why so, it is said that there are Salmons in the sea which they feed on and hence they come every day spinning turning tossing in search of their very own Food and Sunshine.

Dolphin Watching in Muscat: Marina Bandar Al Rowda

                                           When the sun has set, no candle can replace it 

The word "Bandar" means place where we park small boats. The Marina is located between warm blue waters of the Gulf of Oman and craggy Hajar Mountains. No member ship is required to use the facilities of the restaurant or the bar(in Oman you need License to drink) and the pools which are opened to all. Usually spotted every day, the presence of Dolphins cannot be guaranteed in the vast Gulf of Oman. The types of Dolphins seen here are Spinner Dolphins(They spin like in Phish Concerts we saw few of them too, and it is said that if you spot a spinner Dolphin spin right in front of you, you are lucky!),Common Dolphins and Bottlenose Dolphins.Apart from the Dolphins galore, we saw a Cat island resembling ears of a cat with the face which our guide said look look at that! Doesn't it resemble the cat and when we did turn our heads we saw us tracing our way through the gap between the limestone and voila! It felt like that Bollywood moment when the whole boat was filled up with sounds of numerous shutter clicks. Surrounding the Marina Bandar are the villages of the fishermen and their kids are smart enough to take their speedboats to the city. Dhow cruises are arranged in the evening after the sunset for that very relaxed trip to the sea. We could even spot our hotel “Al Bustan Palace” from the sea and we shouted “That’s where we are,yo!”

Diving Alternative:Semi-Submersible Bandar Al Khayran Muscat

For those who want to go for an underwater tour but are not comfortable with diving, can take a tour to Oman's first semi-submersible vessels  for that incredible tour of the coral reefs of Bandar Al Khayran. Semi Submersibles partly dives in water and remains partly on surface.

Royal Opera House Muscat: Musically Yours


                                      Opera is really fun with music,acting and singing.

Opened in 2011,the Royal Opera House is the first structure of its kind in Arabian Peninsula where the calendar features classical music, jazz, symphony. When we were there from March 19-21, the story of Romeo and Juliet was for the first time being showcased which had Vinncenzo Bellini's opera amd co-produced by Arena Di Verona and La Fenice from Italy. The musical chores during opera were played by the crew which was one visible layer below the stage and the performances carried out on the stage with the beautiful Juliet and his beloved Romeo acting it with perfection. The Hall inside is grand and elegant - It reminded me of Europe or how I have the vision of Europe to be - Juliet clad in White Gown and Romeo dressed as a soldier. Sadly, photography was not allowed inside the hall or else I could have enlightened you with pictures, loads and loads of them.

Amouage Perfume Factory,Muscat

Amouage is Arabic means wave and is also the world's most valuable perfume with finely crafted fragrances such as exotic ingredients like Frankincense. Today, it has a fan following around the world including Royals, global leaders and some of the most celebrated names in film, television, fashion, sport and music. You can visit the place, watch how the lovely ladies make the perfumes and know the process and sample some testers. The perfumes smell divine.

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque,Muscat


“The crystals glinted under the glare of the chandelier and they looked like a thousand shining lights”

Opened in 2001,to mark the 30th anniversary of Sultan Qaboos ascension to the Throne, the Mosque can accommodate 20,000 worshippers. Built from 300,000 tonnes of white sandstone from India (they came as solid blocks and are cut and machine carved),Grand Mosque is open from Monday - Thursday from 9:00 am - 11:00 am. There are separate Praying rooms in the Mosque for ladies and men as in the olden days the women and men came to the mosque and the section was divided with a fabric so they can't see each other. Since the ladies can still pray at home and men are supposed to be at the mosque there are 600 ladies who can come here. The carvings here on the door are Burmese and the carpet is from Scotland. Step ahead and you would get to witness the second largest single weave carpet in the world made by 600 weavers, Swarovski Chandelier consisting of 1200 lamps weighing 8 tonnes, windows from France, Tiles and mosaic from Turkey and Marble from Italy. Very structurally arranged were 3 black Quran books and small chapters in smaller textbooks. The 5 Minarets means the 5 Islamic pillars and 5 praying times in Islam. As opulent it sounds, as opulent it is. To know more the fundamentals of Islam ,Nasa from the Islamic Center, Mosque quoted " It is a place where you get general information on anyone who just want to  understand what are the fundamentals of Islam" of course over a cup of Omani Coffee and yet again Dates!

Bait Al Zubair Museum

                               The Arabian Oryx Exhibits in front of Bait Al Zubair Museum

The real Arabian Oryx in Arabian Oryx Santuary
Image by Muscat Daily

Painted in bold and Solid colors at the front of Bait Al Zubair Museum was the exhibits of the Arabian Oryx held in Muscat. Arabian Oryx is the national animal of Oman. Bait Al Zubair is a private museum showcasing history and culture of Oman and was opened to public in 1998 by its founder of Zubair family who were private advisor of Sultan Qaboos. Interesting things to note are the Omani rituals for marriage which are similar to ours (Engagement - Khotba,Dowry - Mahr Jalw Day,Al  Ghaffan - Henna and Milka-Marriage contract),the colorful dresses and the traditional Omani Jewelry and various stories on how caps(Kumma) came into Oman after Turbans(Musaar) and the significance of Tassel around Dishdashas(white long dress for men) and Salwar and  Kaftan for Women.To buy authentic Omani handicrafts,do make a visit to Oman Heritage Gallery.

Burj Al Sahwa(Wake Up Tower ; Sahwa - Awakening , Burj - Tower)

Situated on the juncture of roads from Muscat - Nizwa,Muscat - Sur stands the Awakening Tower(or the wake up tower),the tower which symbolizes the development of the country. The tower which was built in 1985 after 15 years of development and the pictures show the before and after. It is also to make people time and again virtually remind of their responsibilities as a citizen.

Al Alam Royal Palace:Muscat

Built by Sultan Qaboos for official purpose, it is a place of stunning architecture where gold shines through with hues of blue and white .It also has a guesthouse for special dignitaries like the president of Iran or Queen of England or Netherlands. You can visit the place anytime, but inside the palace,entry is forbidden for visitors.

Muttrah Souk:Muscat


A beautiful 3 kms long beach road called Muttrah Corniche has this very interesting and old Muttrah Souk where it is said that even now the goods sold for trade are displayed. However for us, in spite of admiring the display of various caps and dresses we couldn't shop as much. The souk at Nizwa was better. I got a cap for 1 Rial and one of my friends got a Dishdasha for 5 Rial. It is also a great place to buy Frankincense and Kohl. The Souk is best for caps ,shawls and clothes whereas the one in Nizwa(Nizwa Souk) is best for souvenirs. Do haggle when you buy, in the same lines we do here in India (The price quoted are often higher than its value )

Muttrah Corniche and Al Qurum Beach

Al Qurum Public Beach is very Popular among Omanis.The Muttrah Corniche starts near old Muscat Gate. Until 1970's these gates were closed at Sunset with the Gate dividing the old Muscat from New. Looking to the left to the harbor, you will see dhow boats and a huge statue of Frankincense Burner ahead.

Adventure and Festivals in Muscat

Royal Opera House,September Till May
Muscat Festival,End Jan - End Feb
Tour of Oman,February(Cycling Fest)
Muscat Fashion Week
Red Bull Extreme Sailing Competition Muscat
Camping Shatti Qantab in Muscat Governorate
Old Muscat Diving

Food in Muscat

                                      Omanis live by Fwala - Omani Coffee and Dates!

"Order a cool mint lemon drink -They always seem to taste better in Oman than anywhere else".5 Things Omanis love in their food are Rice,Fish,Dates and Omani Halwa,Omani Coffee and Lemon Mint Drink.Do not forget to store Baklawas/Fresh sweets from the Muscat Bakery/Modern Bakery which is a chain of Bakery everywhere in Oman.We saw two in Sur,one in Nizwa and  two in Muscat.We got boxes of yummilicous Baklawas to back home in India and I ate up all in a week.The Assortment of Baklawas come for 1.5 Rial per box(Buy it on the last day,as it is to be best had before 10 days)

For non-vegetarians, there are plenty of options as it is for vegetarians. When in Oman, indulge in traditional Omani Shuwa - An Omani Dish where a lamb is marinated and wrapped in banana leaves and they cook the lamp in an underground oven in the flame of charcoal for more than 12 hours. This is served with Omani rice and rice dish. Kargeen Cafe in Oman serves the traditional Oman food like Fresh lemon and mint,Hummus/Moutabel,Kargeen Special bread made of Cheese Olive Tomato,Falafel Plate,Yemeni Akda and Traditional Omani Shuwa. When in Oman, do not forget to try the Hamour Fish.

Some of the other best restaurants in the city are Turkish House(Turkish Dishes at Reasonable prices),Ubhar(Omani Restaurant),Al Mandoos(By renowned Chef Issa),Mumtaz Mahal(Indian Restaurant),Left Bank(Tapas),Kurkum(Indian and Arabic Fusion).Saravana Bhavan opposite the budgeted Ruby Hotel is an excellent choice as Indian Veg Restaurant.

Public Conveyance

Check the top 25 interesting facts to know about Taxis in Oman. Big Bus Tours is an hop on hop off bus tour which takes through 10 stops of interest and has free headphones on board. The cost for such bus tours for whole day would be OMR 20.Alternatively you can also book your package through Zahara Tours who were very reliable.Oman Air operates Domestic flight from Muscat to Salalah and Khasab.The Oman National Transport Company operates comfortable coaches to Muscat,Salalah,Sohar and Sur.

Dress Code In Oman

Dress Code in #Oman while visiting Mosque / Old Areas

Modest, conservative, loose fitting clothing; long sleeves, long skirts and trousers
No transparent (see-through) clothing
No shorts for men
For Women, no shorts and  skirts must be ankle length
No tight clothing, no swimwear and no beachwear.
Shoes will be removed before entering the mosque, so we recommend slip off shoes
Headscarf for ladies is essential (these can be provided when you arrive)
Intimate behavior; i.e. holding hands or kissing is not acceptable in a Muslim place of worship
For respect to worshipers, visitors should always stay with the guide.
Smoking and food are not allowed in the mosque area

Dress Code in #Oman in general

Oman is a Muslim country and it is important that, as guests of the country, everyone should respect the local customs. It is recommended that women not wear strappy sundresses, miniskirts, shorts or low necked dresses in public places (e.g. offices, souks, town and shopping areas). The most suitable wear in public is shoulders covered and below knee length skirts with a top that is appropriately long (below the hip) is also acceptable.

Men should wear shirts and long trousers. Shorts or beachwear should not be worn except at the beach or pool area.

Hotels to Choose From


                                                   Me having that great time at Al Bustan Palace
Al Bustan Palace

Set on a private beach with acres of lush gardens, and 3 or more swimming pools, this just took my breath away. It is a place where opulence is seamlessly blended with Royalty, you truly feel you are part of a place where you can indulge in a swim of the infinity pool viewing the sea or have your gourmet breakfast and lunch or admire the high domed atrium lobby.

Medium Budget
Crowne Plaza - Muscat
Park Inn by Radisson Muscat
Radisson Blue

Budget
Al Falaj Hotel
Holiday Inn,Muscat
Ibis Muscat

Guys,I am so sorry for the videos,my computer is almost on the verge of crash,and I have no money to replace.It takes forever to first run a video and then edit.I am still trying to get it all back and running so there might be delays in editing.Once again,apologies!And fingers crossed for Oman Video,hopefully it'll be uploaded by this week's end.Do not forget to watch to know :) 


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Oman:Visa,History,How To

                         Beautiful Places Never Die,They Become More Beautiful Over the Years
 
I often wonder what is important in a place more, its historical relevance or just the sightseeing places which we often mark down with a sense of achievement in our maps, tweets and tags and feel most content with. How many of us delve deep enough to really know a place, some places are really worth diving deep in. And once I dived in the vast sea of information on Oman provided by Kaes and Mohammed from Zahara Tours and of course Oman Tourism, more and more intriguing facts started coming up.To read all my Previous Posts on Oman Click

Today morning, I thought let's skip history and plunge in straight to Muscat, Nizwa and Sur which are main cities/or rather cities I visited but later realized how important it is for you to know what is behind what you see, or rather going to see. And to be honest, History was the subject I hated the most back in High School but the world history is definitely beyond the textbooks, it’s damn interesting. Let's begin with Visas (I know it's imp!), currencies bit of local lingo and history and to not make you feel sleepy with this, lets discuss this quick event which I don’t know how many of you know about.

Did you know??

Perched High Above the Gorge at Wadi Shab near Sur in Oman, Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series took place in 2012.

Now that I have given you the hint that it's not going to be a boring the same old usual stuff, let’s begin with the visas and other stuff quick quick quick.

Oman Visa Process

To be frank and also suggested, the best way to get visa is through an Indian Tour Operator/Local Operator to Oman . That means you can either book your visa through reputed Travel Agent like Thomas Cook, Cox and Kings and the like or local travel agent such as Zahara Tours(which we used). To enter the country, you need a passport that is valid for at least 6 months .A resident of India, holding an Indian Passport can get an electronic visa (E-visa) through an Indian Tour Operator. To identify the different types of visas, please visit the Royal Oman Police website which is as http://www.rop.gov.om/visa/english/onlineservices_visaapplication_main.aspx


I wouldn't recommend the use of Travel Agents for Europe(I would be writing about Schengen Visa shortly since I am visiting Spain in May) or UK but with Dubai and Oman it gets simpler.

Oman Visa Documents

  • Scanned Copies of passport valid for at least six months.
  • Scanned Passport Size Photographs
  • Return Ticket and Hotel Confirmation from Oman
  • Visa Processing takes about 4-6 working days (Fri Sat are non working days in Oman)
  • Single Entry Visa up to 10 days cost OMR 5 and
    Single Entry Visa with stays of 10 days to a month costs OMR 20.
Oman Currency

                                                                    Spend Wisely in Oman

1 Omani Rial = 156.61 INR(Current Rate as of 17/04/2014)
1 Omani Rial = 1000 Baisa
Since the amount is huge, you need to careful about how much you spend because you wouldn't know when you do so. We exchanged currencies at a State Bank of India in Muscat from Dollar to Rial. In that Bank, we also had exchange options as Indian Rupee to Rial.Although currency is on the higher end,you would find comparative prices everywhere,like Dish dashas(local dress for men) comes for 5 Rials,Caps for 1 Rial at the souk.

Omani Local Network

It's important I know. Most of us Indians have a habit of talking to our friends, lovers, family .When abroad best is to use Skype. I hardly use Skype(I limit my internet to bare minimum when I travel). I usually buy Sim from the Airport or the local joints. In Oman its best to buy Sim at the Airport. I bought the SIM for 2 Rial with incoming free and free internet. Just to tell you Dollar wasn't acceptable at the Sim Card booth center at the Airport, and I had to borrow money from someone. You can also exchange Dollars with Rial at the Airport for the amount you need for SIM and rest at the city center.

Official Language

Is Arabic. But English is widely spoken and understood. Many of them even understand Hindi because we have many Indians settled there.

Local Time

GMT + 4 Hours

How to Reach Oman: Air Tickets,Road ways


The national carrier of Oman is Oman Air which is a convenient flight costing around 18k +.The other options are Air India (20k +) from Bangalore.Muscat is also 5 hours 30 minutes by road from Dubai.


History: The Origin of Oman

Oman came from a name called Uman. Uman is believed to have originated from the Arab Tribes who migrated to its territory from the Uman Region off Yemen to Magan(a name thought to refer to Oman's Ancient Copper Mines).Many tribes settled in Oman making a living by fishing,herding,stock breeding as there was no border between Yemen and Uman.

Oman had a pure Red Flag until 1970.The name of the state with the Red Flag was 'Muscat and Oman'. Muscat was the eastern Arabia not Oman. Oman was the interior part ruled by Imam who never ruled Muscat. When they both co-operated the name was changed to 'Muscat and Oman' and after the defeat of Imam, Sultan Qaboos Bin Said changed the name to Sultanate of Oman. When Sultan came into power, he did not wanted to keep the Flag colour as only red which symbolises power and changed it to 3 colours which is the present flag of Oman - Red, White and Green. To know what these flag colors mean in detail click: The Meaning of The Oman Flag Color

History: The Indian Ocean Trade and Oman

                    Frankincense is also one of the ingredients in the most Expensive perfume Amouage

I know how your face lights up with that one word India! But how does India in any way connected to Oman, you wonder?


As far back as 5000 BC, southern Oman(now called as Dhofar) was the centre of Frankincense trade. This highly priced commodity produced from aromatic sap of the Frankincense tree was traded for Spices from India and was carried by caravans all across Arabia. Frankincense is found only in Salalah (which is north of Oman) because you need lot of Humidity for the plant to grow and survive. The Monsoon(Khareef Season) in Salalah comes from India because we have Indian Ocean There.

Did you know?
Two brave women to sail India to Oman across Arabian Sea .To know more click here

                                                         The Hint of Gujarat in Muscat


In Olden days, these traders would rely on to the fixed schedules of monsoon that would easily transport the Dhows with the wind. The oldest trade lines hence was with Kutch, you would still find traces of Swahili Carvings and Khimjis in Muscat and rest of Oman. In fact one section of Muscat near the Muttrah Souk has Gujarati Styled Buildings dating back to 1930's and 1940's.We will also discuss the stark resemblance in cultures like the institution of Marriage in the upcoming post on Muscat. We will also discuss about Dhows when we discuss Sur. We will discuss about Frankincense too a little more, and where can you get them in detail.

 History: The Influence of Portuguese, Persia, Iran, Zanzibar, Gulf

                                           The Carvings by Portugese at Nizwa Fort

When you are in Oman, you will cherish the hint of different cultures wrapped into one while retaining its originality. The Portuguese Ruled Muscat for 140 years, they were there in 1500's so that explains where Oman has so many Portuguese Forts. The Persians ruled Oman for the longest time from the 1st century till the 10 th century, the Arabian architecture is inspired from Iran and Persia. The Cap are from Zanzibar. Originally Omanis wore Turbans before the 10th century; they started wearing caps when they bought the slaves from Zanzibar during the sea trade between Oman and Zanzibar. Till 1964,the king of Zanzibar was an Omani.

Oman enjoyed further prosperity in pre- Islamic times also through the trading of copper .Indeed, Oman is referred in some sources as Mountain of Copper and there are evidence of vigorous trading between Oman and other Gulf Countries.

The Renaissance of Modern Day Oman:The Rise of Sultan

Did you know ?
As per the Global Peace index of 2007,Oman was listed 22 which was even 3 positions higher than Australia!


As per the people of Oman, Sultan Qaboos Bin Said is the most respected and the wisest of all who has given his heart and soul to the development of country since he took over the authority from his father in 1970.Before 1970, Oman had 3 schools, no roads, no buildings, no nothing. His Majesty,Sultan Qaboos Bin Said was born in Salalah and he received his primary and secondary education in Salalah and at Pune, in India, and was sent to a private educational establishment in England at age sixteen. At the age of 20, he entered the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. After passing out of Sandhurst, he joined a British Infantry regiment, The Cameronians, and was posted to the 1st Battalion in Germany for one year and also held a staff appointment with the British Army.

After his military service, Sultan Qaboos studied local government subjects in England and, after a world tour, returned home to Salalah where he studied Islam and the history of his country. The first oil extraction happened in Oman in 1957 by Iraq Petroleum Company but it was only after 1970's that it was exported to Korea by Oman.

To get a quick glimpse before 1970 watch the video:


And now, Oman has everything which a modern country should have. The best of rules, regulations ,roads, facilities, schooling which is compulsory for everyone. In fact I was stunned to know Oman now has 1050 fully equipped schools with 600,000 boys and girls studying. The Sultan believes in peace and making peace around the world, hence Oman shares a very cordial relationship with its neighbors including Yemen and Iran .Mohammed from Zahara Tours told us he met Sultan when he was 15years old as they were staying behind the Palace. The Sultan once in a year does "Meet the People" trips where he himself with the ministry ask the people for their problems, get to the root of it, and solves it then and there.

That's it for today.I know its heaps and bounds of information over there, but I guess it’s better than those just about going anywhere suggestions. As you read through Muscat,Nizwa and Sur you would know its significance :) Till then, Shukran(Thank You).We will discuss the Vocabulary in the next post as we travel through interiors of Muscat Plus a video on Oman in the coming blogposts.

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Top 25 Interesting Facts About Oman

The Contrasts in Oman is worth visiting once in a lifetime.
@Oman,Beach of Ras al-Jinz Turtle Reserve,yes the stories on nesting the Turtles are soon to begin
for we stayed in camp and saw 5 Turtles Nesting
Previous Blog Posts: A Warm Hi From Oman
Click on the image to know what I wore
  

1)Oman has no Income Tax & no Sales Tax.Whoa Relief!

2)Oman runs on Oil and Liquefied Natural Gas.In Oman,with 1 US Dollar you can buy 4 Liters of Petrol.

3)With no Taxes and plenty of Oil,the cars are very very cheap.Hence public conveyance in Oman is almost non-existent.Everyone owns a car.

4)Oman is having one of the best Road Network in all the Gulf Countries.Ah! with this I take you through the video I created on Roads in Oman taking you through Main Roads,Deserts,Riverbeds(Wadis) and everywhere else.Hope you enjoy :)




5)In Oman,there is Left hand drive and no honking is allowed.Also if your car is found to be dirty by the authorities,you have to pay minimum fine of 10 Rials.

6)The Taxis have rates for fixed main routes and it doesn't go by meter.The taxis are cheap.But if you want to go to an interior street,you have to pay extra.

Dancing Dunes @ Sand Stock 2014,Oman
A night with Music to dance our blues away in the sand. 

7)Oman is 1400 kms with 9 hours by car,13 hours by Bus and 1 Hour 45 Minutes by plane.

8)In Oman you get a large chunk of land(costing approx 100 Rials) as a gift by the administration on
your 24th Birthday irrespective of whether you are a girl or a guy.Earlier,the age was 18 but people use to sell the property and buy a car.

9)When you build a house in Oman;from foundation to the painting the administration checks 6-7 times each and everything.You don't need permission to color homes white.Whereas for other colors,the permission is required.That explains why Oman is oh so white!

10)Every year,the Indian Navy is in Oman to train the Omani Navy.Last year in 2013,they stayed for 6
months.

11)Omanis live by Fwala.Their age old tradition of greeting with Omani Coffee and Fresh Dates.

12)The Four Prominent Colors of Oman are Blue(Healing Properties),Green(Islam),White(Peace) and Red (Monarchy)

                                    Opulence at its best at Royal Opera House @ Oman
                                          Click on the image to know what I wore!

13)Electronic Items are very very cheap in Oman like LED,LCD,Camera Watches.

14)You can camp anywhere in Oman

15)Oman is one of the peaceful and safest countries which has no wars with any other Gulf countries
including Yemen and Iran.

16)Muscat has been the Arab Culture Capital and has countless cleanest Arab City Awards in its Kitty

17)In Oman both men and women usually know how to drive and owns a license.Mohammed from Zahara Tours had his sisters working in Banks,Ministry and Insurance.By and large,women are educated and well to do.

                                               The Idea of Stay in Oman is always Grand 
                  The Infinite Pool with the Sea @Al Bustan Palace,Oman where we stayed

18)Irrespective of their modernity in thoughts,Omanis are very culture driven.Their traditional dress is
Dishdasha(for men) and Hijab(for women).However,there is no compulsion on how anyone should dress except the office,mosque and formal to dos.The tassel around their neck in Dishdashas usually has Itr(Fragrance) which men use when they don't like the smell at any place.

19)Omanis marry early by about 21.However,there is no such rule on who should they marry,when should they marry and how should they marry.They can marry within their communities or outside.They are also allowed to mingle with their male peers(although no PDA's are
allowed in most places).

20)Omanis enjoy unemployment benefits such as the government pays 220 rials for those who are
unemployed and search three jobs for them to choose from in 6 months.

                   Wadis are uniqueness of Oman.Me, swimming in Wadi Bani Khalid @ Oman

21)50% of Oman goes to India for Medical Treatments as Medicals in India are cheaper.

22)In Oman,you can practice all religion freely including Hindu,Muslim and Christian.

23)Oman has 8 million Date Palms.Dates are integral part of Oman where the palms are woven into
mats,coverings for food,baskets and even brooms.

24)His Majesty,Sultan Qaboos Bin Said tours the various cities of Oman once in a year in Meet-the-
People-Tour.In that,he understands their needs and requirements and fulfills them with the
administration.

25)There are more than 500 forts,castles and watch towers in Oman.

There are plenty more interesting facts,which I will reveal in upcoming posts.If you know of any more,ping me down, just here in the comment Box :)

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Dubai:Skydive,Souks,Malls

Rediscovering Dubai:The Other Side Of It

Ever since I have been back from my trip to Abu Dhabi ,Dubai and recently Oman;something in my heart has changed miraculously.I have starting loving the disparities in culture and can easily convince myself that the modern with the traditional can coexist peacefully.Respect is the word for Dubai for what it has achieved in the recent past.For all posts on Dubai click:Dubai_All_Posts

During my return flight by Qatar,I could very well see how Doha is coming up as a new hub of tradition + modernity in the 1 minute video they showcase while one of the journalist in my recent trip to Oman said Bahrain is a great place to be at.The whole of Middle East is on a spectacular rise,and offer more than a dull lackadaisical perception many have.I wonder why?Because there is so much to explore,and so much to know.For example,before Oman I never knew what Indian Ocean Trade was and Never knew that we all are so connected literally.But we are,it's a small world,and each of us are one - way - or -another been part of it.


                                             I love to play an arc @ Skydive Dubai
                   /* Click here to read where I did my first Skydive - None other than India */
   Flash News on Dubai:Dubai skydiver breaks world record for jumping with smallest parachute

If you ask me what has made me write a post again on Dubai,I would say the picture below which I randomly found in my hard drive.Quite recently ,I have traveled to another gem in the middle east namely Oman(Read here why Oman is my favorite country of all the 10 countries I have visited).Dubai is highly cosmopolitan and when you enter by car from Abu Dhabi to Dubai,you will spot intricate designs on the buildings(very Arabesque,Moghul like and then it changes to tall posh Skyscrapers with glittering glasses on their window panes).I like Abu Dhabi for the Corniche and the peaceful lifestyle while Dubai for the Speed and the Glitter.In the last blog post we had discussed about Visas,Where to Stay,How To Travel,Desert Safari and the very usual to-dos.In last-to-last post we discussed about Abu Dhabi and why you should visit both Abu Dhabi and Dubai together or better still Dubai,Abu Dhabi and Oman together as they are all peaceful neighbours.You wouldn't forget the experience because each is so different from another.

Dubai as the locals say was all sand and desert many years back

Dubai is a happening place,where when we were there,apart from us admiring the White Sandy beaches and the Desert Safari ;we were also part of the celebration of Dubai Expo 2020 win(very well deserving),National Day and DIPC(4th Dubai International Parachuting Championship).Brought to us by the Emirates Aerosport Federation it had competition amongst Skydivers from around the world for Accuracy Landing,Formation Skydiving, Canopy Formation, Canopy Piloting and Artistic Events at Skydive on the Jumeirah Beach.Since the admission was free for visitors,we had our fun time playing volley,randomly trying to make formations on ground and walking on the rope,all in the spirit of festivity.Dubai has got an envious and the most beautiful drop zone for Skydiving in the world over the Palm Jumeriah Island.Dubai also has many interesting festivals and events around the year for which I would suggest,plan when the festivals are ;)










The Dubai Skydive has one of the world's most beautiful drop zone

Watch the below video to know why?


Dubai as you all know is very popular for Shopping, the great Dubai Shopping Festival is known to many.I,however in those 5 days of travel was so impressed with everything else,that I almost forgot to shop.5 days in Dubai is an injustice to Dubai,there is so much to do here(I wish I had more time to immerse in Culture,the way it was for Oman).Dubai is known for cheap gold at the Gold Souk area of old Dubai.The souk is a traditional market which sell Gold and where windows after windows are lined with dazzling Gold all around.Just adjacent to Gold Souk,is the Perfume souk.Thousands of fragrances will invite you to try or buy the traditional or the branded perfumes at a discount.The Spice Souk,located also adjacent is a collection of spices and herbs.

All that Glitters is oh! yes Gold @ Gold Souk Dubai

The Gold Souk in Dubai also holds Guinness World Record for the world's heaviest Gold Ring

                                                 Enlighten Your senses at the Perfume Souk

Dubai Mall,also known as home to Dubai Shopping Festival is one of the largest mall in the UAE. Mostly consisting of branded shops,Dubai Aquarium(one of world's largest water tank) and Ice Rink is also located in the Dubai Mall.For dirt cheap and bargain-able products,Dubai Outlet Mall is a good choice.The best attraction however in Dubai is the fountain beside Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa Tower;The world's largest choreographed fountain where the water dances to the Arabic music in the evening is a delightful sight to see.


The Stunning Architecture You Wouldn't find in Many Places

                                                      Fishes at the world's largest water tank


Can you spot me? Ahead of Burj Khalifa - The tallest Building in the World






The Synchronous Fountains Dance on Soothing Arabic Music

Captured in a video



With this my trip to Dubai comes to an end,share your experiences and let me know what do you like the most in Dubai.

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A Warm Hi From Oman

 What happens when you fall in #LOVE with a country and it refuses to leave your mind #Obsessed #Possessed #Crush and when you leave you feel like an ex who just said "Bye Bye"!   @Muscat,Oman                                           

You with a hope in your eyes wish that the tour never ended,by then the plane arrives and you get in.And when you do,you again spot the white washed city of Muscat in the backdrop of Mountains and sea and you know this LOVE is going to stay.With Oman I complete 10 countries,but Oman is undoubtedly the best country I have been to(many were surprised until they saw the pictures!).It has got everything a country must have,the just perfect balance of modern and ancient.The down-to-earth all time humorous and helpful people,deserts,wadis,gorgeous coastline,envious mountains and roads and sinkholes,a country which in itself is an inspiration.For anyone who plans to settle down soon,visit Oman and you will know how beautiful the world is all over again.

/*Please note that the pictures have been compressed for better page load*/
 
                 The second largest Canyon in the world after Grand Canyon @ Jebel Shams,Oman

When I heard about Oman in last SATTE 2013,I could see the sparkle in the eyes of people who described it to me.But I couldn't believe a country can have so much to see,given the fact that it isn't so much known to us yet.So today,I take you to a glimpse of my la-la journey to Oman and we drool on a quick photo-essay which I had tough time selecting from because all the pictures have come out just like fairy tale.

                   Did you know?The song "Jiya" from the Bollywood movie Gunday was shot in Oman
                and Oman's stunning locale was the choice in "Once Upon a Time in Mumbai 2"
                                                    Image Source:DailyMail
                                   Click to watch song video:Jiya Song in Oman
                                 Click here to watch what Sonakshi says about Oman

The song "Jiya" from Movie Gunday was shot in Al Hamra which is 40 minutes from Nizwa.Al Hamra is a village which has the oldest preserved mud houses(upto 400 years old) in Oman.

Meanwhile,If you have any questions on Oman,ask and I will get back to you with information.Thanks to Oman Tourism and Zahara tours for being the perfect hosts.The process on visas,travel videos and more stories,folktales and info will be in coming posts.So we begin,shall we?

More than 100 dolphins dancing wild in the open sea.
Sea Turtles laying eggs in the night at the shore,where else than Oman

The ancient and the modern
A view so delicious to be true @ Sur,Oman

Wahiba Sand Dunes is made of Corals and Seashells,as this was under the ocean before.
Unlike any other Sand Dune in the world.
 @ Wahiba Sands,Oman

 Where theater comes alive,watching Romeo and Juliet

Beautiful country,with beautiful people
That's what Oman is
All about!



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Shimla:Places,Stay,PhotoEssay

The Snow Opera,The Infinite Flakes and The Frost Bites Part I


                                 Time stands till when I rather sit and admire @ Shimla

I took the road that many take but little did I know that I will get to witness something which many never got a chance to see in Shimla(may be Kufri or Manali but not Shimla).As I turn pages of my morning newspaper of the recent Srinagar Avalanche,the memories of my Jan trip to Shimla came back as a flashlight. The snow-The satisfactory,the playful,the harmful,the slippery,the pleasing,the tease.

"I think It's gonna snow tomorrow. Said my brother.I cuddled real hard in my bed,the footprints of snow wasn't for Shimla I thought.May be when we reach Manali,it'll be snowy and white washed.Not Shimla,no ways,I haven't heard Shimla snows out in recent years,may be years ago but not now.Snow is and was always famous in Kufri,Solang and Manali,but this year is different"


                                       I woke up to the view that many ain't aware of yet
                            The Shimla Railway Station Groomed In Hushy Mushy White
                                                And this is the first hour of snow!

India is a place of contrasts and that is why I love it so much.Recently one of the ladies I met from abroad,glanced at my visiting card and said "Which place is this,with so much snow?" and I said "Sikkim,India".India is a land where not-so-surprisingly every season is a discovery.Blame it on Greenhouse effect,but with the snow falling for months after it should stop,it makes me give a sheepish smile to God.Many of us,even me a few years back had cravings for snow.Even now,the snowfall brings excitement like no other.It is purity unparalleled,the only thing which perhaps gives us the childlike joy almost instantly.But as it is a boon for the people who are first-timers,it is a bane for the locals who live there.We,in Shimla for 3 days with half the time no electricity,chose to wander around slipping falling finding our way to some place.But for how long is the question for locals?With heavy snow,is the lack of basic food(mostly during snow time,the vegetables are from lower terrains) which you get.With that,most of the times,it is the potatoes which they survive on or the Maggi or the Tea.Snow teaches patience and tests your toughness.It can be soft,but it can also be unbearable.But let's today talk about the brighter side of the whitewashed Shimla,and my memories to make your heart feel a little light . After all,not all snow is heavy to the soul!

                                               Gaurav enjoys the hot Pahadi Maggi

My first snow moment was in Dehradun some 13 years back with my cousin and the memories I have is almost non-existent now.It is those old printed photos(yes! I love them more than digital prints) that I recall looking like a clown with loads of layers of clothing my mom had put me on.Ever since I gained my consciousness to the level that I remember to what I felt,Ladakh was the first heavy snow moment(with temperature at Airport at -3,and -20 at Pangong with the frozen Pangong at Sight).In Ladakh I reluctantly had to wear jacket of local goat fur(I prefer wearing not no many layers during snow,but this was cold in early April which is considered winters in Leh) which my driver had insisted on after he rejected my fancy yet to me thick urban Jacket which I got.Then there was unpredictable snowfall in Auli(Jan) where I had gone for skiing,and I chose to stay when other ran for shelter.Then was Sikkim(Feb) where the vehicle got stuck in heavy snow and I chose to climb a just there hillock for fun.Of all these places,North Sikkim was the first place,where I experienced severe snowfall,with it snowing every morning and night and every time in between.Everytime I think, Snow God got a chance to cover the city in Snow Blackout.Although my plans to Gurudogmar got cancelled due to severe snow,it felt just perfect to be there,eating the Pahadi Maggi(it's different) and almost indulging in snow.For all those who want their vacation to be snowy visit Leh(Oct End-Apr,sometimes even Early May),Srinagar-Gulmarg-Sonmarg(Dec-Early March),Sikkim & Arunachal(Dec-Feb),Manali(Dec-Jan),Auli(Jan) but these are just what I faced when I went there,falling of snow it's only by God's grace.I guess,when he's angry he pours more than what makes us happy reminding us of the superpower he has got,and when he's happy he shower his blessings in soft cotton like snow and when he's harsh,he throw hailstones.

I recollect the memories of the tiring but fun 10 hours of my bus journey.I know you would say why didn't I choose Kalka Shatabdi,which was oh so convenient.If you remember, my trip to Kasuali had a very convenient Kalka taking us just almost there,Shimla was unplanned at 10:00 am.10 am and a bus service.It took us 45 minutes to reach ISBT from our home.And at 10:45 am,getting a Volvo bus to Shimla was impossible.The great and comfy buses leave early by around 9.The almost broken and slow buses leave by 10:45 am.A little disheartened,we chose to board the Volvo to Chandigarh which he promised will take no more than 4.5 hours.With a pitstop at KFC,we reached Chandigarh.From Chandigarh,we took a Non-AC small bus to Shimla(it was the only option we had considering our time we reached).

                               The Aww look that says it all.Picture Coutsey: Gaurav Sinha

When we reached by our bus to Shimla it was around 8 pm.Instead of getting down at the bus stop which is downhill and a little far from the mall,almost opposite ends and some kms which I'll tell you how we walked the last day out of no choice,and then took a lift to reach fast.We got down at a highway juncture few minutes before the bus stop because we had to go towards the mall.Idea was to catch the local bus from that very point.And then the wait.It was very very cold,almost freezing.The lights at the juncture was non-existent,with we with a mere hope looking for signs of dim lights of our bus which might come anytime,which for 45 minutes didn't.Just then the bus arrived,and instead of taking a lift from the several taxis which were passing by,we hopped into a overcrowded bus.The best way I guess to examine a population density of a place is to get onto a local bus.And then you wonder,really so many people exist!We had to walk then from the railway station to the mall.

For those who are travelling Shimla for the first time,the regular stop is quite far from the mall.So if your bus reaches late,its best to get down at the juncture and take a local bus.You can ask the driver to stop where the local buses run on highway.Don't fret,almost half the bus passengers get down there,so you wouldn't be alone

As I said the night was cold,and after about 10 hours of journey,I was barely willing to go hike uphill to the mall but with the hunger for food I dragged myself up.I remember my brother saying "Come fast,the shops will be closed,can't you see its freezing cold here!".

So for the first timers,note the important places to eat and stay at Shimla:

STAY

  • HPTDC Hotel Holiday Home(The Best By Himachal Tourism)
  • Hotel White(Rs 1250) , Lakkar Bazaar
  • Kapil Hotel(Rs 1700) , Lakkar Bazaar
  • Krish Rauni Resort(Rs 2200) A little far from the main town,but quite a good option
FOOD

Baljee(the Mall,Rs 15-100) for Omlettes,Toast and Dosas.Indian Coffee house(the mall,Rs 20-35 for breakfast,cheap dosas and coffee),Ashiana(the ridge chinese,thai rs 40-170).Embassy restaurant(the mall rs 80-190,indian chinese,tasty chicken curry).Cafe sol(the mall,rs 120-400,mexican italian,crispy prawn and enchiladas),Barista,Himani's(casual drink with chicken tikka),Devico's bar(rs 30-100).Middle bazaar and lakkar bazaar for shopping.

                                    Meet another of my travel companion after the Kindle.
                                                              The lightest Backpack

It's quite easy to explore Shimla like Kasauli. Tomorrow we experience the snow,trek to Hanuman Temple with falling bright snowflakes,have tit-a-tat with the monkeys,explore road shortcuts and get back to where I was.Also,you will see a short video(we didn't use much of camera,because every time we took that out,it snowed out!) and also admire the new Wildcraft Rock and Ice backpack which is the best backpack for snow,because its super duper light for its capacity.

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