Thursday, 4 February 2010

Qurm Beach. Muscat, Oman, Jan 2010.

The Crown Plaza hotel, Muscat, overlooks the beach of Qurm. There is a promenade adjacent to the beach, with two coffee shops and a restaurant, 'Japengo', on it. It all looked very new, I have read that this area was badly damaged by Cyclone Gonu in 2007. Well there is no evidence of the damage now, and this area is well set up for visitors. It has a number of picnic areas and palm shades. The concierge at the hotel informed me that when the tide is low, one can take a 4km walk towards the Embassies' area in Shati Al Qurum.(? you may need to check the tides!!). The main beach was being well used by local families, I did not see any tourists sunbathing on the main beach, but this is not a problem as it can be done in private on the Crown Plaza Beach. After a hard days sunbathing, we set out to follow the walk described in the Lonely Planet, 'Oman, UAE & Arabian Peninsular'. 'Muscat Walking Tour: A Day In The Life Of The Arabian Sea'. The book recommends starting the walk in the morning, well, due to the sun bathing, we did not set out till after 15.00!
We drove towards the town of Mutrah, and parked close to the Al-Samak Roundabout, This roundabout is close to the fish market.The Mutrah corniche runs along the harbour for about 3KM.
Dominating the skyline of Mutrah is the Al Lawatiya Mosque. It looked striking with its gold-flecked, teal blue minaret and dome. This mosque is used by members of the Lawati community, who migrated from India over 300 years ago. The Lawati also built the attractive 18th century white-washed balconied merchant houses fronting the corniche beside the mosque.
Overlooking the town is the sixteenth century Muttrah Fort. The fort, built by the Portuguese during their occupation. It is closed to visitors, however, it is possible to visit, via a steep 100 step climb, a restored watchtower with panoramic views of the city and harbour. Next we went into the Muttrah Souk, it was busy as a cruise ship had called in at the harbour. The souk was busy, but it did seem to be very 'tourist' centred. Some stalls were selling Omani type artifacts, but there was a lot of Indian stuff for sale. The frankincense stalls were authentic, and the smell was Divine! One very authentic stall was Azi Stores Tobacco. This stall sells tobacco grown in Oman. The leaf tobacco is laid out on a mat at the front of the shop. The ground up tobacco is packed into old water bottles.
Our walk continued , past a children's park to a large ornamental incense burner.
Having enjoyed the evenings stroll, we drove over to Shatti al Qurm, it is in this area that most of the embassies are located. In a shopping mall we ate at a Lebanese Restaurant called Automatic. it was cheep and cheerful, with mezze dominating our menu choice and the usual delicious Hummus going down well.