August 7, 2013. Today is the start of a long holiday in Oman after the government declared public holidays prior to the onset of Eid Al Fitr. Fortunately, my sister Ritchelle is given two days break from work and we plan to stroll around Muttrah and discover “the essence” of the Sultanate’s oldest capital city.
Our first stop is at Bait Al Baranda located near the Sultan Qaboos Sea Port. But this house turned into museum is closed during holidays. There is an entrance fee of 1.000 Omani Rial for adults and 0.500 baisa for kids. It is only open from Saturday to Thursday. Based on my readings, this museum contains artifacts about the ancient life of Oman that dated nearly 10,000 BC, the history of the early Islamic era, and the period of Portuguese invasion. It has imaginative, interactive displays and exhibits including pre-historic bones found in Al Khoud, plate tectonics and scenic diversity in Muscat. It is a must-see attraction and we will surely come back here next weekend.
My sister gets attracted to the barricades that surround the highway along the entrance to Mutrah Corniche.
We take our leisure time snaking around the halls and corridors while being fascinated of its intricate Arabic design. These barricades simply shield the not-so-pleasing sight behind those walls like ruined houses, grimy alleyways, and scattered rubbishes.
We hop into the car and find a good parking spot along the Corniche. It is already late afternoon and the sun is setting behind the barren-brown mountain. It is surprisingly a bit cooler this time and I guess the weather is on our side giving a pleasant temperature for strolling. We open the car’s wind shield, turn off the air conditioner, and feel the sea breeze. Really relaxing!
We take the roundabout near the Al Riyam Park and take the way towards a little walking park near the fountain display. The fountain comes alive in full color of lights in the evening. This is where kids and adults used to set on the gutter and watch the colorful spurts of water into the air.
There is also a golden kiosk where tourists can sit and rest while wonderful sculptures accentuate the walkways and park.
It is getting dark when we head to the inner walled city. We stop at the Muscat Gate Museum which just a gate that overlaps the road between the Corniche and the old walled city of Muscat. These were the original gates used to secure the walled city from land-bound bandits out in the 1970s. It is known that it has displays of Muscat’s water springs, ancient wells, underground channels, souqs, houses, mosques, harbours and forts. The museum is closed at this hour so just pull over on the nearby open lot and take a picture of the gate.
After a bit, we drive past the narrow and maze-like road until we get to Al Alam Palace. The palace, which means the “Flag Palace”, was built in 1972 by Imam Sultan bin Ahmed, the 7th direct grandfather of the His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said.
The palace is defined by its façade of extravagant blue and gold columns that support the flat overhanging roof. Visitors are not allowed inside the palace but apparently the inside is known to be luxuriously beautiful. The front is block with ornate wrought iron gates and huge lamps rank alongside the concrete pavement. The palace is surrounded with colorful flowers especially during winter months. There are also two forts: Mirani and Jalali Forts, built by the Portuguese in the 16th century. The original walls are crawling up on a stony on the right and speckled with three watchtowers glowing in the fading light.
We begin our walk on the left side of the palace along the white ministry buildings then into the impressive pedestrian way in between two long fascinating arcaded colonnades. I’m impressed with all the lights that illuminate the colonnades made of polished marbles and defining Arabic imprints.
We get closer to the palace as we can. It glows majestically and is quite picturesque. It is an inviting area to walk and take photos. My sister is so happy that she finally takes a glimpse of this royal place.