A Travellerspoint blog

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Mutrah and Old Muscat

Bug-eyed fish and the Sultan's Palace

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Building (largely by workers from India and the sub-continent) seems to be happening everywhere in Muscat, indeed everywhere in Oman. New international airport, new railway network, 4G upgrade to the telecom network; a major new infrastructure project seems to be announced everyday. Everywhere that is apart from Mutrah and "Old" Muscat which seem quiet unhurried villages on the coast in comparison with the bustle just a short distance inland.

Mutrah, despite being the main port area for Muscat has the feel of a small fishing village with a very active fish market where the daily catch is delivered and sold. It had a lovely atmosphere without a particularly fishy smell and nobody seemed to mind as we (and subsequently a coach load of tourists from the recently arrived cruise liner in the port) wandered round the fish market looking at all the different types of fish that had been caught that day. There were tuna, swordfish, sardines, red snappers and many other strange looking types of fish most of which I couldn't name; one large dark coloured fish with protruding eyes looked particularly ugly to me as it was laided out for display at the back of a truck (see final fish market photo).

Stallholder at Mutrah Fish Market

Stallholder at Mutrah Fish Market


Freshly caught Swordfish and Yellowfin Tuna at Mutrah Fish Market

Freshly caught Swordfish and Yellowfin Tuna at Mutrah Fish Market


Mutrah Fish Market

Mutrah Fish Market


Mutrah Fish Market - the cruise liner tourists arrive

Mutrah Fish Market - the cruise liner tourists arrive


Ugly looking Fish being unloaded at Mutrah Fish Market

Ugly looking Fish being unloaded at Mutrah Fish Market

Moving on from the Fish Market we walked along the "Corniche" or harbour wall looking at the boats in Mutrah's harbour and port area. There were a couple of pretty Dhows moored off shore but pride of place was given over to the Sultan's Royal Yacht with its dedicated naval supply ship behind it. It's an impressive looking boat but apparently spends most of its time moored here. Behind the Royal Yacht was the big cruise liner Costa Atlantica and a couple of small catarmaran ferries, I think we can guess which boat the coachload of german tourists at the Fish Market came from!

The Corniche at Mutrah

The Corniche at Mutrah


Dhows in Mutrah Harbour

Dhows in Mutrah Harbour


The Sultan of Oman's Royal Yacht in Mutrah Harbour

The Sultan of Oman's Royal Yacht in Mutrah Harbour


The Cruise Liner Costa Atlantica moored in Mutrah Port

The Cruise Liner Costa Atlantica moored in Mutrah Port

Across the road was the entrance to Mutrah Souq, a typical chaotic Arab Market but housed in a surprisingly modern building. We were lucky to visit it on a Sunday, an unusually quiet day but will still heard one stallholder offering to sell "Gold, Frankincense and Myrhh" which perhaps isn't one of the most original of sales pitches but probably goes down well with the tourists.

The entrance to Mutrah Souq on the Corniche

The entrance to Mutrah Souq on the Corniche


Gold, Frankincense and Myrhh on sale at Mutrah Souq

Gold, Frankincense and Myrhh on sale at Mutrah Souq


Mutrah Souq

Mutrah Souq


Mutrah Souq

Mutrah Souq

From the Souq we moved on to Old Muscat in the next bay along the coast. Like Mutrah, Old Muscat feels unhurried and small scale compared with the bustle of the commercial area slightly in land but the buildings are certainly not old and pride of place goes to the Sultan's Palace built in 1972 on the site of the former British Embassy. Surrounding the Sultan's Palace were different ministry buildings and a couple of museums one of which was the Bayt Al-Zubair with its interesting well presented collection of traditional weapons, clothing and other artifacts from the different regions of Oman. It also had a new hall dedicated to the "Jewel of Muscat", a replica of an Arab Dhow that was sailed to Singapore in 2010 recreating what happened in the 9th Century.

The Sultan's Palace

The Sultan's Palace


The Sultan's Picture on the wall of the Bayt Al-Zubair Museum

The Sultan's Picture on the wall of the Bayt Al-Zubair Museum


Giant ornamental Frankincense Burner at Al-Riyam Park overlooking Mutrah Harbour

Giant ornamental Frankincense Burner at Al-Riyam Park overlooking Mutrah Harbour

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in Oman Tagged museums markets cruise_ships harbours palaces souq Comments (0)

The Jewel of Muscat Boatyard

In the footsteps of 9th Century Arab Navigators

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View 2013 Round the World Trip on FrancisRTW's travel map.

Having seen the hall dedicated to the Jewel of Muscat recreated 9th Century Arab Dhow the previous day at the Bayt Al-Zubair Museum in Old Muscat we had the opportunity through a close contact of my cousins to see the boatyard on Qantab Beach near Muscat where the Jewel of Muscat was actually built.

A view of the ocean from the boatyard on Qantab Beach

A view of the ocean from the boatyard on Qantab Beach


The Boatyard on Qantab Beach where the Jewel of Muscat was built

The Boatyard on Qantab Beach where the Jewel of Muscat was built

The Jewel of Muscat is a 59 feet (18 metres) long and 21 feet (6.5 metres) wide fullsize reconstruction of a 9th Century Arab Dhow sailing back from China found shipwrecked in 1998 off Belitung Island in Indonesia. In 2010 the reconstructed Jewel of Muscat took 138 days (including 68 days at sea) to sail 3,580 nautical miles to Singapore stopping at Cochin (India), Galle (Sri Lanka), George Town (Penang Island), and Port Klang (Malaysia) along the way recreating the voyages of early Arab sailors.

The Jewel of Muscat was built without nails or screws and the planks were sewn together with coconut fibres. This is similar to the traditional shipbuilding method used in the 9th century.

Stitching a boat's planks together the traditional way

Stitching a boat's planks together the traditional way


Stitching a boat's planks together the traditional way

Stitching a boat's planks together the traditional way

Boat construction underway at the Qantab Beach Boatyard

Boat construction underway at the Qantab Beach Boatyard


Rudder on an Arab Dhow

Rudder on an Arab Dhow

On its arrival in Singapore on the 3rd July 2010 the Jewel of Muscat was presented as a gift to the people of Singapore from Oman and now sits in a Maritime Museum in Singapore. Since then the boatyard at Qantab has been commisioned to build several similar boats using traditional methods as well as several models for museums. Ironically these models are so intricate that they normally take as long to build as their full size counterparts!

Model of an Arab Dhow

Model of an Arab Dhow


Intricate craftsmanship on a model of an Arab Dhow

Intricate craftsmanship on a model of an Arab Dhow


Intricate carving on the stern of a model of an Arab Dhow

Intricate carving on the stern of a model of an Arab Dhow

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in Oman Tagged beaches videos boatyards Comments (0)

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

The Grandest Building in Muscat

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View 2013 Round the World Trip on FrancisRTW's travel map.

The most impressive building in Muscat is the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque completed in 2001 to celebrate the 30th year of the Sultan's reign. It dominates the southern view from Highway 1 as it speeds through central Muscat.

The mosque, like all mosques, is aligned towards Mecca which for Muscat is to the west. We entered the mosque's precinct from the eastern gardens and walked along the southern outer sahn (or courtyard) to reach the entrance sahn into the main prayer hall.

The eastern gardens (complete with water features) at Muscat's Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

The eastern gardens (complete with water features) at Muscat's Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque


The southern outer sahn (courtyard) and riwaqs (arcades) of the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

The southern outer sahn (courtyard) and riwaqs (arcades) of the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque


The inner sahn and central minaret

The inner sahn and central minaret


The archways into the entrance sahn from the outer sahn

The archways into the entrance sahn from the outer sahn

The business end of the Mosque is the main prayer hall which can hold up to 6,600 worshippers which along with worshippers in other parts of the mosque means it can accommodate up to 20,000 people.

The focus of the main prayer hall is the mihrab or niche in its western wall which indicates the quibla (direction to the Kaaba in Mecca). During prayers this is where the Sultan is with the Iman preaching from the pulpit on the right hand side.

In addition to the ornate ceramic quibla, the main features of the main prayer hall is the impressive dome complete with a large chandelier containing 1,122 lamps. The mosque is also particularly proud of the single piece handmade Persian carpet which took 600 women four years to produce.

The Main Prayer Hall and Quibla at the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

The Main Prayer Hall and Quibla at the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque


Looking up at the dome and chandelier in the main prayer hall

Looking up at the dome and chandelier in the main prayer hall

Women use a separate prayer hall to the men located in front of the inner San which can accommodate 750 worshippers. As with the main prayer hall shoes need to be taken off before entering and placed in the shoe racks provided.

Shoe Racks by the entrance to the ladies prayer hall

Shoe Racks by the entrance to the ladies prayer hall


The Ladies Prayer Hall

The Ladies Prayer Hall

The Mosque is an architectural masterpiece whose whole precinct is kept in presstine condition. It is difficult to find a bad camera angle with the view from west or across the main transept particularly impressive.

The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque


The main transept of the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

The main transept of the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in Oman Tagged buildings mosque videos Comments (0)

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