Bug-eyed fish and the Sultan's Palace
17.02.2013 24 °C
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).
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!
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.
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.