A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about museums

Mutrah and Old Muscat

Bug-eyed fish and the Sultan's Palace

sunny 24 °C
View 2013 Round the World Trip on FrancisRTW's travel map.

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)

Rottnest Island

Chasing Quokkas on Rotto

sunny 27 °C
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Rottnest (or "Rotto") is a small island 12 miles off the Fremantle coast famed for its wildlife (and in particular "quokkas", cat sized marsupials) and used as an idyllic holiday retreat by the locals. The day started with catching the early ferry from the Barrack Street Jetty in Perth and then an hour long cruise down the Swan River past West Australia's equivalent of Millionaires Row to Fremantle.

Perth from the Barrack Street Jetty

Perth from the Barrack Street Jetty


View from the ferry on the Swan River between Perth and Fremantle

View from the ferry on the Swan River between Perth and Fremantle


Fremantle Harbour

Fremantle Harbour

Having berthed up beyond the "Costa Deliziosa" Cruise Ship (the big cruise ship currently in port) and loaded up with more tourists, bicycles and ballot boxes (for the imminent state election), the ferry sped past ships queueing to berth up in Freemantle Harbour. Arriving on Rottnest Island about 30 minutes later, we then got on a RIB (Rigid Inflatible Boat, apparently similar to those used by the SAS) for a 90 minute "eco-tour" right around the island stopping at coves to see the wildlife along the way.

Bicycles and Ballot Boxes being loaded on the Rottnest Ferry at Freemantle

Bicycles and Ballot Boxes being loaded on the Rottnest Ferry at Freemantle


Approaching Rottnest Island on the Ferry

Approaching Rottnest Island on the Ferry


The RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) we were on going around Rottnest Island

The RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) we were on going around Rottnest Island


On the eco-tour RIB speeding around Rottnest Island

On the eco-tour RIB speeding around Rottnest Island

The ride bouncing along at up to 35 knots outside the speed restriction areas was fun and we saw lazy New Zealand Fur Seals, nesting Ospreys and well as foraging Stingrays but I must admit I had hoped to see more as dolphins and seas lions are often also seen on the trip I took.

New Zealand Fur Seal at Cathedral Rocks on Rottnest Island

New Zealand Fur Seal at Cathedral Rocks on Rottnest Island


Kayaking and snorkeling amongst the seals on Rottnest Island

Kayaking and snorkeling amongst the seals on Rottnest Island


New Zealand Fur Seal floating on his back on Rottnest Island

New Zealand Fur Seal floating on his back on Rottnest Island


Osprey perched high up on a cliff on Rottnest Island

Osprey perched high up on a cliff on Rottnest Island

On returning to Thomson Bay (the main settlement on the island) I hired a bicycle for a couple of hours to explore the island's interior as with cars non-existent this is the recommended way to get around. I managed to reach the Oliver Hill Guns (WW2 Battery installed to defend Freemantle Harbour), Wedjemup Lighthouse and ride past some of the salty pink lakes (4 times saltier than sea water and like the Dead Sea you naturally float in them) before I had to return back to make sure I was back in time for my ferry.

The WW2 Gun Battery on Oliver Hill

The WW2 Gun Battery on Oliver Hill


Wadjemup Lighthouse on Rottnest Island

Wadjemup Lighthouse on Rottnest Island


A pink lake on Rottnest Island

A pink lake on Rottnest Island


Me exploring Rottnest Island by bicycle

Me exploring Rottnest Island by bicycle


Geordie Bay full of yachts on Rottnest Island

Geordie Bay full of yachts on Rottnest Island

Back in Thomson Bay I made a quick visit to the museum and "Quod" (old prison now hotel, Rottnest was used as an aboriginal open prison during the 19th century) was beginning to worry the only quokka I would see would be the one sleeping by the surf boards at the bicycle hire shop. I need not have worried, literally just before I got back to the boat one wandered out in front of me and good as posed for my camera!

The Quod (Old Prison) at Thomson Bay

The Quod (Old Prison) at Thomson Bay


The Old School and Chapel at Thomson Bay

The Old School and Chapel at Thomson Bay


Quokka posing for me as I am about to board ship

Quokka posing for me as I am about to board ship


The Ferry back to Fremantle and Perth

The Ferry back to Fremantle and Perth

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in Australia Tagged beaches animals birds museums lighthouses boat forts cruise_ships harbours tour perth marine_life videos prisons solo Comments (0)

A day in Freo

Visit to a Martime Museum with a submarine, historic prisons and a brewery

overcast 20 °C
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Fremantle Port (affectionately known as "'Freo" to the locals) sits at the mouth of the Swan River about 25 minutes west of Perth. It has retained its old buildings and charm and apart from the Port Authority Building itself doesn't have the skyscrapers found in Perth. A lot of migrants arrived from Europe through Fremantle including my cousins from Ireland and there are several statues of migrants around the port area. Fremantle is also home to the eye catching West Australian Maritime Museum opened in 2002 with the old museum now used as a Shipwreck Gallery. Amongst the new museum's displays is the Australia II which was the first non-American yacht to win the Americas Cup and brought the competition to Fremantle in 1987.

Fremantle Port Authority Building and the Leeuwin II Sail Training Ship

Fremantle Port Authority Building and the Leeuwin II Sail Training Ship


Migrant Statue near the Fremantle E-Sheds

Migrant Statue near the Fremantle E-Sheds


The West Australian Maritime Museum in Fremantle

The West Australian Maritime Museum in Fremantle


Sama Biasa - an Indonesian Fishing Boat confiscated for fishing in Australian waters

Sama Biasa - an Indonesian Fishing Boat confiscated for fishing in Australian waters


The 1983 Americas Cup winning yacht Australia II

The 1983 Americas Cup winning yacht Australia II

On a slipway alongside the museum there is the Oberon class submarine HMAS Ovens. It was originally commissioned in 1969 and was operational for 26 years before being handed over as a museum ship. It was a fascinating tour and left with the impression that if needed she was maintained in such good condition that she could be put to sea again.

HMAS Ovens

HMAS Ovens


Forward Torpedo Room within HMAS Ovens

Forward Torpedo Room within HMAS Ovens


Looking up inside the Coning Tower within HMAS Ovens

Looking up inside the Coning Tower within HMAS Ovens


HMAS Ovens Engine Room

HMAS Ovens Engine Room

A couple of minutes along the sea front is an odd 12 sided stone prison called the Round House, built in 1830-31 and the oldest surviving building in Western Australia. It where the first hangings in WA took place and was also used for holding aborigines before they were taken to Rottnest. In front of the Round House there is a signal canon once used for ships in the harbour to set their time and still fired daily at 1pm and underneath there is the Whalers Tunnel carved through the sandstone and used to access the beach where whales were once landed and processed.

The Round House in Fremantle

The Round House in Fremantle


The courtyard within the Round House

The courtyard within the Round House


Me by the 1pm Signal Gun near the Round House

Me by the 1pm Signal Gun near the Round House


The Round House and Whalers' Tunnel

The Round House and Whalers' Tunnel

Away from the coast is Freo's biggest tourist attraction and Western Australia's only World Heritage Site - Freemantle Prison. Built in the 1850s based on Pentonville Prison in London, it was in use right up until 1991 when a prison riot and fire exposed how out-dated it was (modern fire appliances couldn't get in the main gate).

Fremantle Prison Main Block

Fremantle Prison Main Block


Inside one of the division wings at Fremantle Prison

Inside one of the division wings at Fremantle Prison


Exercise Yard at Fremantle Prison

Exercise Yard at Fremantle Prison

As we were guided through the different parts of the prison - the different prison wings ("divisions"), exercise yards, solitary confinement block and the hanging room and the associated prison stories and superstitions - it felt like being on the location of a film set and I kept thinking of Shawshanks Redemption.

The Chapel at Fremantle Prison - note the 6th commandment reads "Thou shalt do no murder" rather than the more usual "Thou shalt not kill"

The Chapel at Fremantle Prison - note the 6th commandment reads "Thou shalt do no murder" rather than the more usual "Thou shalt not kill"


Prison superstition - 6 and 16 missing from a wall because they look like a hangman's noose

Prison superstition - 6 and 16 missing from a wall because they look like a hangman's noose


The Hanging Room at Fremantle Prison

The Hanging Room at Fremantle Prison


I escaped! Me outside Fremantle Prison Main Gate

I escaped! Me outside Fremantle Prison Main Gate

Our final stop in Freo was the Little Creatures Micro Brewery on the Esplanade. The beer tasted great and I could happily have spent hours getting quite merry on it but we needed to get back to Perth.

The Little Creatures Micro Brewery in Freo

The Little Creatures Micro Brewery in Freo


The bar inside the Little Creatures Micro Brewery

The bar inside the Little Creatures Micro Brewery

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in Australia Tagged churches museums beer harbours perth submarines prisons aborigine breweries warships americas_cup Comments (0)

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