In no particular order:
- The government appears to have been watching the neighboring U.A.E. and now means to cherry-pick the best of its development schemes. They’ve obviously moved more slowly, and more cautiously, but now it looks like they’re ready to embrace tourism. For example, a $2.6 billion, 4000 unit residential project on the beach a few minutes from the airport called The Wave is under development (and heavy advertising) and will surely afford blocks of rental properties. It’s being developed in low-slung, anti-garish, Omani style.
- The Muttrah Souk near Muscat is smaller than souks and markets we’ve visited in Marrakech, Cairo and Calcutta. It is possible not to get lost in the Muttrah Souk. Nonetheless, it’s an absorbing couple of hours.
- Dubai is Muscat’s big brother, and connection to the rest of the world. I don’t know how many people proudly noted that it’s only four hours (some said five) drive up the highway.
- Everybody is fascinated with water.
When we drove to the interior our driver pointed out every wadi, wet or dry, every dry stream bed, evidence of water from a rain shower in the mountains the day before and took us on a walking tour of every canal in one small mountain village, explaining its every use, pausing for drinks and face washing, and encouraging us to go for a swim.
- October into November seems like the right time to arrive. At least that’s what they say. Although it wasn’t Dubai (107 degrees - 41.6 celsius) hot, it was a good, solid 95 – 98 (35 - 36.6 celsius) every day in August, and they say it’s ten or fifteen degrees fahrenheit cooler in Oct/Nov (if you're thinking about it, note that this year, Ramadan runs right up to the beginning of October.).
- Salalah looks nice for next time. A town of not quite 200,000, it’s far enough in the south of the country to catch the southwest monsoon from about June to September, whose moisture supports vegetation unlike in the rest of the country, including frankincense trees.
- Just south of the Persian Gulf, Oman squarely faces the Arabian Sea and India beyond. By far, most guest workers appear to be from India, and the Times of Oman and the Oman Tribune both have pages daily India news sections.
- There are no pedestrians. It’s striking until you work through it, but because of the heat (and cheap petrol, about $1.50/gallon on our visit) everybody drives everywhere. You’ll see block after block of five or six or ten stores, where people pull up their LandCruisers, do their business and drive away. On the Muttrah waterfront there’s a row of tea shops, but nowhere did we find a random crowd of people. Except in the enclosed souks.
- The Omani Tourism Ministry maintains a site here.
- I ought not do this until it’s more ready, but here's the early version of our EarthPhotos.com Oman gallery. It's changing day by day, and there may not be captions yet....