touring | middle east - the splendid fauna & flora of the desert
'oman | dubai, the desert comes alive with fauna & flora in winter'
The middle east was never at the top of my list of places to visit, i really didn't know why but i knew one day the time would come to visit this vast region. on this trip i got to visit the futuristic city of dubai & the lesser know beautiful country of oman. these places have such vast riches to offer in scenery, culture and religion.
i started my journey in the gateway to the middle east. this city has grown from a small fishing town to a megalopolis with more skyscrapers than you can imagine. of course the tallest building in the world is here, the burj khalifa. i chose this as a place to start as friends of mine recently moved here & i found it the perfect opportunity to visit them. big thanks to vilius & karolina...
this city has many sides and while you would think that most of it is opulent you would be partly correct but as you go to the areas around the airport (deira) you find a more local atmosphere here your about 20 mins away from the main tourist attractions. i came here with my friend to visit a local restaurant that specialises in magnificent heart & brain dishes. faisal restaurant i can honestly say it was some of the best food that i tried in dubai & a must if your looking for a local experience.
another area that i really like (see photo) was the la mer beach area this is a super new area consisting of mostly cafes & restaurants built from shipping containers, great night time spot.
a while back i came across this wonderful lady. nada from wander with nada provides wonderful tours of the uae. i decided to take the old dubai tour to get the real feeling for how this place used to be.
i can hostly say that nada is one of the best tour guides that you will ever meet. super engaging, knowledgeable and fun the whole tour was a magical experience.
we started, to my surprise in the women's museum, yes although you may have preconceptions that women are not placed in prominent positions in the middle east your very wrong this i thought was a great starting point for the tour & set us up for the rest of the day.
from the opulence of the gold souk to the modestly of the old iranian area that has now been preserved as a historical site. the whole tour was a journey into the unknown side of this futuristic city that not many people get to see while staying in their 5 star hotels.
our last stop was an amazing restaurant where we sampled fantastic food from the region. the tour with nada was a highlight of my trip.
oman is one of the lesser known & visited destinations in the middle east but as i came to find out its one that shocked me with its beauty & greenery. i arrived to oman from dubai by bus ($20) its was a smooth trip with new busses i would recommend this option as you get to see some of the countryside of both countries.
the best way to get around this country is by far hiring a car. i picked mine up from the airport as the bus stopped directly there. for 4 days it was ($60). very cheap & to be honest if you want to get around this vast country on a budget then this is the only options as tours / drivers charge a fortune.
this city is spread over a huge area and while not futuristic like dubai its kept its old world charm like the mutrah souk & corniche, these are great places to visit in the night time as temperatures here can soar to over 45c in the summer. i arrived here in mid october & it was changing to autumn with temps averaging around 35c in the day. muscat has plenty of things to do around the city like art galleries & markets that suit all travellers.
my favourite place in muscat by far has to be the sultan qaboos grand mosque this grand place had some of the best contemporary architecture that i have ever seen in a religious complex. it opened in 2001 with space for more than 20,000 worshipers. tourists can only come between 7am-10am everyday as you can't enter or take photos at other times. while taking photos i was approached by a guy from the info centre, we sat down for tea & dates to talk about islam it was a truly enlightening experience &
very recommended as they will quash a lot of the negative ideas you have about the religion.
central eastern coast line.
this was where my rental car really put in the miles. my first stop on my coastal odyssey was the bimmah sinkhole. this vast sinkhole has beautiful turquoise waters that are perfect for swimming in the heat. i recommend getting there early as its get quite full later in the day so if you want some good shots, look to leave muscat around 7am. its right off the main road & set in a well maintained gardens, best of all its free.
30 mins down the road you will find my favourite place wadi shab (pic above). this is a canyon thats been carved by the river over millennia. now its a place of beautiful turquoise dip pools & fantastic flora e fauna. the trek starts at the car park, while its technically free you have to pay 1 rial to cross the river on a boat. then the true test of your trekking ability will be tested. its not super difficult it takes around an hour to traverse the terrain. they have rest stops along the way so take your time and you'll have an amazing day once you arrive.
my final place on this day trip was the small fishing town of sur, this is a nice place to end the day with a meal & views of the ocean with old fishing boats floating idly. while i didn't rush the trip too much it took 12 hours as a return journey to get back to my hotel in muscat.
if you have a short time in the country then for sure try & do it all in a day but if you have some time its makes more sense to spread the sights over a few days as afternoon the heat even in winter can be unbearable if your originally from a cooler climate.
to sum up...
this was an eye opening trip to my introduction to a few middle eastern countries. i learnt so much about the culture & religion it really opened my eyes to the truth behind the media propaganda. if your a seasoned traveller & want to try something new, push your boundaries. then i would say oman is a good place start. be aware that the middle east is not cheap so if your on a budget then this is not the place for you but if you have a little extra cash burning a hole in your pocket then for sure make your way here preferably in the winter as its easier to deal with the heat..,
- they use dinar in uae & rial in oman, you will find a lot of foreign exchange places.
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country travel tips
atm: any is fine most are free just make sure not to select the on screen conversion.
sim card: only a few providers and costs around ($15) for 3gb
transport: use the public transport in cities, rental cars are best for further afield.
taxi: uber? use promo: carlm5078ue for free ride.