Even after almost three years of living here, Oman never gets old. There’s always something new to see or discover here and last weekend was no exception. On Thursday, we celebrated Isra wa’l Mi’raj, commemorating the blessed night journey to the heavens undertaken by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in the year 621. Being a national holiday, we enjoyed a three-day weekend and wanted to plan a little getaway, as it coincided with our eighth wedding anniversary.
At the end of Wednesday’s workday, Lil’ Z and I scooped up Urbndervish in the getaway car and we fled to Ruwi, the “Little India” of Muscat. We discovered Ruwi Hotel on Agoda.com and found their double room with buffet dinner and breakfast reasonably offered for 40 OMR, a little more than $100 USD. After checking-in, we were offered fresh mango juice and introduced to our very own butler (what?!?), Muhammad.
The double room was inviting, with a fresh fruit platter and plate of chocolates awaiting us. Lil’ Z dove into the billows of fluffy comforters and extra pillows. Muhammad frequented our room, making sure we were cozy and satisfied with our accommodation. Our only discontent was the mini-fridge overflowing with liquor, which Muhammad eagerly emptied for us. Because the dinner buffet had not been prepared for the evening, we were offered room service in its place. We ordered veg samosas, dhal makani, and vegetable jalfrezi, all of which were freshly prepared and rich in flavor.
Garden salad, fresh chapatti, and fruit salad accompanied our meal. After savoring our dinner, we rested and prepared for the next day’s journey.
Though Lil’ Z originally woke with us for prayer at dawn, she returned to sleep until 7:30 AM, after which we got dressed and headed down to the breakfast buffet. The varied offerings included fresh fruit, cereal, pastries, and hot entrées like baked beans, cauliflower and peas, and fried eggplant. Though not a typical breakfast for us at all, it was filling and kept us going for most of the day.
From Ruwi, we headed towards Amerat, en route to Quriyat. At the Quriyat exit, we found well-placed signs directing us to Wadi Dayqah Dam. From Muscat, the entire journey took about an hour and a half.
At the base of the dam, water flows in forceful gushes down the wadi, creating a pleasant mist for bystanders. Taking the experience to an entirely new level, we found two men climbing down the dam, swimming under its powerful current to walk through the ravine.
At a higher altitude atop the newly constructed dam, we enjoyed a panoramic view of the area with its date palm plantations, mountain ranges, and the vast serene reservoir lake just beyond the dam. While most people might not consider a dam to be a worthy destination for a visit, you have to put it in context. We’re in the desert and to see so much water contained in a single place transports you, even if only temporarily, to somewhere far from the desert heat and dry terrain.
The facilities at the dam included sheltered tables and benches, a water fountain surrounded by spacious lawns, and clean restrooms…with toilet paper! There’s even a restaurant onsite that’s currently furnished but not yet open for business. We were really impressed by, not only the dam, but the effort given to developing the location and making it accessible for the public to enjoy.
With a certain little person tuckered out, we decided to skip visiting Bimmah Sinkhole Park, also known as Hawiyat Najm Park, and returned to Muscat. After waiting nearly 45 minutes at a roadblock, Lil’ Z finally drifted asleep and we entered Muscat, bypassing our hotel in Ruwi, heading straight for Muscat Grand Mall. After a heavy dinner and buffet breakfast, I was craving something raw and found a stand in the mall offering a juice combination of carrot, ginger, apple, and orange. Lil’ Z enjoyed it as a precursor to her JustFalafel meal, which she polished off without batting an eye.
As we were about to exit the mall, we saw a small crowd forming around a stage where a children’s program was to be held within the next hour. The balloons caught Lil’ Z’s attention and we were curious to see what the program entailed. The opening drama act confused us all and frightened Lil’ Z. But soon the soothing sound of Surah Isra’, a chapter of the Qur’an, calmed her, and we went on to enjoy the poetry competition. Five children, ages 7-10, were selected from the crowd to write a short poem about Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in about five minutes. We thought the task to be challenging but the responses from the competitors swiftly reminded us why Arabs have earned their reputation as poets and linguists. The sun began to descend, so we made our way back to our hotel room and called it a night.
For the last day of our Muscat adventure, we ran a few errands and paid a visit to the Institute of Islamic Sciences at the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. There we met a mostly female class of students, attending an Intro to Islam course in English. Uniquely, most of the attendees are expatriates from the Philippines working in Oman. Many of them recently embraced Islam and were keenly learning about their newfound faith and way of life. At the end of the class, a young Brazilian convert shared her experience of returning to her homeland as a Muslim woman. The anecdotes of her family encounters were familiar and entertaining. Her story encouraged the Filipinas who were anxious about returning to their homeland wearing a head scarf and modest clothing, praying throughout the day, refusing pork, and the like. After chatting with some of the brothers and sisters there, we met up with our friends for Friday prayer and hit up our new favorite eatery in Muscat, Coconut House. Leaving Muscat, we were filled with good food and fond memories of special days to remember.