During the workweek, we kept fairly close to home. We ran some errands nearby and after we got our member cards, we spent a little time at the PDO Club, which deserves its own post.
Anyway, the weekend rolled around pretty quickly because the weekend here is Friday–Saturday instead of Saturday–Sunday. We were thinking of going to the Muttrah Souq, but most shops are closed or keep short hours on Friday, sort of like on Sunday in the Western world. Salat al Jumu’ah, Friday prayers, sounds to me like the equivalent of the weekly Christian church services. My apologies if this is all common knowledge. I’m just relating things I was curious about.
So we decided to take a drive to Al Bustan Palace and then look for some South Indian food in Ruwi on the way back. We took the scenic route along the coast, and I’ll have to go back to photograph some of the parks and ports. The driving was confusing though because it’s all traffic circles and a lot of the streets aren’t clearly labeled.
We didn’t realize that our destination was just a luxury hotel. We thought it was a luxury hotel at the site of something cool, which it is sort of, but… mostly a Ritz-Carlton. We parked in some far-off parking lot and came in through a deserted entrance by the ballroom, making our way through dim marble corridors until we found the most opulent lobby I’ve ever seen. It was challenging to photograph, but I tried. The lobby was encircled by these arches, and the dome above was 38 m (125 ft) high.
K got a coffee and I got an iced tea, and our bill was over 7 rials (almost $20), which is insane but I guess normal for the Ritz-Carlton? I asked the waitress where I could take a picture of the sea-side view, but apparently you need a room-card to get out on the terrace. She kindly informed me that I was welcome to take a photo through the glass door. Isn’t that nice!
This was clearly not our kind of scene, so K went out to get some 35°C air (95°F—relatively cool) while I shed my last shred of dignity and went to take a photo through the glass door.
Some hotel employee took pity on me and let me go out on the terrace to take a real photo. Of course he stood in the door and supervised.
It is a very beautiful place. Satisfied (I guess), we wound back through the bowels of the building to get to our deserted ballroom exit, which I guess they decided to lock when they saw our lonely car in the empty lot back there. I wondered if they were watching us as we came back through the lobby a third time and went out the main entrance. I’m still not sure why this place was recommended. I guess it’s for making a reservation and dressing up and having a fancy dinner or something.
There was a lot of beautiful landscape and landscaping on our little walk around the building back to our car.
It’s really the mountains that make Oman so beautiful. And if someone wants to have their wedding reception in that ballroom, we know just where to park.
On the way back, and for something completely different, we decided to hit up the much-heralded LuLu Hypermarket, where I’d been told I could get our staple Indian food ingredients. It was super confusing to get there because it’s essentially under the intersection of the busiest commercial street in Muscat and the main highway, yet it can only be accessed from very specific angles. I think we overshot it twice, driving many kilometers to turn around, before finally pulling in, but now we know those roads much better than we did before.
Anyway, this part of Muscat actually looks like a city to me. Pardon the grainy iPhone photo, and notice the cute camel decal.
If this all sounds like a huge drag, it totally wasn’t. I’m accustomed to learning new places by making lots of wrong turns, and usually I’m on public trans or on foot and alone, so I was grateful to have company and be the passenger for this roundabout journey.
LuLu was crazy and a post explaining the various hypermarkets in Muscat is probably in order. I’ve visited three in less than a week, partly because we didn’t bring much with us and partly because I really enjoy grocery stores. (I sound like Bert with his paper clip collection…)
After all this excitement, we were ready to try Saravanaa Bhavan, the vegetarian place K had his eye on.
I’m curious to see how long he’ll allow me to use him as a blog subject. I’m probably pushing it, but he makes such a good star for this show!
The vada sambar was really, really good. Usually the vadas come on the side to be dipped in the sambar, but these were submerged. Also, they gave us like twelve spoons for some reason. I removed a few before shooting this. (That’s coconut chutney on the side.)
K got the rava dosa, which had a spicy mashed potato filling, and carrot juice, which had so much ginger that it was also spicy. I got the mysore masala dosa, which had some sort of garlicky filling that I couldn’t quite place—maybe coconut? I can usually identify most of the ingredients in things, so this intrigued me. It came with (from top to bottom) some sort of roasted pepper jam, coconut chutney, and some kind of spicy peanut sauce. And, of course, more sambar.
On the way back to our place, I began to have a clearer idea of where our neighborhood—Qurum, or more specifically, Ras Al Hamra—is, and I’m a lot less terrified about trying to find my way home. From points east, at any rate.
And that was our first Jumu’ah!