Big Bus Tours Muscat, with its colorful double-decker buses around town, is the latest tourism development to hit Muscat, Oman. Ever the tourist at heart, I decided to check it out for myself last Thursday. All aboard! I drove down to Muttrah Souk at 9am as that is when and where I was told it would start. (You can get your ticket onboard, as I did, or you can order them from your hotel or from their website.) With your ticket, you get complimentary headphones and a map. I LOVE the foldout map/pamphlet that came with the tour. (Illustrated beautifully by Russ North) The seats in the lower deck were empty as you can see simply because the weather in Oman is perfect to be outside at this time of year! There were about a dozen of on the bus in total when we left Stop #1: MUTTRAH SOUK (Traditional souk, shopping, souvenirs, restaurants, cafes) Make sure to spend some time in beautiful Muttrah before hopping on the bus! Muttrah is one of my favorite spots in Oman and I can’t see myself ever getting tired of going there. Muttrah Souk is also the place to catch Big Bus Tours free shuttle bus to the Grand Mosque (only if you bought a ticket of course! ). The shuttle leaves at 8am, 9am and 10am each morning as the Mosque visiting hours are only from 8:30-11am, everyday except Friday. Some tourists were confused – please note that the bus itself doesn’t go there. You have to take one of the smaller shuttle buses (like a minibus). After leaving the Souk, the bus drove along the Muttrah Corniche before turning around at Riyam R/A and heading past the Fish Market and Bait al Baranda Museum. From the very beginning, I was really impressed with the high views offered from the top of the “big bus” and (as corny as this sounds) the air blowing through my hair. This ride was such a refreshing way to see a city I have come to love in a different manner altogether. It was exciting and a whole lot of fun. One of my favorite features of the tour was hearing so many interesting facts about Muscat and Oman and many sites of interest along the bus-route. For example, between stops 1 and 2, I finally learned the identify of this building which I must have driven by hundreds of times and never knew-the Muscat Municipality HQ Building: Some quick examples of the informative and historical commentary provided on this tour:
- Islam, which means “submission”, is the 2nd larget religion in the world after Christianity.
- The 2010 Omani census determined the population of Oman to be around 2.7 million.
- The origin of the country’s name “Oman” is said to come from the original tribe of Uman in Yemen.
- Oman is the oldest independent state in Arabia.
- There is a housing policy that buildings in Oman should not be higher than 8 stories and must be of 2 colors: cream or white.
(If you want to learn more, you’ll have to take the tour! )
I’m glad that the tolerance of the Sultanate was highlighted on this tour by the clear distinction of Stop #2: CHURCHES & TEMPLES ((Public Bus Stop) Protestant & Catholic Church, Krishna Temple). As the different worship areas were introduced in the commentary with mention of other faiths, it was refreshing to hear this sentence: “Worshippers are most welcome”. That’s the Oman I love! The bus journeyed through the areas of Darsyt, Bayt al Falaj, Hillat as Sadd and Wutayyah and past the Childrens Museum you see pictured here on the way to Stop #3: SHATTI ((Car Park)- outside Costa Coffee-Beach, shopping, restaurants, cafes, Royal Opera House) I’m surprised that more tourists didn’t get off at this gorgeous spot as you always know there is another bus coming (each 30 minutes). Once again, I was impressed with the enlightening commentary letting folks know that this spot, Qurum al Shatti comes from “Qurum” meaning “Mangroves” and “Shatti” meaning “Beach”, translating this spot as “Mangrove Beach”. Tourists get a chance to see The Royal Opera House Muscat from all kinds of angles as the bus drives around Shati. Stop #4: QURUM BEACH (outside Japengo - open beach, promenade, mangroves, cafes) Onto to Stop #5: Qurum National Park (Public Bus Stop – outside main entrance. Park. Amusement Park). No pics taken at that stop. This stop had the only piece of information that I took issue with in the commentary and that was the comment while passing Qurum Natural Park that : “this is the main venue of the Muscat Festival each year“. Because the main venue is not there this year and is now in Amerat Park, I thought that this could be potentially confusing to a small number of tourists wanting to experience Muscat Festival. (a minor point)
That’s half the tour. Click here to continue to post #2 which looks at stops 6-10. Be sure to check out their website at www.bigbustours.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Telephone: (968) 2476-0864
Here’s a short video of combined clips from stops 1-5 on the tour: