The EdTechTeam Oman Summit featuring Google for Education will be held at The American International School of Muscat on January 30 & 31, 2015.The American International School of Muscat (TAISM) is a learning community that is dedicated to providing students exceptional opportunities for developing their intellectual, emotional, social and physical potential. Founded in 1998 to serve American and international families living in Muscat, the school now serves over 760 students representing 64 nationalities.
Muscat is a city that lies between the mountains and the sea. The city runs for approximately 50 km along the coast by road from the airport in the west down to Bandar Jissah in the east.
Many of Muscat’s sights are in and around Mutrah and Old Muscat which is about a 20 - 30 minute drive from the International School and the conference hotels.
Mutrah CornicheA walk along the Muttrah Corniche after sunset is beautiful as they have worked on the lighting of the old merchant houses facing the sea. There is always a lot of ship traffic and the light of the sunset on the water with the backdrop of dark mountains can be fantastic.The original road between Muttrah and Muscat: The corniche, which connects Muttrah to Muscat, has all been reclaimed from the sea. If you want a historical sense of what it was like to arrive into Muscat before the artificial corniche was created, ask the driver to take the following road towards the Al Bustan Palace Hotel: Leave Muttrah heading to the Al Bustan. At the first roundabout (with ceramic pots as roundabout decorations) turn right towards Rayam Park. Follow the two-lane paved road up and over the mountain to Muscat. From the top you get a nice panoramic view over the city. It is hard to fathom, but until 1970, that stretch of road between Muttrah and Muscat was the only paved section of road in the entire Sultanate. Things have changed in the last 40 years.Mutrah Fish SouqIf you are an early riser you might want to visit the Fish Souq (open market) in Muttrah. It is located at the near end of the Muttrah Corniche if you are coming from The Radisson. The fishermen bring in their catch directly by boat to the Fish Souq, and you can see an incredible variety of fish and get a feeling for the life of Omani fishermen who are about as colorful and genuine as you can get. Although they use outboard motors and fiberglass boats, the fishermen live a life very close to that of their ancestors.Attached to the Fish Souq is a great fruit and vegetable souq where you will see a wide variety of produce from Oman and around the planet. The contrast in smells and atmosphere to the adjoining fish souq is quite dramatic.Muttrah SouqOne of the best places to people watch and shop in Oman is the Muttrah Souq. You will be able to see a great cross-section of Omanis as well as a few tourists from the Cruise ships.I recommend walking off the main alleyways in the souq to see some of the least tourist-oriented shops. There are some good antique shops selling a mixture of Indian and Omani artifacts. There are many textile shops where you can buy pashminas and of course gold shops in the neighboring gold souq.Do buy some frankincense if only to have the shopkeeper give you a tour of all the possible scents they sell: myrrh, bahur…take your olfactory senses for a tour. It is fun too to have someone explain to you the relative qualities of the cylindrical Omani hats (Kumah).There are many jewelry/souvenir and carpet shops along the road next to the entrance to the souq.The restaurant/juice bar just to the left of the main entrance is a good place to take a load off your feet and drink a fresh squeezed juice before heading back into the souq for a second run.Visiting Old MuscatOld Muscat is located just five minutes from the corniche past Muttrah (the souk, etc). This area is home to the Sultan’s Palace and diwan (ruler’s office). Unfortunately, not much remains of original Old Muscat; however, make sure to visit inside the walls of the city to see some of the original houses still standing amongst all the new Royal Diwan (the government of the Sultanate) offices. One of the most traditional is Bait Al Fransi (The Omani/French Museum). Take the road which leads to the Royal Yacht Squadron headquarters. Park at the base of the old Portuguese fort of Mirani located on the left side of the bay. There you will have a wonderful view across the bay to the larger Portuguese fort of Jalali. Both forts are beautifully lit up at night.The Bait Al Zubair Museum and the Bait Al Muzna Gallery in Old MuscatThe Bait Al Zubair museum in Muscat will give you a good feeling for the wealth of Omani tradition and culture. The Museum has a great collection of clothing, pottery, weapons, furniture as well as a restored traditional Omani home complete with a wind tower which provided natural cooling. The opening hours are 9:30am-6:00pm Saturday through Thursday (closed on Friday). They also have special exhibitions which you can find on their website: http://www.baitalzubairmuseum.com/index.htm. Across the street from the museum is the Bait Al Muzna Gallery which has a wonderful collection of paintings, arts and handicrafts, jewelry and gift items. The gallery hours are 9:30-7:00pm Saturday through Thursday. You can read more about the museum on their website: http://www.baitmuznagallery.com/Qantab Village, Bandar Jissa Beach and the Dive CenterOne of the most scenic drives in Oman is to drive east past the Corniche and the Al Bustan Palace hotel towards Qantab and Bandar Jissah resort (the Shangri La resort). A suggested stopping point may be the mountaintop ridge walk: After leaving the coffee pot turn-off, passing under the highway and climbing a very steep first hill, you will see a parking area on your right made with interlock tiles. If you are feeling up to some strenuous exercise you can then walk up a steep prepared ramp of interlock tiles to the very top of the ridge and walk along the ridge with beautiful views on both sides. On one side is the ocean seen from very far up, on the other side a whole series of mountain ranges in the interior. It is a bit of climb to get up to this ridge-line walking trail, but an amazing place to see the sunset.If you are not up to the climb, you’ll notice that on the opposite side of the road from the parking area, a bit farther up the hill is a parking lot and viewpoint which you can stop at on your way back towards the Al Bustan from Qantab. It has a great view over the ocean as well.Bandar Jissah BeachIf you continue on the road towards Qantab (it goes down very steeply) at the base of the last steep hill you turn left towards Qantab and the Dive Center rather than carrying on straight to the Shangri La Bandar Jissah resort. Shortly after the left turn, turn right towards the Dive Center and at the end of that road come to a beautiful public beach which is another wonderful place to go at sunset. Once it reaches the beach, the road continues steeply up the mountain to the right of the beach towards the Dive Center, and from the top you have a wonderful view over the entire coast.The Dive Center.The dive center (a commercial scuba diving center) can be accessed either from the public beach at Bandar Jissah or from the roundabout on the road leading to the Bandar Jissah Shangri La Resort. It is a great place to ‘chill out’ in the afternoon and have dinner or take a boat out to snorkel off the coast. It is also a beach where you can feel comfortable swimming in western beach attire.Qantab VillageInstead of turning right towards the Public Bandar Jissah Beach, drive over a low mountain pass and down the other side. You will come to the fishing village of Qantab. The village will give you a very different feel for Oman than the Al Bustan Hotel. The hotel is actually just a stone’s throw away over the dramatic sawtooth mountains (made of Ophiolite) behind the village. The drive to the village is worth it only to see the incredible mountain scenery. The village is a genuine fishing village and the beach is covered with fishing boats all ready to be launched. If you want a sense of traditional Oman, this is the closest spot to see it.Unusual Geology Around Muscat.Notice the dark, jagged, chocolate-colored rock surrounding the Al Bustan Hotel. This same rock extends all the way along the coast from the hotel to Old Muscat and the port of Muttrah. This rock is world famous amongst geologists. It is called Ophiolite and it is rock from oceanic crust. In other words, it is a rock only found under the deepest parts of the ocean. The rock is created at spreading boundaries between tectonic plates where magma rises us to form new crust under the ocean. If you want to see ophioloite, you have to either dive into the deepest parts of the ocean (to depths most submarines cannot reach) or come to Oman.There are other places in the world with small amounts of Ophiolite rock but Oman is THE place to see it. Geologists come to Oman from all over the world to try to get a better feeling for the structure of the sea floor. If you look closely at the ophiolite rock you will see bands of green color in it. These are due to copper brought up with the magma from the depths of the Earth. During the Bronze Age, Oman was famous for the copper ingots it exported to Babylon and Mesopotamia.As you drive from the Al Bustan towards Qantab village, you will see a transition from the dark Ophiolite rock on the left of the highway to a golden brown limestone on the right of the highway. The limestone has been laid down over top of the Ophiolite at a time when Oman was covered by a shallow sea. The higher, less sharply jagged mountains are made of this limestone. The very sharp darker brown jagged hills are made of more easily eroded Ophiolite.The horizontal layers of the golden brown limestone have been twisted and folded by geological movements. It is strange to realize that over geological time, Oman has been north of the equator, then south of the equator. And then north of the equator again. There are even scrape marks of glaciers on some rocks in the middle of the desert in central Oman!The Grand Mosque.Closer to TAISM and the conference hotels, and visible from the Sultan Qaboos Highway is the magnificent Grand Mosque. It is an excellent example of modern Islamic architecture and was a gift to the nation from Sultan Qaboos to mark the 30th year of his reign. It’s a great place to visit, having amongst other things one of the biggest continuous Persian carpets in the world as well as an amazing central chandelier. There are beautiful ceramic-lined niches located in the covered promenade around the mosque. They are decorated with ceramic tiles from every Muslim country in the world. Non-Muslims are allowed to visit the mosque from 8:30 - 11:00 am Saturday through Thursday. Men should wear long sleeve shirts and pants and women should cover their shoulders and wear a headscarf to cover their hair if they plan to visit the mosque.The Oasises of Bausher and GhalahIf you carry on beyond the Grand Mosque, past the The American International School of Muscat (TAISM) campus, turn left towards the town of Ghalah right up against the mountains which serve as a backdrop to TAISM. You will be able to visit two traditional oasis villages complete with palm tree gardens and the Falaj aqueduct system which is characteristic of Omani agriculture. These two oasis villages, although only a five-minute drive from the TAISM campus, have preserved much of the feeling of traditional Omani life. There is one restored fort and two ruined forts in the Bausher oasis which are worth a visit. If you are not going to be able to visit Oman beyond the Muscat area, these villages along with the fishing village of Qantab will give you a better idea of what traditional life in Oman is like.BeachesMany of the big hotels have lovely beachside and pool facilities that are open to nonguests for a daily fee. Some recommended hotels are the Crowne Plaza Hotel, The Intercontinental and the Shangri La.
Arrival information for Sultanate of Oman:
Sultanate of Oman issues on arrival visa to most of the European countries, USA and Canadian nationals. The details of eligible nationalities can be checked on the link provided here.
Once you come to the arrival hall, you need to go to the counter marked "Visa on arrival". You will be able to get tourist visa for minimum 7 days to maximum 30 days. Please buy visa as per your planned stay in Oman. The payment is accepted in cash or by credit cards. There are also money exchange offices in the arrival hall. Once you have obtained visa and this is stamped in your passport, you will proceed to collect your luggage. The luggage will be X-ray screened before you leave the airport. DVDs are subject to screen by the authorities and they may retain these, if needed. There are money exchange offices in the arrival hall area before you get to taxis.
Once you have come out, prepaid taxis are available and the rates are fixed for major hotels in Muscat. More information about taxis is given on the link provided here.
Purchase of telephone Sim card:
Omantel and Nawras are two major mobile service providers in Oman. Both these companies have counters at the airport and if required you will be able to buy Sim card for Rial Omani two with your passport. Photos are not required.