Our last day and a half
Written by Maria Ramos   
Wednesday, 23 December 2009 22:27

Bait Al Baranda

The team at Bait Al Baranda 

In the morning, we visited Mutrah’s Bait Al Baranda - a traditional 19th Century house that has been converted into a small museum presenting the sea-faring history, geology, musical heritage and contemporary arts of Oman.

Breathtaking Al Bustan. Finally one of the moments I’d been waiting for – our trip to Al Bustan hotel! We had contemplated it from afar during our boat trip but now the moment had come to enter this luxurious former palace that has won the award for the best hotel in the Middle East several times!

Nestling between a beautiful backdrop of mountains and the sea, this is definitely the most amazing hotel I’ve ever seen. We toured the hotel accompanied by the Assistant Director of Sales Sameer Al-Harthy. He showed us around the restaurants and luxurious suites furnished with wooden mother-of-pearl engraved beds, and butler-serviced rooms!

 Al Bustan Hotel

Sea view from Al Bustan Hotel 

After the tour, we had a delicious buffet lunch outside on the terrace overlooking the infinity pool and the sea. We then drove back to Mutrah were the roads were very busy as the Croatian President was in town.

Oman’s Bahrainis. In the evening, we were invited by the Bahraini Ambassador to Oman, HE Fuad Al Muaw to celebrate Bahrain’s National Day at the Grand Hyatt in Muscat.

We met lots of Bahrainis living, working and/or studying in Oman. My favourite part of the evening was meeting a large group of Bahraini students studying Telecommunications and Engineering at the Caledonian College of Engineering. Most of the ‘shabab’ said they were enjoying the nature and scenery in Oman but missed the shopping malls in Bahrain! We also talked to the Deputy Ambassador to Yemen-Abdulrahman Alsharabi who used to live in Bahrain 5 years ago and filled him in on the team’s travel plans to Yemen next month.

Bahrain National Day reception 

At the Bahrain National Day reception 

After the event, we said goodbye to our Omani friends from the Ministry of Tourism Mohammed and Faiz which was very sad. We then headed back to the hotel for an early night ahead of the long drive back to Bahrain.

Bye bye Oman. We were up at 6am and hit the road at 6.30. It was amazing to see the traffic congestion on the road from Muscat to Mutrah and Rawi. Apparently it’s always best to head out before 6 to avoid the traffic.

We had breakfast in Sohar, another coastal town before the road to Dubai. The road from Oman to the UAE is very beautiful as the mountains then change to dramatic sand dunes on the Hatta-Dubai road. The dunes are a spectacular orange colour and I finally got to see my beloved camels!

I was really sad to leave Oman, as I feel I’ve just scratched the surface and not explored enough of this large and spectacular country. I really want to return soon discover more. On my next visit, I plan to visit Salalah and Wahiba sands.

Archie in Dubai! Once we reached Dubai, we met the person who is connecting us to you! He’s the person who shapes and creates our wonderful website, that’s Archie D’Cruz! Archie lived in Bahrain and worked for the Gulf Daily News prior to moving to Canada where he runs his own custom print and web publishing company A Type of Magic. He was in Dubai for a big family reunion to celebrate his sister’s 25-year wedding anniversary. We met about 15 of his family members and there were still more to come! It was great to meet such a close and lovely family. 

With Archie and his family

With Archie, second from right, and his family 

Finally, it was time to say goodbye. Unfortunately I can’t travel through Saudi and so I was dropped off in Dubai. It was really sad to say goodbye to the team even though I will see them in Bahrain.

In Dubai I got the chance to meet up with some old TV friends from Al Arabiya who live and work in Dubai and took me around the city. I had not visited Dubai in a year and so much has happened. Apart from the financial headlines it has been making worldwide, the biggest tangible change was that the train was up and running! Congratulations to the Dubai government, the city looks great!


Beautiful Dubai

Finally, my friend drove me to Abu Dhabi where I could see Yas Island lit up and felt the excitement of all the wonderful developments taking place here.

Back to Bahrain, Port of Pearls. It’s great to be back in Bahrain, catching up with friends and former colleagues. I’m staying with my inspirational friend Sophie who also loves exploring different cultures, and has travelled around the Arab world a lot and speaks fluent Arabic! She has now fused these passions and is running a great language school in Budaiya that offers Arabic, English, Spanish and French and German.

Having completed my second Friendship Arabia trip has made me love Bahrain even more. Looking from the outside inwards always does that, especially when you see how highly people speak of Bahrain outside its shores from cultures that are new to me.

I now look at the pearling history with much more wonder and appreciation than before and I wish the Minister of Culture and Information HE Sheikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa and her team all the best with the UNESCO pearl project and all their future projects to bolster Bahrain’s great heritage and culture.

I can’t wait to be on the road again with the Friendship Arabia team. When I’m in London on the tube, or walking in the rain, these magical moments in Oman, the laughs, the colourful characters in the souq, the hues of the mountains will all make me smile, but most of all, I treasure the friendship, jokes and laughs with my team.

I feel so honoured that as a British/Spanish person I may be culturally so far removed from Bahrain but I feel so at home with my group of four Bahrainis and promoting this wonderful country once again.  In London, I also co-run the London-Arabic group (400+ people with a passion for Arabic and the Arab world) and I can’t wait to share my stories with everyone.