Saturday, February 11, 2012

Muscat Festival 2012

'Muscat Festival' is perhaps the biggest celebration of its kind in Oman. It's also a huge GCC draw.

This year it is especially more important and significant as Muscat has been declared as the 'Arab Tourism Capital for 2012', besides being voted the “2nd Best City to Visit the World in 2012″ by Lonely Planet, after London !

For your academic interest here is the list of the "Top 10 Cities to Visit in 2012" :

1. London

2. Muscat, Oman

3. Bengaluru (Bangalore), India

4. Cadiz, Spain

5. Stockholm

6. Guimaraes, Portugal

7. Santiago, Chile

8. Hong Kong

9. Orlando, Florida, USA

10. Darwin, Australia

Obviously there's a lot of interest in showcasing the best of Muscat to the immediate GCC and to the world at large.

Interestingly, in all the hustle and bustle at the Muscat festival, I hardly noticed any white skins.

Perhaps Muscat Festival and even Muscat is too tame and docile for their liking !

Al Hoota Cave, Off Bahla, Past Nizwa, Sultanate of Oman

One of my longstanding wishes of seeing the ‘Al Hoota Cave’ was finally accomplished yesterday !

Visitors have to make prior booking before going there as the authorities maintain the footfalls (up to a maximum of 750 persons per day), to protect and safeguard the place.

Every holiday I try to book, they will say it’s closed already. This being a long weekend (Prophet’s birthday, being the reason), I booked in advance and got a slot.

We went by road to Nizwa (about 250 kms from here), and from there to Bahla (about 40 kms from Nizwa) and another 15 kms to the cave’s base. Inside the cave photography is strictly prohibited.

The cave is located at the foot of Jebel Shams (the sun mountain), the highest mountain in Oman which is north of Al Hamra.It is mentioned that the Al Hoota Cave is one of the largest cave systems in the world with an underground cavern complete with stalactites, stalagmites, columns and has an unique underground lake system and such.

There were 3 Omani guides who were standing at well-spaced distances who were at hand to explain to the visitors about the cave and all its natural formations.The walk inside took us about an hour. We had to climb up and down over 300 steps. The entire cavern is about 5 kms long, but only part of it is open for the public.

It was amazing to go into the cave and look at all those natural beauties. It was dark of course, but there were some lights to show the way. It was also cool inside. Actually it was quite large in the inside.

Here are some useful links, in case you want to know more about the ‘Al Hoota Cave’ :