Monday 28 December 2009

Oman: Muscat in half a day

My heart sank as we approached the corniche due to the shadow cast over the entire area by the 92,600 tonne, 16-deck, 2,826 passenger 'Costa Luminosa' cruise ship. Sure enough, the souq was swarming with tourists wandering round in dishdashas and kummahs waving US dollars at the enthusiastic pashmina salesmen. I suppose it’s a good thing – just don’t like being in the middle of it.

Kim went into the Holy Grail shop in search of ambergris. This substance, which is used as a perfume and a foundation for other fragrances, is expelled from the intestines of whales and is washed up randomly around various parts of the world. Hence it is often given the less attractive epithet of ‘whale vomit’. Sadly, it would appear there is not much call for it round these parts, so we continued through the souq until the stalls started to close at 1pm. On the way out, Kim purchased a lifetime’s supply of frankincense and myrrh.

We recovered with lunch at the marina followed by the usual photo call at the palace.

In the evening, after a long siesta, the general consensus was that none of us was very hungry, but as we had a table booked at the Kargeen Caffé, we would have ‘something light’ (a phrase rarely used in the context of food in this family).

The restaurant has grown somewhat since our last visit – there are more tables spread further apart with helpful staff and a large mixed clientele reflecting its obvious popularity. Al treated his belly, Jeff, to Mandi Laham with Yemeni vegetables Jerry gave an impressive performance by working his way through a colossal avocado & cheese ciabatta sandwich. He finished with a refreshing and slightly medicinal Yemeni tea made with cloves and cardamom.

A splendid evening.

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