Making Memories in Muscat

Living in Dubai I feel that I often take for granted the opportunities that we have to travel, and the counties that we can visit that are right on our doorstep! Oman is a country I have wanted to visit for a while now, having only previously crossed the borders for my visa run when I first moved to Dubai almost four years ago. I also realised I haven’t actually visited any other Gulf countries since living in Dubai! We try to make the most of the public holidays and long weekends, so with this years National Day weekend I decided to book a surprise trip for Ryan and I to Muscat.

The flight to Muscat from Dubai is less than an hour so I literally booked the cheapest flight option available. Flying on the Thursday night after work, we reached Muscat by 9.15pm and were at our hotel within the hour. Before booking this trip, I had read online that you could pick up taxis from the airport relatively cheap – in fact they were half the price offered by the hotels and also metered. I had also read about an app called O-Taxi, which is the Uber equivalent in Oman and it connects you to local taxis. Although the taxis weren’t always available, the app tells you the journey fare which was a good bartering tool for the non-metered taxis.

When we arrived at our hotel we decided to have a quick turn around and pop down to the Lazy Lizard pool bar in our hotel for some causal drinks to start our long weekend. We stayed at the Radisson Blu and I managed to get a good deal by booking direct through the hotel and using the Entertainer voucher for a free nights stay.

Dolphin sightseeing trip

We used the O-Taxi app to take us from our hotel to the Marina Bandah where our dolphin boat trip was starting with Captain Salim. We were only joined by one other couple but the price remained at 25 OR per person (if the boat has 10 people or more then the price is reduced to 20 OR pp). We spent approximately an hour and a half searching for the dolphins but sadly we didn’t see any on any our trip. So our captain took us to a hidden location for snorkelling.

I’ve always been a confident swimmer but I knocked my confidence when we were in Bali a few years ago and I had a panic attack at sea. I tried to overcome it on a staycation in Fujairah a few months later but the same thing happened again. But at the start of the year I was determined to overcome it when we were in the Philippines and we had an amazing time group snorkelling. So this weekend, I felt more confident when we snorkelled off the boat together. Every time we have visited Asia we’ve hoped to be lucky enough to swim with a turtle but we’ve just never seen one! But this weekend within a few minutes of being in the sea we saw two turtles swimming together. We swam above them and followed them as they ate, one even came up for air just a few inches away from me and I was able to touch it’s shell. We then saw five more mooching around at different parts of the coral – this was definitely a bucket list moment for me!

There’s a lovely restaurant in the Marina called Blue Marlin so we sat and had some lunch after the trip. It was the perfect temperature to sit outside, I had fresh prawns with garlic and chilli and Ryan had the fresh snapper fish sandwich, all of which was delicious!

That evening, we made a reservation at The Chedi in the Beach Restaurant. The hotel was absolutely stunning and as we approached the restaurant the walk way was lit with fire and we sat outside on the terrace which was lined with fire pits on the beach front. It was a really romantic setting for dinner. To start, Ryan had mussels (obviously) and I had the seared salmon carpaccio which was beautiful! For our main, we shared the mixed seafood platter and a bottle of wine. The local gentleman behind us was kind enough to send us each over a glass of red wine so we went over to say thank you and he asked us to join him and his family for a drink which was lovely. Omani people are some of the friendliest I have ever met.

Wadi Shab

One of the main reasons we wanted to visit muscat was to visit the Wadi Shab and although most people do this trip alone, I decided to book a tour guide through Oman Day Tours. Our driver picked us up at 8am and we drove two hours out of muscat along the coast line to Tiwi to spend the morning at the Wadi Shab.

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When you arrive at the Wadi Shab parking area you have to take a boat across a small lake to begin the hike. The only way to cross the lake is via boat and they have a company which runs boats across daily for a small charge. From there, we had a 45 minute hike through semi-mountainous terrain. We wore normal gym trainers for this part which of was fine. As we walked further we felt like we were entering Jurassic World! It’s such a unique place with palm trees and greenery growing inside a valley in the mountains, I’ve never seen anything like it before.

We stopped to swim after 45 minutes of walking and chose a spot to leave our items. We then entered the Wadi and swam for another 30 minutes! The water was the perfect temperature and it felt so refreshing to swim in the fresh mountain water. One thing I would strongly advise to take on this trip is waterproof shoes to wear in the water, as part of it is shallow and very stony, and also a waterproof camera! I can’t believe we forgot to take the GoPro with us! Some parts of the Wadi were super deep and people were climbing up and jumping off the cliffs!

At the end of the Wadi there’s a small gap in the caves that you can swim through. The gap is so small that only your neck and head can be above water to swim through it, the rest of your body needs to be under the water. I would never have dared swim through here if we were not with our guide. But, the other side was completely breathtaking and had inside it a natural waterfall flowing down from the mountains!

After the 30 minute swim, 45 minute hike and boat trip out of the Wadi were exhausted and went to a local Omani restaurant for some traditional food for lunch. On our way back to Muscat, we stopped at Bimmah Sinkhole, another natural beauty of Oman. Locals believe that it was created by a meteorite thousands of years ago but now, it is filled with a mixture of fresh and salt water which you can swim in!

On our final day we were so exhausted by all of the adventures that we slept in until midday and ordered room service, before checking out and heading back to Dubai. I thoroughly enjoyed our long weekend in Muscat and I have already started looking into other trips that we can take back to Oman! I would love to do a hiking trip in Jebel Jais, visit the pink lake in Jalan Bani Bu Ali (on the far east coast) as well as taking a trip down to Salalah – so if anyone has any recommendations, please let me know!

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Another new country Czeched off the list!

We started our mini Euro-trip with a three night stay in Prague, another new country to czech off the bucket list! Most people we have spoken to have visited Prague during the Winter so we were excited to see what it had to offer in the summer months.

Initially, we had planned to stay for only two nights however, due to the change of the predicted Eid dates, we were able to change our FlyDubai flight to leave a day earlier for AED 220 – definitely worth it for an extra day of exploring! Unfortunately our original hotel was fully booked for the additional night so we stayed at Miss Sophie’s hotel for the first night and moved to Pure White for the following two nights. The staff at both of our hotels were extremely helpful and provided us with maps and recommendations for things to do in the city. Both times we arrived too early for check in however the hotels had safe, locked storage rooms for luggage which put us at ease when heading out for the day.

We had read mixed reviews about picking up taxis from the airport with regards to meters etc so we booked private transfer company, Prague Airport Transfers, to collect us and take us to the hotel. It is a fixed price company that charges one price to any hotel in the city centre so we simply selected our hotel online and made the payment in advance. This may have been slightly more expensive than a regular taxi however it was hassle free and very convenient. You can find the company we used here https://www.prague-airport-transfers.co.uk

The airport was one of the quickest we have been through at that time in the morning so we were at our hotel, luggage dropped off, changed and out to explore by 9.30am!

Day 1

We headed straight out to find a spot for breakfast, my favourite meal of the day, and found a cute little cafe called Dolce Monte where I got my fix of coffee and eggs! We walked from our hotel in New Town through to St Charles Bridge in the old town. Like typical tourists we had a map (that we couldn’t really read) but had a lovely walk taking in all of the sites and the amazing buildings the city has to offer. It was much busier with tourists in the Old Town but we made our way through and on to St Charles Bridge. The views were beautiful and there were lots of people busking playing beautiful music, it had such a lovely vibe.

We exited the bridge and took a left to find the infamous John Lennon Wall. I didn’t really know what to expect from it but it was such a cool place, a guy was playing a guitar and singing The Beetles songs it was so fun. We then found a little restaurant on the side of the street for lunch and Ryan has his first beer of the holiday!

Imagine all the people…. who visited this wall!

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In the evening we went for sundowners at the Dancing Houses rooftop bar it was so chilled and had gorgeous views of the city. Along the river below we saw several boats moored up with bars on so we decided to take a wander. The whole length of the river had people sitting along drinking, eating, hopping in and off the boats it was such a fun place! We sat for a few more drinks, it was a lovely end to the day!         img_2029

Day 2

On our second day, we headed down to the river front, stopping in a little shop for some wine and beers on the way, and rented pedalos for an hour from Slovanka Boat Rental! This was one of the highlights of my time in Prague! It was so relaxing pedalling around the river, drinking wine and listening to music in the sun. We only paid CZK 300 (AED 49 / £10) for an hour and I would highly recommend this.

We then walked to a rooftop bar that Ryan had read about online called Tanker which was located above a shopping centre. The views were beautiful across the city and the food was lovely as well – this is definitely one of the hidden gems within Prague.

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One recommendation we received for our trip was to head to a bar called Vytopna for a drink. This bar was so cool and such a fun restaurant experience where your drinks are served by model trains. I was telling Ryan to drink his beers faster so another train could come down our track! The drinks were reasonably priced in comparison to the other bars we visited and there was a service charge of CZK 25 (AED 4 / £0.88) which is used for maintenance of the trains and tracks.

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For dinner that evening, we headed to a lovely tapas restaurant called The Bistro and sat outside in a quaint terrace garden. The dishes were lovely and designed for sharing so we ordered a selection including hummus, prawn tempura, pork dumplings and duck croquettes. The food really was delicious and the service was great.

Day 3

On our final day, we headed into the Old Town to join the free walking tour provided by Prague Airport Transfers company. The tour started at 11am and took us around the streets of the old town to begin. The tour was great and even though we had been wandering these streets for the last few days, it was great to learn the history of the buildings and Prague itself. We stopped for a quick lunch and met up with the tour group shortly after to continue the tour up to the Castle and St Vitus Cathedral. The tour ended at the top of the castle and we slowly made our way back down to the old town, stopping for beer and chimney cake ice cream on the way!

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A final bar that we wanted to visit was Lokal, a restaurant serving traditional Czech cuisine but the main attraction was, of course, the beer. Inside the pub was a huge beer tank whereby they brew their own beer. I’m not a beer drinker but was told this pub served some of the best beer in the world so I had to try it.

On our final evening we were so exhausted that we just walked to a little restaurant near our hotel and got an early night. We walked a total of 60,182 steps during our 3 days in Prague and I’m so glad I packed my blister plasters!!

What an amazing start to our mini Euro tour ❤️

Three years in Dubai

I’m slightly delayed with writing this post, but, on the 25th of May we celebrated our 3 year Dubai-nniversary! Three years! It is crazy how fast the time has gone.

To celebrate, we wanted to treat ourselves to a little staycation, somewhere that had an authentic Arabic vibe so we chose the Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort. When I booked the stay, I didn’t actually realise it was a three hour drive from Dubai and almost on the border of Saudi!

The Qasr Al Sarab is possibly the most beautiful hotel I have ever stayed in, it is surrounded by nothing but vast desert and it felt so tranquil. The resort itself is located approximately 20 minutes away from the main road so it feels almost like you’re dune bashing on the drive up to the hotel! It was such a relaxing stay and I reflected on some of the amazing things we have had the opportunity to do since living here in the UAE, here are a few:

Skydive Dubai

I bought this as Ryan’s birthday present in 2015 and without really thinking about it, I purchased two tickets! I then thought shit I am going to have to do this now too! It was such an amazing experience and we were so lucky that the weather was perfect the day we jumped, you could see for miles! I would definitely recommend doing the skydive, I just wouldn’t advise doing brunch the day before!

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

I am so lucky to have an amazing group of friends that make weekends here so fun, but the best weekend of the year is the Abu Dhabi F1. In the two years I’ve been, I can’t say I have seen that many of the cars but we end up partying for the whole weekend and it’s such a great atmosphere there.

Dubai World Cup Horse Racing

It’s strange watching the horse racing and not being able to gamble, but the World Cup has such a buzz and it’s so nice to get properly dressed up for the races.img_5883-1

Dubai Opera

The Dubai Opera only recently opened in 2016 and as part of my Christmas present, Ryan bought us tickets to go and see the performance of Westside Story! I absolutely love the film and seeing it in the Dubai Opera theatre was so lovely. I am just holding out for Phantom of the Opera to do a tour over here because that is my absolute favourite West End show!

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Learning to ski in the Mall of the Emirates

So Ryan has previously skied quite a lot, I however had only been on one ski holiday and that’s when I was 15 at school. So for Christmas, Ryan bought me ski lessons at the Mall of the Emirates indoor ski slope. How crazy that I learnt to ski in the middle of the desert! The indoor ski slope is great and it actually has real snow so I had my ski lessons there right before we went to Georgia in February.

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Travelling

As I’ve said before, we try to maximise our holiday days as much as possible, so whenever there is a public holiday or long weekend, we try to get away. Since living in Dubai we have visited 10 countries (and counting)! We’ve done a safari in Kenya where I got to see eles in the wild – of course I burst into tears when I saw them! We’ve visited Sri Lanka twice for my birthday; we’ve also had holidays to Bali, Lebanon, Thailand, India, Philippines, Germany, Georgia and Nepal! Due to the central location of Dubai, it’s relatively easy to get around and you can usually be somewhere new and exotic within a few hours!

Making friends who feel like family

Living abroad is hard, and you don’t have the same support system as you do at home with your family, that’s why friends out here are so important because they really do turn into your family.

The past three years have had their challenges, but I wouldn’t change living here for the world. My time living in Dubai isn’t up yet!

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