Embarking the Silver Wind in Muscat

We embark Silversea's Silver Wind for an exciting voyage through the Middle East from Muscat to Athens. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

We embark Silversea’s Silver Wind for an exciting voyage through the Middle East from Muscat to Athens. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music – the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.

– Henry Miller

Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports

Sunday, April 5, 2015

After 29 hours of travel, including three flights and stops in two airports on two separate continents, my Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul touched down at Muscat Seeb International Airport in the Sultanate of Oman shortly before two this morning. By the time I reached my hotel – the Shangri-La Barr al Jissah Muscat – it was closing in on three in the morning. It was a long journey, but worth it to reach Silversea’s elegant Silver Wind for her fascinating voyage through the Middle East.

Welcome to Muscat! Arriving in Oman at 2:05 a.m. this morning aboard Turkish Airlines 774 from Istanbul. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Welcome to Muscat! Arriving in Oman at 2:05 a.m. this morning aboard Turkish Airlines 774 from Istanbul. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Getting through customs in Muscat was surprisingly easy, even at two in the morning. A Visa-on-arrival program is in place for travellers from 65 different countries. Five Omani Rai gets you a 10-day visa, and a lot if scribbling in your passport. Unfortunately, the automated machines only take Omani Rai, which funnels a hefty portion of business to the nearby Travelex Exchange counter who will relieve you of any currency you may have – for a small commission, of course. You can also pay there by credit card.

At every step of the way, the Omanis I dealt with were kind and courteous. Some are dressed very traditionally, while others wear western-style pants and the white-collared shirts that seem to be ubiquitous with hotter climates. I asked my driver how much rain Oman gets; he told me he couldn’t remember the last rainfall. “Maybe one year, one year and a half ago?”, he questioned as we sped through the night to the Shangri-La. “But when it rains here, it pours. Everything floods. Last time, the whole city shut down for three days.”

It's an early morning: arrival at the Shangri-La Barr al Jissah Resort at quarter past three in the morning. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

It’s an early morning: arrival at the Shangri-La Barr al Jissah Resort at quarter past three in the morning. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

It was then that I learned about Qaboos bin Said al Said – the Sultan of Oman, who is simply referred to as “His Majesty.” In power for 44 years, His Majesty is both revered and beloved by Omanis. He is the longest-serving ruler in the Middle East. He is also mysterious to a fault, never appearing in public with a wife or children and frequently retreating from public eye to one of his many palaces scattered across Oman and Europe Thus, no one quite knows where he is at any given time – or who will succeed the 74- year old Sultan when he eventually passes on.

Muscat (or at least the Shangri-La) by day. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Muscat (or at least the Shangri-La) by day. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Forget everything you know about the Middle East: it’s either inaccurate or doesn’t apply to Oman. Not that the Omanis don’t pay close attention to their petulant neighbour, Yemen; they do. But the plague that has infected many Middle Eastern countries has not done do here in Oman.

Some observations: Oman has better roads that any North American city I’ve ever seen. It’s also clean to a fault; trash and litter do not exist here. Kindness is prevalent here. People say ‘please’, ‘thank you’, and ‘you’re welcome.’ When was the last time you heard those words in North America?

Guests embark Silversea's Silver Wind in the port of Muscat, Oman on Sunday, April 5, 2015. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Guests embark Silversea’s Silver Wind in the port of Muscat, Oman on Sunday, April 5, 2015. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

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Our Live Voyage Report aboard Silversea’s elegant Silver Wind continues tomorrow as we spend a day at sea, Silversea style, en-route to Salalah, Oman! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

 

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