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  • Writer's pictureEllie Hamilton

Goal setting, questioning life choices, and dreaming of Irish Doughnuts...

Hello, this has been in draft now for about six weeks, and thanks to a wrist injury (me), virus (me), solo parenting (me), half term, rain days (like snow days in the UK) and yes, they really do close the schools and work when we get heavy rain, life has just got incredibly busy.

We had a hectic couple of months over the Christmas and New Year period as we had a few visitors, birthday parties (both kids), getting back into the full swing of the school routine/activities, and trying to bat away every kid's illness that I got a message about from the school. So, I’ve got a bit to get through in this new post, also featuring a few reviews of places we have been to, so grab a cuppa/glass of something yummy, sit back, and enjoy.

When we have guests visiting it’s great as we get to do all the tourist stuff that we keep putting off doing. One thing that I can tick off the bucket list is dolphin watching and it was magical. We saw hundreds of dolphins and watching them in their natural habitat was so serene and peaceful. We went with Mansa Tours, who have a small boat that holds up to about 14 people and they also take you on a short tour of the coastline up to Shangri La, so it was nice to show Danny’s mum and dad where we were taking them for a night later on their trip (more on that later). It was 8 OMR per person and the tour lasts for approx. two hours which also includes water and juice, it is a definite must if/when you come and visit us.

As most people reading this blog will know we planned our children’s birthdays so well that they are three days apart and not only that they are both within 8 days after Christmas, perfect right (not sure if sarcasm reads well on here, but that’s me throwing it out there).

December is probably the most expensive time of year for us. When Teddy was born, I made a promise that they would always have separate birthday parties, and now I can categorically say, that promise will be broken next year. Why, because sorting Christmas, birthdays and birthday parties is A LOT of admin and prep, so whilst they are young enough and will probably enjoy a joint party, I fully intend on trying to make life easier where I can.

We threw Ted’s a small birthday party at home with a few of his friends and their siblings (when I say small, I still had about 100 balloons about the place – once an event planner, always an event planner). We used a local company, Balloon City, to do décor and bring in some mini furniture. We got Face Painting Oman to do face painting, balloon modelling, and play party games (highly recommend these ladies) and I made the birthday cake and did the catering, with some additional help from Papa Johns.

Big up to where I got all the party bag goodies, I am ecstatic we get Amazon now! 

All in all, it was a great afternoon, but I was spent at the end. Thankfully Emma’s birthday was slightly more low-key with a few friends at Trampo (local trampoline park). Once the Christmas/Birthday shenanigans were all over I felt a huge weight dissipate off my shoulders and thankfully I don’t have to think about it again for at least another 11 months!

I ventured on another hike with my friends and this time we took ourselves off to Qantab to do the Qantab flag trail. I never know what to expect with the hikes here, but this one was unforgettable. Luckily, my friends Laura and Dani are experienced hikers in Muscat, and they led the way. Our first mission was to find one of the fishermen at Qantab Beach to take us in his boat around to one of the private beaches to start the hike. Typically, you pay them some money (circa 15/20 omr) and they’ll take you and pick you up when you’re finished. On this particular day, although the sun was shining the sea was a was a little rougher than usual and when the first fisherman declined to take us this should have been a mild hint that maybe we should start the trail via a different route, nonetheless another fisherman was more than too happy to take us to our desired location. We all excitedly boarded the small boat and ventured on our way. It was only 5-7 minute boat ride to the beach but as we neared towards it, I was starting to wonder how on earth the boat was going to get close enough to the shore to let us off as it was bopping up and down like a yo-yo. It would seem the fisherman also had this concern, so they decided to look for another docking point. After a few more minutes I noticed them pointing towards a low, just above sea-level cliff edge.

Surely not? Surely, they were not expecting us to disembark from a boat that was bouncing up and down like it was on a pogo stick and jump onto a cliff ledge?? Yes, that is what they wanted us to do, it was at this point I was very much questioning my life choices.

One by one each of us were finding the opportunity to take a large step up from the boat and propel ourselves forward. It may come as no surprise to you that I was the last one left on the boat as I was bloody terrified, but with a little help and encouragement from my friends (and when I say a little, I mean a lot), I swallowed my fears and launched myself up. There's nothing like a bit of adrenaline to start the morning off. So, on we went with our hike, which was challenging, but again when you reach the top those views are second to none, and I always feel so exhilarated when you get up there. We ventured back down finding our way to the private beach which was incredibly beautiful (it is just so shameful that people leave so much rubbish though). We had a little picnic and sent our location to the fisherman to come and collect us, but with the waves still very choppy he could only bring the boat in so far, so there was only one thing for it…we had to peg it into the sea and climb onto the boat as quickly as possible before the propeller got pushed into the sand bed by the tide. The morning was an exciting adventure to say the least and I was pushed out of my comfort zone a lot, but it was so great to do it with such a lovely group of girls.

Having guests over means it is the perfect opportunity to go out and try some new places for dinner and although they might not always be new to us, they are new to our guests. Below are a few places we went to:

Located at the W in Shatti, this restaurant offers fine-dining Chinese cuisine, and the food is incredible. The ambiance of the restaurant is filled with oriental charm, and it looks sultry and glamorous once you step inside. We have taken both of our parents here and it would also be a great place for a date night (which we have also done). The staff and service are exceptional, which can be hard to find in Muscat. Our favourites on the menu include the Peking duck (which requires a 48-hour advance order), the Black Truffle Chicken dim sum in Szechuan Dan Dan sauce, and the Crouching Pumpkin fried dumplings, which are filled with braised Peking Duck, and are one of the best things we have ever tasted. If you're a wine drinker, they also have an excellent selection of wine, with prices starting from 11.6 OMR (approx. £23)

The new kid on the block, The Irishman is a new restaurant/bar located in the ever-popular MQ area, above Pavo Reals. It is exactly the type of place we have been waiting for to come to Muscat and it’s refreshing to go to a place which is a pub, and not within or attached to a hotel.

The décor gives you old-school Dublin vibes and the waiters are all uniformed in prohibition attire. The menu has a great variety and a couple of must-haves include the Irish Doughnut, which is a slow cooked Beef Brisket savoury Doughnut with Smoked Parsnip Cream, Honey Irish Butter Glaze, Crispy Parsnip and BBQ Roasting Dripping Juices. Just writing it down is making the tastebuds tingle, but it really is wonderful. Danny also tells me the Portable Pie & Chips is also delicious. They also do a cracking roast on a Saturday and Sunday.

Entertainment is regularly on throughout the week in the form of music or a quiz night and if you want to see what’s on just take a look at their social media IG handle which is regularly kept up to date.

Located within the newly reopened JW Marriott, this is what I would call a very trendy sports bar, with screens surrounding the venue, a games room that contains a circular pool table (I don’t know why they opted for a circular), and some pinball machines. The menu is filled with your typical American food that you would find in a sports bar, and I have yet to try it (but if it’s anything like the food at their restaurant, Pink Salt, it will be superb). One thing that cannot go unmentioned is they make one of the best spicy margaritas I have tried in Muscat. It’s worth a visit just to try one of those.

I cannot believe we have been here for nearly five years and yet we have never come to this great Thai restaurant. The décor and ambiance give enchanting Thai vibes and the staff are super friendly and attentive. Our eyes were definitely bigger than our bellies as we decided to get a mixed starter plate between us which was a very ample size and I had the Chicken Penang which was delicious.

We took Danny’s parents to stay for one night at the beautiful Shangri-La Al Husn. If you haven’t been to the adult-only version of the Shangri-La in Muscat it screams luxury. From the moment you arrive, the service is impeccable, and the staff make you feel like you are a VIP.

The hotel can only be described as beautiful and with the tranquil infinity pool overlooking the ocean matched with the idyllic private beach and throw-in no children about, this is the perfect place in Muscat to fully relax and recharge your batteries.

With every hotel booking included within the price is complimentary afternoon tea, complimentary cocktails and canapes from 6pm – 7pm and breakfast which is al a carte and the most sumptuous breakfast spread you will find in Muscat. Room prices can start from 135 OMR per night (approx. £270) which I believe to be excellent value for money for what you receive and factor in the superb service. I highly recommend the panoramic sea view rooms if you like to have a full view of the ocean, it is the most amazing view to wake up to in the morning.

Finishing off the reviews with the pièce de resistance, Aangan by Rohit Ghai. If you like Indian food, and you’re in Muscat, then this restaurant is an absolute must. Every dish I tried was beautifully presented, followed by a literal explosion of flavours upon entering my mouth. The highlights were the Aloo Tiki with a Honey Yoghurt – this tasted phenomenal. The Chicken Fenugreek was served on the bone, which I am never usually a fan of, but the meat falls off the bone and melts in the mouth. Danny tried the Lamb Shank – Rojanjosh which he stated was incredible. You do not have to stay in the hotel to visit the restaurant either, so I urge you to try this place asap.

The holy month of Ramadan started in Oman on Tuesday. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The exact dates of Ramadan change every year. Typically, it will start approx. two weeks earlier than the year before. This is because Islam uses a calendar based on the cycles of the Moon. Ramadan is celebrated by most Muslims fasting between dawn and sunset. Fasting allows Muslims to devote themselves to their faith. It is thought to teach self-discipline and reminds them of the suffering of the poor. However, children, pregnant women, elderly people, and those who are ill or travelling don't have to fast. During Ramadan, it is common to have one meal (known as the suhoor), just before dawn and another (known as the iftar), directly after sunset.

Almost all Muslims try to give up bad habits during Ramadan. It is a time for prayer and good deeds. They will try to spend time with family and friends and help people in need.

Having lived in Muscat for nearly five years now, I have come to enjoy the relaxed pace of life that Ramadan brings with it. As an expat living in a Muslim country, it's important to be mindful and respectful of the culture. Here are a few things I have noted from my personal experience and what you might expect in Oman during Ramadan:

  • The majority of restaurants are closed during the day, and should they be open it will be for take-away/delivery only. You may find some restaurants in international hotels open, but if they are, they will be shielded from the public eye so not to offend anyone.

  • The sale of alcohol is prohibited during Ramadan and should you be staying in a hotel I believe you can only drink it within your hotel room (I could be wrong on this one, but if you know differently please let me know)

  • Malls/supermarkets are still up and running as per usual, so you can still entertain the kids at soft play should you begrudgingly wish.

  • Women (and men) are expected to cover modestly so shoulders and legs should be covered. It is also sensible to avoid tight-fitting clothing. I always find it handy to have a kimono in the car, especially when wearing gym gear so I don’t inadvertently offend anyone.

  • It is prohibited to eat or drink in public (this also includes your car) during fasting hours and should you violate this you could be jailed for up to 3 months. This ruling does not apply to children under 15 years old.

  • Avoid playing loud music in public and also beeping your car horn

  • Working hours change during Ramadan to no more than 6 hours per day and typically will be from 7am – 12pm/8am – 1pm. This also means the school days are shorter, so instead of collecting Emma at 2pm, I need to collect her at 1pm.

  • Beware of the traffic! From 1pm the Sultan Qaboos and the Expressway are chockablock.

In November 2023, I set myself a goal (was peer pressured into it by some lovely mates) of running the Muscat Marathon 10K and I bloody did it. Was my time slow, yes, did I enjoy it, yes, will I step it up and run the half marathon next year, NO. I did enjoy the training process, but if I run any more than 10K then I just don’t think I would enjoy it. So, I’m setting myself the target to run the 10K again next year, but at a quicker pace. I use an app called Runna to keep my training on track and it is great for improving my pace and provides a great training programme. I’m currently trying to improve my 5K time.

Speaking of goals and to end this post, I have decided to set myself a new goal/challenge/or to try something new every month throughout 2024. I boxed off January with the 10K, in February I upcycled a cabinet in my house with chalk paint (I am now scanning my house to see what other furniture I can paint), and for March I tried my first F45 class (which was yesterday, and I reckon it will be addictive, I tried my second class today). Feel free to send some ideas across for what else I should try for the rest of the year….

See you next time x


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