Oman

When we found out that our close friend and favorite travel companion, Tyrel, was going to be joining us in Doha for a week, we started looking into nearby destinations to spend the long weekend together. Since we all know that 24 hours is enough time to see almost everything Doha has to offer (exaggerating just a bit here), we knew that finding another place to explore would be a good idea.

Admittedly, I had never even heard of Oman before moving to Doha. Considering I’d never heard of it, I was surprised to discover that it has been included in Lonley Planet’s Top 10 Countries to Travel list of 2017. Not only is Oman Loney Planet approved, it was highly recommended by our colleagues. With direct flights to and from Doha, history, mountains, turquoise sea, and souqs… we were sold!

Day 1: We arrived at the airport in the evening, and were greeted by a driver arranged by our Airbnb host. We bought some alcohol in the airport (which is legal in Oman) and brought it back to our apartment in Muscat for a night cap.

If you are new to Airbnb, click on this link to sign up! It’s amazing.

There are many luxury hotels popping up in Oman. If these are in your budget, we’ve heard that many of them are incredible. Personally, we were looking for something suitable for 3 people without breaking the bank. 

Day 2: Today we did a lot of walking! In the morning walked from our apartment to the beach and had breakfast at a quaint restaurant called D’Arcy’s Kitchen. After breakfast, we took a cab outside of Muscat to an area with a few museums and forts. We started our self-guided walking tour at Bait Al Zubair Museum. After exploring there, we walked towards the National Museum of Oman and Al Alman Place (Sultan’s Palace). We followed the road towards the corniche, took a lovely walk through the park, and soaked in the breathtaking view of the sea front. We continued walking along the road until we reached Mutrah Souq. We stopped for lunch and a refreshing drink, and then spent some time discovering the Souq’s nooks and crannies. In the evening, we found ourselves searching for a shisha cafe. Trip Advisor lead us to a spot called Kargeen Cafe, which we absolutely LOVED.

Day 3: Rise and shine, bright and early (not really though). The night before, we sent a WhatsApp message to our airport driver to ask about arranging a ride to Wadi Shab. We agreed on a fair price and time for pick-up. He said he was going to send his brother, or cousin, or friend… it didn’t matter to us, as long as someone showed up… and they did! Right on time. Our driver, Omar, was lovely! He drove to Wadi Shab, which was the highlight of our trip and made a few extra stops along the way.

Day 4: Since our flight back to Doha was in the late afternoon, we had time to spend the morning at the Grand Mosque. It closes to the public at 11AM and isn’t open on Fridays, so we had to be mindful about planning when we were going to visit. The pictures don’t do this mosque justice.

Jordan – Dead Sea, Wadi Rum and Petra

“A rose-red city — half as old as time” – John William Burgon

When we found out that we were moving to Qatar, we instantly added Jordan to the top of our travel bucket list. At the time we had absolutely no idea how much Jordan had to offer. Other than Petra, Jordan’s breathtaking landscapes, abundance of ancient history, and incredible hospitality were surprises to us.

Our travel buddy, colleague, neighbor and friend, Nathaniel, made this awesome video of our trip!

We had heard from colleagues that it is possible to hire a driver in Jordan. They will organize your hotels, transportation, sight-seeing, and basically anything and everything you could need. After some consideration, we decided to rent a car so we could move at our own pace and have complete flexibility over our itinerary.

Our Itinerary (4 days, 3 nights):

Day 1: Arrive in Amman in the morning. Rent a car from the airport. Explore some of Amman’s sites. Have lunch at a local restaurant. Drive to the Dead Sea. Check-in to hotel and go for a float! Dinner and drinks at the hotel.

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Resort Dead Sea. The service was good, the rooms were comfortable, and it had a Dead Sea access area which was great. In September, it was chilly in Jordan, so we didn’t use the pool grounds and the jacuzzis were lukewarm at best. Needless to say, we were a bit disappointed. Floating in the Dead Sea was amazing, hilarious and the most bizarre experience, which was worth the trip. However, I personally wouldn’t recommend staying at the Dead Sea unless isolated luxury hotels, spas, and overpriced hotel meals are your jam (no judgment if that’s what you’re looking for).

Day 2: Drive from the Dead Sea to hotel inWadi Musa (near Petra). Check-in to hotel and arrange for tickets to Petra-By-Night. Get lunch (chicken shawarma, of course). Drive to Wadi Rum for a quick afternoon tour and sunset. Drive back toWadi Musa for Petra-By-Night. Drink lots of tea to keep warm!

This day was extremely long with lots of driving.  If time permitted, we would have preferred to stay overnight in Wadi Rum and spend more time there. But, it was absolutely amazing and the sights and scenery were incredible! 

The drive from the Dead Sea to Wadi Rum goes down in our travel history as the most breathtaking drive we have ever taken. We had moments of pure terror, softened by the surreal beauty surrounding us. It was amazing!

At one of the military check-points, a group of guards were concerned about our “flat tire.” It was a little bit low on air, but didn’t seem like a big deal to us. They insisted on changing it for us, and there was no way we could say no. One man gave me a chair to sit on, Matt and Nathaniel supervised, and three Jordanian men changed our tire. Looking back, it has potential to sound like a very scary story, but it wasn’t at all! Although they were definitely not guys we wanted to say “no” to, they were very kind and sincerely wanted to make sure we were safe. They sent us on our way with handshakes and big smiles.

Day 3: Petra, all day long!

When we entered Petra we walked passed the Treasury to the Street of Facade. We took the stairs up to the Highest Place of Sacrifice. Then we took the back way down to the Garden Tomb and hiked through the valley, eventually coming out by the museum, rest stop and path to Wadi el Deir. The hike up was long and tiring, but worth every minute! Many people choose to ride donkeys up the hillside (which looked like more work than hiking to me). When we got to the top, we stopped at the rest stop in front of the impressive Monastery. We admired its size over a well-deserved bag of potato chips and cup of tea. We also hiked the path behind the rest stop to a magnificent viewpoint looking out over the valley! This part of Petra was a highlight for me. It was just so unbelievably beautiful.

Day 4: Drive from Wadi Musa to the airport. Fly home. Start planning a trip back to Jordan.

The people in Jordan were so hospitable and kind. Every time we were stopped at a check-point or had the opportunity to interact with locals, we felt very welcomed. Despite the unrest in bordering countries (most notably, Syria), we felt very safe the entire trip. Our biggest regret of this trip (aside from not packing enough warm clothes) was not spending more time here. We could have easily stayed in Jordan for a week or two.

Overall, Jordan is simply mesmerizing. We had a great time together and can’t wait to go back!