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Off To Oman 3: Of Spices, Dhows And Frankincense  
User currently offlinecapicua From Venezuela, joined Apr 2011, 169 posts, RR: 0
Posted (3 years 6 months 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 10426 times:

Marhaban dear readers!

Thanks for joining me on this third installment of the TR on my journey to Oman.

If the site’s search engine works properly and if I looked thoroughly enough, then this should be the first TR on WY domestic service on A.net.

The previous part ended with me arriving at MCT. Take a leap in time, fast forward ten days and the guided tour comes to an end, with those returning home along with yours truly taking this flight from Salalah in the southwestern Omani region of Dhofar to Muscat.

Map generated by GreatCircle Mapper – copyright © Karl L. Swartz

After a short bus ride from the hotel along in-city plantations of coconut palms, banana and papaya trees we arrived at SLL at about 9:00.

Check-in and security control were a swift affair and soon we were airside. Our guide had made sure that those of us who were not continuing immediately to Germany passed through the domestic id control while those headed from MCT back to FRA and MUC went through passport control here.

I was awaiting this particular flight with great anticipation since it was scheduled to be on an EMB-175 – my first ride on this type! However, on the apron was this…

…and the FIDS showed only one flight to MCT at the time of our scheduled departure. Well, we all had our boarding passes so I came to terms with the fact that we’d be taking this B737-800 instead. There was something that had me worrying though: There were far more people in the gate area than would possibly fit into even a B738. The Eid al-Adha holidays were coming to an end and lots of people were returning to MCT after spending the Christmas-like festivities (or so we were told) with their families.

All of a sudden a flight was called for boarding, but only in Arabic, and a throng of women dressed in mostly black abayas and dishdasha-clad men got themselves ready to walk to the plane. Our guide, however, remained the personified calm and stayed put in the smoking room without loosing his cool. So this was evidently NOT our flight.

Once the gate area had cleared again, there were only several groups of tourists and a few other people remaining and then our flight was called for boarding in both Arabic and English. It turned out that the huge demand had WY sending an additional plane to operate a special flight and our scheduled Embraer was parked hidden just behind the Boeing. What struck me most was how the passengers were separated: locals on one plane, tourists and ‘expats’ on the other.

November 2012
Airline: Oman Air
Flight: WY902
STD/ATD: 10:30/10:25 (off stand)
STA/ATA: 12:05/11:45
Route: SLL-MCT
Registration: A40-EC
Aircraft: ERJ170
Seat: 41K

As I couldn’t get a decent full-side photo of our plane, we’ll all have to make do with a couple of photos of sister ships available in the Airliners.net data base (no photo of A40-EC in there yet):

View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Roberto Falciola
View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Josh May

Since our plane was parked 75 meters away from the terminal, we were bussed from the gate to the bottom of the airstairs.

I can’t get enough of this livery. Can you?

Does this count as an ‘under-the-wing’ shot?

My seat wasn’t too hard to find: last row, left window:

Legroom was decent enough for such a short flight:

Does that include cameras?

While the boarding process continued, the WY B738 parked next to us had left for its flight to MCT and this rare beauty had taken her place on the tarmac – ERJ-175 A40-CX of the Royal Oman Police Air Wing:

At 10:20 boarding was completed and the captain came on the speaker to welcome the passengers and give some information on today’s flight. We would be cruising at FL340 on this 1:15 hour long hop to MCT.

By 10:25 the doors had been closed, the engines started and we were off stand to take the active rwy 25 from which we lifted off right on schedule at 10:30.

Crop plantations within the otherwise quite desertic city of Salalah, shortly after take-off:

A lazy left turn put us on course in a northeasterly direction, initially along the coastline:

These jungle jets are equipped with PTV’s, so there can’t possibly overcome any boredom in flight:

Cabin shot:

Let’s check out the seat pocket contents:

Once the fasten seatbelt sign had been turned off the cabin crew comprised of flight attendants Laura and Tahar started their service run:

The tray placed courteously on each passengers table contained a hot apple and cinnamon pastry much like the ones you might get at McD’s, a fruit punch and water:

Note the punched-out logo…

…and the subliminal suggestion to try out any of the destinations in WY’s network:

The windows are really huge:

But the view outside was somewhat monotonous at times. The desert must been seen from up close to appreciate all the different details, from this far up it looks dull.

That’s where the PTV with its choice of music, TV programs (the flight was too short to attempt viewing any feature film) and the airshow was a very welcome distraction. Less than halfway to go:

Upon getting closer to MCT the landscape turned more interesting as the mountain ranges came into view and the soil showed some structure:

Top of descent from FL350 was about 190 km out of Muscat at 11:23 while flying along the Jabal Nakhl mountain range.

And soon thereafter we were already abeam MCT:

Coming in on long final and flying parallel to Sultan Qaboos Highway:

Almost there:

Upon seeing the highway and street network nowadays it is hard to believe that just 40 years ago there were just 10 km of hard-surface road in all of Oman.

Landed on runway 26 at 11:45, 20 minutes ahead of schedule:

From our apron position we were bussed to the terminal where our ways parted: the travel group and our guide headed for their connecting flights while I made my way to domestic arrivals, baggage claim and the exit to meet my school friend and his family, who I had last seen 8 years ago while they were living in Madrid.

It was a great reunion and we had a lot of fun over the next 4 days. But wait, there is still more flying to come!

Continued below.

Getting there is half the fun!
10 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlinecapicua From Venezuela, joined Apr 2011, 169 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (3 years 6 months 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 10412 times:

The Oman tour I had originally envisioned included a stop in Khasab on the Musandam Peninsula as well as a stop in Dubai. Musandam is an Omani exclave to the north, separated from the rest of the country by Arab Emirates. It reaches far into the Arabian/Persian Gulf and actually forms the southern boundary of the Strait of Hormuz. It is also regarded as a good spot for snorkeling, diving and dolphin/whale watching, all of which can be done during excursions on a dhow.
As I couldn’t get a visa for the U.A.E., I had to change plans and take a different tour not involving Dubai. Fortunately it was possible to tag Khasab as a side excursion onto the trip I actually took. The tag-on would have me flying from MCT to KHS on one day and returning the following day, with enough time to take in the sights.

On the day before I was leaving CCS for FRA I received a phone call from the tour operator informing that there would be some government event in Khasab and that all reserved hotel accommodations had been canceled. (The “government event” turned out to be the Sultan and his entourage spending the Eid al-Adha festivities in the Musandam region – ruler trumps tourists…). The proposed solution was to spend the night in a nearby city of the Emirates. Without a visa for the U.A.E. this wasn’t an option for me so we worked out another solution (always be flexible!): the hotel stay and the excursions I had booked were cancelled and the flight rebooked to go out and back on the same day (there is only one flight MCT-KHS-MCT a day). I had a trip report to do!

So one morning my school buddy dropped me off at the airport on his way to work. When I reached the check-in hall a long queue had already formed in front of the WY desks. There must have been at least 120 traveling parties ahead of me, but there were 12 check-in stations open for Oman Air alone and they were all working very efficiently so that in the end I queued for only 25 minutes.

Having been able to experience the process before on our flight from MCT to SLL, I was now familiar with the various checkpoints along the way from bag drop to airside and gate area.
Gate 3 it would be for us today:

November 2012
Airline: Oman Air
Flight: WY917
STD/ATD: 9:40/9:55 (off stand)
STA/ATA: 10:45/11:10
Route: MCT-KHS
Registration: A40-AS
Aircraft: ATR-42
Seat: 2D

View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Roberto Falciola
View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Josh May

The gate opened at 9:10 and at 9:20 boarding was called for our flight. On a Cobus we were taken from the terminal to our plane, which afforded for a nice tour of the apron since our aircraft was parked at the far end.

A semi-under-the-wing-shot (does this count?) of the scheduled ATR-42, A40-AS:

The flight turned out to be completely full today save for seat 2B reserved for one F/A during take-off and landing.

When I reached row 2, someone had already made himself comfortable in my seat 2D but the very nice female F/A Hasna immediately took care of that and a quick check of the boarding passes confirmed that the impostor should actually be seated in 2C and was trying out his luck. Not with me, not today… Unfortunately the window was not very clean and also scratched. Not the best conditions for a flight with the sun coming in from this side.

The legroom was tight but bearable for a flight of this length:

At 9:40, the scheduled departure time, the captain came on the P/A to explain that there would be a delay due to a staff shortage at baggage handling but that in 10 more minutes we should be ready to go.

At 9:52 the engines came to life and at 9:55 we were off-stand. While taxiing to the active the safety demonstration was conducted manually in both Arabic and English, and shortly thereafter our little heavily loaded ATR had taken off from runway 26.

The Capital Area, which also comprises Muscat proper but a lot more too, extends for over 40 km along the coast of the Gulf of Oman.

Not long after our departure we reached and crossed the coastline.

From now on and for much of the flight there was nothing but (scratchy) blue to be seen.

Meanwhile flight attendants Hasna and her male companion had prepared the snack service and placed a nice tray with water, fruit punch and a muffin on each table:

The muffin was spongy, moist and delicious! Perfect as a mid morning snack. The fruit mix beverage was as sweet as it looks, but it could be “neutralized” with the provided water.

At one point I spotted many tanker ships down there but due to the scratchy window and the sun coming in from that side my camera would focus on anything but those tankers. Well, you know how it looks from countless pictures of the approach to SIN, and the approach to PTY offers a similar sight. Only in this case it was the port of Al Fujaira on the Gulf of Oman.

With the outer surroundings not offering much to see, let’s study the safety card.

At 10:47 we began our descent into KHS and soon enough the typical “fjord-like” landscape came into view. Many travel-related books/articles/sites compare the Musandam peninsula to the fjords of Norway, but I think Norwegians would beg to differ. Maybe the coastline does resemble in some way the deep sea inlets, but the green vegetation is definitely missing and it is a few degrees warmer.

Approaching fast:

Almost there:

At 11:10 we finally touched down on KHS airport’s runway 19. After a very short taxi the ATR reached its parking position on the apron and soon thereafter passengers were allowed to disembark. Now Khasab is strategically located close to the Strait of Hormuz, where an important part of the world’s crude oil passes through. So this is no ordinary airport, it is a military airbase. The single WY flight marks the exception among the otherwise mainly military ops. And so it is not an Oman Air employee who ushers the passengers from the airplane to the arrivals hall but a military officer. Sorry, photography is strictly verboten. Not even if you asked nicely, as Col. Jessup (Jack Nicholson) would demand from Lt. Kaffee (Tom Cruise) in one memorable scene from the flick ‘A few good men’.

As I got off the plane I joked with the flight attendants telling them to not leave without me since I’ll be right back. In fact I had only a scheduled 15 minutes between arrival and departure back to MCT on the same plane, so I had to hurry! The terminal at KHS is not that big and 3 minutes after stepping off the plane I was in the departures hall – which was deserted. When I reached the check-in desk and showed my ticket, the military agent gave me a sad look and said “Sorry, the flight is closed”. I explained that I couldn’t have been there sooner because I had just stepped off the plane that came in. Furthermore, nobody saw any problem in selling me a ticket with a “connecting” time of 15 minutes between flights. After explaining why I was going back immediately (my hotel reservation was cancelled and I had nowhere to overnight in Khasab, so there was no point in staying there – oh, there is only that one hotel and the Sultan and his entourage had taken all of it!), the agent got up and disappeared behind some door and the seal of military secrecy, only to reappear shortly thereafter, showing me an empty corridor and instructing me to “Wait there! Somebody will come”. Wait I did, so long in fact that I had almost given up on the hope of somebody coming. But in the end “somebody” came: a civilian ground agent of WY who swiftly checked me in, gave me my boarding pass and even took me to the screening machine and then the gate, where a colleague of hers checked my boarding pass and sent me off to the waiting ATR with a “Hurry!” There was no time for long reunion celebrations with the flight attendants, but the three of us were all smiles as I boarded last and remarked “I told you I would be back. Thanks for not leaving without me.” Things you do to be able to write a trip report…

The flight back from Khasab to Muscat was uneventful. My assigned window seat (2D again) was occupied so I had to make do with 2B, an aisle. We got again one of those delicious muffins and as I had no window to look out from I read the on board magazine. Time literally flew by and soon we were back in MCT.

Pictures taken after arrival:

And one last treat that I managed to catch just in front of the arrivals hall in MCT: a Cameroon-registered MA-60.

This concludes the aviation-related section of part 3 of my Oman TR series. I would like to express my gratitude to all the staff at KHS that made my turnaround there relatively hassle-free and even possible at all. Try that at a larger airport…

And also thanks to you all for reading this far. But wait, what was the title of this installment again?

Getting there is half the fun!
User currently offlinecapicua From Venezuela, joined Apr 2011, 169 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (3 years 6 months 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 10403 times:

Of spices, dhows and frankincense.

Let’s now have a look at Oman’s sights. You have already read a lot so I will let the pictures do much of the talking.

Spices… If these pictures could only convey the 1001 scents wafting through the Muttrah souk.

After buying some ground cardamom and Iranian saffron I asked the shopkeeper if I could take some pictures and the guy, from the Indian subcontinent judging by his appearance, responded in a very British accent and in a most educated manner: “It’s your camera. You can photograph whatever you wish”. Well, I wish some airport authorities had replied the same…

Dhows... In this case in the eastern port of Sur

And frankincense… Here the incense souk in Salalah

The trees which the resin that is the frankincense comes from grow mainly in the Dhofar region around Salalah.

And this is how the sap looks before harvesting:

The ruins of Sumhuram at Khor Ruri, a natural port from which incense was shipped in ancient times.

As for accommodations during the trip, picture this…
(note the copper washbasin):

…in the middle of this:

Oman, land of mosques…


Forts… (Bahla in this case)

or Nakhl



And oases…

And with this dusky picture I would like to conclude this little tour of Oman.

All good things have to come to an end and, sadly, the next part will be all about the return flight MCT-FRA and the continuation to HAM.

Thanks for bearing with me this far. Comments and feedback will be highly appreciated, as usual.


Getting there is half the fun!
User currently offlineSRQKEF From Iceland, joined Jun 2011, 1061 posts, RR: 1
Reply 3, posted (3 years 6 months 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 9608 times:

Hi C.!

Nice report on WY's domestic product. Looks like they also do well there, not only on the international front.

Oman seems like a great country and I would love to visit for more than a few hours at Muscat Airport next time I'll get there. Unfortunately when I flew there in April I had a hotel booked in Dubai for the night, otherwise I might have just taken an extra day off and visited Muscat.

Look forward for the next part!
Rgds Sveinn  

Nothing compares to taking off in an empty 757 with full thrust!
User currently offlineont2cgi From United States of America, joined Sep 2010, 123 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (3 years 6 months 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 9471 times:

Quoting capicua (Thread starter):
I can’t get enough of this livery. Can you?

Yes, compared to the "white with blue tails' that comprimises most 'merican liveries. And The windows of the E-170 are very nice.
Good TR.

User currently offlineadamspotter From Netherlands, joined Feb 2011, 1193 posts, RR: 12
Reply 5, posted (3 years 6 months 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 9070 times:

Hi again!

Nice to see the continuation of your Oman series.
Another great report with many nice pictures, Oman sure is a beautiful country!
Its great to get an insight on domestic flying within Oman, quite interesting to see. Oman air once again looks quite impressive.

Quoting capicua (Thread starter):
What struck me most was how the passengers were separated: locals on one plane, tourists and ‘expats’ on the other.

That is quite interesting

Quoting capicua (Thread starter):
Seat: 41K

41K on an embraer?



User currently offlinePA330X From United States of America, joined Aug 2012, 19 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (3 years 6 months 22 hours ago) and read 8883 times:

I enjoyed reading. Oman looks very authentic and seems good experience. Oman Air I have heard about about them and read a couple of reviews of the long haul flights. They are a very good carrier up there with the likes of Qatar and Emirates.

User currently offlinelychemsa From United States of America, joined Oct 2009, 1635 posts, RR: 3
Reply 7, posted (3 years 6 months 16 hours ago) and read 8731 times:

Outrageous that your Khasab trip had to be cancelled. I heard it's very nice. Thanks for the report.

User currently offlineMSS658 From Belgium, joined Oct 2010, 2474 posts, RR: 14
Reply 8, posted (3 years 6 months 15 hours ago) and read 8684 times:


Great continuation of your Oman report!
Nice to log the ERJ 175, looks good in the Oman colors


Next trip report: Well worn A330s and Hassle free MUC transfer
User currently offlinecapicua From Venezuela, joined Apr 2011, 169 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (3 years 5 months 3 weeks 5 days 5 hours ago) and read 8049 times:

Good to see some comments!

Hi Sveinn:

Quoting SRQKEF (Reply 3):
Nice report on WY's domestic product. Looks like they also do well there, not only on the international front.

Thanks! If I'm not mistaken, there is only one other domestic route, so I've got them almost all covered.

Quoting SRQKEF (Reply 3):
Oman seems like a great country and I would love to visit for more than a few hours at Muscat Airport next time I'll get there. Unfortunately when I flew there in April I had a hotel booked in Dubai for the night, otherwise I might have just taken an extra day off and visited Muscat

It is indeed a nice country and you should go visit if the opportunity turns up. But don't feel bad for having a hotel booked in Dubai instead of overnighting in Muscat. Dubai is probably much more of a 'world city'.

Hi ot2cgi:

Quoting Reply 4):
And The windows of the E-170 are very nice.
Good TR.

Yes they are huge and remind me of the DC10. And I'm glad you liked the report so far.

Hi Brendan:

Quoting adamspotter (Reply 5):
Another great report with many nice pictures, Oman sure is a beautiful country!

Thanks! It sure is, but then it is all a matter of tastes and likes. Somehow I was glad to be back in mad Caracas with all its green around after these 2 weeks in a desert only now and then interspersed with an oasis.

Quoting adamspotter (Reply 5):
Oman air once again looks quite impressive.

Yes, their domestic service was good even compared to some EU carriers, LCC or not.

Quoting adamspotter (Reply 5):
41K on an embraer?

Oh, no no no, my mistake. Actually it was 20A. A case of sloppy copy-and-paste...

Hi PA330X:

Quoting PA330X (Reply 6):
I enjoyed reading. Oman looks very authentic and seems good experience.

I'm glad you liked it.
Oman is indeed very authentic yet I've read in several different publications that it is also one of the most Western-friendly Arabic countries. I've yet to try out the others to compare. It is a great country to travel in, but apparently only in organised tours. There is, for instance, no public transportation between cities: no buses, no trains. It would be difficult to travel on your own then.

Hi Marc:

Quoting MSS658 (Reply 8):
Great continuation of your Oman report!


Quoting MSS658 (Reply 8):
Nice to log the ERJ 175, looks good in the Oman colors

Yes, doesn't it.


Getting there is half the fun!
User currently offlinemdavies06 From Hong Kong, joined Aug 2009, 435 posts, RR: 0
Reply 10, posted (3 years 5 months 3 weeks 3 days 22 hours ago) and read 7729 times:

Hi C.

Thanks for the great report and the pictures. Oman is truly special and glad you had a great time.


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