It isn’t very often that you can visit the King’s house while you’re visiting a foreign country. Well, in this case, the Sultan’s house – the Sultan is the same as the King but he likes the title of Sultan better as it is more appropriate to this region. After visiting some of the Omani forts built by the Portuguese some 500 years ago, I decided to visit the Sultan’s Palace. I checked my guide book, drove around a bit, got lost, asked for directions, got lost again and then pulled over to ask for directions again. While at this turnout near the military port I noticed some beautiful flowers and a great ocean view and just took a moment to enjoy the beautiful view (above).
I found a local policeman (who didn’t speak much English) and asked for directions to the Sultan’s Palace. He explained – as best as he could – but I was still a bit confused. I understood the general direction that I should drive and began driving. I didn’t mind being lost as the roads wound around the ocean with beautiful views of the sea and mountains. Just when I thought that I would never find it, I ran right into a palace guard (below).
I pulled my rental car over to the side of the road and approached the checkpoint. The guard was very friendly and spoke a little bit of English. I asked him where the Sultan’s Palace was and he gladly gave me directions. We chatted a bit – he asked me about my travels and asked if I was in the military (I’m sure the haircut was a dead giveaway) and he told me about his “special detail” as a Presidential Guard. He said that this was an elite unit and it was a prestigious assignment to guard the Sultan’s Palace. We chatted for a while and then I wished him farewell and drove following his directions.
A few hundred yards down the beach road and after a bend in the road the Sultan’s Palace came into view. I was quite surprised to see the retro-deco fashion design of the Palace – it looked right out of a 1960′s James Bond film! The guards at the gate allowed me to approach and take photos up close – it seems that all of the guards were quite relaxed and seemed carefree about security, further adding to my feeling that Oman is a safe and comfortable country. I’ve never seen a palace that looked quite like this one; I marveled at if for a while, shot a few photos and then said goodbye to the smiling guards. What a country!
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