The best places to spend your money in Muscat

It’s hard to not spend money in Oman. Things here aren’t cheap, but there are definitely some places where your money is better-spent than others. So, without further ado, here are the top places where we will happily part with our hard-earned riyals.

Things to Ingest

Best pizza: Tomato
Expensive, but worth it. Located at the Intercontinental Hotel

Yes, that is real pork on the pizza from Tomato

Best burgers: Park Burger
15% discount for US embassy employees

Best Omani Food: Bait Al Luban

The alleyway to Bait Al Luban

Omani dates and coffee

Best Indian food delivery: Begum’s
phone number for the branch that delivers is +968-9307-4000

Best vegetarian Indian restaurant: Saravana Bhavan
Inexpensive and amazing. the Ruwi branch is the best

Best Japanese food: Tokyo Taro
Located at the Al Falaj Hotel

Best seafood: Turkish House
The grilled shrimp, fried calamari, mixed appetizer and freshly baked bread are fantastic

Enormous grilled shrimp at The Turkish House

Best breakfast sandwich: The Zed at Al Hawas
The spicy version is the best. Good greasy shawarma too

The halal breakfast sandwich that dreams are made of

Best craft cocktails: The Chedi
Bring bug spray if you plan to sit outside

Best cocktails with a view: The Edge
Pool bar at the Crowne Plaza Qurum

Things to Take Home

Bespoke tailor: Western Tailor
Mukesh +968-9637-4537: Inexpensive, high-quality tailoring. You must provide your own fabric. One of the few tailors that is not shy about taking female measurements.

Pork: Duty free in the international arrivals baggage claim
It sounds strange, but it’s true! The pork you can buy elsewhere is extraordinarily overpriced, not to mention freezer burnt.

Frame shop: Ibn Al Farsi Trading Co.
Very inexpensive. Make sure to specify exactly what kind of glass you want and mat width.

Rug shop: Kashmir International
Shah +968-9589-3899: Beautiful rugs and weavings from Kashmir, Afghanistan, and Iran. Shah is extremely knowledgeable and friendly and will happily show you carpets for hours. Lots of beautiful scarves, blankets and other textiles and trinkets as well.

It’s hard to not buy one of everything

Carpets too beautiful to step on

Omani trinkets: Bait Al Zubair gift shop
Lots of good books on Oman, Omani handicrafts, prints, etc.

Things to Do

Best Daymaniyat Island snorkeling company: Daymaniat Shells

Yes, the water really was that color

Best scuba diving operator: EuroDivers

My kind of view!

Best adventure tourism operator: Twenty3Extreme

There you have it! I’m sure there are some I’m forgetting, so I’ll update this list if anything comes to mind.

Shopping in Dhaka: DIT-2

One of my favorite places to shop in Dhaka is DIT-2.  It’s a two-story strip mall that doesn’t really look like anything special, and the parking lot is a mess when it rains.  But it’s pretty great.

DIT-2 parking lot/lake

DIT-2 parking lot/lake

You can buy all kinds of interesting antiques, jewelry and pearls, and sports equipment, there’s a good grocery store, and if all that shopping makes you hungry (or you dragged your husband along and he’d rather eat than shop), you can even get a hamburger and fries or donuts.

I’m not an antiques person but they have some really interesting stuff: lots of neat wooden furniture, wooden sari stamps, random stuff from early 1900’s British ships, figurines, etc.  If you go earlier in the day (before noon, basically) some of the shop owners are more willing to bargain and they’ll give you a discount for being their first customer.

There are tons of pearl and jewelry stores, were you can buy already made necklaces, or you can tell them what you want and they’ll make it for you.  The pearls here are beautiful and crazy-cheap.  The main problem with pearl shopping in DIT-2 is that there are so many pearl shops, it’s hard to know which ones are the best.  So I guess that means I need to just check each one out!

I really like the grocery store on the first floor, Dhali.  They have an incredible range of products; last time I was there I saw Newman’s Own salsa, queso and bean dip!  And Tostitos!  There’s a guy that sells cheese outside the Dhali entrance and his paneer is amazing.  We get the semi-salty, and it’s really good in salads with tomatoes and cucumbers, served with bread and butter, or on sandwiches (both hot or cold since it melts really nicely).

There’s a burger stand, Naga Burger, that sells fast-food style burgers and fries with spicy sauces. I haven’t eaten there yet, but Nate says it’s really good.  If you’re not looking for the burger stand, you won’t see it because it’s pretty nondescript.  They use high quality beef and cook the burgers to order, so it takes some time.  But that means you can walk across the parking lot to Glazed, the donut place, while you wait!  The donuts are 135 taka (about $1.75), and I was surprised by how good they were.

It’s an easy place to spend several hours, and if you come to visit, we’ll definitely stop by!

Trip to Beximco

Over the weekend we went on a CLO-organized trip to Beximco industrial park, one of Bangladesh’s biggest private sector manufacturing companies.

Sounds riveting, huh? (That was Nate’s general impression, too.)

Basically, Beximco makes clothes for several American and European clothing lines, including American Eagle, Topshop, Zara and H&M.

Beximco also houses Shinepukur Ceramics, which makes fine china and porcelain, and this was the main reason for our visit. Wedgewood, Royal Doulton, and other fancy brands?  All made in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

So, the drive to Beximco.  It was terrible.  Thank god we had an air conditioned van to sit in while we weren’t going anywhere.  Prime Minister Moti was flying into Dhaka that day so they closed off a bunch of roads, which meant that in an hour, at least, we moved maybe a quarter of a mile. It was supposed to take 2 hours, and instead it took 3.  Luckily we got there eventually.

At least there were some interesting sights along the way.

"Scaffolding", or bamboo rods tied together with rope by barefoot unsecured men at least 10 stories off the ground

“Scaffolding”, or bamboo rods tied together with rope by barefoot unsecured men at least 10 stories off the ground

Cows!

Cows!

There are almost always men riding on top of trucks and buses.  Or sometimes there are goats.

There are almost always men riding on top of trucks and buses. Or sometimes goats.

The tour of Beximco was actually pretty interesting, and the CEO was more entertaining that you’d usually expect.  The Ambassador came to Beximco with us, and she was scheduled to have dinner with Moti later that night.  Completely seriously, the CEO offered her his helicopter for the return trip.  No biggie.

Due to our delayed arrival, we didn’t get a tour of the clothing factory, but we got to see the fashion design studio and the ceramics factory.  I only lasted through about 5 minutes of the ceramics factory tour because it was so hot.  The minute I stepped outside of the factory, a rush of cool air hit me…. and that “cool air” was at least 90 degrees.

The Beximco grounds are really nice, much more scenic than you'd expect from an industrial park.

The Beximco grounds are really nice, much more scenic than you’d expect from an industrial park.

There’s also a little zoo, with deer, black and white swans, parrots, and peacocks, near the area where we had lunch.

The trip to Beximco was capped off with a visit to the ceramics showroom, where loads of brands and patterns were on display, filled with employees eager to take your order.  Porcelain and bone china place settings and serving ware are available at stupidly low prices, and then they knock off another 20%.

Quick!  Buy some china!

Quick! Buy some china!

After two hours in the ceramics showroom (we did some serious damage, which I’ll talk more about in a few weeks when we get our order), we finally headed home.  Beximco gave us a police escort back to avoid further problems with the traffic, and the ride only took about an hour.  While traveling with a police escort is certainly not a regular occurrence, it sure was nice! At one point we even passed an ambulance with its lights on, which isn’t a big deal because apparently they are more frequently used as expensive taxis than as vehicles transporting people seeking urgent medical care.  They also double as hearses.

If you ever had the opportunity to visit Beximco, I’d highly recommend it.  Especially if you’re in the market for some bone china.