Category Archives: Duqm

Duqm Floating Hotel Veronica

Duqm Floating Hotel, the first of its kind in Oman, sounds amazing and looks pretty good in pictures, but one might not be so impressed with the place after staying there.  I posted these pics Nov. 8th but am only adding comments now on Dec. 5th.  This blog post is getting a lot of attention and as one of my friends who also went there told me, “You need to give your complete review on that place because as it is, it seems you are promoting the place with the nice pics.”  He’s right and so I better tell you about the good, the bad, and the ugly about Oman’s “only floating hotel”

This is the front desk on the Aloha Deck.

Because we were 3 adults and 2 kids (1 child & 1 infant to be exact), we opted for the “luxury suite”.  What got us interested in this hotel was an ad promising a luxury suite for 50 rials, standard for 35 and a basic for 30.  That did come with breakfast and dinner I must add.  They also included a “free massage” for each night but then we learned that they have only 1 male masseuse (my wife is not comfortable with that!) and it’s the poor Filipino guy who works as the barber who was assigned to do massages as well!  He really didn’t seem happy about it at all when he was telling my wife.  When I called, the receptionist told me that it’s 50 rials per person!  One of the only hotels in Oman I’ve ever heard charging per person rather than per room!  On top of that, they charge me another 10 rials for my 2 year old son!  Do the math folks.  We paid 160 rials + 17% taxes per night and we stayed for 2 nights.  I don’t mind paying decent money for a place if the price matches the facilities but this “dream like boat” seemed more worthy of 3-star prices than the prices we were charged!

There’s not a whole lot to do in Duqm in case you didn’t know it and it is a LONG ride from Muscat.  I explored the Duqm Rock Garden and one afternoon we went to the Oryx Santuary.  The best experience was Ras al Markaz but it was amazing we ever found the place considering the horrible directions we were given which led us on a 2-hour wild goosechase.  On their website they promote “local Duqm attactions” (which is a big reason I went!) but then nobody on the floating hotel had a clue where these attractions were!!!

You will not find any pics of toilets in any of the brochures/ads/website pics for Duqm Hotel Veronica with good reason.  All the toilets are like the one you see above – and this was the “luxury room”…Another major surprise for us was that they turned the hot water off.  When we called reception to find our what the problem was, they told us that they turn the hot water off from 6pm to 6am. Would have been nice to know that!

Although it may not look like much, we enjoyed the food and the restaurant on board.  No complaints from us regarding food whatsoever!

They have a pretty decent dinner buffet if there are enough guests on board.

Not only was the food pretty good; all the staff we interacted with were very friendly and helpful. (Except when it came to giving directions to the “local attractions”! 🙂 )

The onboard pool makes me laugh. Better to laugh than cry!  It kind of looks pretty good in a pic, doesn’t it?!  It is in the hull of the ship and had very murky, cloudy water like it is never cleaned and it was lukewarm at best.  As much as everyone in our family loves pools, we were not getting inside that!  Imagine paying more than 180 rials a night with the promise of a pool to realize that you’ve been had.  To make matters worse, even if I had been brave enough to get more than my foot into that cold water, there were no clean towels around at all.  I realized why – the poor barber/masseuse also acts as “pool boy” and doesn’t have time to manage/clean the pool!

Another big selling point to the boat is their theatre.  My wife and I enjoyed watching a movie one evening.

Hotel Veronica looks quite good at night!  I do have to warn single women and anyone with a wife and kids though…Alcohol is a big selling point on the boat.  Labourers come on board to get drunk each evening and even sailors from other ships visiting the harbor.  I think it’s a real recipe for disaster that they allow these men (some who may have not seen a woman in months!) to wander wherever they please around the ship smelling like alcohol.  They were wandering up and down the corridors pretending to take pics but they were eyeing the passengers and some almost got a taste of Andy-in-Oman justice when I saw them glancing a little too long at my wife.  I’m telling you that this is an accident just waiting to happen.  The ship has to decide if they want to be a “decent family hotel” or a place for lonely men to get drunk.  I don’t believe they can do both in the longrun.

 Well, that’s my 2 cents about the Duqm Floating Hotel Veronica.  I really think they had better bring their prices down to a realistic level if they wish to do well in the longrun.  Sure, ignorant people (like myself) may come down once and get milked at prices way beyond even some of the best 5-star hotels in Muscat or Dubai, but when people realize that they didn’t get their money’s worth, they are going to feel cheated, as I did and still do.  If you are the type that likes the idea of coming down to Duqm alone or maybe with a friend and getting drunk out of your mind, then it’s just the place for you! (But why not just do that in Muscat/Nizwa/Salalah or wherever you are?!) Duqm may be promoted as an up and coming place time and time again by Oman Tourism and other agencies, but it really is not much to see in the middle of nowhere and I think it’ll be many years before Duqm is worthy of a second trip.  I recommend staying at the Duqm Tourist Hotel (I’ll post pics/prices when I can) or camping nearby and just visiting the Duqm Floating Hotel if you really want to see it.  Better to visit and pay for lunch than book a room and be majorly disappointed as we were.  I have plenty more I could say, but I think I’ve already said more than enough!  🙂

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Ras Markaz Beach, Duqm, Oman

Ras Markaz is hands down the most gorgeous beach I’ve seen so far in Oman!  This beach is one of the secret gems of Oman that very few have heard of let alone experienced.  This is how you get there from Duqm:

To get to Ras Markaz, you should zero your odometer at the shell petrol station (which is, sadly, the major landmark in Duqm!) and drive in the direction of Hayma.  Don’t rely on anyone to be able to help you out with directions in this middle-of-nowhere-place.  None of the men I tried asking at the shell station (or the “Coral Reefs Market” next to it) seemed to understand any English.  None of the hotel employees seemed to know any directions (even though their English is obviously very good).  The directions we did receive from the hotel manager had us lost in the backroads of the Duqm wasteland for 2 hours! (Better if we hadn’t asked!)

After 17.5 kms, you should see this sign. (Not 1 km that we were first told, nor 5 kms that we were told later!)  Head straight for al Jazar (but that is not your destination!).

Another sign you should come across that lets you know you’re on the right road. The directions we received mentioned Ras Markaz being on the “Ras Madrakah” road but the problem is that this was the first time we saw a sign mentioning “Ras Madrakah”!

At exactly 49 kms from the Duzm shell station you will find this turnoff for Ras Markaz.

It’s a pretty rough road the 14kms to Ras Markaz so a 4X4 is recommended.

At 14 kms, you can see the beach and cliffs in the distance.  The road suddenly switches to sweet asphalt after an extremely bumpy 14 kms of dirtroad.

The paved road leading down to the beach – “At Ras Markaz, a newly paved blacktop cuts a serpentine path down to the beach
below, affording breathtaking views of the seafront.

Voila! The view coming down!

Ras Markaz is said to be a “kilometre-long stretch of virgin beachfront“, but it seemed much longer than just one kilometre.

Mommy and Naomi at the beach which we had all to ourselves!

Plenty of sand so Gershom was happy! 🙂

Yours truly taking a swim at our own private little beach for the day

 

Another short vid:

  

Just before we left, Mr. Crab popped out to wave goodbye. 🙂

Have any of you been to Ras Markaz?  I’m not much of a camper but this seemed to me to be the perfect site for a camping trip!

Visit to the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary

The Arabian Oryx Sanctuary lies between the central desert and the coastal mountains of Oman, an area in which seasonal fog and dew played an important role in the growth of special plants which were the food of the oryx until 1972, when they nearly became extinct, and again in 1982 when they were re-introduced after the breed was stabilized.” (from the “Sultanate of Oman” booklet printed by the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, 2005)

Members at the front of our caravan trying to get access to the sanctuary less than 30 minutes before it was closing…The hotel assured us that our names were submitted and we’d get in easily but it was a long wait at the gate and they didn’t have a list of our names…  Special permission is required to visit the sanctuary and can be obtained from: The Office of the Conservation of Environment Advisor, Diwan of Royal Court. Tel: +968-2469-3536, or email: acedrc@omantel.net.om Website: www.oryxoman.com (Funny. I just went to that website given by the Ministry but it is actually a Japanese lady’s cosmetics site. ?!?! Bizarre!)

This was the scene just before we were finally allowed to enter the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary.  (There was a Royal Decree (No. 79/2011) to change the name to “Natural Living Sanctuary in the Al Wusta Region but everyone seems to still call it by the original.) While a sunset may be beautiful to behold, it’s not reassuring when you are hoping to see oryx before nightfall! The hotel management told us we could see it from 4 to 6pm but they failed to mention that it was a 1.5 hour drive to the sanctuary from the hotel! Brilliant! Other guests were equally upset by that lack of information leaving us mere minutes to enjoy watching the Oryx!

It was a real treat to watch these gorgeous animals even if only for minutes.  I had often thought of visiting this site over the past 4 years but this was our first real chance. I wrote about the plight of the poor Oryx in this post titled “Oryx You Going to Protect Us or Not?” 4 years ago. More about the UN’s decision to remove this site from their list of World Heritage Sites here. Little or nothing is said about this historic removal from the UN list on government sites such as this one.  It’s not exactly something to be proud of as the World Heritage Committee felt that the decision to reduce the area by 90% was “destroying the outstanding universal value of the site which was inscribed in 1994“.

The Arabian Oryx has been considered an animal of beauty by the people of the Arabian Peninsula for centuries. With its oversized horns and elegant body, the antelope holds huge cultural significance in the Gulf. Being the largest antelope in the area it has a remarkable tenacity to survive in one of the most inhospitable natural environments in the world. The Arabian Oryx’s body is perfectly suited for life in the desert. Its small hooves mould well into soft sand while its body can tolerate a rise in temperature up to 40°C. The animal can also go without a water source for periods of up to four months, relying instead on the dew collected from plants and shrubs that forms its staple diet.”

The Arabian Oryx has held symbolic value for the people of the Middle East for
centuries. It is thought that the mythical unicorn creature was developed from
the animal’s characteristics. In profile, the Oryx appears to have one horn and
the Hebrew word “re’em” may have been translated as ‘unicorn’.”

There is a large fence around the whole protected area.  There is also a small inner fence at the visitors area (seen here) and quite a few oryx (plural of oryx can be “oryx” or “oryxes” but I prefer the use of “oryx”. 😉 ) are located inside the smaller fence. Many others (we were told) roam freely outside the fence, such as the lone oryx you see here (pictured behind the blue plastic trashbag that some thoughtless tourist must have left behind…).

As night approached, the pictures became blurrier and blurrier…to see some fantastic pictures at the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary, check out this issue (#172) of Y-Magazine.  I’m a big fan of Jerzy Wierzbicki’s photography and the black and white pics of oryx are among the best I’ve seen.

Here are 2 short videos I took while at the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary: (The 2nd one is currently being processed. Check back soon to view!!)

Oman Rock Stars – Duqm Rock Garden

The Rock Garden is a 3 square kilometre area of limestone and sandstone rocks  which formed in an underground freshwater aquifer over 46 million years ago.  With time it has been shaped by wind, water, frost and other natural forces.  According to the Minerals Section of the Department of Commerce and Industry.”

The Rock Garden is one of the top 25 sites of geological scientific importance
in the entire Sultanate of Oman.”

These rock formations are of exceptional scenic beauty and provide visitors with an impressive insight of the geological and geomorphological wonders of our planet.”

If you’re ever in Duqm with about an hour to spare, you can find the Duqm Rock Garden at the Strabag gate entrance between 100 and 200 metres from the ODC (Oman DryDock) gate (which is also the Veronica Floating Hotel entrance) as you head towards Duqm city centre (…or where there should be a city centre but will find only a few buildings). The rock garden is on the right hand of the Strabag dirtroad.  I wouldn’t recommend driving this site without a 4X4.

Click here to read an article in the Week about the Rock Garden in Duqm

“Elephant Rock”

“Turtle Head Rock”

“Licking Dog Rock”

“Snail Rock”

“Smiley face Rock”

Obviously not the top ranking “must see site of Oman”; the tourists aren’t exactly lining up to see the Duqm Rock Garden.  I still thought it was interesting to walk around exploring.  The heat starts playing tricks on you and you start seeing faces and shapes in just about every rock, haha! 🙂  How about you?  Would you walk around in the hot sun for an hour or even longer to see a bunch of rocks?! Or are you more like my wife who would rather sit back and enjoy the comfort of the hotel room?

If this is a subject of great interest to you, I’m guessing you must be a geologist!  This link to Peter Farrrington’s presentation at the 4th International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations in Muscat in October 2010 would be very interesting to you I’m sure.