The city tour is the mantle piece of any tourism experience. In this age of Instagram filters and stylised aesthetics, the tourist imagination is framed by them. In my creative practice, responding to the themes and times we reside in is the core value as a writer. So, today thanks to a couple of good friends visited Muscat, on their way back to Kuala Lumpur. They were in town for less than 12 hours, hence how does one pack the drift of the city, in such a short time?
Well, the Big Bus Muscat Tour Bus came to the rescue. An international franchise, they are professional and have all the luxuries on board; wifi, water and availability of multilingual commentary. This ofcourse comes at a steep premium. The bus started at Mutrah Souq went around the city, in a crisp overview of the city. Marina Bandar Vantage Point snd the Royal Palace were popular draws for photography feeds. I went to parts of the city which I had not been in the last twenty years. This was special. It also prompted me to question our notions of the places we have lived in. The tour bus is a disruptive lens. It problematises the notion of the home town. Do we really know our cities? Or do we know the city as a sequential array of places constituting our daily lives? I have taken city bus tours in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Mumbai. All of these tours were small starters of all these three cities, out of which Singapore and Mumbai have been cities that I know well. The first time I took a tour bus was in 1994, as a kid where Baba and me took the Mumbai Darshan tour from Vashi in Navi Mumbai. Baba took the bus as wanted to show me Hanging Gardens and Juhu Beach.
It was also a way to show Mumbai to our relatives wanting to see the city upon visiting us; absolving us of this serious moral responsibility.
The tour bus gave me an opportunity to revisit my hometown and understand it from the vantage point of the visitor. My friends found Muscat to be clean to a fault, beautiful and inadequately marketed. Some major pluses for an Oman keen to promote tourism, as an alternative to the hydrocarbon economy. These are authentic voices that are paying tourists.
Today the tour, made me recognise my blind spots. It ruptures the routine of everyday life. Although the tour bus route is a familiar drill; the experience reboots the vision of the location.
Muscat is a marvellous city with tremendous natural endowments. These should be leveraged to promote a tourism based economy, as Muscat is just a trailer for Oman!
#ExperienceOman is more than a hashtag, rather it is a call for the world traveller to experience a special place, many of us call home.