Whether you’re a food lover, shopaholic or a beach bum, this place is a winner.
When you are home to two of Muscat’s larger shopping malls, it goes without saying that you’re a favourite destination for anyone from toddlers to grandparents. With the opening of the two malls, Al Mawaleh became a lot more popular as a residential area too, thanks to its cheaper rents. It also has The Wave, Muscat, a lifestyle complex beloved by Western expats, who lap up its beach, swimming pools and restaurants. It might be a little rough around the edges and removed from the action, but Mawaleh’s got a lot to offer those willing to try somewhere different.
For shopping you are spoiled for choice, from LuLu to Muscat City Centre. Accommodation is reasonably priced but the drawback is the distance to most of the international schools. Not many parents will relish fighting through the rush-hour traffic for the school runs. It’s close to the airport and much of the district is under the direct flight path, and the new airport – due to open in 2014 – is on your doorstep. At least the beach and The Wave are close by.
[quote]Why I live here: There are good and bad points to Mawaleh. It is in the flight path but I honestly don’t notice it anymore. I love shopping so having the malls close by is great. Taxi fares can be expensive if you want a night out but then the rent is cheaper. Our villa is huge compared to what we had in the UK. Sally Goodall, UK expat and mother.][/quote]
Rental prices are extremely attractive. It’s possible to find a decent four-bedroom villa, which can be yours for a very nice RO500-a-month. It pays to be wise though and choose your location carefully as one expat family found themselves opposite a company with huge trucks rumbling in and out every 10 minutes, creating a wave of dust and a cleaning nightmare. Nights out can mean an expensive taxi fare back but, on the plus side, it’s cheaper to live there than more central areas such as Qurum, Shatti and MQ. That said there are plenty of facilities, including the Al Bahja Cinema and Starcare Hospital, on the doorstep. The International School of Choueifat is in the area but the other internationals are a trek away. True, it is in the path flight but residents say you don’t notice the noise after a while.
If you’ve ever wondered how perfume is made, the answer can be found at Amouage’s new factory and visitor centre. Opened in December at the site of its existing premises to celebrate its 30th year of operations, the two-storey perfumery allows visitors an insight into the various stages of manufacture, from ingredient mixing to bottling and packaging, as well as the perfume-extraction process. Just don’t expect the secrets of the unique fragrances to be revealed. Giant telecommunications company Omantel has its HQ in the area too. The Rehab al Mawaleh Complex is also sited here. Islamic-style architecture can be seen at Al Sahwa Park, which is a great place to take the family when weather allows. You can enjoy computer-controlled water fountains and six Islamic gardens designed in geometric shapes.
It’s difficult to know where to begin. Best to start with the two stars of the show, Muscat City Centre and Markaz Al Bahja, heaven for retail lovers. Close to each other on different sides of Sultan Qaboos highway, these were the undisputed kings of the shopping malls until the young upstart Muscat Grand Mall came along. They may be showing their age a little – Muscat City Centre opened in 2001 – but all the old favourites can be found here. MCC has a couple of good restaurants, including family favourite Chili’s and excellent The Noodle House. Markaz Al Bahja has a multi-screen cinema and an eight-lane ten pin bowling area, ideal for those long, hot summer months confined indoors. Then there’s The Wave, Muscat, with its pristine marina, home to Oman Sail, and leisure complex. You don’t need to live there to visit the three restaurants, Costa Coffee and Al Fair supermarket, which stocks Waitrose products. Non-residents aren’t allowed to use the communal swimming pools but access to the beach is open to all. There’s even a small dog park to walk your pet pooch. Elsewhere, there are a few restaurants, including an Iranian and Yemeni plus the obligatory McDonald’s, and a new hotel, Hotel City Center. For get-away-from-it-all moments, there’s Al Sahwa Park, close to MCC, with coffee shops, a restaurant and a mosque.
As we’ve already said, it’s all about the malls. Whether it’s for groceries or clothes, a television or a fridge, your needs can be catered to. All the classic brands can be found, from Mango, Next and Zara, to Matalan and Marks & Spencer, inside MCC, which has a small food section, much to the delight of British expats missing home. There’s also a massive Carrefour to potter round. Children can be kept amused in the Magic Planet entertainment and play area, allowing mums and dad to shop in peace. Those who prefer the personal touch of smaller retailers will be pleased know there’s a large fruit and vegetable market in the area. If you prefer LuLu Hypermarkets, there’s one just a short drive away.