Oman is the Jewel of Arabia. It is a country of breathtaking beauty offering much to travelers across the tourism spectrum, from eco and adventure travel to cultural journeys and family holidays.
Situated on the Indian Ocean, Oman is the first country on the Arabian Peninsula to greet the sunrise; with the first rays striking Ras Al Jinz, home to the nesting green backed turtles who have come ashore here for centuries.
Nearby, Sur is home to the Arabian Dhow ship building industry. The Omani sea empire dominated Indian Ocean trade routes from antiquity well into the 19th century bringing spices from the Indies to Oman’s shores and trading down Africa’s Swahili coast to Zanzibar. Dhows, are still hand crafted today in Sur’s shipyards.
Oman’s northern most point is the Musandam Peninsula, overlooking the strategic Straits of Hormuz. Musandam’s Peninsula is separated from Oman’s main territory by the United Arab Emirate of Fujairah. Known as the Norway of the Middle East, because of its dramatic mountains and fjords plunging into the sea, you will treasure the memories of dolphins cavorting alongside your traditional sailing dhow as you explore this incredible landscape.
From Khasab, Musandam’s capital, you can board the daily hydrofoil to Muscat for a stunningly beautiful journey down the Omani coast, passing Oman’s Six Senses hotel at Zighy Bay. Spectacularly located on beachfront with dramatic mountains behind, you can choose to paraglide into Zighy Bay off the mountain top, go by boat or travel a mountainous road that descends to the shore in true Indiana Jones style.
As you sail south along the Batinah coastline, Sohar looms on the horizon, home to the mythical figure of Sinbad the Sailor.
Guarded by the forts of Jilali and Mirani, you enter Muttrah harbor, home to Muscat, the capital. Muttrah harbor awaits your exploration with its white washed homes and Mashrabiyah windows. From the Sultan’s Presidential palace, overlooking the promenade, the sights and sounds of the old souq beckon.
But Muscat has a modern side too. The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, built in 2001, is an architectural gem and the world class Royal Opera House opened its doors in 2011.
Oman is a magical place with hotels that have been carefully and strategically positioned from mountain tops to beach front. Oman will not disappoint.
If you only have a few days, a ‘must’ is a trip to the Wahiba Sands, As Sharqiyah, an area made famous by the great British explorer Wilfred Thesiger, who traversed these sands with local Bedouin. These beautiful red sands of approximately 5,000 square miles gives one an opportunity to stay in a tented camp deep inside the desert. You can totally unwind in your desert camp, but if you need technology, you better be energetic as it is necessary to climb the dunes to hopefully get a cell phone signal.
No trip to Oman is complete without a visit to the Hajjar mountain range and the Grand Canyon of Arabia, where small villages perch on the edge of cliffs half way down the Canyon. Here, life continues as it always has, tending goats and harvesting apricots. Yet every child goes to school and Oman enjoys a literacy rate of over 91%. The towns of Nizwa, Rustaq and Nakhl nestle among date palms, where fresh dates melt in your mouth like chocolate.
Unique to Oman are its more than 500 castles, forts and towers, many of which have been completely restored in a way protecting every element of the traditional Omani architecture.
Head south to Salalah, where Khor Ruwi, home to the legendary Queen of Sheba is located on the Indian Ocean and where frankincense traveled by dhow on the trade routes. Here Salalah awaits, with its new museum, archaeological sites and fog shrouded mountains. Its mystery will captivate your heart.
This is not a country of bling and glare; it is an understated and delightful place to visit, the jewel of Arabia.