Oman

Surrounded by countries known for their extravagance or extremism, Oman is often overlooked and even unknown as a country of the Middle East. Officially the Sultanate of Oman, the nation is bordered by the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west, and Yemen to the southwest. The coastline is made up of the Arabian Sea on the southeast and the Gulf of Oman on the northeast.

3 Reasons to go

  • Adventure: If you are an outdoors person, you will have plenty of activities to choose from: there are mountains to hike, wadis to explore, excellent dive sites, dune bashing, camping and plenty of other activities with nature.
  • Relaxation: On the other hand, you won’t find a place more laid back than Oman. There are beautiful resorts located on the coastline where you can spend all your days relaxing under the sun. There are also beaches that, if you are lucky, you can have all to yourself for camping.
  • The people: Omanis are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. They are very laid-back and down-to-earth and will always be willing to help you if they can.

Destinations

Destination A: Muscat
The capital city and most likely place you will start any adventure. The rocky Western Al Hajar Mountains dominate the landscape of Muscat and being located on the coast, the ocean is never too far out of sight. Low-lying cream buildings typify most of Muscat’s urban landscape and the call to prayer will be a defining sound.

Destination B: Wahiba Sands
A visit to The Wahiba Sands is unique and unmissable. The sands offer a stunning landscape and also a glimpse of a traditional way of life. You could easily spend your whole trip at the sands, driving across the terrain (or you can travel by camel if you prefer) and mixing with the locals.

Destination C: Sur
Sur is a capital city of Ash Sharqiyah Region, northeastern Oman. Historically it was an important place for trade and a sailor’s destination. Now it is still famous for building wooden ships. Sur is an ideal stop, en-route back to Muscat. It has an attractive corniche, two forts, excellent beaches and is also a good base for day trips to Wadi Tiwi and Wadi Shab and the turtle reserve at Ras al-Jinz.

How to book your vacation?

If you enjoy organizing your own trips.
Start booking hotels:


Booking.com

If you’d prefer to join an organized group tour.
Browse options here:Tourradar

If you need help but want to travel independently.
I can plan for you:

Itinerary

Day 1: Arriving
The country’s largest airport and the primary hub is Muscat International Airport just on the outskirts of the main part of the city. Many of the local hotels will arrange transfers for you to and from the airport. Spend your first day relaxing, enjoying the sunshine and preparing for your week of adventure.

Day 2: Historic Muscat
Within the main hub of the city, there are plenty of places to explore. In the old town you can visit the Sultans Palace, Al Alam, and the Jalali and Merani forts; the museum Bait Al Zubair for a look at some Omani artifacts; then stroll along the Muttrah Corniche and browse the narrow lanes of the souk.

You should also make time to visit The Grand Mosque, which is a drive out but well worth a visit, plan to do this first thing in the morning since the mosque isn’t always open to visitors. You can aim to be in the souk when it opens in the afternoon after 4 pm. The easiest way to travel around is by taxi, just make sure you agree a price first as taxis don’t run on meters.

Day 3-5: Wahiba Sands and Wadi Bani Khalid
It would be a shame to come all the way to the Middle East and not see a “real desert”.

If you are confident enough you can drive, but there are also tour operators that will drive you to Wahiba Sands with a stop to some abandoned villages along the way, and even some of the camps will arrange collection for a fee. It is a five-hour drive out of Muscat, but totally worth it for the destination, and the journey will also give you a glimpse of how life and the landscape are away from the city. Make sure you get to Wahiba Sands before sunset so you can enjoy the view from the top of the dunes. Then enjoy dinner under the stars and depending on the time of year you might be surprised to learn that the desert can be quite cold at night!
You can either spend the night in the desert again or head to Ras al-Jinz or Ras al-Hadd for a spot of turtle watching. Both areas are beaches/nesting sites for green turtles.

The next day drive to Wadi Bani Khalid. In Arabic, wadi means valley and across the country these are usually dry unless the rains come. But Wadi Bani Khalid benefits from a constant flow of water throughout the year, which means there are beautiful natural pools to spend the day lazing in. For those of you a bit more adventurous, you can trek deeper into the wadi and also explore a cave nearby.

You can either spend the night in the desert again or head to Ras al-Jinz or Ras al-Hadd for a spot of turtle watching. Both areas are beaches/nesting sites for green turtles.

Day 6: Drive through Sur
Drive back to Muscat via Sur. Sur is the capital city of the region. Here you have the option of visiting the Corniche, two forts, beaches and dhow building yard.

Day 7: Muscat
Relax in Muscat. Enjoy the beach, the seaside and the sunshine before the setting off home. Alternatively, you could organise a dhow cruise to get a glimpse of Oman from the water.

Day 8
Return to the airport and make your way back home.

Tips & advice

  • Arabic is the primary language in Oman, although many people do speak basic English. Signs are in both English and Arabic.
  • Vaccinations are recommended but not required.
  • Avoid visiting in Ramadan as most shops, restaurants and attractions will be closed during the day.
  • Oman is predominantly Muslim (Omanis follow the Ibadi School of Islam), and you can expect to hear the call to prayer five times a day coming from the numerous mosques located in the city and villages.
  • Oman is a wonderful place to visit during the winter (November to March) when temperatures are around 25 to 30 degrees celsius. Walking around in May to July feels like walking in an oven with temperatures reaching up to and sometimes over 50 degrees. It is also worth considering when Ramadan is each year (the month of fasting) as activities will be limited.

Oman, UAE & Arabian Peninsula travel guide, 5th Edition Sep 2016 by Lonely Planet


Oman, travel guide

If you need additional information make sure you pack your favorite guide book, the Lonely Planet!

Author

IMG_0083 copyAyshe Ismail is the author and creator of Life Outside The M25. Having lived in London all her life, in 2014 Ayshe got married and relocated to Muscat all in the space of one-week. Now that’s an adventure! She uses her blog to document her experiences as well as provide information to expats and anyone interested in knowing about life in Oman.

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Photo credit: Ayshe Ismail