Visit Oman – A middle eastern gem

By Paul Pinkerton
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Visit Oman – A middle eastern gem

Paul Pinkerton
 
The Grand Mosque and gardens Muscat, Oman.
The Grand Mosque and gardens Muscat, Oman.
 
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Terrorism and general unrest in the holiday destinations of Egypt, Turkey and Tunisia is making it hard to find a safe destination with an Arabic influence at this present time.

However, Oman in the south of the Arabian peninsula is a country that will find itself well and truly on the tourist map should such turmoil continue.

To give the country its correct and full name, it is ‘The Sultanate of Oman’ and is ruled by Sultan Qaboos bin Said. This oil-rich country certainly has richness in its desire to attract and welcome tourists from all over the world.

 

The Sultan’s palace in Muscat Oman
The Sultan’s palace in Muscat Oman

A greeting of stunning proportions awaits the visitor to this country adjoining the Straits of Hormuz. A large country made up mainly of mountains and deserts, but a great deal to offer the tourist in terms of culture and experience.

The Sultan of Oman is seems to be well liked by its people and he has encouraged development of infrastructure and extended personal rights to help women to advance their status within its society.

 

Trading at a market in Oman.
Trading at a market in Oman.

Muscat is the entry point for those arriving by air; this super oil-rich country has a great richness in its culture to offer its holiday makers too.

A vast collection of Arab style forts pepper the land and date back hundreds of years, to times when the Omani’s fought the Persian’s who once held their land. However, unlike other high rise destinations nearby, it is mainly those traditional forts that dominate the skylines here.

The main resort areas around Muscat do boast a good range of hotels, many to five star standard. Most are by the beach but others in the main part of the city all do offer some stunning accommodation and some great dining experiences, be that European, Asian or Arabic.

 

Visitors are certainly made to feel safe and welcome in all areas of the country. Whether that is touring a busy fish market, shopping in the city souk or visiting a honey farm in a deserted mountain wadi.

The 3 million population live mainly in the coastal areas, a country with a nearly 100 percent of the citizens being Muslim there is a natural and enthusiastic Arabic welcome awaiting those who make this their next choice for a holiday.

Oman – Great roads and super cheap fuel

There is no expense spared, in terms of transport links in Oman, the road system is really amazing and away from Muscat touring by rented vehicle, or with a guide the roads are virtually empty, the dual carriageway will take you to most destinations faster than any camel could and at fuel prices of around 20p per litre (yes 20 pence)! The cost is fantastically cheap.

Places like Salahla very much in the South is best reached by air, being some 800 miles away but still well worth the trip. Its frankincense tree plantations, the port area and a palace, once thought to be the Queen of Sheba’s palace! That now, is regarded as wishful thinking, a nice romantic thought though! A drive into the giant desert and sand dunes are a feature of the area around Salahla and is a great experience.

 

Driving tour through a not so dry river bed in Oman.
Driving tour through a not so dry river bed in Oman.

Going off road is part of what makes for a great tourist experience in Oman. Driving in the wadi’s (dry river beds) these massive deep and sometimes lush canyons take can take the breath away, driving through drying up streams with spray flying over the 4×4’s is great fun.

A lunchtime picnic in the shade of date palms or in huge shady sandstone gullies makes a perfect break from bouncing past the giant boulders that get washed into the wadis during the rainy season.

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In the hot dry climate for most of the year it’s hard to think that these canyons can fill quickly with torrents of water, but what water does keep their margin’s lush and green allowing the date palms to produce the fruit that is available all over the country all of the year, and not just out of a box at Christmas!

Away from the drier wadi’s, at the coast, local fish markets are always a draw for both locals and tourists. The frantic activity of camera totting tourists and skilled fish filleters keep both well occupied as the fish are carried straight from the boats to auctions and market stalls. Giant tuna, kingfish, and snapper who could well be eaten by those tourists as they return to their hotels for dinner that night, it’s that fresh.

 

The magnificent Grand Mosque in Muscat.
The magnificent Grand Mosque in Muscat.

The Giant Mosque that dominates the city centre was paid for and built by the Sultan. This is a marvel of architecture with facts that amaze! Its carpeted main prayer hall houses the second largest carpet in the World. A giant 1,200 light bulbs illuminate a stunning glass chandelier that hangs under the massive main dome weighs over 9 tons! At night the illuminated dome can be seen from many parts of the city. Open to tourists in the morning and set in wonderful gardens it makes a tranquil get-a-way from the bustle of the city.

 

The many preserved forts around Oman are stunning.
The many preserved forts around Oman are stunning.

Shopping in the colorful main souk for gifts or just to experience the hubbub of shopping, bartering style of course and see if you can get a bargain as you do have to haggle!

Suitable for both families and couples there is a hotel, the Millennium, just up the coast that would act as a great base. Boutique style hotels like Chedi in Muscat are great for couples looking for a pampered time within the hotel spa and grounds over looking the sea.

Walking, driving or sailing – Oman has it

Try sailing in the warm water Gulf of Oman or hire your own driver for a romantic trip to the dunes with a ‘sundowner’ picnic to watch the sunset over the endless sand dunes inland.

 

Walking and hiking is also an option and there are specialist tour guides who can offer walking holidays into the mountains that run along parallel to the coast around Muscat. It is in its infancy but tourist from places like Germany have already seen the potential of the destination in terms of mountain walking. Camping and taking all you need is one option, other tailored tours are possible in the mountains, but surely more will jump on that bandwagon if things do not settle in Tunisia Turkey and Egypt in the coming months.

 

The superb landscape in the wadi’s of Oman.
The superb landscape in the wadi’s of Oman.

Hunting is banned across the whole of Oman so it’s very special for wildlife, Oryx, Gazelles and spectacular birds are safe and so too are the tourists who the government are extremely keen in encouraging, investing and publicizing the destination to the wider world.

All year round the Omani’s will ensure you will have an enjoyable visit, but the extremely hot weather in the peak of summer can be testing, and even then they will do all they can to give you a holiday to remember, in a place perhaps you have never considered in the past?

Tourist Information
http://www.omantourism.gov.om

http://www.omanair.com

 

Original Article – Thanks to Geoff Moore :: Travel photographer, writer and blogger Geoff Moore has been a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers for 10 years and has traveled the world for over 30 years.

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