Explore Oman's Desert KingdomPosted on: 17 December 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves
Dubbed the new Dubai, Oman is our destination of the month.
The oldest independent state in the Arab world, Oman is one of the more traditional countries in the Gulf region and was, until the 1970s, one of the most isolated.
Occupying the south-east corner of the Arabian Peninsula, it has a strategically important position at the mouth of the Gulf.
At one time Oman had its own empire, which at its peak in the 19th century stretched down the east African coast and vied with Portugal and Britain for influence in the Gulf and Indian Ocean.
Up until just 20 or so years ago the Sultanate of Oman, the second largest country in Arabia, was secretive and reclusive, its people kept from the modern world by a repressive ruler to the point that the gates of the capital city, Muscat, were closed from dusk to dawn.
Population: 2.6 million
Area: 119,500 sq miles
Major Language: Arabic
Major Religion: Islam
International Dialling Code: +968
The surly Sultan, however, was overthrown by his British-educated son in 1970, and since then Oman has been gradually gaining confidence and wealth, catching up with the times and cautiously welcoming a trickle of tourists at Seeb International Airport.
Oman’s topography is varied and dramatic, with rocky mountains and deep water inlets in the north, rolling dunes and salt flats in the central interior, verdant green hills in the southern Dhofar province, and a coastline stretching thousands of miles with magnificent beaches and cosy coves.
Sultan Qaboos bin Said has realised that tourism is an integral part of his modernisation programme, but thus far it is the wealthy that are being urged to bring their holiday funds to spend in Oman.
Sightseeing and activities are mainly restricted to Muscat and the southern town of Salalah, famed for its seafood, frankincense trees and the ruins of the palace of the Queen of Sheba.
Oman's attractions include a largely-untouched coastline, mountains, deserts and the burgeoning capital Muscat, with its forts, palaces and old walled city.
About The Area
The Sultanate of Oman is in the Middle East, on the eastern end of the Arabian Peninsula.
It borders the United Arab Emirates in the northwest, Saudi Arabia in the west and Yemen in the southwest.
Oman offers world class beach front hotels in Muscat; tours through extraordinary scenery and a warm friendly atmosphere.
The north of Oman is dominated by dramatic mountains and sandy beaches. But in case you simply need a relaxing beach break OMAN Holidays range of hotels that you can stay in include several set on or close to attractive sandy beaches in Muscat or elsewhere in Oman.
You'll arrive at Seeb International Airport, 25 miles from Muscat. Gulf Air offers direct flights. Indirect routes are offered with British Airways (via Abu Dhabi) or Emirates (via Dubai).
To visit the interior of Oman, take organised tours, or hire a car with driver who can act as interpreter and guide.
For long distances, the Oman National Transport Company operates the country's public - air-conditioned - bus services, from Muscat on 17 long-distance routes to key towns such as Nizwa, Sur, Sohar and Salalah. Oman Air also provides internal flights.
Oman shares an extensive land border with the United Arab Emirates, so it is possible to fly to Dubai or Abu Dhabi and drive to Oman, but make sure you check local terms and conditions with the car hire company before doing this.
There are no rail links between Oman and Dubai, but there are two buses a day from Muscat to Dubai at 6.30am and 4.30pm – the journey takes about five hours.
With more than 1,000 miles of coastline along the Arabian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea, Oman has endless peaceful coves and beaches, while private yacht trips could have you spotting dolphins and whales.
In Muscat, head to the wide sweep of Qurum Beach, or try Bandar Jissah, a lovely secluded bay about 30 minutes from Muscat.
The As-Sawadi and Dimaniyat Islands are peaceful, unspoilt magnets for migratory birds and breeding turtles.
The ancient capital of Sohar is on the lush Batinah coast north of Muscat - home of Sinbad the Sailor and gateway to many palm-fringed beaches.
In southern Oman, the uncrowded beaches of the Dhofar region near Salalah are fantastic.
Diving is growing in popularity in Oman, with scenic coral-lined fjords and superb dive sites including Cemetery Bay, Fahal Island and the Dimaniyat Islands.
The twin Portuguese colonial forts of Al Jalali and Al Mirani overlook Muscat's harbour. Within Muscat, the ancient port of Muttrah is home to the souk and the Corniche.
Visit the Bait Al-Zubair museum, and the glimmering Sultan Qaboos bin Said Grand Mosque, an icon of Taj Mahal proportions.
From Muscat, take a boat trip to Bandar Khayran, a haven of tidal creeks and sheltered bays.
In the Al Hajar Mountains, you'll find Oman's equivalent of the Grand Canyon, with its vast chasm often a gaping 1,000-metre drop just an arm's length from the edge of the walking trail.
The colourful souks of Muscat and Nizwa, the ancient forts, 4WD trips, camel riding and camping out in the desert at Wahiba, dolphin spotting along the coastline, and turtle watching at Ras Al Hadd will all make for experiences to remember.
Children will find it uncomfortable during the oven-like heat from May to September.
The northern Musandam Peninsula is separated from the rest of Oman by the United Arab Emirates. Known as 'Oman's Norway', Musandam is made up of dramatic fjord-like inlets and imposing mountains.
Nizwa is an ancient fort town that can be done comfortably in a day from Muscat. Pay a visit to the impressive fort with the souk, where you can shop for silverware and crafts and check out the khanjars.
The remote Al Wusta Region, about 390 miles from Muscat, is home to the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary, home to the first free-ranging herd of Arabian Oryx.
Wahiba Sands is 110 miles of undulating red and white desert dunes towering up as high as 200 metres. Take a trek, stay with Bedouin families, camp out under the stars, or for more comfort try the Al Areesh or Al Naseem camps. Also nearby is the Ras Al Junaiz Turtle Beach Nature Reserve, an important breeding ground.
The Dhofar region is home to Salalah, known as the Garden City thanks to its summer monsoon. It's home to groves of coconut, banana and papaya, ancient ruins and exotic frankincense.
Oman Tourism - http://www.omantourism.gov.om/
Hotels.com - http://www.hotels.co.uk/
Cheap Flights - http://www.cheapflights.co.uk/
Have you visited Oman? Are you planning a holiday to Oman? Do you have any recommendations to pass on?
If so, let us know by leaving a comment in the box below or share your thoughts with other readers in the 50connect forums.
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