Discover the different facets of diverse and exotic Oman. Lively and vibrant Sinaw Souq in Northern Oman is the main meeting place for the Bedouin where camels, goats and calves are auctioned and bartered. Bedouin women in traditional dress, complete with shiny metallic face-mask (burqa) trade side by side with the men and in some of the silver shops you can still find the traditional old silver Bedouin jewellery. Take the opportunity to photograph and watch turtles laying eggs and hatchlings emerging from the nests and heading for the sea. Ras Al Hadd is a strategic point, whose sea and lagoons was once a haven for pirates. Walk through the maze of streets in Sur, revealing many fine old houses with carved doors and arabesque windows. Explore enchanting wadis with deep pools ideal for swimming, and discover Oman’s laid-back capital of Muscat complete with whitewashed buildings and the incredible marble-clad Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque.
Wadi Bani Khalid
An oasis spot in the middle of the barren and dry mountains and one of the most beautiful wadis (valleys) in Oman, with pools of clear deep blue water. It’s year-round water flow from a natural spring supports the abundant vegetation that makes it such a beautiful spot.
Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve
Turtle nesting tours at Ras Al Jinz allow visitors to witness the spectacle in an intimate fashion without fear of interrupting the creatures themselves. The turtle sanctuary at Ras Al Jinz combines an interactive museum with research laboratories and a wide range of amenities for visitors to learn all about the wonders of these ancient creatures in a family-friendly environment.
Also known as Sharqiya Sands, is a vast mass of undulating red and white sand dunes rising up to 200 metres, stretching as far as the eye can see in ever changing patterns – a real photographer’s delight. The dunes are one of the largest areas of pure sand desert in the world and host to a variety of flora and fauna – camels moving through the sands are a common sight.
Known as Oman’s cultural capital the Nizwa Fort is a must see with it’s massive Circular Cannon Tower. Walk through the traditional Nizwa Souq where you will find exquisite silver jewellery, intricately handmade Khanjars (daggers), copper, weaving and other handicrafts.
Jebel Shamns Jebel Shams (Mountain of the Sun) is Oman’s highest mountain, and is best known for the view into the spectacularly deep Wadi Ghul lying alongside it. The straight-sided Wadi Ghul is known locally as the “Grand Canyon of Arabia” – the landscape fissures abruptly between the flat canyon rims, exposing vertical cliffs, some more than 1000 metres, providing incredible photo opportunities. Jebel Shams is home to around a dozen small villages, whose occupants earn a living from animal husbandry, farming and rug weaving. This area has some of the oldest Juniper trees in the world – some species are hundreds of years old with trunks 2-3 metres wide.
The best time to visit Oman is during the temperate months of October to March. Southern Oman sits apart from other Gulf countries in that it has a monsoon season which lasts June to September.
Not quite 400kms from Dubai but a million miles away in every other aspect, Muscat is the capital of Oman. The country as a whole has undergone a massive transformation in the last 20 years but has stayed well away from the glitzy path taken by Dubai. In 1980 His majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said detailed in a royal speech ‘We must equally foster and safeguard our traditional industries so that our cultural heritage is handed on intact to generations to come’ and is this clear in the lack of high rise buildings and authentic Arab feel in every part of the country. The Omanis are welcoming and endlessly charming, keen to showcase their country and Oman is happy to come to the party. Forts, castles, wadis with lush waterholes in which to cool a hot and tired body, true desert adventures, local marketplaces and wonderful wildlife opportunities including watching turtles nesting abound. There is a wide range of accommodation available with some of the best spa treatments I have ever experienced! If you don’t include Oman on your Bucket List – you are really missing something special.
Kate Couling, Director
Language The official and most predominant language is Arabic. English is a second language that is widely used, especially by the tourism industry
Why we love it We love this rare chance to engage with the Arab world. Oman’s low-rise towns retain their traditional charms. You will quickly discover the wealth of activities that can be done in the seas and deserts. Beaches, great for swimming, not to mention the chance of spotting sea turtles who lay eggs July to October. The vast desert that is the Rub al Khali, the Empty Quarter, a territory it shares with Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates are the perfect places for desert excursions.
Weather The best time to visit Oman is during the temperate months of October to March. Southern Oman sits apart from other Gulf countries in that it has a monsoon season which lasts June to September.
Social customs & quirks As with the rest of the Arab world, Omani culture is closely tied to the Islamic faith. Most Omanis are Muslims. However, the majority of them practice Ibadi, a form of Islam which originated in the country and is distinct from the majority denominations of Sunni and Shia. Omanis are very humble and down-to-earth and two very important aspects of Omani culture are dignity and respect. Rules of etiquette when traveling in Muslim countries generally apply to traveling in Oman. Women must dress modestly outside the comforts of modern hotels, ideally clothing that covers shoulders and legs, while men must wear trousers and sleeved shirts.
Festivals & events Oman hosts festivals rich in culture and arts. We would recommend the Muscat Festival held during January and February. The Muscat Festival is one of the biggest events showcasing Omani culture and heritage through artistic and cultural activities. You will not be disappointed with the circus and concert featuring local and international musical artists.
You may like to come and celebrate Oman’s seafaring traditions during their traditional Boat Races in February. A regatta is held every January where boats sail from Dubai toward Muscat. Boat races are also held in February wherein traditional boats such as dhows compete for a prize.
Game fishing enthusiasts may be interested in the Sindbad Classic. This event sees enthusiasts from all over the world battle it out in a deep sea fishing contest in the waters of Oman.
July and August are great for Salalah and the surrounding areas. During this time of the year, the region experiences Khareef season, a time when monsoon rains bring in life to the land, making for stunning tropical landscapes. This high tourist season is the time when cultural celebrations and parades are held in and around town to entertain both locals and tourists.