As late as the 70s Oman was a quiet, poor and conservative backwater. That all changed when the current Sultan took over the reign of power and ushered Oman into the modern era. Unlike most of its neighbours, Oman doesn’t have enough oil to spend on lavish projects or hire on expat labourers to do a great majority of the work.
Yet, oil it has, enough to create wealth, but not too much. You could say Oman has reaped most of the benefits of its oil, without falling into the trap of vices that comes with it.
This is the country of mighty castles and watchtowers, traditional villages, desert mirages, craggy mountains with hidden crystalline pools of water, camel caravans and men with curved daggers on their hips and smiles on their faces.
Come to Muscat, its laidback capital with a watchtower on every peak, and forts guarding its harbor. Get yourself a car and drive into the mountain and swim in emerald pools of Wadi Shab or one of the many other hidden wadis out there. Visit huge Bahla Fort, one of hundreds of forts you will see in the country. Watch sea turtles come ashore and nest on the beaches, or take a camel trip into Sharqiya Sands, with its rolling sand dunes. If you ever wondered where the three wise men got their frankincense from, go to Salalah and you will find out.
Oman is easy to reach, easy to navigate and it’s a country well worth visiting. The people are friendly and educated and proud of their traditions.
Highlights from Oman
- Muscat has forts and souqs, watchtowers and palaces, and the blue sea as a backdrop. It is by far the most pleasant capital in the region.
- Al Hajar Mountains (trans: stone mountains aka Hajjar Mountains) full of hidden villages, forts, and watchtowers, and much more
- See how the intricate falaj (aka qanāt or irrigation system) works in Wadi Shab, right before plunging into its emerald green pools, or take a dip in Wadi Damm another dream-like watery concoction
- Take a look at Bahla Fort, an UNESCO world heritage site
- Reach for the skies in Jebal Shams, Oman’s highest peak, then take a look into the depth of Wadi An Nakhur
- Look for turtles in Raz al Jinz, Ras al Hadd or head for Masirah Island for more turtle fun
- Swim and snorkel in the clear waters of one of the many bays of the Musandam Peninsula
- Visit far flung Salalah once renowned for its frankincense, it is also the greenest part of Oman, especially if you come during the monsoon season
- Take a romantic camel ride into the desert at the Sharqiya Sands (aka Wahiba Sands or Ramlat al-Rahiba) and meet the Bedouins that call this place home
Hints and Tips for Oman
- You can fly into Oman, or take a bus from the United Arab Emirates. The visa-on-arrival system applies on all borders. A standard one-month visa costs 20 Omani Riyals.
- You can get buses to the major cities, however to really explore the country’s attractions you need your own wheels, preferably with off-road capabilities.
- Buying an off-road map to Oman allows you to explore the many wadis, canyons, valleys, hidden villages, deserted beaches as well as the massive desert dunes that call this land their home.
- Oman is a fairly liberal country. Alcohol is legal from the age of 21 and can be bought at selected shops, restaurants and hotels. Drinking in public is prohibited, but you can enjoy a drink in public areas such as secluded camping spots or beaches.
- Arabic is the national language, but English is widely spoken.
- The best time to visit is from October to April.