For travellers seeking a warmer place for adventure, Oman needs to be on the radar. We leave the perceived problems of the Middle East to the talking heads on the telly and put Oman as a hot spot to watch this new year. Far removed from the high rises of neighbouring United Arab Emirates, Oman offers towns with traditional charm. Having been a trading post for many centuries, the people take pride in their heritage and Bedouin roots.
Fashion, jewellery and design lovers will swoon during a visit to the souks in Oman. Handmade items ranging from kitchenware to leather bags are on display in hundreds of small stands. The multitude of colours and designs make visitors feel like they’ve entered Aladdin’s cave. The Muttrah Souq in the capital of Muscat is particularly wellknown and filled to the brink with wares.
Starting in Muscat’s National Museum (for archaeological finds that detail the history of Oman), the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and the Royal Opera House gives one a sense of the architectural and cultural prowess of this nation.
Travellers to Oman will notice various scents floating about in the air like coffee mixed with cardamom, (and locals invariably invite visitors into their homes to try some) and frankincense. Made with the resin from the Boswellia tree, frankincense has been produced in Oman since antiquity and been sent as a gift to plenty a king and queen.
For nature lovers, a desert adventure in the Empty Quarter Desert, or Sharqiya Sands, is in order. Here there’s an opportunity to ride camels, go 4x4ing, or camp underneath starry skies.
In the mountains (and there are plenty in Oman, the most famous possibly being the Dhofar Mountains) rock climbing, hiking up wadis, exploring caves and fossil hunting are all activities to wow any itinerary. Oman is famous for its many fossils and travellers are literally likely to stumble upon them in the Empty Quarter, as well as in many of the mountains.
One of the most popular, albeit hot, time to visit Oman is during July to September for turtle hatching season. The trill of witnessing five different kinds of baby sea turtles hatch along the beaches takes your trip from wonderful to unforgettable. While at the beach, there’s also the option to indulge in scuba diving, an activity easy to come by given the rich waters of the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, and the Gulf of Oman.
Animal lovers would do well to note the abundance of wildlife in Salalah, including various birds, oryx and gazelles and in Dhofar one can even find Arabian leopards. The rainy season from June to September turns Salalah, the desert city, into a green oasis. The Salalah Khareef Festival celebrates this with performances and various stalls selling traditional foods and handicrafts. The festival runs from around mid-july to the end of August.
Oman has a warm climate and it’s therefore best to avoid visiting during the height of summer from June until August, with the exception of Salalah.
This page, from left, Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, is the biggest mosque in Oman, interior mainly built with Indian sandstone and it has the world’s second largest hand-woven carpet; Wahiba Sands meets the Arabian Sea, Al Sharqiya Opposite, from top, evening cityscape of Muscat; Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat