OMAN

World Travel Magazine - - Feature Destinations 2019 -

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

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