Friday, February 23, 2024

Traveling to Oman? Don’t Miss These Essential Things to Do

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Oman is the oldest independent state in the Arab world. Historically reputed to be one of the most prized producers of frankincense, the nation—located in the southeastern portion of the Arabian Peninsula—has quietly become an adventurer’s paradise in recent years, with multiple ways to experience the beauty of its deserts, mountains, and beaches.

Tabacco bar lounge pool, the Chedi Hotel Muscat

Photo by Nathalie Mohadjer

Tour the capital(s)

Situated on the Gulf of Oman, Muscat is the country’s capital and home to more than 1.4 million people. One of its best-known sights is the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Oman’s largest, which is an icon of the city skyline and features an intricate hand-loomed carpet and a massive chandelier. Don’t miss a performance at the storied Royal Opera House, another of the capital’s architectural landmarks. At sunset, walk the Mutrah Corniche along Muscat’s harbor, which is lined with restaurants and markets.

To stay, check into the 162-room beachfront resort Chedi Muscat, which welcomes guests into a palm tree–filled oasis on the north side of the capital city. The hotel is known for its elegant design, expansive spa and beauty treatments, and six restaurants featuring cuisines from around the world. The Jumeirah Muscat Bay is another option: Opened in December 2022, the resort is 30 minutes by car from downtown Muscat, with views of the Gulf from each of the 206 rooms and villas. The property also offers a PADI-certified diving and water sports center and access to trails for exploring the surrounding Hajar Mountains.

Roughly two hours south of Muscat by car is Nizwa, the country’s capital in the 6th and 7th centuries C.E. Once there, walk through the cylindrical Nizwa Fort, then head to the Nizwa Souq. (It gets especially lively on Fridays, when the camel and livestock trading takes place.) Have time for an excursion? Visit the gleaming new Oman Across Ages Museum in Manah, a 20-minute drive south of Nizwa.

Left: A woman dressed in a wetsuit and a blue and orange life vest. Right: The ocean meeting bare rocky coastline.

A tourist takes a boat ride to the Daymaniyat Islands, which UNESCO has called a “nationally, regionally, and internationally important conservation area.”

Photos by Nathalie Mohadjer

Dip into Oman’s waters

Take a day trip from Muscat with tour company Husaak Adventures and wade through the canyon waters of Wadi Tiwi and Wadi Shab, or swim in spots such as the Bimmah Sinkhole. Beachgoers will enjoy the Dhofar region on a custom trip with tour operator Geographic Expeditions; travelers can expect coconut and banana groves as well as pristine beaches. To visit the Daymaniyat Islands, writer Sarah Thankam Mathews booked an excursion with marine tour company Daymaniat Shells, which offers daily snorkeling trips from Muscat.

The rocky terrain surrounding the road to Mibam village

The road to Mibam village is characterized by steep climbs and a four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended.

Photo by Nathalie Mohadjer

Explore the mountains

Best accessed by a four-wheel-drive vehicle or by hiring a tour operator such as Elite Travel & Tourism, the Hajar Mountains stretch for roughly 430 miles from the United Arab Emirates to Oman’s eastern coast. In spring, pink damask roses cover Jebel Akhdar, making this hiking area even more beautiful. A good base is the luxurious Alila Jabal Akhdar hotel atop Jebel Akhdar, which is surrounded by some of the highest mountains in the region. The Alila Jabal Akhdar also offers outdoor excursions that include a via ferrata cave adventure and a hike around Jebel Shams (Mountain of the Sun), so named because it is the first place to see sunrise in Oman due to its height.

Left: Three camels resting in the Sharqiya Sands, with one patted on the head. Right: A man in white walking the dunes of Sharqiya Sands

Oman’s Sharqiya Sands stretches for more than 125 miles.

Photo by Nathalie Mohadjer

Have a desert experience

South of Oman’s fertile northern coast, the dunes of Sharqiya Sands are a good entry point to the country’s sprawling desert. Tour the region in a 4×4 and consider an overnight stay at the Bedouin-style camp Sama Al Wasil.

AFAR’s Travel Advisory Council can help plan a trip to Oman. Contact the council for more information.

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