Over the past few years, Oman has gained a reputation as a land of true beauty and luxury. The country has embraced the ultra-modern hotel culture of its neighbours in Dubai and the UAE without suffering from overcrowding or over-development.
Situated on the Eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, Oman is often conceived of as a barren desert state. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Oman’s landscape is a magnificent fusion of rocky mountains, cool blue oceans and sandy desert planes. The Musandam peninsula in the north of Oman has even been called the ‘Norway of Arabia’ thanks to its dramatic and sprawling fjords, where mountainous rocky outcrops rise out of tropical blue waters.
The country’s safe and welcoming environment has made it a favourite with families and couples alike. Kids will love splashing about along the miles of pristine coastline, whilst parents can make the most of the pampering on offer in some of the world’s finest spas and hotels.
In recent years, Sultan Qaboo’s Mosque in the centre of Muscat has become Oman’s star attraction. The mosque which was completed in 2001 is magnificent in both its size and beauty. The site contains the world’s largest chandelier and a hand-made carpet that covers over 4000m2. The mosque is extremely welcoming to tourists but it is worth remembering that it is a holy site and that visitors, particularly women, are expected to dress modestly.
The best way to see Oman’s stunning, rugged landscape is with a couple of day’s excursion in a 4x4. The local drivers will love showing adrenaline junkies the art of ‘Dune Bashing’ in the Wahiba Sands, just a couple of hours away from the capital Muscat. ‘Dune Bashing’ is essentially driving up and down gigantic sand dunes at full speed and in the most terrifying way possible – not for the faint hearted!
Those wanting to learn a bit about Oman’s history must visit one of the nation’s many ancient forts. We recommend checking out the Nizwa Fort in the town of Nizwa. Just a two hour drive from Muscat, the awe-inspiring fort has been well maintained and is a great way for kids to learn a bit of ‘hands on’ history.
Oman’s cities, particularly Muscat have a wealth of dining possibilities from small café’s to high-end fine dining. The price of food is fairly similar to the UK though tourists will be amazed by the variety and intensity of flavours that Oman has to offer.
Ancient trade routes with India have given the local cuisine a spicy kick and the clean blue waters of the Indian Ocean provide incredible fresh seafood in the coastal regions.
Our top tip is to try and avoid restaurants linked to the major hotel chains and, as usual, to try and track down some locals for advice.
It is important to remember that Oman, as an Islamic country, doesn’t have the same alcohol culture that we have in Europe. Make sure you check the dates of your departure as during Ramadan some smaller restaurants and hotels will refuse to sell alcohol altogether.