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While the rest of the GCC swelters in the summer sun, Oman’s Dhofar province is a temperate twenty five degrees and wrapped in a beautiful blanket of lush greenery – the result of rain and light fog blown in by north-western winds. It makes Oman the perfect summer destination, granting visitors a fantastic opportunity to enjoy its great outdoors. Oman is a country ripe for adventure. It’s crammed full of historical treasures and stunning sights and offers activities aplenty for all to enjoy. And it’s a country that always guarantees its guests the warmest of Arabian welcomes. About This Guide We’ve compiled the 101 best things about Oman and placed them into simple-to-reference sections, making it easy for you to plan your perfect trip. Our recommendations try to cater for all tastes and requirements. Contents 6
The Hotels – the country’s best boltholes, from Muscat to Salalah.
14 The Restaurants – where to go to sample the finest food for every palate.
18 The Culture & Sights – explore ancient treasures and incredible
Production in whole or in part without written permission from HOT Media Publishing is strictly prohibited. HOT Media Publishing does not accept liability for omissions or errors in this publication.
natural beauty. 21 The Actvities – how best to enjoy Oman’s endless array of al fresco pursuits.
Produced by HOT Media Publishing FZ LLC
KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA
SUltANAte OF OMAN
Welcome to Oman
The need-to-know facts for getting to and around the Sultanate. GeTTinG THeRe
want to get between places in a hurry, Oman Air
Oman Air is the national airline of Oman and it
operates internal flights from Muscat to airports in
serves the county well, with flights available from all
Salalah and Khasab. Or if you’re after something with
other GCC countries. If you’re based in the UAE, you
a bit more legroom, you can use National Ferries
also have the option of driving to Oman, and passing
Company to transport you across the ocean from
some fantastic scenery as you do so. For airline
Muscat to the Mussandam and back again – the first
ticketing information, visit your nearest Kanoo Travel
of what’s expected to be many routes serviced by
or American Express Travel outlet.
ferry. If you want to hire a car and drive around the country yourself – and we heartily recommend that
you do - you’ll find that all the big-name brands are
Oman is a vast country but thankfully there are
represented across the Sultanate.
many means of getting around it. You’ll find lots of taxis for hire in the different regions of the country
(particulary in the capital, Muscat) , but if you want
The Omani Rial is the official currency of Oman.
to travel between them, try a firm like Allo (00968
Banknotes are available in denominations of
24 697997) who operate a decent standard taxi
OMR50, 20, 10, 5 and 1 and ATM machines are widely
service and, better still, a fleet of 4x4s designed
available throughout the Sultanate. 1 Omani Rial is
to take would-be explorers into the desert. If you
equivelent to 2.6 US dollars.
The century in which the Bat Tombs were built. Located east of Ibri, they are formed in a way to denote how many bodies are there.
The number of falajs – a unique irrigation system – in Oman to feature on the World Heritage list.
The number of worshippers that can be housed inside the stunning Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque.
The height in feet of Jabal Shams (mountain of the sun), the highest point in the country. 31
The main events to enjoy...
You’ll be able to spot dolphins all year round in Oman’s waters, but if it’s whales you’re after now is a great time to go spotting.
September Head to Ras Al Jinz to witness the incredible sight of turtles laying fresh eggs on the beach while hundreds of others hatch.
Muscat is a great place to be this month to see the city in full bloom – thousands of colourful flowers make for a wonderful sight.
January Join an estimated crowd of 2 million for the annual Muscat Festival which celebrates Oman’s art, cultural and heritage.
Experience the cooler climes in Dhofar and the buzz of the annual Salalah Tourism Festival where you’ll enjoy cultural shows galore.
The Sinbad Classic sees fishermen from all over the world arrive in Oman to compete for a $15,000 prize.
February The Tour of oman sees some of the world’s best cyclists pedal their way into town for what’s a truly challenging cross country race.
Join in with the countrywide celebrations for Ranaissance Day as Oman comes together to celebrate its proud history.
If you’re a fan of sailing be sure to catch all the action as the annual Dubai to Muscat offshore Sailing Race takes place.
March Enjoy the final few weeks and performances of Oman’s fantastic Cultural Theatre programme, which marries local and international talent.
The Hotels With so much to see and do in Oman, you’ll need somewhere relaxing to rest your head – and luckily, a wealth of options await. Whether you want to stay in the city or in the middle
makes it the perfect choice for those seeking
of the desert, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it
proximity to the hustle and bustle of Muscat, but if
comes to picking accommodation for your Omani
you’re feeling the need to unwind, the sun-drenched
stay. Visitors to the capital, in particular, will be faced
pool area will be just the ticket. The interiors are of
with a plethora of enticing options. The dazzling
a modern design, and if you can’t bear the thought
white Crowne Plaza Muscat (www.ichotelsgroup.
of a week without your laptop, fear not – there’s free
com) perches atop a clifftop in an exclusive
wifi in every room.
neighbourhood overlooking the city. There’s a
Still in the centre of the capital, the City Seasons
spacious, sea-facing pool but, if you’d prefer to get in
(www.cityseasonsgroup.com) boasts 269 rooms and
the sea itself, there’s also a stretch of private golden
a modern, luxurious interior design scheme. Upon
beach. Dining options vary widely, from elegant
entering their room, musically inclined guests will no
Persian fare to hearty English grub, but kids will be
doubt rush to straight to the iPod docking station,
too busy running around the tropical gardens and
and movie lovers who never go anywhere without
taunting the resident parrots to think about their
their collection can borrow a DVD player from
next meal. It’s the perfect spot for a family seeking
reception. Situated in the diplomatic district, the five-
relaxation coupled with easy access to the city.
star hotel features views of the Gulf of Oman as well
The Grand Hyatt Muscat (www.muscat.grand. hyatt.com) is another extremely family-friendly
as three sumptuous restaurants. A mere five minutes’ drive from the Grand
option, not least due to the lazy river that winds
Mosque, The Platinum (www.theplatinumoman.com)
its way around the beachside pool area. With 280
is a newly opened Islamic hotel which cuts a striking
stylish rooms and suites, the five-star hotel offers
dash on the Muscat skyline, its pink, handcrafted
something for everyone: a Club Olympus fitness
stone imported from Jodhpur, India, especially
centre and tennis courts for those hoping to burn off
for the purpose. The proximity of the government
their lunch, three restaurants and a team dedicated
ministries and embassies makes The Platinum a
to organising special trips for you.
hit with high-powered types, although you don’t
At the end of a grand, fountain-dominated
have to be a diplomat to enjoy the fine dining on
driveway lies the magnificent Radisson Blu Muscat
offer at rooftop restaurant Samah, which also offers
(www.radissonblu.com). Its city centre address
breathtaking panoramas of the surrounding hills.
Clockwise from far left: Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa; Crowne Plaza Muscat; Al Bustan Palace.
The Treasure Box (www.treasureboxhotels.com)
greater level of privacy will be able to book their
lies in the quiet residential district of Al Ghubra,
own golf chalet. The 18-hole championship course,
within walking distance of the Grand Mosque. Its
which is the first grass golf course in Oman, makes
description as a ‘home away from home’ couldn’t be
the most of its natural surroundings, the undulating
more accurate, with must-have mod-cons like flat-
fairways blending sympathetically into their
screen TVs complemented by the more comforting
touches of a warm, welcoming décor and the most delicious catering. Just a short stroll from the beach and 10 minutes’
About 15 minutes’ drive from the city centre lies the extremely decadent resort of Al Bustan Palace (www.albustanpalace.com). It’s impossible not to
drive from Muscat city centre, the Coral Hotel (www.
feel like a Very Important Person from the moment
coral-international.com) is so striking that you’ll feel
you step into the breathtaking domed lobby, and
excited before you even step across the threshold.
when you emerge at the back of the property, that
Clad in regally crafted white stone, it truly is a sight
feeling will be confirmed. Surrounded by dramatic
to behold, and the elegance continues inside with
mountains, the extensive gardens are dotted with
richly upholstered furniture and an attention to detail
relaxation pools and the pièce de résistance comes
that’s second to none. The fact that the hotel is on
in the form of the large infinity pool, complete with
the smaller side – it has 24 bedrooms and eight
palm tree islands. Gaze out to sea from its edge for
suites – means that every guest is made to feel truly
long enough and you may spot a dolphin (we know
welcome for the duration of their stay.
this from experience).
Golfing types will be in their element if they book
Situated very close by is the Shangri-La Barr
a stay at the Muscat Hills Golf & Country Club (www.
Al Jissah Resort & Spa (www.shangri-la.com), an
muscathills.com). The boutique residence features
exquisite three-hotel complex hugging the coast. Al
150 elegant rooms, although those seeking an even
Waha (the oasis) is the perfect choice for families,
Clockwise from left: Chedi Muscat; Crowne Plaza Salalah; Zighy Bay.
‘The Chedi Muscat has become synonymous with luxury to seasoned Oman visitors, and with good reason ’ with an extensive swimming pool that snakes its way
to Muscat: travel to the summer rain-blessed region
around date palms and has several shady spots for
of Salalah and you will find a host of options. The
the hotter hours. Al Bandar (the town) is best suited
Crowne Plaza Salalah (www.ichotelsgroup.com)
to those on business, with 11 meeting rooms and an
is set in 42 acres of lush tropical gardens backing
enormous ballroom, while Al Husn (the castle) is
onto a pristine beach. The four swimming pools are
more of an exclusive spot, featuring infinity pool and
hugely popular with kids big and small, as are the
Splash Fountains and whirlpool. The tennis courts are
The Chedi Muscat (www.ghmluxuryhotels.com) has become synonymous with luxury to seasoned Oman visitors, and with good reason. Its tranquil
perfect for working up an appetite, although if you’d rather relax, the sauna is the spot for you. The Hilton Salalah (www.hilton.com) is also a
beachside location coupled with the opulence of its
hit with water babies, its freeform pool overlooking
design makes it hard to fault, with two swimming
the gently lapping waves of the ocean. Those who
pools and a water garden lending it an even more
like to be able to relax with air-conditioning will be
indulgent air. The low-rise complex has 156 rooms
pleased to see that rooms all have their own sofas,
and suites, and multiple tastes are catered for
and foodies will light up at the sight of the six dining
through the Arabian Court, which dishes up Arabic
outlets (our favourite spots are Palm Grove for Asian
delights, The Restaurant, providing a variety of
cuisine and the Sunset Lounge for cake).
cuisines, and the excellent Beach Restaurant, where you can head for freshly caught seafood. But high quality accommodation isn’t confined
Set on the sandy white beaches of Mirbat Cove and at the foot of Jebel Samhan is the Salalah Marriott Resort (www.marriott.com). The soft pink
Six Senses Zighy Bay is secluded on Oman’s northern Musandam Peninsula – a 90-minute drive from the Dubai International Airport. It is designed with 82 pool villas, including the Retreats, the Reserve, and a private marina. The dramatic setting has mountains on one side and a beach on the other. Six Senses Zighy Bay truly reflects the brand’s positioning of Redefining Experiences. It offers a choice of dining alternatives – from international cuisine to regional specialties. The Six Senses Spa focuses on holistic wellness and rejuvenation. It offers a full menu of treatments delivered by skilled international therapists.
Zighy Bay, Musandam Peninsula Sultanate of Oman T: +968 26735 888 E: email@example.com www.sixsenses.com
Left: Crowne Plaza Sohar.
com), a stunning spot close to the commercial heartland of the region. The soaring four-storey atrium is illuminated by a skylight at the top, and entertainment seekers are well catered for with a bowling alley and snooker-table-packed sports lounge. Outside, meanwhile, lie lush, manicured gardens, a peaceful pool and views of the soaring Omani mountains. Styled to look like an ancient Omani fort, the Sohar Beach (www.soharbeach.com) is simply magical, especially at night, when subtle spotlighting picks out the ramparts, the pool beneath and the sea beyond. There are floodlit tennis courts, a decadent spa and five dining outlets in which to indulge. But if it’s a full-on resort experience you’re seeking, look no further than the Swiss-Belhotel
‘With views over its private marina, the Millennium Resort has been meticulously crafted’
Masirah Island Resort (www.swiss-belhotel.com), about 450km from Muscat, in Barr Al Hikman. With just 20 rooms for that ultra-exclusive vibe, the beautiful desert island offers access to rare marine flora and fauna and, on dry land, diverse natural
structure hugs an enormous 2,000sqm swimming
beauty. Marvel at nesting turtles, sail the ocean or
pool that glitters enticingly throughout the day;
simply kick back by the swanky circular pool.
in the heat of the summer months you’ll find it
No guide to accommodation in Oman would be
impossible not to dip in. If you want to explore the
complete without mentioning Six Senses Zighy Bay
surrounding marine life – which exists in abundance
(www.sixsenses.com). On the Musandam peninsula,
– you won’t have to travel far, as there’s a top-class
it’s an indigenous, village-style complex flanked by
dive centre on site.
mountains on one side and a 1.6km beach on the
If Mussanah is your destination of choice,
other. There are plenty of non-motorised watersports
the Millennium Resort Mussanah (www.
as well as a souq. Each villa has its own pool and
millenniumhotels.com) is the hotel for you. With
James Bond wannabes will be intrigued to learn that
views over its private, 54-berth marina, the complex
you can enter the resort by parachute.
has been meticulously crafted, offering 234 luxurious
If you love luxury but want to experience a more
rooms, pretty private gardens, watersports and
isolated Oman, the Desert Nights Camp (www.
a host of lavish restaurants. At time of press it’s
omanhotels.com) could be the answer. It’s set in the
currently in its soft opening phase but will soon
Wahiba Sands, with 30 gorgeous Bedouin-style tents
feature a swimming pool, gym, spa and tennis courts.
offering all the comfort you could wish for under
Should your travels take you to Sohar, we
linen canopies. While there you can take a camel
can recommend two excellent hotels. First up is
ride, whiten your knuckles while dune bashing or
the Crowne Plaza Sohar (www.ichotelsgroup.
unwind to the gentle rhythms of Arabian oud music.
The Restaurants No matter what your favoured cuisine, Oman has something to offer. We’ve whittled the myriad excellent options down to a particularly fabulous shortlist. When considering dining in Oman, it makes sense to
(+968 2477 6565), Muscat’s only authentic Moroccan
start in the capital of Muscat – and where better to
restaurant. Atmospheric touches include twinkling
kick things off than the magnificent Chedi, located
‘stars’ on the ceiling, intricate wall ornaments and
on the seafront. Its signature spot, which is known
exotic archways, but really it’s the food that steals
simply as The Restaurant (+968 2452 4400), is an
the show. Call us old-fashioned but you simply
atmospherically lit space boasting no less than four
can’t go wrong with the lamb tagine. Offering a
open show kitchens dishing up Asian, Arabic, Indian
very different but equally enjoyable atmosphere
and Mediterranean fare. On balmy evenings it’s worth
is sister restaurant Bait Al Bahr (+968 2477 6565),
asking to be seated on the outdoor terrace, so you
where freshly caught seafood is grilled and delivered
can enjoy your Wagyu beef or Moroccan lamb tagine
straight to your beachside table as you take in the
under the stars.
gently lapping waters of the Gulf of Oman.
Just down the coast lies Al Bustan Palace, where
If you’re in the city centre and need feeding in a
a host of treats await. China Mood (+968 2479
hurry, you can’t go wrong with The Noodle House
9666) is an absolute joy for fans of Oriental cuisine:
(+968 2455 8488). Bench-style seating, a sometimes
all the best-known provinces are represented, from
frenetic pace and the constant buzz of satisfied
the aromatic, spicy flavours of Szechwan through
diners lend it a casual vibe, but there’s nothing casual
to the lightly cooked meats and vegetables of
about the food here: the chefs undoubtedly mean
Canton. The space itself is also exquisite: simple
business, dishing up vast bowls of steaming noodle
furniture is complemented with ornate touches
soup, fragrant dim sum and hearty rice and curry
including birdcages and Chinese calligraphy, and fine
dishes. A fantastic family venue.
dining is available in pagoda tents. Al Bustan also
Similarly relaxed is Trader Vic’s (+968 2468
plays host to Al Marjan (+968 2479 9666), where
0080), part of a legendary worldwide chain much-
modern European food is presented with flair and
loved for its delicious French-Polynesian cuisine
imagination and sweeping ocean views are served
and adventurous mocktails. The venue frequently
features spirited live music performances from
The Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah also features an impressive dining scene, which includes Shahrazad 14
costumed singers and dancers, and come the weekend you’ll be hard-pushed to find a table, so
Rooms and Amenities: • 153 modern and stylish accommodation • “Ocean” and “And Relax” room styles • Standard and business class accommodation • Business class lounge • Studios and suites • International-standard safety and security features • In-room tea and coffee facilities • “One Touch Service” • “GoldPointsPlus” loyalty programme • Free Wi-Fi and high-speed Internet access Restaurants and Bars: • Al Tajin Steakhouse • Olivos Restaurant & Terrace • Lazy Lizard Garden Bar • The Coral Bar • Grind Floor Café • The Cellar
Meetings and Events: • 6 flexible and fully equipped meeting rooms • Free high-speed Internet access for event delegates • “GoldPointsPlus” loyalty programme for event planners Hotel Facilities: • Europcar rental station • “Fontana Health Club” • Large temperature-controlled pool • Gift shop • Beauty and hair salon
P.O. Box 939, Muscat 113, Sultanate of Oman Tel.: +968 2448 7777 Fax: +968 2448 7778 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org www.radissonblu.com/hotel-muscat
“And Relax” room
‘Nestling atop a clifftop and boasting extraordinary sea views, Sense on the Edge dishes up cutting-edge offerings’ booking is strongly advised. If it’s all a bit too jovial
here and comes with an overflowing bowl of thick,
for you inside, set yourself up on the outdoor terrace,
tasty chips, although the fish and chips are very
which overlooks the pool and palm gardens, and
enjoy the more tranquil side of life.
Next door to the Left Bank is Mumtaz Mahal
Diners in the know who are seeking a foodie
(+968 2460 5907), an enormous Indian restaurant
experience beyond the confines of a five-star hotel
that is saved from feeling cavernous by its tasteful
consistently recommend the Kargeen Caffe (+968
room dividers and a perennially buzzing atmosphere.
2469 9055). Middle Eastern-style decor (think dark
Despite their hectic workload, the waiters cannot
woods, wrought iron and richly-coloured rugs)
do enough to assist and will gladly help you choose
is contrasted with western-style food: spaghetti,
between an aromatic jalfrezi or a creamy butter
zesty salads, freshly grilled fish; you name it and it’s
on the menu waiting to be devoured by a hungry
In the mood for Japanese grub? Tokyo Taro
regular. This is another venue that boasts a gorgeous
(+968 2470 2311) is the only name you need to know.
outdoor area, with tables strategically dotted
Hidden away on the eighth floor of Al Falaj hotel,
between shrubs and trees.
locals and Japanese expats alike rate it as the best
Those seeking a funky ambience and hip crowd
Japanese restaurant in the city, and with seafood
should definitely include the Left Bank (+968 2469
this fresh, it’s easy to see why. In fact Oman, with its
3699) on their to-do list. Set atop a hill overlooking
abundance of locally caught fish, makes the perfect
Qurm Nature Reserve, it’s where the city’s
setting for an eatery specialising in sushi and sashimi
trendsetters can invariably be found winding down
(though the tempura and teppanyaki offerings are
after a hard day’s work. If we were to recommend a
pretty good too). The decor may be on the basic side
dish it would be the steak, which is second to none
but the quality of the food is anything but.
Opposite page, clockwise from bottom left: Bait Al Bahr; China Mood; Shahrazad. This page from left: Sense on the Edge; The Restaurant.
If it’s Italian fare you seek, though, we can’t
Decor-wise, casual contemporary interiors lead onto
recommend Tuscany (+968 2464 1234), at the
a spacious terrace that’s perfect for warm evenings.
Grand Hyatt Muscat, highly enough. The restaurant’s
Moving away from Muscat, should your travels
beautifully thought out, seasonally based menus
take you to the Musandam Peninsular, you simply
have led to it being given several awards, and the
must dine at Six Senses Zighy Bay’s signature
food is truly exceptional: pasta is freshly made on
restaurant Sense on the Edge (+968 2673 5555).
site and no matter what you order you can guarantee
Nestling atop a clifftop and boasting extraordinary
it’ll be packed with flavour. The meat menu,
sea views, the restaurant dishes up cutting-edge
meanwhile, features succulent cuts complemented
offerings such as cod with potato mousseline and
by perfectly cooked vegetables.
orange square candy jelly, and apricot with saffron
The Radisson Blu’s Al Tajin Grill (+968 2448 7777)
honey mayonnaise. Your palate will be challenged at
is another good bet if you’re in the mood for meat.
every mouthful but by the end you’ll be clamouring
The restaurant is primarily a steakhouse, though it
also does an excellent lobster, which comes sizzling
In the verdant area of Salalah, the Hilton’s Palm
in butter – delicious. The atmosphere is great too:
Grove (+968 2321 1234) enjoys a glorious beachside
decor is inspired by ancient Omani forts, the waiters
setting where you can breathe in sea air as you
and waitresses are über-smiley and there’s always a
eat. Its menu features Asian, Arabic and other
international takes on fresh fish – but be warned:
If your family members all want something slightly different out of their meal, the RBG Bar &
Palm Grove closes during monsoon season. Finally, visitors to Sohar should be sure to check
Grill (+968 2450 7888) could be the answer, with
out The Mediterranean (+968 2685 0850) at the
fresh, imaginative salads for those seeking a lighter
Crowne Plaza, a fine-dining restaurant which, despite
option, signature grill dishes and burgers for meat
its name, specialises in à la carte cuisine from the
lovers, Arabic cuisine for a bit of local flavour and
Levant and North Africa as well as southern Europe.
milkshakes and ice cream for the sweet of tooth.
The Sights and Culture The Omani culture is one rich with history and tradition. Here’s how best to immerse yourself in it during your stay. No trip to Muscat would be complete without a visit
is an Islamic architectural masterpiece, as its ceiling is
to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. Constructed
entirely supported by columns. It would have made a
using 300,000 tonnes of Indian sandstone, it will
superb defensive stronghold, with three-metre-thick
take your breath away from the moment you see
walls numerous cannon openings and mammoth
if from afar. The main prayer hall can hold 6,500
worshippers, its magnificent central dome rises 50m
Those interested in the background behind
into the sky and the space is lit by an eight-tonne
Oman’s huge frankincense trade should check out
chandelier glittering with 24-carat gold. But take a
the Frankincense Route. The trees thrive all around
second to look down, as well as up, and appreciate
Wadi Dukah and the Al Shisur Oases, and you will
the hand-woven carpet: it may be the only 21-tonne
be able to learn about the manufacturing process by
carpet you ever set foot on, and it’s the second
stopping in at the aptly named Frankincense Land
largest in the world.
The mosque isn’t Oman’s only great architectural
Set at the crossroads of an ancient trade route,
feat: there are also a number of striking forts.
the Bat Tombs also make for a fascinating excursion.
Nizwa Fort is one of the country’s oldest and is in
Dating back to the third century BC and located east
the A’Dakhiliyah region. Its shape is unusual in that
of Ibri, they comprise a collection of graves built
it’s round, and there are seven wells. Built in the
in various styles denoting how many bodies were
mid-17th century, it took 12 years to construct and
buried there. Perhaps the most notable style is the
was lived in by Sultan Bin Saif Al Y’aribi, the imam
quirky beehive structure, which would have housed
responsible for driving the Portuguese out of Oman.
between two and five tombs.
In the same region, Bahla Fort is more than just a
The ruined Bronze Age city of Qalhat was Oman’s
defence building: it also houses a souq and ancient
first capital before the advent of Islam. Once the
mosques, and is a listed World Heritage Site, having
primary trading connection between Oman and
been built in the third millennium BC. Muscat’s port is
other countries, the city was destroyed by an
overlooked by the cliff-top Al Jalali Fort, a structure
earthquake back in the 14th century. What remains
consisting of two towers that can only be accessed
now includes Bibi Mariam’s Shrine, built to honour a
via a small bridge and stairway (though it is not open
woman thought to have built a mosque and possibly
to visitors). Over in Al Batinah region, AlHazm Castle
been the governor of Qalhat during King Hormuz’s
reign. Another ancient Omani relic well worth taking a look at is the Hasat Bin Salt, a rock with inscriptions thought to be as old as mankind, done
‘History lovers will be mesmerised by the Jabal Hareem Fossils, which can be found 1,600m above the sea’
in a similar style to those found on the Rosetta Stone in Egypt. History lovers will be mesmerised by the Jabal Hareem Fossils, which can be found 1,600m above sea level in Wilayt Khasab. In fact, the trip to get
its name. It’s a geologist’s dream, charting Muscat’s tectonic plate movement over the past 750 million years. Quite something. On the more light-hearted side, there’s the
there is a pleasure in itself, as you will see villages,
Children’s Museum, which aims to present science in
lush valleys and prairies planted with wheat on your
a simple, easy-to-understand, fun manner. Occupying
way to the top. But the real prize lies at the summit,
two distinctive domes in Al Qurum, the exhibits allow
where the fossilised marine life on show, which
visitors of all ages to observe the vital role science
includes fish and shells, dates back to more than 250
plays in modern life.
million years ago, when this mountainous region was underwater. Oman also offers plenty of interesting museums.
If you’re staying in or close to A’Dakhiliyah Region, be sure to visit Misfat Al A briyeen. It’s a beautiful traditional village springing from a verdant
Bait Al Barandah Museum, in Muscat, was built by
mountainside, riddled with intriguing alleys, ancient
the merchant Naseeb Bin Mohammed in the late 19th
buildings and farms. The village towers 1,000m
century. A verandah – or ‘barandah’ in local dialect –
above sea level and the houses, some of which are
extends around the periphery of the building, hence
thought to be around 200 years old, are said to have Oman 101
Previous page: Jabal Shams. This page, clockwise from left: Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque; 13th century ruin in Qalhat.
been deliberately built to rise and dip so as to look
not unheard of, although it warms up to around 22
like waves from afar.
degrees come summertime. The Green Mountain is,
On the subject of heights, Jabal Shams (Sun
unsurprisingly, a verdant, fertile place, providing a
Mountain) boasts the Arabian Peninsula’s highest
home to apricot, plum, fig, apple, pomegranate and
peak, standing 3,004m above sea level. It was given
its name because of the fact that its height makes
Oman is home to a unique irrigation system
it the first and last place to see the sun each day.
known as the ‘falaj’ system – and a collection
Characterised by its versants (slopes) and summits,
that have become known as the Five Falajs have
Jabal Shams can be an arduous climb to the top, but
made it onto the World Heritage List. Falaj Daris
the views make it worth it. In fact, An Nakhr Balcony,
comprises two branches and is one of the biggest
a deep ravine that divides two parts of the mountain,
falajs in Oman, perhaps no surprise given that it
makes for one of the most spectacular vistas you’ll
springs from the magnificent Wadi Al Abyad. Falaj
have the pleasure of witnessing in Oman. If you don’t
Al Khatmayn, which has an overall length of around
want to do the climb all in one go, guesthouses are
2,450m, is known for the precision with which its
dotted around the mountain.
water flows, and also for the fact that its course
Another stunning natural wonder is Al Jabal Al
runs through Bayt Ar Rudayah, one of Oman’s most
Akhdar (Green Mountain). Though smaller than Jabal
famous castles. Falaj Al Malaki is fed by a whopping
Shams, it’s no baby itself, measuring in at 2,980m
17 branches and is located in Wilayat Izki. Falaj
above the sea. Close to the summit lies a wide
Al Muyassar is considered to be one of the most
plateau, and the mountain can only be accessed
significant in Al Batinah Region, and features a
by 4x4. What makes this peak unique is its almost
particularly deep waterway. Finally, there’s Falaj Al
Mediterranean climate: temperatures can drop to
Jaylah: a still-functioning piece of Omani history.
below zero Celsius during the winter and snow is
How’s that for longevity?
Activities and The Adventure Activities
Malaysia is asunshine, dream destination for adventurous Year-round breathtaking wildlife and types variedand families who want to get out and about to enjoy the great outdoors. terrains mean you’ll never be short of things to do in There Oman.are hundreds of wonderous expeditions to choose from: here’s our pick of the country... Whether it’s nature or pampering, high-octane
over 450 species flapping around. While many are
action nothing more taxing lifting a drink One ofor the biggest names for than families visiting
migratory and just rubber passingring through, series of excellent rides.you will be
to your lips, Oman has it all. Shopping is a drive muchMalaysia is Genting Highlands, an hour’s
able to seesouth residents like Indian Rollers, Little Green Further in Melaka, you’ll find the A’Famosa
favoured nowhere theisflavour ofof northeastpastime of Kualaand Lumpur. Thisdoes place the king
BeatersAs and Purple Sunbirds The country resort. well as having topyear-round. golf facilities and a
Omani come out morevia strongly than in a resortsculture and can be accessed the lofty Genting
has severalwaterpark, beautiful nature reserves and parks super-fun A’Famosa is famed for itsfrom
bustling souq. Al Souqto is three the perfect choice Skyway cable car.Hafah It’s home separate
which to view them:notably Al Saleel National in the animal attractions, the AnimalPark, World
if you’reparks, staying in Salalah. Snap park, up textiles, incense theme including a water an outdoor
Sharqiyah Region of Oman, an area Safari. Here you can take a covers trip around 150of 220sq
and silver under of coconut as park, the theme park and the the shade first world indoortrees theme
km and itsacres acacia woodland provides welcome beautiful and see zebras, tigers,a camels,
scents of heady Middle Eastern perfumes waft all of which are stacked to the rafters with brilliant
habitat for gazelles,and Gordon’s catpopping and wolves giraffes, elephants lions, wild before overas
around you. Visitors toYou the could capitalspend shoulda make rides and attractions. good afew
well as birds. to Monkey Island to meet the primates. You can
beeline for Muttrah Souqaround on the this waterfront. days working your way place, soIt’sbea
Arabian Oryx in the Arabian Oryxand also let your littleabound ones pet camels, rabbits
great place get aout suiton made you’re planning to certain not to miss key ifrides, like the Rolling
Protected Area, Sengat in Al Wasta region. ponies. In Teluk in the southSituated east, there’s an
be in Muscat a fewthe days as the tailoring is good Thunder Minefor Train, Sungai Rejang Flume Ride
between the desert and the where mountains, unique incredible Crocodile Farm, over its a thousand
quality very affordable; if you’re notThe around and theand fabulously fun Bumper Boats. resort is
climate – which causes dew and fog –and toothsome beauties arefrequent on show. Take a tour
for enough meanderareas, downwhich the alleys alsolong home to fivesimply performance host
allows the plants, which feed majestic creatures, watch crocs being fedthese fish and whole chickens,
and side streets and– spend that holidaytomoney. For fantastic concerts check in advance see what’s
to grow.picking If it’s plants you wish to see, before up a baby snapper – ifhowever, you dare.
the traditional on during yourmarket visit… experience, check out Wilayt
you should make wonderworld a beeline for the Nearby, another forOman animalBotanic fans is
Badiya’s Al Mintarib Market. Located Meanwhile, just a Tuesday quarter of an hour’s drivein
Gardens. Spread over 420 in hectares Muscat, it the brilliant Ostrich Farm Sungaiin Rengit, where
the eastern regionLumpur of A’Sharqiyah and running outside of Kuala is Desa Water Park, from
showcases thebaby very ostriches best of Oman’s you can view being 1,200-plus tended by their
6am the to market is apleasures. dream for Bring souvenir a miniuntil city10am, devoted aquatic
species ofMeanwhile, plants, 80 of which cannot found parents. over in Sabah in be Malaysian
seekers, selling daggers, and homewares your swimming costumeswords and spend a day being
anywherethere else are in the world. Borneo, jaw-dropping sights on offer
made from palmby leaves. WhileWave, you’rezipping in the area, Ar knocked about the Shock along
A visit to Oman would beSanctuary. incompleteLocated without in at the Sepilok Orang Utan
Rustaq Souq is also chilling worth aout visit. as well as on the Super Tube, inWhere, the Bubble Pool
seeing at least onethe dolphin. They love the country’s Sandakan out on east coast, this place allows
the goodies for sale, you can see locals andgorgeous screaming your head off as you descend
warm dolphin-spotting trips can be you towaters get upand close with the majestic orange
practising blacksmithing and dishing out traditional Action River and the legendary Thunderbolt, Asia’s
taken from justare about anywhere onpart the of coast. The beasts, which looked after as Malaysia’s
folk remedies. longest Master Blaster. Up in Sungai Petani in the
captain of your boat will likely make bizarre clicking eco-protection programme.
Oman is rifeanother with exquisite Bird-watching north there’s great – wildlife. although somewhat
noises in a bid to lure the dolphins into swimming If smaller – but equally cute – creatures are more
is hugely– popular; little wonder seeing as there smaller waterpark, The Carnivall, which has aare
alongside andtojumping above the surface. your thing,you head the Penang Butterfly Farm in
Oman 101 Malaysia
If you’re very lucky, you might even be privy to
For windsurfing, head to Masirah Island. It boasts
a session of whale-spotting: it is not unknown
the best conditions in Oman, with lots of wind and
for humpback and even killer whales to make an
waves often measuring 5-6 feet.
appearance in the Omani waters. A boat trip along the Strait of Hormuz in
In-the-know visitors will be aware of the famous turtle-watching opportunities at Ras Al Jinz. Book
Musandam provides the best chance of a sighting.
a stay there and you will be taken to observe the
The fjords pass between stark, towering mountains
magical spectacle of females coming ashore and
and the sea is a unique shade of turquoise – it’s one
laying their eggs at night (July is peak season, when
of the most stunning places on earth, and on most
over 100 turtles are present each day).
sailing trips you’ll be free to jump off the boat for a
For a more high-octane encounter with nature,
spot of snorkelling whenever the fancy takes you.
you should check out some camel racing, where the
A fantastic diving spot can be found at Al-
creatures gallop along at up to 40mph. Few activities
Dimaniyat Islands Nature Reserve, a nine-island,
give you such a flavour of Oman’s passion and
pristine environment home to coral reefs and a
sporting spirit, and races frequently take place all
100-hectare nature reserve. All those fish giving
over the country. Horse racing is also big business.
you an appetite? The game fishing opportunities
Check out one of the annual events like The Royal
in Oman are second to none if you like yellowfin
Horse Racing Festival to appreciate the full scale of
tuna, Dorado or marlin – and the boat trip makes an
the sport’s appeal.
enjoyable day out too. Alternatively, spend a day on
Another great national pastime is taking those
Duqm Beach, a beautiful spot in the central region
huge 4x4s into the desert for some off-road driving.
known for its soft, clean sands, crystal-clear water
Once you’re on the sand your driver will let the tyres
and refreshing breezes.
down and race up and down the dunes like there’s
Opposite page clockwise from left: Dhow trip in Musandam; Whale-spotting; Kite surfing. This page clockwise from left: Scuba diving; Fishing; Paintballing.
‘For windsurfing, head to Masirah Island. It boasts the best conditions in Oman, with lots of wind and waves often measuring 5-6 feet’ no tomorrow – it’s hugely entertaining, but make
rock types will all be encountered on the fast-paced,
sure you don’t eat beforehand… But the sand-based
back-country trails dotting the landscape.
fun doesn’t stop there: sandboarding, a desert
Climbing is another popular pursuit, again due to
alternative to snowboarding, is an increasingly
all the mountains and wadis. Snake Canyon is a great
popular sport, the obvious disadvantage being that
place to start: it’s a narrow gorge cutting through
deserts don’t tend to have lifts to take you to the top
the steep Hajar Mountains, with some steep inclines
again. Some extreme sports enthusiasts have even
and jumping necessary; book a guide to help you
started four-wheel drive sand cycling (well, four
navigate this one (alternatively, high wire across it
wheels are certainly better than two when you’re
using one of the many zip lines – excellent fun!).
whizzing down a dune at breakneck speed…). If fast-paced thrills are your thing, you should also
Oman’s wadis also make it a prime location for trekking. Wadi Al Hawqayn is a particularly stunning
save time for some paintballing. Paintball Oman’s
example of this natural phenomenon, where ravines
5,000sqm grass field can take up to 60 players at a
form between cliffs after centuries of water pressure.
time – that’s a lot of mess to clear up. Kiteboarding
Scramble up rocks and swim through pools until
is also a great way to top up your adrenaline levels,
eventually you can go no further: it makes for a
and can be done anywhere along the sprawling
thrilling day out.
2,500km coastline. Oman’s varied terrain makes it the perfect place for mountain biking. Wadis, boulders and multiple
However, you can’t get much more thrilling than a few hours spent caving. Some of Oman’s finest examples include Al Hoota Cave, a two-million-
Left: Camels relax after race. Below, top to bottom:Turtle watching; Sweeping desert dunes.
year-old space at the foot of the Hajar Mountains accessed by train where you will find brightly lit caverns, rock formations and an awe-inspiring underground lake, and Majlis Al Jinn Cave, or Salma Plateau, one of the largest underground caves in the world, measuring 310m x 225m. Access to the 50-million-year-old cave is tough – you trek for five hours through rugged terrain then descend via rope
system, an original Omani irrigation system that
– but it’s worth it.
channels groundwater for agricultural use. There are
A less strenuous way to appreciate the wonders of Oman is camping in the desert. Try setting up in Wahiba Sands, an area still occupied by Bedouin tribes who congregate at Al Huyawah Oasis. Those interested in geology simply must visit the
several examples around the country, many of which are on the World Heritage List. Historians will be fascinated by Dhofar’s Khawr Ruri, a World Heritage-listed lagoon that contains prehistoric ruins and a port often referred to in
Rocks Park, a vast area of bizarre, naturally sculpted
ancient Greek and Arabic texts. The nearby Khawr
rock formations in the Wasta region. Tawi Ateer
Al Baleed is also listed due to its archaeological,
Sinkhole is another must-see natural wonder: a
historical and natural significance.
975,000 cubic metre sinkhole in Dhofar, the views it
Finally, Oman offers some blissful chill-out
offers are astonishing – just be careful when you lean
opportunities. Six Senses Spa at Zighy Bay uses only
over to see the blue water lying at the bottom.
natural products in the holistic treatments it offers –
The seasonal rains in Dhofar are responsible for
we can recommend the Wonders of Oman. The Spa
an abundance of natural springs, one of which is
at The Chedi is set on a tranquil beach and at CHI,
Arzat Spring where, in the autumn, water gushes
The Spa at the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah you will
through rivulets amidst breathtaking surroundings.
be taken to your own private spa villa and asked to
More watery wonderment can be found in the aflaj
select from myriad relaxing therapies. Bliss.
A guide to holidays in Oman