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OMAN 101

the best bits of the gulf’s coolest destination

restAurANts Activities hOtels sights culture

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Summer loving

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.

Muscat OMAN

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

Oman 101

3


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

TRAnSpoRT

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

Money

(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.

4

Oman 101


3

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.

5

The number of falajs – a unique irrigation system – in Oman to feature on the World Heritage list.

6,500

The number of worshippers that can be housed inside the stunning Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque.

10,000

The height in feet of Jabal Shams (mountain of the sun), the highest point in the country. 31

The main events to enjoy...

April

May

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.

August

September Head to Ras Al Jinz to witness the incredible sight of turtles laying fresh eggs on the beach while hundreds of others hatch.

December

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.

June

Experience the cooler climes in Dhofar and the buzz of the annual Salalah Tourism Festival where you’ll enjoy cultural shows galore.

October

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.

July

Join in with the countrywide celebrations for Ranaissance Day as Oman comes together to celebrate its proud history.

November

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.

Oman 101

5


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.

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Oman 101


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

mountainous surrounds.

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,

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Oman 101


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

private beach.

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

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Oman 101

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


OMAN

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: reservations-zighy@sixsenses.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.

12

Oman 101


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

as standard.

features spirited live music performances from

The Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah also features an impressive dining scene, which includes Shahrazad 14

Oman 101

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

“Ocean” room

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: sales.muscat@radissonblu.com 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

decent too.

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

chicken.

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.

16

Oman 101


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

for more.

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

fantastic buzz.

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.

Tasty stuff.

Oman 101

17


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

wooden doors.

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.

Museum.

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

18

Oman 101


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

19


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

pear trees.

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?

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Oman 101


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

21


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

22

Oman 101


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-

Oman 101

23


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.

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Oman 101



OMAN 101_Apr'11