At the foot of the Arabian Peninsula, just south of the regions travel-hub Dubai, lies one of Arabia’s best kept secrets. The Sultanate of Oman.
Oman, only recently on the travel map, is a coastal delight. Picturesque, pristine beaches cover the 2,000km of coastline. The crisp blue waters are cool and welcoming with a diverse array of sea-life for both the beginner and experienced diver. Old dhows, traditional Arabic yachts, have been converted for day trips along the coast to take in the breathtaking sunsets over the rugged mountains surrounding the capital, Muscat.
Muscat lies just a few hours drive from Dubai’s main airport or a short 45-minute flight. Even closer is the country’s ecologically diverse northern province of Musandam at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, which boasts some of the best diving in the region. The country is a popular escape for Emirati’s from the hustle and bustle of Dubai and perfect for a weekend getaway for holiday-makers spending a few weeks in the UAE.
In 2009 Oman was awarded one of the Lonely Planets prestigious Top 10 must see countries. With a coastline brightly lit with the traditional white huts, stunning beaches and a desert fitting of Lawrence of Arabia, it is not hard to see why.
Just a few hours drive from the coast, travellers can spend a night gazing at the desert stars with the luxury adventure travel company Desert Nights Camp. The company offers FWD adventure tours, camel rides, and traditional Bedouin music.
Camping and trekking trips to the beautiful Jebel Ali mountain are a must. Stop off and visit one of the 500-odd mudbrick towers and forts, explore the immense wadis and rugged moonscape mountain ranges of inner Oman. While the old capital, Nizwa, maintains a wonderful souk and farmers market where you can buy or trade your family goat.
Relatively untouched by the wave of unrest gripping the region, Sultan Qaboos has led the country to top the UN’s 2010 Human Development Index, almost doubling life expectancy since coming to power and making significant headway in literacy and healthcare.
The country’s southern region of Salalah is a popular summer escape for the entire region. The yearly monsoon turns the southern desert green. Flora and fauna explode over the rolling hills of the southern region and temperatures drop to a beautiful 20 to 30 degrees – unique for a region where summer temperatures can rise to 50 degrees Celsius.
Oman is etched in the history of the region, once a powerful seafaring state that stretched from Baluchistan in modern-day Pakistan to Zanzibar in Tanzania. Their long seafaring history has made local Omani’s warm and welcoming. Climb aboard a local fishing boat for a taste of local life, lose yourself in the maze of the wonderful frankincense-scented souk in downtown Muscat or try your hand at gutting a fish at the local fish market.
From luxury to adventure to the history buff, The Sultanate of Oman offers a fantastic and truly unique travel experience for all.