You’ll probably be hearing a lot about Oman this year. The world is opening its eyes to the wonder of this incredible tourist hotspot, where the infrastructure has changed rapidly and dramatically in recent years to support the new influx of holiday makers and business people.
Oman is an opulent haven of luxurious hideaways, with rolling infinity pools and private beaches as far as the eye can see, not to mention some of the most incredible hotel rooms in the world. Many of the standard rooms behave like suites and the suites themselves will give you a palatial living space that you simply won’t find elsewhere. Whether you’re travelling for business or pleasure, you can have an exquisite time in Oman.
Set amidst a palm-filled oasis and sandwiched between the shimmering blue, warm waters of the Gulf of Oman and the lofty peaks of the Al Hajar Mountains, the Omani capital city of Muscat is a great place to stay. Home to architectural wonders, stunning marinas and family friendly resorts, not to mention restaurants serving magnificent Middle Eastern, Indian and international cuisine, children’s facilities and extensive business centres, you’ll feel well and truly relaxed here.
From the sprawling Al Jissah resort to the more centrally located international chain hotels, you can expect opulent rooms and a private stretch of beach on which you can sun yourself and enjoy water sports. Whether you prefer your entertainment to take place on top of the waves via a sailing boat or water skis, or you’d like explore below the water with a snorkel mask, or full diving kit, there’s never a dull moment in Muscat.
Most of the hotels have plentiful tennis and squash courts as well as beautiful poolside areas. If you’re on holiday with your little ones, you’ll find entertainment at the Shangri La Al Wada and Shangri La Al Bandar hotels. Adventure Zone is a huge indoor playground complex, while Splashpad will provide your kids with age appropriate water sports and wet games, not to mention a lazy river.
Those travelling for business in Muscat will find cutting edge and convenient business services at their hotel, many of which have conference facilities and can cater for a large number of delegates. There are also plenty of golf courses in Muscat, which are great for making business deals more fun and providing a bit of chill-out time, away from the stress of the office.
In the city itself, you’ll find plenty to amuse you. In the labyrinthine streets, with their ever-present fragrance of frankincense, you will discover beautiful examples of Islamic architecture, such as the 16th century, Portuguese-inspired forts; Al Jalali and Mirani, his Majesty Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, which has room for 20,000 people, as well as his summer residence; the Al Alam Palace. If you’re lucky enough, you may even catch a glimpse of his Majesty Sultan Qaboos himself.
There are plenty of interesting museums in the vicinity too. The Sultan’s Armed Forces Museum and Arabian armour on display in the Bait Al Zubair will excite military enthusiasts, while the Royal Opera House is an impressive sight for lovers of the arts.
Those keen to spot wildlife in these parts will be impressed by the whale and dolphin-watching cruises on offer, as well as the chance to experience turtles nesting at the Raz Al Jinz nature reserve. However, if it’s a spot of shopping for silverware, oils, crafts and high end goods you’re after, then you’ll enjoy perusing the wares of Muttrah souq and the extensive shopping malls.
A great time of year to visit Muscat is during the Muscat Festival in late January to early February. This is when the vibrant streets come alive with colourful heritage displays, stalls, street food offerings, concerts and fashion shows. That said, Muscat is colourful and characterful throughout the year, with a friendly vibe and beautiful blue seas and skies.
Nizwa, in northern Oman, is the second biggest tourist city in Oman and was also named 2013’s Capital of Islamic Culture. Like Muscat, it’s home to some incredible retreats, but the landscape around here, at the foot of the Green Mountain is characterised by tightly-packed date palm plantations, surrounded by picturesque deep pools.
When you travel up into the Jebel Akhdar, a mountainous region which sits aloft at 2000m above sea level, you’ll discover fruit orchards heavy with figs, dates, pomegranates and a wide variety of soft fruits. During a tour along the mountain paths, you’ll be welcomed into Omani mountain villages and gain a cultural insight into the lifestyle here.
Places to visit in Nizwa itself include the Nizwa souq and the 17th century roundhouse; Nizwa Fort, a sand-coloured construction built to defend the trade route, that passes close by here.
If you fancy spending a night in the desert wilderness, without compromising on luxury, you need to experience the 1000 Nights camp. Here you’ll stay in an authentic Bedouin tent, but your bed will be an opulent 4 poster and the food you’ll eat will be the finest cuisine. You’ll also be able to treat yourself to a spa treatment if you feel like it.
When you step outside your camp, it will be immediately obvious how far from the urban areas you are. All you’ll be able to see is rolling, ever-changing sand dunes, stretching into the horizon, some of them are as high 200m! You’ll become further aware of how isolated you are when darkness falls and the night sky will reveal to you more stars than you may have ever seen before. It’s an incredible sight!
A few things you should know about travelling to Oman
The best time of year to visit Oman is between October and March, when the temperature reaches a comfortable 25 degrees. However, to see turtles nesting you should aim to travel between May and October. September is the raining season.
If you’re staying in the desert overnight, be aware that you’ll need some warm clothes for when the sun goes down. To avoid confrontation, women should dress appropriately by wearing loose clothes, which keep the arms and shoulders covered.
Making yourself understood
The languages spoken in Oman are Arabic and Balochi; the Omani dialect, but there are quite a few English-speakers in the Omani cities. Greetings are culturally very important here, so arming yourself with a few Arabic greetings will go a long way.
Members of the opposite sex do not touch one another in greeting, so don’t offer your hand. Always ask permission before you take photos if people. It’s also worth familiarising yourself with which hand gestures are forbidden, as performing forbidden hand gestures is against the law.
Booking holidays in Oman
To ensure you get the best tours, excursions, hotels and travel packages in Oman, it’s essential you use a reliable tour operator. Our team here at Aspen Travel can answer all your Oman queries.
If you’d like to discover how to go about booking your dream desert Oman beach holiday, please get in touch. We’d be happy to have a no-obligation chat about your travel preferences and help you get the trip you want.
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