Oman seems to be one of those countries that people tend to go to for guaranteed sunshine and a little souvenir shopping, with the added bonus of being reached in less than 7 hours by plane.
I visited Oman not quite sure what to expect and found that there is so much more to this country which makes it a fantastic destination, offering the sunshine as well as culture, exhilarating landscapes and some amazing people. The small Sultanate of Oman, unlike its neighbours Dubai and Abu Dhabi, still feels infused with the spirit of old Arabia.
Muscat is an amazing city, combining the old with the ultra modern, offering some stunning 5 and 6 star beach resorts such as the Al Bustan Palace, the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and The Chedi, to name but a few. The city stretches from Seeb, the area near the airport to Muscat Old Town, some 35 km away, and southwards to Quriyat, with a motorway threading through, flanked palm trees and manicured grass areas. With the mountains to one side and the blue ocean on the other, Muscat enjoys a stunning location with a lot to offer.
After a few days in Muscat I ventured inland, through the amazing scenery of the Jebel Akhdar, a mountain range whose highest peak is Jebel Shams (mountain of the sun) at 3,049 metres. We took a ‘road’ from Nakhal to Al Hamra, that shook every bone in my body, a true off- road experience which just shows what 4×4 are really made for. Not an experience enjoyed by everyone, but one that I thoroughly enjoyed whilst being rewarded with some stunning mountain scenery.
We then headed towards the ancient city of Nizwa, commanding a landscape with wonderful fortresses such as Bahla, Jabrin, Nakhl and Nizwa. Each of these forts has been restored and thus makes it easy to imagine what they were once like.
Next a visit to Nizwa souk to stock up with those wonderful spices and herbs and marvel at the local pottery and silver jewellery.
From here we continued to the Wahiba Sands, everyone’s idea of the perfect desert landscape, with spectacular dunes up to 150 metre high, glowing red in the evening sun. After endless photos and some ‘dune bashing’ I spent the night under millions of stars at the luxurious Desert Nights Camp.
And finally I returned to Muscat, via some turtle watching at Ras al Jinz and more stunning scenery and some ‘wadi bashing’ – wadis are dry river beds which can be explored in a 4×4 vehicle, thus taking you to some wonderful mountain scenery with opportunities for lovely walks and dips in remaining water pools.
Throughout I met some wonderfully friendly people, proud, traditional and modern, keen to help me to get to know Oman.
In my opinion it is a place worth visiting NOW, not in 3 or 4 or 5 years’ time when it’s lost its spirit and charm and has turned into another Dubai.