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Traveling to Oman & Covid 19 rules

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With COVID-19 restrictions easing around the world as vaccinations are being deployed, Oman, too, has opened its borders once more for tourists and out-of-state visitors. The country recently opened its borders, after months of harsh restrictions to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

COVID-19 rules to follow upon entry 

Oman has recently lifted its visa restrictions that were set in place due to COVID-19. Now, visitors are welcome to the Sultanate of Oman. The government released a few stipulations to ensure the safety and health of passengers and airport staff. Starting from December 10 2020, visitors aren’t required to do a COVID-19 PCR test before entering the Sultanate of Oman. For example, these tests aren’t necessary to board the flight. All passengers that are arriving to the Sultanate of Oman are required to have international health insurance that will cover the cost of treatment for COVID-19 for one month, barring Omani citizens and GCC citizens. 

Though PCR tests aren’t required to enter the country, all travellers are required to undergo a COVID-19 PCR test on arrival. The test has to be pre-booked through https://covid19.emushrif.om and costs 25 Omani rial (around 65 dollars). The cost also covers a tracking wristband, that is necessary for all Omani citizens, and for passengers who are staying for longer than a week. The test results will be available online, and will come in within 24 hours. Everyone who wishes to visit the Sultanate of Oman must quarantine for 7 days, if the PCR test result is negative, and consent to another test on the eighth day. If the passenger doesn’t want to undertake a COVID-19 PCR test on the eighth day, then they must remain in quarantine for 14 days, from the date of arrival. 

One benefit for families is that children who are 15 and below don’t need to undergo the COVID-19 PCR test, and don’t have to wear the tracking wristband. Others that are exempt from the COVID-19 tests are foreign diplomats, though they are required to quarantine for the time limit mentioned above.

Sights to see 

Along with relaxing borders for tourists, Oman has also announced a new set of economic activities, including opening cinemas and museums. The government announced a further ease of restrictions that were imposed due to COVID-19. This means that visitors – once the 7-day quarantine period is over – are welcome to visit the sights and landmarks of Oman, soaking in the country’s culture and history. Museums, cinemas, parks, and other public places are open, though there are limits on capacity. It’s important to make sure you plan your visit according to the crowds, and try and plan your itinerary according to COVID-19 protocol

Musandam 

Dhow Rides:

Musandam in Oman is a mountainous peninsula that projects out into the Strait of Hormuz, and is a popular destination. This is because its waters are home to dolphins and other marine life, and its jagged coastlines provide stunning views for those coasting the waters on the ever-popular dhows. The most popular activity to do in Musandam is to grab a ride on these dhows. It’s often considered to be a must-do activity, because the dhow rides are relaxing, scenic, and come with stunning views of the fjord-like structures. The best part? Some of these dhows offer Kahwa (Arabic coffee) and dates on the ride. Some dhows also offer a ‘swimming’ option, where the boat will take you to a few spots on the crystal waters where you can hop off and go for a swim. 

Khasab Beach:

Another fantastic spot to visit while in Musandam is the Khasab beach. Though there are several beaches to visit in and around Musandam, Khasab beach is a popular favourite, and is one of Oman’s most stunning beaches. Visitors can enjoy a day on the beach’s sparkling sands, go for a swim in the crystal waters, take a boat trip, or even camp overnight by the seashores. Guests are invited to spend the night at a campsite on the beachside, and it’s the perfect location for visitors who are celebrating an occasion, or want to spend the night by the sea, underneath a starry sky, away from the crowds of the city. Camping sites offer tents, sleeping equipment, and meals. 

Musandam’s crystal-clear waters is also a favoured spot for divers and snorkelers; the Khasab beach is also an incredible place to begin a journey into the deep blue sea. The waters are rich and teeming with marine life, and water enthusiasts would be glad to know of the diving and snorkelling opportunities that the water presents. 

Swim with the dolphins:

One reason Musandam is a popular tourist spot, particularly for citizens and residents from other Gulf countries, is the marine life. The waters of Musandam are well-known for its dolphins, and it is possible to watch the dolphins swim on a boat ride, or to sail around them in a dhow. The two species that are most common to these waters are the humpback dolphins, and the bottlenose dolphins.  

Khasab Castle:

The Khasab Castle, located in the Khasab province, is an ancient structure that was first constructed in the 17th century by the Portuguese, when the Khasab Province was first colonized. The structure was used by the Omani people as a safehold when they fought against the Portuguese in 1624, and then converted to a house for the governor of Khasab, before finally being converted into a prison. Today, the structure contains several exhibitions detailing the history of Musandam – this includes old documents, jewellery, clothes, weapons, and kitchen equipment from Musandam’s history, detailing the area’s rich and storied past. 

The heights of Musandam:

The heights of Musandam are a splendid visit, for mountaineers, hikers, and paragliding enthusiasts. Visitors are allowed to climb up Jebel Harim, the highest point in Musandam, which stands at approximately 2,000 meters. The mountain is open to guests, and people are invited to hike or drive up to the peak and soak in the stunning views from the top. The height provides a panorama of the surrounding valleys and villages, and it’s possible to spend the night up on the mountain-top. 

Of course, if you’re more of a thrill-seeker, then you’ll be glad to know that Oman is very popular for paragliding and parasailing. Musandam is a very attractive location for these sports because of the breath-taking views, particularly at Zighy Bay. Paragliding over the Zighy Bay starts at the Zighy Mountain, standing at about 1,000 meters above the ground. The trip takes the paraglider over the stunning blue bay, and the scenery must be experienced to be enjoyed. Guests will get a literal birds-eye view while paragliding over the bay, and the sparkling bay waters are the perfect spot for parasailing enthusiasts, or for those who love the water. 

Salalah

Salalah is the capital city of Oman’s Dhofar province, and is well-known for its banana plantations, beaches, and rich marine life. The best time to visit Salalah is during the monsoon season (which typically starts in June and lasts until August). The monsoon season in Salalah in particular is absolutely stunning, as the normal desert terrain transforms into a lush, green landscape, complete with seasonal waterfalls. The festival that celebrates the arrival of the monsoon, the Khareef festival, takes place from July 15 to August 31. The festival celebrates the monsoon season, and takes place in Ittin Road, where Arab families enjoy the cool weather and picnic outdoors. 

Of course, for those who are looking to visit Oman to escape torrid rains, the best time would be to visit between September and February – this is because the winter months in Salalah are very mild, with temperatures averaging at around 24 degrees Celcius. The cool winter sun makes treks, hikes, and beach visits possible and fun, and the winter months tend to be relatively dry. Salalah’s warm winters make it possible to enjoy the city’s ocean waters, rich marine life, and to enjoy the city itself – there are many museums and archaeological centres that detail Salalah’s rich history, including its maritime history and its role in the spice trade. 

Al Mughsail Beach 

Al Mughsail Beach, or Mughsayl Beach, is one of the most popular attractions in Dhofar, and is a must-visit if you’re planning on spending a weekend in Salalah. The beach is a stunning place to visit, because of its white sand and crystal-clear water. The added benefit is the surrounding view; the beach also has rocky mountains covered with greenery, and natural fountains that spurt from the mountain’s rocky edges. Bird-watchers and bird enthusiasts will particularly enjoy this beach, as it is a natural spot for birds to flock to. The beach is a great spot for families and couples alike, and it truly offers something for everyone. 

Al Marneef Cave:

Al Marneef Cave is near Al Mughsail Beach, and isn’t actually a cave. This is because it doesn’t really have an opening, or a hollow space, but its cave-like look has earned it the nickname ‘Al Marneef Cave’. The cave is a large, rocky structure which faces a mountain. There are other, smaller caves that are also present on Al Marneef, making it a popular spot for rock climbers. The Marneef Cave is a popular attraction particularly because of its natural fountains, also known as Al-Mughsail blowholes. There are three such fountains that are close to Al Mughsail Beach, and the gushing water through the rocks and out into the water make for a stunning sight, making it a must-visit, particularly if you already find yourself by the beachside. The natural fountains and the nearby beach make it a popular picnic spot, by locals and tourists alike. 

Sultan Qaboos Mosque:

The Sultan Qaboos Mosque is a beautiful display of Islamic architecture, and is an iconic landmark of the city. The mosque is located in the centre of the city, and is considered to be an architectural marvel. Containing two prayer halls, two domes, two minarets, and many lanterns and decorative rugs, the mosque is as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. The largest dome also houses a chandelier, a large structure that lights the mosque and serves as tasteful, elegant decoration, further highlighting the beauty of the mosque. The doors to the mosque have beautiful Arabic calligraphy, and the mosque serves to represent Omani architecture, making it an important landmark to visit in Salalah. 

Taqah Castle:

Taqah Castle, too, is a popular attraction within the Dhofar region in Oman. Originally built in the 19th century, the castle used to serve as the private residence for a tribal leader, Sheikh Ali bin Taman Al Ma’shani, the grandfather of Sultan Qaboos’s mother. The castle then became the citys property in the first half of the 20th century, during Sultan Said bin Taimur’s reign, who also fathered Sultan Qaboos. During the 1960s, the castle grew, and an outer wall and four towers were added to the existing structure. Further renovations took place during Sultan Qaboos’s reign, and the castle eventually became a museum in 1994. The museum contains exhibitions of weapons and tools that were integral to the older way of life in Oman. Apart from its exhibitions, its architectural design, too, adds to its history, along with the surrounding plantations and its history from one ruler to the next. The castle is particularly favoured during the sunset, as it’s said that the castle provides an unforgettable view of the setting sun. 

Al Balid Archaeological Site:

Al Balid is an archaeological site that is located on the Sea of Oman, next to Al Husn Palace and the Haffa Souq. Declared to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Al Balid is an ancient city in Salalah, and the ruins now are popular attractions within the city. The archaeological site includes the ruins of the Grand Mosque at Balid (also spelled as Al Baleed), the ruins of the fort, and of the city wall. The Grand Mosque at Al Balid is on the western side of the archaeological site, and is said to be dated back to the 10th century. Covering an impressive 1,700 square meters, the mosque’s roof features 144 columns, many of which are still visible. A few meters away from the mosque like the ruins of Al Baleed Fort, or the Sultan’s palace. Though the ruins are not as impressive as the mosque, the large heap of masonry serves as a reminder of history, and of the march of time. The ruins of the city wall can be seen at the north and west side of the fort. The wall was designed to protect the fort from the seasonal rains that often flooded Dhofar’s mountains. 

Museum of the Frankincense Land:

The Museum of the Frankincense Land is the only museum in Salalah, so it’s an important stop for visitors who wish to know more about Salalah’s history. The museum has a frankincense tree, right in the middle, and the museum’s exhibitions include artifacts excavated from Al Baleed, Sumhuram, and Ash Shisr, which are other UNESCO World Heritage Sites within Oman. The museum also includes heritage posts dedicated to Dhofar’s history, along with models of Omani boats, from 3000 BC up to the current day. The museum is split into two halls – the Maritime Hall, and the History Hall. The Maritime Hall contains wooden replicas of popular Omani boats, along with navigational instruments used by sailors. The History Hall contains many exhibits, historical items, and artefacts. Unearthed from various UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Oman, the artefacts reveal the history of Omani people. Apart from this, the hall also displays models of mosques and Tombs in Oman, along with manuscripts of the Holy Quran, of poetry, and of other linguistic manuscripts. One particularly fascinating document within this hall is a copy of the letter sent by Prophet Muhammad to the people of Oman, which was originally sent in the 8th century. The letter contains the seal of the Prophet, and is written in Arabic. 

It’s easy to see why Oman is such a desirable tourist destination, for citizens from other GCC countries and for tourists from other parts of the world. In an attempt to boost tourism, the government in Oman announced free entry to the Sultanate for over 100 new countries, opening up the country’s borders to new guests. Oman is already a popular, affordable tourist option for citizens and residents of other GCC countries – indeed, it’s common for residents of its neighbouring country, the UAE, to drive across the border and spend a weekend in Oman – either to swim with the dolphins, paraglide off the mountains, or enjoy a calm, quiet night under the stars. The country’s strict COVID-19 regulations also ensure a thorough monitoring of cases, and the rigid social distancing rules ensure that citizens, residents, and tourists are able to enjoy the country’s many sights and landmarks, while still keeping safe and healthy. 

Also read on Madha, Oman

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