Oman – The Sultanate
Welcome to the Sultanate of Oman.
Secluded from the other countries in the Arabian Peninsula by its mountains, sand and sea, Oman is tucked away in a comforting niche, that proves to be the heaven of the Middle East. It borders one of the world’s largest sand desert Rub’ al khali (the Empty Quarter) on its eastern edge, whilst being the hatching spot for thousands of endangered sea turtles on its west coast.
Albeit harboring numerous breathtaking natural wonders, the Omanis with their affable nature, serve as the prime source of attraction, which becomes evident as you travel across the region. Oman is rated as one of the safest places to travel in the world and hosts numerous international adventure events (cycling, marathon, yacht).
While it is true that during summer it becomes unbearable to step outside due to the scorching heat and soaring temperatures, Oman stands out as a country with several climates. The best time to visit would be late August to early March, with pleasant weather and lovely scenic views. Muscat, the capital of Oman, is home to one of the best airports in the world. From here one can travel to various other regions such as Nizwa, Jabel Akdhar and Salalah.
Here are the few must-visit places in oman:
The name stands for ‘safe anchorage’ and its evident why, the city life is majorly connected to its surrounding waters, be it for the scenic view, the pleasant walks along the beach or even to go on a boat ride to spot the dolphins. The city is quiet and laid-back. It’s always bright and sunny here. Spending 2-3 days for sightseeing should be sufficient.
Major places of attraction here are:
The Grand Sultan Qaboos Mosque
Located centrally, make sure you get here early to avoid walking on the hot marble. Words fall short to express the grandeur of this place. It has a story for every room. The chandelier in the men’s prayer hall of the mosque is the center of attention as it is the largest in the world.
This enormous bejeweled light measures 45 feet tall, and 26 feet wide and weighs around 9 tons. It is adorned with 600,000 pieces of crystal trimmed with gold and even has a small staircase inside it for workers to perform the maintenance needed to keep its 100-plus lamps shining bright.
Best time to Visit – There is no entrance fee for the mosque and its open every day, except Friday, from 8:30 until 11 am.
Tour guides will be present to interact with you or you can opt for an audio-guide. Shoes must be taken off prior to entering room. Make sure you visit the cultural hall to interact with the Omanis and learn their heritage and enjoy their warm hospitality with kahwa (traditional coffee) and sweet dates, a staple in the Middle East.
Tip – Dress modestly,
Walk along this beautiful seaside and take in the aura of the “old Muscat”. This area has a lot to offer, and you will need a whole day to experience it fully. During the day, you can visit the nearby Bait Al Zubair museum and the Al Alam Palace to fully immerse yourself in the history of the region.
As the day proceeds, make your way to the Mutrah Souq (Arabic for street market), the main highlight of this region. This place is brightly lit in the evening, bustling with people and looks like a scene straight out of a movie, with colorful shops and exquisite craftmanship of various pieces. Hone up your bargaining skills, and make this a memorable shopping spree.
Once you finish with that you can relax at any of the local shops that serve special delicacies like falafel or shawarma, while also enjoying the cool breeze from the sea. This will surely elevate your spirits!
One of the best beaches to visit in Muscat, Qantab beach is loved for the serene and clean atmosphere. Local fishermen offer boat rides costing around OMR 10. Evenings are the best time to visit. Marvel at the beautiful twilight hues of the sunset and the rock formations. The boat ride will take you through the vast expanse of the ocean and through the rocks. You might occasionally spot dolphins.
Royal Opera House
Inspired by the Royal Opera House in London, The Royal Opera House of Muscat began its construction in 2007 and opened in 2011. Since then it has hosted performances by several prominent figures such as Plácido Domingo and Andrea Bocelli. Be amazed by its stunning architecture and intricate handicrafts. To book your tickets click here.
Visit the Wahiba Sands
It takes approximately 2.5 hours to get here from Muscat. This dessert offers splendid sand dunes and beautiful sunsets. You can book your tour through a local operator or explore it on your own. Book an overnight stay and enjoy in the bedouin camps, fresh seafood and camel rides.
Nizwa is known as the old capital of Oman. It is well-renowned for its ancient forts and castles that are located amongst the wild wadis (Arabic for valley). Capture the true essence of the Omani culture in these places, far from the modern capital.
The drive to Nizwa from Muscat takes approximately 3 hours, and the trip is very pleasant with well-built highways and the striking beauty of the Al-Hajar mountains, and the wadis. Have your camera ready to capture unexpected but breathtaking views along the way. There are plenty of shops all along the way so don’t worry if you need to stop anywhere. The Nizwa fort is one of the oldest forts in Oman and is known for its ancient Omani architecture and its light dusky color.
The whole construction took almost 12 years to complete, standing atop the tower gives a wonderful view of the entire city of Nizwa. A huge local market around the compound attracts numerous local vendors to sell various cultural artifacts and food items too. Frankincense is a popular commodity here and make sure you try the fresh fruits and halwa. The iconic Omani khanjar is sold here in all shapes and sizes.
Popularly known as the ‘Grand Canyon of Oman’, the name Jabel Shams, translates to Mountain of the Sun. Oman’s highest peak (3,009 m) is located here, and it acts as a good vantage point from atop the mountain. Enjoy the cool climate and the surprising company of friendly mountain goats, hike along the cliffs or enjoy in some off-road adventure, through abandoned villages and witness the marvelous grey limestone rock formations.
It might get windy and occasionally may even rain so keep your supplies ready.
You can plan a night stay in one of the nearby resorts or set up a camp yourself. This area has a clear sky and offers an enchanting view of the starry night sky.
Rejoice in the bounties of nature here!
It is the capital of the Dhofar province and flights take almost 1 to 1.5 hours to get here from Muscat. Locals, as well as visitors, have long fancied this place. The khareef season (monsoon season) that spans from late July to early September is when it’s the most visited. The misty and cool climate quite enjoyable.
Must see places include:
This is one of the most visited places in Salalah. I would like to call it ‘the misty heaven’. If you plan your visit at the right time, you can enjoy the pleasant climate, lush green meadows, and the magnificent waterfalls.
Things to do in Wadi Dirbat-
- Visit the waterfalls
There are 2 waterfalls in this region, one is called “Cascade waterfalls” and the other is in the Travertine curtain. Both are a treat to the eyes. The waterfall intensity might vary based on the season and the time of your visit.
Tip – Wear proper footwear with good grip because the trek to visit these waterfalls is slippery.
- Go for a boat ride
This is a must-do activity while visiting this place. Based on the number of people travelling and their level of comfort, there are plenty of options for you to choose from – paddle boats, kayaks, or motorboats. Each ride is for 20 minutes and it can vary from accommodating one, two or multiple people (only for motorboats) and the price varies from OMR 2 to OMR 5 per person.
2. Marneef cave
It is the meeting point of the mountains and the sea and people love to visit the vast stretch of the coast and the beach. Not exactly a cave, more of a rock formation that gives it the name. You can trek around the cave to get the best views. It is near the Al Mughsayl beach and the blowhole.
3.The fascinating anti-gravity point.
One of the most interesting places to visit and keep you pondering on how it happens. There is not much to do here apart from seeing your car go up the hill without any acceleration.
Coconuts are found in abundance here and the place is well-known for its local specialities that aren’t found elsewhere in the country like muthbe, ma’jeen and a vast array of seafood.
Things to help you plan your trip to Oman-
Best time to visit Oman –
While it is true that during summer it becomes unbearable to step outside due to the scorching heat and soaring temperatures, Oman stands out as a country with several climates. The best time to visit would be late August to early March, with pleasant weather and lovely scenic views.
It might get a humid, especially since the city is close to the Sea, but do not worry this only happens when it is extremely hot.
How to get to Oman–
You can book your flights online. The most common flight operator is Oman Air. Make sure you have your visa ready once you land in the Muscat Airport. There will be plenty of taxis outside the airport.
If you plan to connect from Dubai, you can use public transport and take a bus. The ticket costs around OMR 10. Check http://mwasalat.om/ for more information.
If you wish to drive from Dubai, make sure you have the required documents handy, for fast verification at the borders. The journey is approximately for six hours the distance between Dubai and Muscat is 420 kilometres.
What is the currency in Oman
The Omani Riyal is one of the strongest currencies in the world. Each riyal is equal to 1000 Baisas, a smaller denomination. Most places accept credit cards. You can apply for a travel credit card (prepaid or otherwise based on your preference, choose one that has a good exchange rate and minimum transaction fee).
Visa and Mastercard are also accepted in places with signs clearly mentioning them. While travelling around the city in taxis, there might be some instances where cards are not accepted, hence keep some cash ready.
The Central Bank of Oman https://cbo.gov.om/ provides updated information on foreign exchange rates and the history of the currency.
Tip – Keep track of the currency conversion rates at the time of your visit. Make sure to keep some cash handy as the currency exchange rates are not very great.
Visa and other documents
Looking for ways to apply for a visa?
We’ve got you covered.
Firstly, to enter Oman, your passport must remain valid for at least 6 months from your date of arrival in Oman. Most nationalities require a visa to enter Oman. As of February 2020, visa on arrival has been discontinued in the Airport.
Muscat, the capital of Oman, is home to one of the best airports in the world. From here one can travel to various other regions such as Nizwa, Jabel Shams and Salalah.
How to apply for a visa in Oman –
Apply for an E-visa
This is the easiest way to obtain a visa. The cheapest option is to apply for a 10-day tourist visa costing OMR 5. There are a lot of other options that can be suitable based on your stay. You can apply for an e-visa from https://evisa.rop.gov.om/ and know your visa type and the required documents needed for uploading and verification.
You will have to do online payment and will receive the visa through e-mail.
Applying for the visa through an Embassy
Visit your nearest Embassy of Oman to apply for a visa.
How to dress in Oman
The Omani culture is primarily conservative in nature; hence the tourists must keep in mind to dress accordingly. Dress modestly while in public (including public beaches, you can choose to wear swimwear in private properties) and you can pack a bunch of light, airy clothes.
Be conscious of the place you will be visiting (if it’s a mosque, make sure you cover your head with a scarf and cover your arms and legs, and the dress shouldn’t be too tight) and be respectful to the host culture.
That being said, one can always revel in one of its famous nightclubs too.
If you happen to go to the hilly regions, you might want to wear some warm clothes as the temperature does decrease by a few degrees.
Getting around Oman – Public Transportation
The public transport system is not helpful to connect tourist places and relying on taxis becomes expensive.
I would recommend you book a 4-wheel drive with a local operator who will help you commute for the duration of the trip. This may be the second-largest spending of your budget, but hey, you get more than what you can ask for. Not only will an experienced driver tag along with you to all the places, but they also possess greater control while driving through the rough terrains of the hilly areas and often have the best routes while connecting various places. They are quite insightful about the history of each site and if luck favors you, you can learn a bit of Arabic from them too!
If you wish to have complete freedom, another popular option is renting a 4×4 for your stay here. Not only does this give you independence while travelling and a budget-friendly, but it also breaks free from the fixed itineraries offered by the tour guides. It allows one to explore the city at one’s own pace. Requirements for renting a 4×4 in Oman –
You must possess an International Driving License (IDP), some form of identification (passport) and the minimum age requirement for renting a car is 21.
A lot of car rentals offer you to pick up the car straight from the airport itself. You can also compare different car rentals and see which one suits you best.
Rules to keep in mind:
- Wear a seatbelt at all times.
- Drive within the speed limits mentioned along the highways.
- Radars and cameras constantly monitor and ensure safety, refrain from using cellphones while driving.
- Avoid unnecessary honking.
- Do not drink and drive.
The maximum speed limit is 120 kmph and this varies across the various roads and terrains across the country. You will hardly find any traffic jams in the city, as the roads are wide, and the vehicles are fast-moving.
The average accommodation fee in Muscat is OMR 25 for one day. This will be a significant part of the budget for the whole trip. While there are many options such as Airbnb, the hotels tend to be more functional with all the required amenities.
Camping is allowed in most places, provided you take the permission of the authorities.
General things about Oman
The most common type of electrical socket that’s used here is the G type, so a standard 3 pin socket should work. You may see the people gathering in remote villages, but refrain from photographing them without their consent or make them feel uncomfortable.
Also read about Madha, a land in Oman within UAE borders, an interesting outcome of history
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