Oman, whilst still perhaps considered ‘emerging’ as a holiday destination, has become increasingly popular with tourists in recent years. As news of its luxurious coastal resorts, the stunning marine life of the Arabian Sea and the country’s historic, scenic and gloriously untouched interior spreads, tours to Oman have really started to take off.
Most of the highly stylish and luxuriant hotels in which you might chose to stay on a visit to this fascinating country tend to cluster around the attractive shoreline of the northern coast. This area around the capital, the historic port city of Muscat, is rich in culture and boasts a vibrant atmosphere with bustling markets and fine museums. In 2006 Muscat was named Arab Cultural Capital, and its elegant, spotless and traditionally inflected architecture houses a welcoming and forward-thinking populus. From here glorious, pristine beaches stretch almost unbroken for hundreds of kilometres along the shores of the Gulf of Oman but more intrepid travellers are tearing themselves away from the country’s metropolitan hub and seeking to explore the breathtaking scenery and abundant heritage of the interior.
Those seeking to tour in Oman are provided with a plethora of intriguing and beautiful localities to discover. Many such destinations remain relatively untouched by the influence of tourism as it is only fairly recently that Oman’s network of roads has been opened up to enable such exploration. Recent roads, such as the highway between Shwaymiyah and Filim, have enabled independent visitors to discover the wonders of this fine country for themselves for almost the first time without the need to undertake a serious and difficult expedition.
There are a number of fascinating sites that can be reached via a daytrip from the Muscat area. Several local tour companies offer excursions, alternatively hire a car or even take public transport to investigate some of the charms of this locale. There are various options when it comes to car hire, which still probably presents the best way for travellers to explore at their leisure. A saloon car is an excellent option for a three day round trip up to the charming fishing town of Sohar, stopping on route in the historic castles of Nakal and Rustaq, and visiting Sawadi and Barka on the return journey.
This captivating area, known as Al-Batinah, presents a rich plain of arable land between the coast and the rugged Hajar Mountains and is a great place to experience Oman away from the capital. The area is littered intermitantly with crumbling forts and beautiful mosques. It is marked by a distinct Farsi styling, showing the influence of the area’s Persian settlers in centuries past. Sohar itself, home to the legendary sailor Sinbad, is blessed with a historic charm unrivelled by many other localities. For centuries this was Oman’s largest and most prosperous settlement, and it has been home to renowned seafairers and traders for millennia.
For a more adventurous alternative, equip yourself with some camping gear and a 4×4 so that excursions to Wadi Bani Awf or Wadi Hoqain can become fascinating options to explore. A 4×4 also opens the rugged mountain road via Hatt allowing visitors to experience the stunning scenery of the Western Hajar Mountains.
Further aflield, the Sharqiya region, in easternmost Oman boast many of the country’s most fascinating historical sites, famed beaches and the renowned Sharqiya (Wahiba) Sands, home to the unique Bedu (Bedouin) culture, with its rich nomadic traditions.
Even a visit to these enchanting localities can only begin to scratch the surface of this ancient yet rapidly changing country with its notable mix of cultures, stunning desert and mountain terrain, and its miles of glorious, wildlife rich coastline. Taking a tour in Oman might be a good place to start you explorations.