From the grand mosques of Muscat to the superb mountains of Al-Hajar, Oman is a beguiling alternative to Dubai
In Oman, you will hear much about the state remaining second ideal at a little something. It has the next most important carpet in the environment, your guideline may well convey to you – a hand-loomed natural beauty in Muscat’s Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, usurped only by its peer in Abu Dhabi.
Oman has the world’s 2nd-most significant pipe organ, you’ll listen to, housed in the impressive Royal Opera Residence. And if you materialize to stroll together the Muttrah waterfront, you may be advised that the sultan’s 155m yacht is the next-longest in the entire world. These promises fluctuate in veracity, but they do feel apt in a nation that continue to lingers in the shadow of its grandstanding neighbours.
This should not be a surprise, for Oman seems fewer in thrall to the spoils of capitalism. There are no swathes of gleaming skyscrapers right here or the consistent press of surplus wealth. It’s true that Muscat’s Grand Mosque and Royal Opera Residence are modern and stylish in the way modern Arabia so normally is, but in wandering its souks and forts, one however gets a perception of its historical soul.
Oman is in truth the oldest impartial point out in the Arab earth. Lying on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, it shares borders with the UAE as effectively as Yemen and Saudi Arabia. It must be explained that, even with its neighbours, Oman continues to be steady, tranquil and comparatively progressive. In simple fact, it was named in 2019 as the world’s most secure nation for expats.
Interestingly, when Omanis staged demonstrations in 2011 calling for a lot more work opportunities and economic advantages following the Arab Spring, Sultan Qaboos responded by increasing unemployment benefits and issuing a royal directive for a nationwide job generation plan. He, while elusive, stays universally well known – at the very least ostensibly. Omanis exhibit a serious sense of pride in their leader, evidenced by his ubiquitous portrait affixed to hotel lobbies, shop fronts and car home windows all in excess of the place.
As properly as security, Oman offers a purely natural beauty unrivalled by the UAE as witnessed on our six-day sprint by the north of the state, starting up in the cash, Muscat.
Exactly where Dubai primarily boasts beaches and malls, Oman delivers that and so considerably extra: soaring granite mountains, vertiginous canyons and dramatic ravines or ‘wadis’ that careen concerning substantial peaks.
We commenced our journey into the mountains at the deserted village of Wadi Bani Habib. Perched at the bottom of a valley, this cluster of decaying mudstone buildings is fringed by ample walnut trees, making for a timeless scene.
From Wadi Bani Habib, we ongoing further into the Al-Hajar mountains. This extraordinary selection stretches 700km throughout Oman and into the UAE and is household to Oman’s greatest peak, Jebel Shams, which soars to 3,009m (9,872ft). It is not the peak, having said that, that attracts holidaymakers most seriously but the canyon that lies together with it: Wadi Ghul, identified regionally as the Grand Canyon of Arabia.
Regrettably, a rainstorm minimize off our path to Jebel Shams (of course, it rains in Oman!) and so we ongoing straight to Jebel Akhdar or ‘Green Mountain’ for its jaw-dropping vistas of the bordering peaks. Just one of the most spectacular views is located at Diana’s Issue found in the grounds of Anantara Resort.
Diana’s Point is named after Diana, Princess of Wales, who frequented the place with Prince Charles in November 1986. A plaque reads that the couple arrived by helicopter to what was then an untouched wilderness. Charles, it claims, spent the time portray the landscapes in watercolours though Diana read a e book. Unsurprisingly, there are hopes that Prince William will a single working day go to with Kate and family in tow.
The next day was our favorite: a travel to Wakan village by means of the wild rockscape of Al-Hajar’s peaks. These severe, untamed mountains rise from a gravel simple and bear witness to a time of extreme geological activity.
For skilled geologists, Oman is 1 of the most appealing nations around the world on Earth. It lies at the southeast corner of the Arabian continental plate the place it meets the Eurasian oceanic plate. As the Purple Sea grows broader, Oman is remaining pushed north and forced beneath the Eurasian plate in a exceptional geological method termed ‘subduction’. Add the lack of vegetation or soil address and you are still left with tens of millions of yrs of sophisticated geological process uncovered with extraordinary clarity – all flawlessly framed by our perch in Wakan.
Soon after Wakan, we moved to the vacation resort of Dunes by Al Nahda, a series of luxury tents circled by extraordinary dunes (on weekends, locals assemble for customary dune bashing so assume some noise). There, we headed out for our last sunset in Oman.
As we walked between the dunes in the rose-crimson twilight, it transpired to me that this was the Oman I predicted: broad dunes with knife-edge traces rising beneath an ethereal sky. What I hadn’t foreseen was almost everything that arrived before it: the mountains, the canyons and the plunging gorges.
Even as I regarded as this, I was struck by how a great deal additional there was to see: diving in the Daymaniyat Islands, the grand Wahiba Sands, the tranquil fjords of Musandam and, of program, the infamous Empty Quarter that sprawls throughout the western fringe of the place.
Oman is a area of incredible geographical variety, extremely hard to see in a single 7 days. With this in head, we know that we’ll be back. It may possibly be significantly less well known than the UAE, but when it arrives to pure attractiveness, it turns out that Oman is not 2nd greatest soon after all.
Viewing Oman: the necessities
What: A six-working day vacation through northern Oman, our instructed option to Dubai.
Where: We stayed at three resorts: the luxurious Kempinski Resort Muscat in Muscat, Sahab Resort and Spa in Jebel Akhdar and Dunes by Al Nahda. Diana’s Position is located in the grounds of Anantara in Jebel Akhdar. All are hugely advisable.
Atlas & Boots
Top rated 4: Kempinski Lodge Muscat Middle 4: Sahab Resort & Spa Base 4: Dunes by Al Nahda
When: The most effective time to check out Oman as an different to Dubai is October to March when the oppressive summer heat settles to sunny times and balmy evenings. Note that it does rain in Oman so system accordingly.
How: We took a 6-working day vacation with Previous Muscat Tourism who specialise in showcasing ‘7,000 yrs in 7 days’. Our information, Adil, was educated and versatile and went out of his way to fill our day when our route to Jebel Shams was washed out by the rain.
We flew to Muscat in Oman specifically from the UK with Oman Air. Guide via Skyscanner for the very best price ranges.
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Disclosure: We travelled to Oman with guidance from the Ministry of Tourism. All publications say this, but we actually never assure optimistic protection. We say what we consider – fantastic and bad – so you can make educated decisions with trustworthy assistance.