Having spent a few years of my youth travelling around the Middle East – mainly Jordan, Israel, Syria and Egypt – I had heard of Oman but it was a destination I knew very little about. What can I do there? What sights are there to see? Is it safe? The only way to find out was to visit, so I did!
Having been virtually closed to tourism until the 1970s, when the current Sultan came to power, it is still a country of tradition and charm. There are no big resorts or skyscraper hotels, – it is an understated destination of natural beauty. Outside of the main cities and towns such as Muscat or Nizwa, it is a land of mountains, oasis and desert. People are very friendly and helpful, everyone speaks English, the rich history and culture are inter-twined in modern day in dress and customs, and it is very clean and safe.
I stayed on the coast at Wadi Shab, with its sandy beach washed by the Arabian Sea, and slightly further south where the turtles come ashore to lay their eggs between July and October; at Sur the traditional dhow ship building can still be seen; in Wahiba Sands I slept under the stars at a desert camp – I have never seen a clearer night sky – and from the historic inland capital of Nizwa I explored the mountains of Jabal Akhdar and Jabal Shams, UNESCO World Heritage sites, Friday Souq and Wadi Ghul, the Grand canyon of the Middle East. My local guide discussed history, life in Oman, the culture and really gave me an insight to the country.
Practical tips for anyone visiting Oman includes modesty of dress when you are out of the hotels, especially in small villages and religious sites. Friday is the rest day, do try local dishes and the most important piece of advice – don’t forget your camera!