What to see in Oman: cities and attractions not to be missed

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Joel Fulleda
@joelfulleda
SOURCES CONSULTED:

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

Author and references

Oman is undoubtedly a Country of infinite cultural, landscape and architectural resources. A particular culture, sometimes characterized by rigid and severe rules but which as Westerners we must be ready to know and respect scrupulously.
A land that truly offers everything for one holiday both for relaxation and adventure: from the expanses of white beach and crystalline sea, to the unique territories of their kind formed by atmospheric phenomena sometimes unknown to the most expert geologists. There will be a culture bath in the typical Souks and majestic Mosques, savoring the true local tradition relating to both gastronomy and crafts and, of course, religion, the country's untouchable reference point.
Here then what to see in Oman: cities and attractions not to be missed.



Index

  1. Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque (Muscat)
  2. Mutrah Souk and Corniche (Muscat)
  3. Ras al Jinz Turtle Nature Reserve
  4. Wahiba Desert
  5. Wadi Shab gorge
  6. Tiwi White Beach
  7. Forts and Castles (Bahla, Nizwa, Nakhal)
  8. Bimmah's Sinkhole
  9. Nizwa market
  10. Daymanyat Islands
  11. User questions and comments

1 - Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque (Muscat)

Located in the Bawshar district, the Great Mosque is a beautiful and impressive pearl recently built, to be precise in 1995 and finished in 2001. The project was carried out with 5 minarets around the structure and so large that it can accommodate up to 2.000 faithful.

Once inside you will be charmed by an extremely sumptuous and imposing décor: one example among many is the enormous Swarowski crystal chandelier, probably the largest in the world, the precious Italian marble and 35 tons of Iranian carpets. Once out of the mosque you will be overwhelmed by the scent of flowers and by the unmissable lights if you decide to visit it in the evening. Non-Muslims can visit it every day except Friday, day of prayer from 8:30 to 11:00. The important thing is to dress appropriately and respectfully. Women must also cover their hair.



2 - Mutrah Souk and Corniche (Muscat)

Il perfect neighborhood to find the true soul of Muscat: extends along a corniche (panoramic road) with elegant buildings and fascinating mosques, located right in the port area of ​​the city. The contrast is in fact very evident, on the one hand the architectural refinement, on the other the simplicity of the typical fishing villages.

Absolutely not to be missed is the extraordinary Souk, the market with intoxicating aromas and flavors, where you will find typical foodstuffs, spices, fruit, local crafts and objects and clothing of all kinds. Between one purchase and another, take some time to stroll along the corniche, perhaps at sunset, stopping at a typical local bar to drink a good hot tea.

3 - Ras al Jinz Turtle Nature Reserve

A splendid one protected marine reserve located on the east coast of the Arabian peninsula. A place of great charm where be able to admire the green turtles at risk of extinction. Specifically, it is located 60 kilometers from the city of Sur and a few kilometers from Ras Al Hadd. The site was proclaimed a Nature Reserve in 1996 with a Royal Decree. There is also a museum dedicated to the Chelonia Mydas, also equipped with rooms for the night and a restaurant.

Between August and November it is possible to witness the migratory phenomenon of turtles that from the Arabian Gulf are ready to leave to lay their eggs which will hatch about 55 days later. The guided excursions, obviously at night, are carried out from 21:00 and last about 75/90 minutes. From 04:00 there is a further possibility to take another excursion to the turtle beach.



4 - Wahiba Desert

The holiday would not be the same without a4x4 excursion in the Wahiba desert. There are numerous tours available to make this truly incredible experience. You can admire the territory dominated by the Areesh people with their tents and the Bedouin families. If luck is on your side, you can too be invited to have a good spiced tea accompanied by typical dates.

It will be truly a fabulous sight if you stop to admire the sunset in the dunes and the contrast with the stars shortly after. During the day you can also decide to take a camel ride, go trekking and sandboard. It is necessary to book well in advance as availability is very limited. For 3 nights the base is about € 400,00.

5 - Wadi Shab Gorge

The Wadi Shab is one throat dug in a completely natural way by erosion that lasted thousands of years. You can admire rocks, waterfalls, natural pools and cliffs in one trekking route certainly not suitable for beginners. For the more adventurous the path will be an explosion of nature, colors and unique emotions to remember for life.

The word wadi means ok but it can also be understood as a dry riverbed; in this, however, there is always water and this is precisely the beauty of Wadi Shab. It can be reached by crossing a river from one bank to the other, taking more than 45 minutes of walking. The river crossing takes 2/3 minutes and costs OMR 1,00 (approximately € 2,33). Boats are available until 17pm.



6 - Tiwi White Beach

It is located about 80 kilometers from the capital Muscat: a beautiful expanse of white sand and brown gravel located on a wild coast which extends relentlessly from the city of Muscat and from that of Sur. A crystalline sea with turquoise shades beaten especially during the weekends but which on other days is a true semi-desert paradise.

The beach is easily accessible from the recently built motorway, but you have to be careful due to the lack of signage. The advice is to exit the highway and then proceed towards the south coast via a dirt road: for this reason it would be better to have a 4x4.

7 - Forts and Castles (Bahla, Nizwa, Nakhal)

Oman is a land of many architectural riches: some were built as a defense from various threats, grandiose works such as castles and forts.

Il Oman's largest castle is located in the city of Bahla and it dates back to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, a majestic building with 12 kilometers of aim with the remains of 18 ancient villages, with the Friday mosque and its mihrab indicating Mecca. A complex that has also become the first Unesco site in the country.

Among the most beautiful Forts we find the Bahla Fort, also declared a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1987, characterized by an oasis with typical Arab markets, the walls, the sultanate and the mosques. Do not miss the Fort of Nizwa located in the city of the same name, among the oldest in the whole of Oman and the Fort of Nakhal, about 120 kilometers from the capital of Muscat, surrounded by a splendid setting of gardens and palm trees.

8 - Bimmah's Sinkhole

Also called Dibab due to its proximity to the city of the same name, in the middle of the desert, in Hawiyat Najm Park, the Sinkhole of Bimmah is a 40-meter karst sinkhole with crystal clear turquoise water inside. It is almost an underground tunnel, a truly mysterious phenomenon of nature given that even scholars have not yet been able to formulate a valid hypothesis for this sort of hole in the ground.

There are indeed different hypotheses about it: some think it is the devil's lair, others that it is the consequence of a fallen meteorite or that it is the result of the natural subsidence of the ground. It can be reached through a fairly steep descent of stairs to a small beach. To get there, take the highway that connects Muscat to Sur.

9 - Nizwa Market

It is located right in the city of Nizwa and we recommend that you visit it on Friday, the day of the livestock market, a custom typical of Oman where farmers and ranchers from all over the country gather to grab a good buy.

Other than that, there is the part of the traditional Souk where you can really find everything, from spices to local handicrafts, fruit, clothing and souvenirs. As we said earlier, not to be missed is also the famous Fort not far from the market. Particularly noteworthy is how the local population still wears traditional clothes, testimony to the fact that everyone cares about and respects the traditions and nomadic origins of the country.

10 - Daymanyat Islands

A real paradise on earth about 45 minutes by boat from Al Sawadi. It is a archipelago of desert islands in the Arabian Sea characterized by an incredible coral reef. The beach consists of stretches of soft white sand with corals and a sea where you can swim in total relaxation among colorful tropical fish.

But be careful: to be able to visit them you need to obtain a permit and you can contact the dive center of Al Sawadi Resort which carries out excursions and diving off the islands. It starts at 9:00 and the return is scheduled at 14:30; it is necessary to book in advance and the cost is approximately 18,00 OMR (approximately € 35,00).

Travel informed: useful information

  • Inhabitants: 4.177.125
  • Capital: Muscat
  • Languages: Arabic, English, Mehri, Shehri, Baloch, Malay, Indi
  • Local currency: Omani riyal (OMR) / € 1,00 = 0.42 OMR
  • Weather: tropical-desert type; extremely hot and humid from mid-April to late September, hot from October to March and temperate in December, January and February; rains are very rare
  • Time zone: + 3h compared to Italy, + 2h when daylight saving time is in force in Italy
  • Travel / health insurance: recommended.

    Where it is

    Middle East Sultanate, is located in the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. A part overlooks the Arabian Sea (to the south and east) and the homonymous gulf to the north-east. It borders the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west and Yemen to the southwest.

    Security, visa and necessary documents

    • Entry requirements: passport with residual validity of at least 6 months from the moment of arrival in the country; single entry visa for EU citizens which can be requested both at the consular offices of the embassy in Rome, and online on the Royal Oman Police website
    • vaccinations: no vaccination required
    • Restrictions: the importation of alcohol, pork, firearms, narcotics and pornographic material prohibited, non-Muslims are allowed to bring up to two liters of alcohol into the country, only if passing through Muscat International Airport; some areas require a special permit such as the Dhofar Governorate on the border with Yemen, still considered a strategic and sensitive area; being a Muslim country it is necessary to adopt a respectful behavior and dress appropriately, not to offend local customs; women must always keep their shoulders, knees and diaphragm covered, avoiding tight clothing, men can only wear shorts for outdoor activities; during Ramadan it is forbidden to drink and eat in public, even for foreigners
    • Safety: homosexuality is considered a crime, punishable from 6 months to 3 years in prison; driving requires maximum attention because outside the big cities, the most common risk is falling asleep at the wheel due to the long expanses of shapeless desert or often finding people and camels crossing and stopping along the road, moreover many drivers drive with their headlights off so maximum caution; if you want to visit the more internal areas it is better to be accompanied by a local guide (GSM phones in these areas do not work) You are also not allowed to visit gambling and adult sites due to strict internet censorship; for more info on the situation, consult the official website of the Farnesina
    • Useful Tips: because of the often very high temperatures it is better to always bring drinking water and be careful of dehydration; never go alone in the desert and off the road or in peripheral areas, far from the places frequented by tourists; always reveal where you are going in order to be tracked more easily; beware of snakes and scorpions in the desert; gazing is quite common in Oman; in some areas, smiling could be interpreted as a mischievous attitude

    Tours and excursions in Oman


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