A Visitor’s Guide To Oman
Oman is a country that lies at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, and was one of the few countries that actually resisted the colonial pressures in the region for many centuries, managing to develop its own modest empire. The country was mentioned in Roman texts dating from around 2,000 years ago, and for many centuries it was a particularly wealthy country which was at the heart of the frankincense trade. Today the country’s main religion is Islam, although it does have quite a diverse population and around a quarter of the population practice one of the other religions that have a presence in the country.
The US State Department does advise visitors to Oman to be cautious and aware of security concerns, although there have not been any attacks directed at US citizens within the country. It also advises visitors to steer clear of any political demonstrations or gatherings, and warns those who are sailing in the area that some vessels in the Gulf of Oman have been targeted by extremists.
Top Sights To See In Oman
Bahla Fort – The Bahla Fort was a fortification built in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries to help protect the oasis in the area by the Banu Nebhan tribe, and after extensive restoration it is a remarkable building with impressive towers and almost impenetrable walls rising up to 165 feet.
Dhow Shipyard, Sur – The coastal city of Sur has been an important trading center for many centuries, but it is its reputation as the largest shipyard producing the traditional wooden dhow ships that make it a fascinating place to visit, giving visitors a chance to see the craftsmen at work.
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque – Located in the capital city of Muscat, this remarkable mosque was built on the instruction of the Sultan in 1992, and is a large impressive building that is capable of holding up to twenty thousand worshipers at a time.
Al Hajar Mountains – This area is particularly popular in the summer because of the cooler temperatures when compared with many of the cities in Oman, and it is a beautiful are for trekking and rock climbing, while exploring with a 4WD is also particularly fun.
Masirah Island – A short distance off the south east coast of Oman lies this rugged and beautiful island that is famous for its golden beaches, and it is also home to some sensational wildlife, particularly sea turtles.
Wahiba Sands – This large desert area can be dangerous for the uninitiated, with miles of rolling dunes in every direction, but it is a great place to take a 4WD vehicle for a bit of dune thrashing, or for those looking for a more relaxing trip it is also popular for camel riding trips.
Ibra – Located in the north east of the country Ibra is famous for its historic forts and the excellent shopping in the souks, and as it is surrounded by mountains it is quite a cool area to spend time from November to March, but can see temperatures soar to fifty degrees Celsius in the summer.
Ras Al-Jinz Turtle Reserve – The beach in this nature reserve is an important nesting area for turtles, and the reserve works to eliminate any man made threat to the animals, and also offers a good chance to see the turtles and an educational center with more information about the turtles.
Al Saleel National Park – Located in the north east of the country this green park is largely covered in acacia trees, and is an important habitat for Arabian Gazelles, Egyptian Eagles and the Omani Wild Cat.
Nizwa Fort – This large fort is one of the most important tourist sites in Oman, and has large walls around an impressive drum shaped tower at the center, which was built over an underground stream as an imposing and impenetrable fortress for the Ya’rubi people in the mid seventeenth century
Best Places To Stay In Oman
Al Qurum Resort – A short distance outside the city center, this attractive resort offers access to a lovely beach area and an outdoor swimming pool, and also offers visitors comfortable and airy rooms.
Mutrah Hotel – Centrally located near the Muscat city center this pleasant hotel provides comfortable and affordable accommodation, with the rooms enjoying air conditioning, flat screen televisions, and the hotel also has a bar area with its own snooker table.
Golden Tulip Nizwa Hotel – A short drive from Nizwa itself, this large hotel offers spacious and well furnished rooms, along with a pleasant swimming pool area surrounded by grass and trees that make it a great place to relax.
Al Hoota Rest House – Situated in a pleasant hillside location this hotel provides charming accommodation that is affordable as well as comfortable, enjoying televisions and complimentary bottled water, while also having a nice play area for children.
Arabian Oryx Camp – While visitors do technically stay in a tent, these are closer to temporary houses when you consider the comfortable beds and standard bathrooms that are on offer, while visitors can also enjoy the activities and explore the dunes surrounding the camp.
Desert Retreat Camp – This camp offers comfortable and well decorated tents that feel more like chalets with beds and fully working bathrooms, while activities include visits to nearby Bedouin camps to enjoy the culture, along with the opportunity to take camel trips and explore in a 4×4.
Salalah Gardens Residences – Offering large comfortable suites with pleasant bathrooms, this hotel offers visitors a swimming pool, children’s club and kids’ pool, while still being just a short drive from the city center.
Samahram Tourist Village – Offering a great balance between features and cost, this hotel gives visitors leisure facilities such as an outdoor swimming pool and a tennis court, while providing simple yet comfortable rooms just a short distance from sights of the city.
Omani cuisine is one that reflects the large number of different influences that can be seen in the country’s population, and has taken many dishes from across Arabia and beyond. One of the most popular dishes in the country for special occasions is maqboos, which is a roasted lamb served with dried lemons, tomatoes, green peppers and spices. Another dish that is commonly eaten in Oman, particularly during the Ramadan festival is harees, which is a combination of lamb or another meat that is mixed with boiled wheat to resemble a dumpling.
It is worth noting that most restaurants in Oman serve international cuisine, and it is usually only when dining with a family that you will really get a taste of Omani cuisine.
Currency And Visa
The national currency in Oman is the Omani Riyal which remains very stable against the US Dollar, as it is pegged at two dollars sixty cents per riyal. Visitors from the United States coming to Oman do not need to arrange a visa in advance unless they plan to stay for over six months, with a visa on arrival available in the international airports, for which there is a fee of twenty riyal.