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Oman travel guide

Authentic, wild and brimming with mountain and desert activities, no wonder Oman has become the Middle East's adventure hub

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Oman has so much to offer travellers. After all, for many years Oman was the epicentre of a travel network: as far back as 5,000 BC frankincense merchants traced a spider’s web of trails across Arabia and as far away as India, while over the past few centuries Omani trading dhows plied the coasts of Africa and the subcontinent.

Oman’s current renaissance owes much to the measured modernisation of Sultan Qaboos bin Said. When he came to the throne in 1970, the country boasted just 10km of tarmac roads. Oman now has a comfortable travel network and a range of activities to tempt any adventurous traveller – while keeping sight of its traditions and heritage.

When you add the natural advantages endowed on Oman – the golden dunes of Wahiba Sands, the solitude of the Empty Quarter, the fjord of the Musandam Peninsula, the heights of the Hajar Mountains, the many unspoilt beaches (let’s hope they keep them that way), and the wealth of marine life – it is no wonder this is such an up and coming destination for travellers.

Wanderlust recommends

  1. In Muscat visit the Grand Mosque (with the second-largest carpet in the world), take a stroll along Mutrah harbour, visit the early morning fish market and haggle at Mutrah souk. The Bait al-Zubair museum is worth a visit too
  2. On the coast, drop in at Sur to see traditional dhows still being built by hand. The town makes a good base for exploring the region, including the turtle-nesting beaches of Ras al-Jinz and Ras al-Hadd
  3. The Wahiba Sands (also known as Sharqiya Sands) are stunning. It is worth staying in one of the tented camps, especially if you’re not visiting the Empty Quarter from Salalah
  4. The Musandam Peninsula is a beautiful enclave separated from the rest of Oman by the UAE. Dhow cruises along its coast are popular; it’s a renowned diving spot too
  5. Salalah and the surrounding area have a very different feel to the rest of the country – sub-tropical and more laid-back. Explore the deserted beaches and buy some frankincense in the souk. Although there is little to see, it is fascinating to visit Ubar, the reputed ‘Atlantis of the Sands’, rediscovered through the satellite imagery

Wanderlust tips

Although Oman is a tolerant Muslim country, visitors should dress conservatively – keep beachwear for the beach. If visiting the Grand Mosque (or any other mosque), legs and arms should be covered; women should cover their hair too.

Ramadan is 11 August to 9 September in 2010. While visitors are not expected to fast, do refrain from eating or drinking in public during daylight hours. Many restaurants will be closed during the day.

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