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.
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.
Muscat (MCT), 40 km from Muscat. Salalah (SLL) receives some charters from the UAE and Scandinavia. It is being expanded.
November to March is winter and so most comfortable for activities and sightseeing. However, it is also the high season in the north. Summer is hot and humid. The khareef in the south is usually between mid-June to late-August. September to November is the best time to see the turtles laying and hatching at Ras al-Jinz.
Hiring a car is straightforward and petrol is incredibly cheap. The biggest hazards are camels in the road (and you’ll have to compensate the owner if you hit one) and overtaking drivers coming towards you on your side of the road.
If venturing offroad, for example into wadis, make sure you hire a 4WD. If you only have a 2WD, check whether your insurance covers you for off-road. You would be foolish to venture into the desert alone.
Intercity buses run between the largest towns. They are comfortable and reliable. Shared long-distance are good value, but city taxis are generally very expensive. Internal flights run between main centres such as Muscat to Salalah.
Sadly, there is currently a lack of character and boutique accommodation. Muscat has a large number of beach hotels, including the magnificent Al-Bustan Palace Hotel. Salalah has a couple of international resort hotels. Wahiba Sands has a number of tented camps.
Oman has its own regional dishes but you are unlikely to find these outside of private homes. Indian dishes are very common, with lots of options for vegetarians. sArabic dishes, such as moutabel (aubergine dip) and hummus are also found. Fish and seafood tend to be very good – hamour (grouper) is very common on menus, and kingfish, tuna, large prawns and ‘lobster’ (actually crayfish) feature. Limes are used a lot.
Wash your meal down with tea or cardamom-flavoured coffee. Alcohol is available in international hotels but is expensive.
No specific vaccinations are required for travel to Oman. Tap water is safe to drink. Be prepared for the heat with sunscreen and a hat. Do not drive in the desert unless you are experienced in offroad driving. The crime rate is low.
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