Oman – A hidden jewel at the Arabian Peninsula

Oman is a wonderful combination of ageless heritage and modern life. A large part of the Sultanate’s unique charm is the hospitality of the Omani people. It is common for visitors to be invited for Omani coffee and dates by locals when travelling through the country, an offer that should never be refused. Oman has a lot to offer: From tall mountains and deep gorges, to water-filled wadis, endless beaches and some of the world’s most stunning desert landscapes, the diverse beauty of Oman is apparent in every part of the country.
Oman is a wonderland for travellers with a keen interest in geology. Geological stories can be found just about anywhere, from Oman’s highest mountain, Jebel Shams, to the mega-dunes of the Empty Quarter (Rub Al Khali) and the Rock Garden at Duqm.
The Sultanate of Oman is the only country in the world composed mostly of oceanic crust and rocks that originate from the Earth’s mantle. Evidence of continental drift can be witnessed in many of the unusual rock formations and topography around Oman, including the coastline around Muscat. One of the most outstanding geological features of the country is the Al Hajar Mountain range, which forms an arc from the north-west to the south-east of the country. Jebel Shams, at just over 3000 metres, is Oman’s highest mountain and truly a geological outdoor museum with fossils embedded in rocks hundreds of metres above sea level.
His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said has successfully united all tribes since his ascension in 1970, ensuring that the country and its people work together to build the country. Oman has a population of just over 4 million people. It is an Islamic country which is very accepting of other religions and cultures, allowing anyone to practice their faith freely without prejudice. It is this kind of peaceful and accepting culture that makes Oman one of the safest and most livable countries in the world. Omanis are very welcoming of visitors from other countries, a fact that is reflected in the generous hospitality extended to guests. His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said has successfully united all tribes since his ascension in 1970, ensuring that the country and its people work together to build the country. Oman has a population of just over 4 million people. It is an Islamic country which is very accepting of other religions and cultures, allowing anyone to practice their faith freely without prejudice. It is this kind of peaceful and accepting culture that makes Oman one of the safest and most liveable countries in the world. Omanis are very welcoming of visitors from other countries, a fact that is reflected in the generous hospitality extended to guests.
For those who find the glittering artifice of Dubai a turn-off, Oman is an authentic Arabian treasure. It encompasses portions of the legendary Empty Quarter, the ancient incense trail, and its waterfront capital has visitor-friendly souks and cafes. My tour of Oman will include exploring winding desert wadis and springs. I'll be taking a trip to turquoise-coloured Al Khasfa Spring, for instance, close to rolling sand dunes. The country is also dotted with 500-year-old forts and castles, and I'll be checking out a few of them including Al Hazim Castle, Rustaq Fort and Nakhal Fort. A great way to get the true Arabian Nights experience is to spend the night in a desert camp while in Oman. One of the best is Dunes by Al Nahda - a luxury desert camp that even boasts a spa and offers a range of adventure safaris.
Old Muscat contains museums and centuries-old houses. For enjoying an authentic Omani meal prepared by local ladies and served up in the at Bait Al Luban, an attractive 150-year-old guesthouse, is highly recommended.

Close to the road leading to the heart of the capital Muscat stands the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Wilayat (district) Bawshar, like a radiant lighthouse attracting its visitors to interact with the spirit of Islam as a religion, science and civilisation. This mosque highlights its role as a scientific and intellectual source of knowledge across the Islamic world. After having an architectural competition to select the best design for Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, construction took six years. The mosque’s total capacity is 20,000 worshipers, and it covers an estimated area of 416,000 square metres. The main square-shaped prayer room can accommodate 6,500 worshipers and has a central dome which rises 50 metres above the floor.
Oman and its long sandy coast is also very attractive to water sports lovers. One of the purposes of this trip is to experience the aquatic activities on offer along Oman's long sandy coast. The Gulf of Oman is be brimful of coral and marine life and there's a good chance of spotting some big hitters such as pods of dolphins, whale sharks, rays, leopard sharks and green turtles.

Photo credit: Fotolia

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