The jewel of the Arabian Peninsula
Friday 11 May 2012
Whether you want a beach holiday, a bustling city break or a desert adventure, the unique destination of the Sultanate of Oman can provide it all
There are few places where you can lie on a deserted beach one day, enjoy the hustle of a capital the next,then escape to spend a night sleeping under desert stars. All of this and more are possible in Oman.
The second largest country on the Arabian Peninsula after Saudi Arabia, and roughly the same size as Germany, the Sultanate’s landscape is a diverse mosaic unique to the region. Its breathtaking scenery extends to the spectacular fjords of the northern region of Musandam peninsula, the lush green valleys of the southern region of Dhofar, 3,165km of pristine coastline and sandy beaches as well as the stunning Hajar Mountains and the vast desert.
Just seven hours’ flying time from the UK with award winning national carrier, Oman Air, visitors to Oman can be assured of a warm welcome and will soon be immersed in an authentic slice of Omani life.
One of the many highlights of any trip to Oman is a tour of its atmospheric capital, Muscat, voted Arab Tourist Capital 2012. Gazing out over the azure waters of the Gulf of Oman, it is framed by the Hajar Mountains and its coastline is fringed by dramatic rock formations. Thanks to careful conservation, Muscat still retains its unique sense of history, architecture and culture and is an enchanting fusion of old and new, dotted with historic sights and landmarks such as the beautiful Sultan’s Palace.
The 4km Muttrah Corniche is Muscat’s most impressive seaside promenade, lined with historic Merchant’s Houses and palm trees, perfect for a stroll or a picnic. Don’t miss the chance to wander the labyrinthine alleys of the 200-year-old Muttrah souk, a fascinating glimpse into local life with stalls selling everything from handicrafts to silks and spices like the celebrated frankincense.
At one end of the Muttrah Corniche is picturesque Old Muscat, a captivating slice of the old Oman topped by the spectacular Al Jalali and Al Mirani Forts and protected by thick, 17th century walls. This is a wonderful place to wander its lanes and alleyways admiring the houses and soaking up in the unique Omani heritage of the city.
Muscat also gives visitors the chance to experience a more contemporary and cosmopolitan side to the city with numerous restaurants, bars and cafes as well as some stunning examples of modern Islamic architecture like the magnificent Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and the new Royal Opera House, inaugurated last October.
The ideal year-round getaway, be it for a short break, escaping the winter chill or for a longer holiday, Oman’s warm temperatures, blue skies and huge array of attractions and natural wonders means there is something for everyone.
If you are simply seeking some relaxation and rejuvenation, you could not pick a better destination than Oman. Its beaches are unrivalled and its growing number of golf courses and luxurious spas have already gained a reputation for being among the best in the world. Gourmands can also choose from an array of world cuisines. As well as sampling some of the local Omani specialties.
Explore the extraordinary biodiversity of the country’s many wadis like the stunning Wadi Shab and discover some of Oman’s unique flora and fauna both on land and underwater at one of its many diving sites that are arguably some of the finest in the world. Oman supports five of the eight species of turtle on the planet and nature-lovers can visit one of several beaches such as Ras Al Jinz that is home to nesting Green Turtles.
Enjoy a cruise along the beautiful coast. Families will adore Oman’s safe, clean beaches fringed by gin-clear water as well as thrilling outdoor activities like sand-skiing and desert safaris among the extraordinary, undulating landscape of the vast, Wahiba Sands.
Then there is the silver city of Nizwa, Oman’s former capital, with its celebrated fort, mosque and souk or the southern city of Salalah, which was once famed for its thriving trade in frankincense.
More intrepid travelers can venture into the Oman’s interior to enjoy a pristine beauty that has remained virtually untouched for centuries. You can even sleep in Arabian Nights-style luxury under the desert stars at one of a number of tented camps. Just a few of the many unique experiences visitors can discover with a stay in Oman – the Arabian Peninsula’s best-kept secret.
Oman has an array of luxurious hotels and resorts like the Ritz-Carlton, Shangri-La, Six Senses, Intercontinental, GHM and Hyatt. Other exciting debuts include hotels by Kempinski and Fairmont, which will form part of The Wave, a prestigious complex, which sits on a 6km stretch of beach outside Muscat. Overlooking the Arabian Gulf, Jebel Sifah is another glamorous project with its own marina. Its Sifawy Boutique hotel offers stylish surroundings and great facilities, while the Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts and the Hotel Missoni are two other hotly anticipated future openings. The Sahab Hotel and The View are located in the Hajar Mountains and are a popular choice for short-breaks. Salalah Beach Resort will soon have a new landmark with the Juweira Boutique Hotel, an intimate fivestar destination.
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