Independent Families: 'What fun can we have in Dubai and Oman?'

Q. My husband is working in the UAE and my two sons (seven and 11) and I plan to visit him for February half term. We will stay in Dubai for a few nights then go to Oman for five days. Can you suggest things for us to see and do while we are there?

J Richards, via e-mail

A. Oman is a great destination for a family holiday. With a spectacular coastline, unspoilt beaches, rugged mountains and desert, the only question is how hectic you want your five days to be. Oman is a liberal and tolerant nation and it won't take much effort to experience the famous hospitality and generosity of spirit of the Omani people. With a number of first-class hotels springing up in recent years, the country has it covered: good weather, adventure, a rich cultural heritage, and should you wish to indulge, more than a spot of luxury.

After the skyscrapers and department stores of Dubai, arrival in the capital, Muscat, will make a refreshing change. Since the current sultan, Qaboos bin Said, overthrew his repressive father in 1970 and opened up the country to the outside world, the face of Oman altered dramatically. However, scratch beneath the surface, and you'll find the lingering spirit of sea-traders, fishermen, date farmers and desert Bedouins.

The narrow lanes of the souk present a vivid scene of Omani life: the scent of frankincense and sandalwood hangs in the air, Omani women sit amid piles of silver and silks. It's a souvenir-seeker's delight and a fine insight into a culture little changed over the centuries. Take some time to explore the old port at Muttrah, the hub for local fishermen, and the harbour, protected by two great 16th-century forts. Look out for the sultan's dhow, a floating palace bobbing beneath the harbour cliffs which are etched with the names of centuries of sailors celebrating their safe arrival.

At the top of most holiday wish lists is the beach. One of Muscat's top-end beach hotels is the Chedi (00 968 24 52 44 00; www.ghmhotels.com), hemmed in by the Arabian Sea and sun-scorched mountains. A suite sleeping two adults and two children costs 480 Oman rials (OMR) (£650) per night in February, including breakfast.

Surrounded by lush palm gardens, the Chedi opens on to a great swathe of sandy beach and offers plenty of activities. It's also a great base for snorkelling: the warm Arabian Sea is a haven for corals, tropical fish, and the odd reef shark. If you charter a boat for the day and find a secluded beach, there's a good chance you'll see a pod of playful dolphins. Whichever beachside hotel you choose will be able to arrange a boat and a guide.

There are also many excellent, more modest lodgings on the coast and inland, and several of the larger hotels and resorts also allow you to enjoy their facilities on a relatively inexpensive guest's day pass.

Back on solid ground, a 4x4 would enable you to head into Oman's sun-parched interior for cultural day trips. There are plenty of car rental companies in Muscat, including the Muscat Diving and Adventure Centre (00 968 24 485 663; www.holiday-in-oman. com), that can either rent you a car or organise tours, activities and day trips. Nizwa, 174km from Muscat and about an hour and a half's drive, is an ancient oasis town. Oman's capital in the sixth and seventh centuries, it sits at the foot of the Western Hajar mountains and is an excellent example of a thriving, traditional Omani town. Nearby, there's a Unesco World Heritage fort and a bustling livestock market on Thursdays and Fridays where villagers trade goats, cattle and camels.

Take some time to explore the villages tucked into the foothills of the mountains, irrigated by a falaj system invented 2,500 years ago that channels water from the nearby mountains to the homes and date plantations below. Stop for a stroll and you'll probably end up with an invitation to tea, in the form of strong coffee, halva and fat, juicy dates. A good choice would be Misfah, a pretty village about 17km from Nizwa, or nearby al-Hamra, a little town with shady date groves and terraces. Drive up Jebel Shams for a spectacular view of one of the world's deepest canyons.

It would be a shame to visit Oman and not journey into the spectacular desert-scapes of the 20,000sq km of the Wahiba Sands, once the preserve of Bedouins and immortalised by Wilfred Thesiger in Arabian Sands. Unless you or your husband have experience of desert driving it's probably best to join a tour-group, allowing you to sit back and enjoy Thesiger's "vast ocean of billowing sands".

Oman Holiday (00 968 953 02291; www.omanholiday.co.uk) organises a full day Wahiba Sands Desert Tour for OMR29 (£40) per person that takes in mountains, the desert life (including camels and Bedouin tribes) and wadis, or valleys in the comfort of a 4x4. If you want to catch the sunrise it also organises overnight tours for OMR90 (£125) per person, including camp accommodation and dinner under the stars.

On the way to the Sands you could stop off at one of the many fishing villages. A good option is Quriyat, 87km from Muscat. Ten kilometres further down Route 17 lies a great opportunity for some "wadi bashing". Head off-road and bump and wind through the villages and ravines taking in the great views before stopping off at a waterhole for a cooling dip. Head on to the dhow yards and the old port of Sur before reaching the gateway to the Wahiba Sands, al-Qabil. A good day-trip from Sur is the village of Ras al-Hadd, and the surrounding beaches used by thousands of green turtles to nest. You'll also be at the most easterly point in Arabia.

Send your family travel queries to The Independent Parent, Travel Desk, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS or e-mail crusoe@independent.co.uk

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Extras
indybest
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum