Situated on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula and surrounded by the Arabian Gulf, Oman is the oldest independent state in the Arab world. Oman has a rich heritage that has its history rooted in the humble fishing, herding and stock breeding practices of their ancestors. Now, Oman is a thriving country that is not as dependent upon oil as its Middle Eastern counterparts. With a population of over three million, Oman is one of the least densely populated countries with just 9 people per square kilometre. It is because of this afforded intimacy that Oman is a largely undiscovered paradise to western tourists.
Muscat is the capital of Oman and the country’s largest city. It was discovered as a fishing port and cultivated by the ancient Greeks. The city is made up of three districts: Muscat, Muttrah and Ruwi and has a population of over 1.2 million. Muscat is a growing, developing city that houses the best restaurants, malls and souq’s in the country.
The birthplace of Sultan, Qaboos bin Said, Salalah is a traditional city that is famous for its historical role in the frankincense trade. It is favoured for its famous Khareef Festival, an annual even that celebrates the arrival of the south-eastern monsoon. It is during this time that tourism is at its highest and locals would be surprised to see travellers in the region at any other time.
The geographical location of the Musandam Governorate is an anomaly that is immediately noticeable when looking at a map. This is because Musandam is an exclave of Oman, separated from the rest of the country by the United Arab Emirates. The rugged coastline and sheer mountains tower over the peaceful coves below, while the sunshine is endless and the wildlife plentiful.
Unlike the ever changing ethos of the United Arab Emirates, Oman is yet to undergo a dramatic overhaul of modernistic development. The spectacular landscapes are still present in this rich, traditional country of jutting mountains, swaying palm trees and sparkling oceans.
The city of Salalah and the exclave, Musandam Governorate, are tropical havens that bask in year round sunshine. Musandam in particular is a withdrawn, hidden paradise due to its location away from Oman.
In sparse offerings, Oman has embraced the inevitability of the modern era. Muscat is a primary example with its expansive shopping malls, excellent restaurants and plethora of fun activities. For the shopper, there are many traditional souq’s and market places to quench your need for a bargain. In fact, haggling is expected and often required to drive down any item to an excellent price.
For a more personal and challenging experience to compliment your stay, you could try your hand at the many hiking, climbing and diving operators that are active in Oman.
Forts, ruins and renovated museums still stand watch over the towns they once protected and are a real treat to explore.