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This Underrated Middle Eastern Gem Is The Next Big Family Vacation Destination


Tripoto.com
Duration: 5 Days

Oman is a truly fantastic family holiday destination. While, it may not be the first place to spring to mind when thinking about family travel, but it certainly deserves to. An underrated sultanate in the Middle East, Oman is a country proud of its ancient past and educated future. Oman is where the deserts stretch out endlessly and coastlines are spread as far as the eye can see. It is where historical sites do not compete with modern development but instead co-exist peacefully. Arabian culture here is prevalent as much in its wind-blown deserts as in its luxury spa hotels. Storybook settings, forts that look like sandcastles and Arabian horses make Oman a magical destination to explore with family.

Photos of Oman 1/4 by Aakanksha Magan
Photos of Oman 2/4 by Aakanksha Magan
Photos of Oman 3/4 by Aakanksha Magan
Photos of Oman 4/4 by Aakanksha Magan

Getting there

Fly in to Muscat. The round-trip airfare from New Delhi to its capital city, Muscat starts at ₹13,537, while direct flight fares start at ₹20,039.

Visa

Indians need to obtain a visa before travelling to Oman. This can be applied for online and the fees is ₹15,939. You should have a passport valid for no less than six months from the date of arrival. Additionally you have to submit a company LOC, your voter id or Aadhaar Card copy and two Indian guarantors (namer and contact number).

What to see and do

DAY 1

Muscat, the capital city, is a great place to start your Omani adventure. Head over to Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque for a spiritual start to the day. The only mosque in the entire country that allows non-Muslims inside, this place is a true wonder. Set against the commanding Hajar Mountains and clad in smooth marble, the mosque is one of the largest and most impressive structures in Oman. Where the outside sparkles in polished marble, the inside has a massive eight-tonne chandelier hanging from the ceiling. The domes and pillars are equally stunning, covered in mosaic tiles in cobalt blue, sea green and shimmering turquoise.

Price: Entry is free, but you need to cover your head. A scarf or abaya is available for rent for 2.50 OMR (Omani Rial) or ₹425

Time: Saturday to Thursday, 8am to 11am, for non-Muslims

Photos of Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Sultan Qaboos Street, Muscat, Muscat Governorate, Oman 1/1 by Aakanksha Magan

Next, visit the Bait Al Zubair Museum (about half an hour away from the mosque) for a peek into Oman’s rich heritage. Originally the residence of Sheikh Al Zubair bin Ali, an advisor to the former sultans, it has now been converted into a museum. Here you can see a fine collection of Omani artefacts, from jewellery to weaponry and even traditional attire.

Price: 2 OMR (₹340) for adults, 1 OMR (₹170) for kids aged 10 and above, free for kids under 10

Time: Saturday to Thursday, 9.30am to 6pm

Photos of Bait Al Zubair Museum, Muscat, Oman 1/1 by Aakanksha Magan

After getting a taste of spirituality and culture, it's time to head over to experience some age-old customs. Muttrah Corniche of Old Muscat is the city's old commercial centre where you can see the impossible blue of the Gulf of Oman in beautiful contrast with sepia-coloured buildings constructed with arched doorways and latticed windows. You can end the day with a walk along the waterfront, some people-watching or simply feeding the seagulls.

Photos of Corinche, Muttrah, Muscat, Oman 1/1 by Aakanksha Magan

Where to stay: Radisson Blu Hotel Muscat is a good option with rooms starting from ₹8,500 per night on a triple occupancy (two adults and one child). You can see more stay options here.

DAY 2

Start your second day super early and head to the sea to spot some dolphins! The Arabian Sea is the natural habitat of dolphins and the waters off Old Muscat are home to a large numbers of bottlenose, common, and even the elusive spinner dolphins. Zahara tours conducts cruises out to the Gulf of Oman throughout the year.

Price: 17 OMR (₹2,878) per person

Time: The tours begin at 8am and 10am every morning. They last for about three and a half hours.

Photos of Gulf of Oman 1/1 by Aakanksha Magan

After an exhilarating trip in the morning, it's time to head to the funkiest looking royal palace ever, Al Alam Palace! It is the most important of the six residencies of the reigning sultan. The palace is Oman’s most flamboyant example of contemporary Islamic design, with two long wings centred on a colourful, cube-like central building, its flat, overhanging roof supported by mushroom-shaped blue and gold columns. It is not open to the public, but the front facade is worth a visit.

Photos of Al Alam Palace, Muscat, Oman 1/1 by Aakanksha Magan

A few steps away is the National Museum, a classic place to understand the history and culture of Oman through the ages. There are interactive exhibits and a few short films that explain the history and keep you engaged. A couple of hours and you will have a full account of what Oman is all about. Do try the dates and qahwa at the museum cafe.

Price: 5 OMR (₹850) for adults. Free for children and students, aged 26 or below.

Time: Saturday to Thursday, 10am to 5pm. Friday, 2pm to 6pm.

Photos of The National Museum of Oman, Muscat, Oman 1/1 by Aakanksha Magan

End your day navigating through labyrinthine alleys of the famous Muttrah Souk. The streets of this traditional market are sheltered from the sun with carved timber roofs and stained-glass domes. Shop for traditional daggers, copper pots, gold and silver. You can also spot some exquisite Indian merchandise such as kajal and pashmina wear. Must try while shopping on the streets is Omani halwa, a wobbly, jelly-like sweet flecked with nuts and flavoured with rose. It is available with many street vendors throughout the market.

Time: Saturday to Thursday, 8am to 1pm and 5pm to 9pm, Friday, 4pm to 9pm.

Photos of Mutrah Souq, Muscat, Oman 1/1 by Aakanksha Magan

From Muscat, it's onwards to Nizwa, the ancient capital of Oman. It's two hours by road and taxis usually charge 500/km.

DAY 3

Today morning, leave for Nizwa. The ancient capital of Oman, Nizwa is spread around its traditional souk, historical buildings and the imposing circular-towered fort built during the mid-17th century by Imam Sultan bin Saif Al Yar’ubi. If you think that the Muttrah souk was impressive, wait till you visit the one in Nizwa. If you love shopping in old bazars, and collecting oriental artefacts, then Nizwa is the place for you. The magnificent Nizwa Fort looms over a fascinating souk that houses the most delicate of silver necklaces and ornamental candle stands. Traders advertise their goods by hollering to customers. With fresh dates and figs, intricately carved pots and pans and hundreds of other trinkets to buy, this is one market where you can easily spend an entire day and still not feel satiated.

Time: 6am to 1pm and 3pm to 10pm from Saturday to Thursday. On Friday, it is open from 5am to 11am.

Photos of Nizwa Souq سوق نزوى, Nizwa, Oman 1/1 by Aakanksha Magan

Where to stay: Golden Tulip Nizwa Hotel starts at ₹10,200 per night for double occupancy. Check out more stay options here.

DAY 4

How about a visit to a UNESCO Heritage Site today? An hour away from Nizwa lies the the sand-coloured Bahla Fort, a fine testament to Oman’s rich heritage. Of the more than 500 castles and forts in Oman, this is the only fort to have made it to the UNESCO World Heritage List. One of the oldest forts in the country, some estimates say parts of it are from 500 AD.

Price: Entry tickets are for 0.50 OMR (₹85).

Time: Saturday to Thursday, 9am – 4pm. Friday, 8am to 11am.

Photos of Bahla Fort قلعة بهلا, 21, Bahla, Oman 1/1 by Aakanksha Magan

Come back to the city and proceed to the Nizwa Fort. Built in the mid-17th century, Nizwa Fort stands tall, and serves as a reminder of how and why Nizwa once served as Oman’s capital and was also its strongest city. Thick walls surround it and a 112-foot central tower dominates it. The fort is built like a typical Omani fortress, characterised by geometric layouts.

Price: Adults, 1 OMR (₹170); Children, 0.50 OMR (₹85)

Time: Saturday to Thursday, 9am – 4pm. Friday, 8am to 11am.

Photos of Nizwa Fort, Nizwa, Oman 1/1 by Aakanksha Magan

From Nizwa, drive back to Wahiba Sands for a thrilling desert safari and camping.

DAY 5

With 10,359 square kms of rippling-gold sand and dunes towering over 300ft, Wahiba Sands or Ramlat al-Wahiba is the most accessible desert in Oman. Camping in the desert is probably an experience that your kids will cherish for the rest of their life. Bedouin-style tents in the silky sands of Wahiba, spectacular craggy mountains in the distance and crystalline wadis will escalate your holiday experience immensely. Spend the day bashing sand dunes and sand boarding, and the nights stargazing. Quad-biking and camel rides are also fun activities you can opt for here. In the early evening, drive up to a high dune to witness the sunset before returning to camp. Enjoy a traditional Bedouin-style dinner at the camp under the starlit sky.

Photos of Wahiba Sands 1/1 by Aakanksha Magan

Where to stay: Desert Night Camp is the best bet to have a fun-filled adventure in Wahiba Sands. Accommodation starts at ₹20,000 per night for double occupancy. You can check out more options here.

When to go

November to March are the best months to visit Oman as balmy temperatures make for a pleasant vacation. January and February are the months when the Muscat Festival takes place and you can enjoy various forms of entertainment and shopping.

Getting around

The highways in Oman are decent and it is fairly easy to drive around the country. If possible, hire a 4-wheel drive. There are great opportunities for off-road driving in Oman, and you will want to veer off the tarmac again and again. So, choose self-driving, if it fits your pocket, to tour the country. You can also rent taxis, but taxis on call are only available in Muscat as of now. For going out of the city, it's best to take a taxi via an agent and negotiate a price beforehand.

Buses are also available between all major cities of Oman. Muscat, Salalah, Sohar, Sur and Nizwa, are all connected via bus services. There is also a regular flight between Muscat and Salalah, operated by Oman Air, the national carrier.

Costs

3-star hotel stay: 18 OMR – 36 OMR (₹3,000 to ₹6,000)

Taxi for a 8-km trip: 9.60 OMR (₹1630)

Local transport: 0.40 OMR (₹68)

Decent meal with a drink: 10 OMR (₹1700)

Meal at a fast-food chain: 2.50 OMR (₹425)

A pint of beer: 3 OMR (₹508)

Have you been to the Sultanate of Oman? Write about your adventure here and help other travellers discover this underrated gem.

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