Oman, officially known as the Sultanate of Oman, a land of many surprises, is an oasis in the Dessert. Oman offers the best of all worlds to its visitors, from beautiful beaches to the soft sands of the desert, from bustling city life to quite towns, from beautiful valleys to historic sites. It is a unique blend of cultural diversity & modern lifestyle. Oman is a destination that offers the best for leisure as well as business travelers.
My tour to Oman was something of a revelation of a new destination, which is not as well traveled to as its glorious neighbor – UAE. Getting to Oman is rather easy for Indian travelers. Oman Air has direct flights from most of the metros in India to Muscat. Visa is also not an issue as it is available for Indians on arrival in Oman.
The first destination in Oman is the capital city of Muscat. It is a city that is not unfamiliar with the Indian business travelers, but is still not considered by the leisure travelers as go-to destination. Muscat is indeed a unique city, which has embodied the cultural heritage of Oman and has yet managed to be one of the most modern cities in the Middle East. It offers a good blend of beautiful beaches, mountains & glorious sand dunes. Muscat has managed to offer huge malls for shopping enthusiasts, yet also offer the traditional shopping markets or Souks to its visitors. Upon arrival into Muscat, the first site that is a ‘must-visit’ is the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. With an area of around 416,000 sq. metres, the Mosque can hold around 20,000 worshipers & around 6,500 worshipers in the main hall. The Mosque is an absolute delight for the eyes, with its amazing architecture & mind blowing interiors. A major attraction for a visitor to the Mosque is the prayer carpet & the chandelier in the prayer hall. The carpet measures over 70 × 60 meters, and covers the 4,343 square meter area of the praying hall, all in a single piece, whereas, the chandelier above the praying hall is 14 meters tall, making it the world's second largest hand-woven carpet and chandelier.
Onwards from the grandeur of the mosque, we proceed through the bustling city of Muscat. En-route we pass the palace of the Sultan of Oman - Qaboos bin Said Al Said. As imagined, the palace is massive and exudes the wealth of the Sultan, with its gold panels and amazing architecture. Interestingly, the palace of the Sultan has been built by the Indian Firm – Shapoorji Pallonji & Co. Ltd. Though visitors are not allowed to enter the palace, the experience of seeing it from the outside is satisfying. Moving on, we proceed towards our hotel - Shangri-La's Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa, which is about 15 minutes away from Muscat. The drive to the resort is one of the most scenic, as you get to see the huge mountains on one side and the wonderful blue sea on the other. The resort is spread over an area of 124 acres and is unique is a way as it has combined three hotels of the Shangri-la into one resort, with each hotel having its own unique touch yet being tune with the overall feel of the resort. For an Indian traveler, visiting Oman for a leisure trip, the Shangri-la is a superb option and offers complete value for money. Guests at the resort can experience various activities within the premises of the resort, from water sports to nature activities to spa treatments. For Indian travelers, food should not be an issue as the chefs are well trained to cater to the Indian taste buds and can make all the Indian Food items as requested.
Apart from the Shangri-la, there are various other resorts & hotels in Muscat that can cater to every travelers need. Very close to the Shangri-la is the Al Bustan, which again is a grand resort and has catered to all the visiting Head of States. Within Muscat, visitors can find the Crowne Plaza, Intercontinental, the Chedi and many more. The hotels within Muscat are a better option for the business travelers.
As far as food is concerned, the Indian travelers have plenty of options to satisfy their taste buds. However, for those who like to indulge in the local cuisine, the Kargeen Restaurant is the place to go.
The sightseeing in Muscat, though is limited, yet is a ‘must-do’ on my list. On top of the list is Dolphin Watching, which extremely intriguing sight and allows us to see schools of dolphins wading through the water, sometimes very close to the boats. Another must do when in Muscat is to visit the Royal Opera House, which is indeed an architectural marvel and a delight for all music enthusiasts. For the shopping enthusiasts, Muscat offers various options including modern malls & the traditional souks.
Onwards from Muscat, we head for a day trip to Nizwa, a city about 2 hours away from Muscat. Nizwa is one of the oldest cities in Oman and was the former capital of Oman. The city was the epicenter for trade, religion, education and art in the yesteryears. Some of the must-do things in Nizwa are the visit to the Nizwa Fort & the Nizwa Souk. The Nizwa Fort was built in 1668 and was the one was the most visited monuments in Oman. The Nizwa Souk is famous for its handicrafts, spices, the famous Omani Khanjar & other artifacts. For all the date (khajur) lovers, Nizwa is the center for date plantations in Oman.
After Nizwa, we go on to explore more of Oman with a scenic drive to Ras Al Jinz which is home to the famous Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve. It is a must visit for every visitor to Oman and is highly recommended for student groups looking to get an experience of a lifetime. The turtle reserve is a nesting place for the Green-Sea turtles. The Reserve offers luxurious eco-tented accommodation to its guests along with guided tours to the nesting grounds where visitors get to see the turtles come ashore and lay their eggs of the beach. The entire process is completely natural and there is zero human interference. Visitors many a times get to see baby turtles hatching from the eggs that were laid previously and heading towards the water. This sight is something that takes your heart away and leaves your speechless.
After a blissful experience at Ras Al Jinz, we proceed towards Wadi Bani Khalid, which is about 270 kms from Muscat. In Arabic, Wadi denotes a valley. Wadi Bani Khalid is one of the best-known wadis in Oman. The drive to the wadi is as scenic as the wadi itself. The wadi is known for its caves and most importantly, Kahf Maqal which was one of the Sultanate's underground chambers. From Wadi Bani Khalid, we proceed to Wahiba Sands which is the desert region in Oman for a staying experience in the desert. Our accommodation here was the Desert Night Camp, a luxury desert camp in between the golden sand dunes. Visitors can enjoy various activities at the Camp, including, Dune Bashing, Quad Biking, Camel Safari, Sand Boarding etc. The Rooms at the Desert Night Camp are simply marvelous, with Bedouin style air-conditioned en-suite tents.
Oman is known for its famous frankincense trees, and place to find them is Salalah. The region of Salalah is a complete contrast to the rest of the country as far as climate and its flora & fauna are concerned. While the whole country has hot & humid climate with temperatures touching over 40*C, the region of Salalah has cool weather, with monsoon like wet air. This helps the entire plant life lush green. No wonder the current Sultan has made this region his home. The weather in Salalah has helped the frankincense trees grow. Visitors to Salalah can go on a wonderful frankincense trail, where they can experience the wadis and the wonderful nature all over. Visitors can also visit the Salalah Gold Souk to buy gold.
Overall, Oman is a great destination to visit for an Indian Traveler, looking to visit a close-by destination that offers something different to its visitors. This destination is a unique for those who have been and seen Dubai, Bahrain and the other modern Arabian cities and are in need for something different. Oman is not a destination for a first time traveler but rather for an experienced traveler. Oman offers a traveler the feel of the modern cities as well as traditional towns along with beautiful landscapes and the ever glorious deserts. Truly, Oman is an ‘Oasis in the Desert’.
Things To Remember:-
- Currency – Omani Riyal – 1 OMR = 180 INR or 1 USD = 2.5 OMR
- Time Difference between India & Oman: - 1:30 Hours
- Language – Arabic/English
- Country Code - +968
- Best Time To Visit – November to March
- Ideal Stay in Oman – 5 days
- Preferred Airline: - Oman Air