Oman the country of deserts, sands, coffee with dates, unique ornamented doors of every house, Bedouins and frankincense trees. Oman is the oldest independent Arab country in the world. I have been offered a chance to visit this beautiful land and I am preparing my itinerary for the trip. Before I give my itinerary let be give you a brief glimpse of this beautiful country.
|Beauty has an Address|
The Sultanate of Oman is ruled by Sultan Qaboon bin Said al Said from the Al Said family. As said above it is the oldest independent Arabic country which has never been ruled by alien forces and the Al Said family has been ruling it since 1744. You may have never heard any news of terrorist attacks or and riots etc. from Oman because Oman has been a peaceful country which follows Ibadi Islam and is tolerant to all other religions. You may be shocked to know that even Hindus have been living in Oman since ages (not the migratory ones). The people of Oman are very hospitable and they are good conversationalists. As said above, Omanis have a unique custom of greeting guests with a pleasing combination of coffee with dates. Being a born coffee lover I find this fascinating. Omani Coffee is just superb and it is always served with dates. If you visit a Omani host, he will serve you coffee in this beautiful little cups and dates. These little cups are never full because traditionally Omanis drink coffee in a thousand little sips, each served separately. So, this is the best time to strike a conversation with the hospitable Omani host. You will find that they are as forthcoming as your own neighbour back in India.
Trivia => House doors in Oman are unique, colourful and embroidered. And no matter what the whole house looks like, even a simple house has truly stunning doors.
|Oman Tourism campaign #Beautyhasaaddress|
So I prepare my itinerary for my visit to Oman. I would start of my sojourn with Muscat and end it with Muscat. Muscat is the capital city of Oman one of the most vibrant cities not only in Oman but the entire Arabian Peninsula. Omani culture has been beautifully preserved by Muscati residents and hence Muscat was declared Arab City of Culture for 2012. Muscat is divided into two parts, the old city and the new Muscat. Old Muscat is like our old Delhi, truly ancient and charming. At the heart of the old city lies an ancient amphitheatre made of bare rocks. This is a must see site not only from archaeological point of view but also from historic point of view. Beside the amphitheatre are two imposing 16th century fortresses in Portuguese design build when Oman was a colony of Portugal. Oman has preserved their history so beautifully, because all the grand old mansions in the old city have been converted into museums. These museums and forts tell a beautiful tale of what Oman may have been in the ancient times. Coming to the new Muscat you will find Mutrah’s Souq. Mutrah Souq is situated in Mutrah Corniche. This Souq and many like it sell you a mixture of Indian, Oriental and Omani artefacts among the usual textile, hardware and gold shops.
TRIVIA => Oman has the only all woman Souq in entire world. Located in the city of Ibra, this all woman Souq takes place every Wednesday. Since its a all women affair, menfolk are not allowed anywhere near it. Women traders sells everything from spices to jewellery and fabrics to women buyers.
Next on the agenda is a visit to the magnificent and grand marble clad Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. This great mosque is done in modern Islamic architecture. Next up is the marvel of nature, a Dolphin watching cruise alongwith snorkelling. All hotels in Muscat arrange for the same but their times differ so book your appoinment before hand and be available 15 minutes prior to the trip. You can also add a Dhow cruise if you are interested in knowing how the ancient ships worked.
|Ancient Dhow preparing for tourists in Oman|
Oman which has a long sea shore facing the Arabian Sea and it offers best best diving and snorkelling opportunities in the Gulf region. Many of the dive and snorkelling sites are within easy reach of Muscat. Bandar Khairan, Fahal Island, the Daymaniyat Islands, and Al Makbara Bay (old Muscat), Al Jissah Beach and a much secluded Musandam Peninsula. The best months for diving and snorkelling in Oman are the period from April to July, but diving and snorkelling in Oman can be enjoyed at all times.
If you are a nature lover, Turtle watching is a must do activity in Oman. Oman has many protected Turtle nest areas where you watch a turtle laboriously haul its way up the beach. Oman is home to five of the seven species of sea turtles, the Green Turtle which nests at Ras al-Jinz, Masirah Island, Daymaniyat Islands, the Loggerhead Turtle which nests at Masirah Island, Dhofa, Daymaniyat Islands, the Hawksbill Turtle which nests at Muscat, Daymaniyat Islands; the Olive Ridley Turtle which nests on Masirah Island, and the Leatherback Turtle which is found in Omani waters but does not nest in the Sultanate of Oman. Watching the kiddie turtles scurrying towards the sea is a spectacle to watch.
|Beautiful and breathtaking views you get by visiting the Wadis of Oman|
Next in my itinerary is a visit to the Wadis and dry rivers courses. For doing this you have to book a four wheel drive vehicle. This trip will expose you to some of Oman’s most magnificent scenery. The narrow gravel tracks permit access to valleys with sheer steep-sided cliffs towering above the palm lined valley floors often offering a vintage exciting view. Some Wadis may have beautiful pools of blue or green water make idyllic spots for a picnic or cooling swim. This is a must have experience, visiting Oman because this are the backroads that offer the wild beauty of Oman on a platter.
|A typical mountain oasis in Oman with beautiful pure water|
After driving the Wadis, I plan to visit the famous Omani Mountain Oases. Oman is a home to plenty of Mountain Oases which are situated in high mountains and are great contrasting greenery against deserts of Oman. These oases boast of abundunt water in falaj channels where roses, grapes, pomegranates, apricots, and all sorts of wonderful fruits grow on steeply terraced fields. Here too you get to meet traditional Omani people and understand their culture.
Trivia => You can rarely find a Coca Cola in Oman. The most popular drink of Oman, most often called the 'Omani Alcohol' is Pepsi's Mountain Dew
|Wahiba Sands offering mouth watering asymmetrical natural designs|
After greenery, a bit of what I really want to see in Oman, the elegant rippling dunes of the Wahiba Sands. In many a bollywood movies you may have seen the hero dribbling down the sand or singing duet a la, suraj hua madham in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gum. Well here is my chance to do something similar. Wahiba Sands are the first things that strike to a mind when some one says Arabia or desert. Made famous by the explorer Sir Wilfred Thesiger in the 1950s, and covering an area the size of Wales, this enormous sand sea with dunes rising up to 150 metres provides a feast of aesthetically satisfying geometrical designs which are natural creations. I also plan to spend atleast a night or two in the wilderness and experience the peace of the desert and magnificence of the night sky in its full glory.
|Frankincense tree growing in the wild|
Oman is a the only place in the world where Frankincense grows in the wild. Frankincense is used extensively by the Omani's for religious rituals and its a vital ingredient in the perfume industry. It has also been investigated for its medicinal properties. It is becoming a very precious and demanded feedstock. It is a very special tree for Omani, is not a mere tree for them. It is an embodiment of culture, history, sociology and geography. Visiting the Frankincense trees growing in the wild is also on my agenda.
Trivia => While Alcohol is allowed in Oman, you have to get permits from authorities for buying it. The permit is issued based on your monthly income. It is 10 percent of your basic salary.
From there, I intend to visit Nizwa for its colourful livestock market just like over Jaipur Camel Market. This livestock market is held every Friday morning the ancient city of Nizwa. Once the livestock market opens it becomes a hive of activity pretty much like our own fish markets with auctions of cattle, sheep, and goats. The real fun of Nizwa's livestock market is that you can see Omanis coming out in their elegant long dishdashas and distinctive kuma hats. Womenfolk of Oman too come along with bright dresses whilst some may wear traditional Bedouin face masks. This is also one of the places where you get to know the real Omani culture first hand.
|Livestock market in action at Nizva|
Finally back in Muscat I did prefer to relax by the sea shore. Oman has a perfect winter climate for relaxing by the sea shore. All Omani top hotels like the Al Bustan Palace, The Chedi Muscat, and the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort have their private on-site spas, infinity edge swimming pools, tranquil gardens, and superb service. Those willing to venture further will find a beautiful relaxation zone in the stunning Six Senses Hideaway at Zighy Bay.
|'Khanjar' the national symbol of Oman|
Finally I have to come back to India. But returning without shopping would mean disrespect not only to the beautiful Oman and its culture but an insult to my friends back home. Oman offers a exotic blend of the old and the new for shopping maniacs. On one hand you will find luxury brands and top designer labels in the luxury shopping malls and international boutiques and on the other hand you can buy old world charms in the atmospheric ‘souqs’ For souveniers, try the traditional Omani silver jewellery like necklaces, bracelets, ear rings etc. One thing you must buy from the Souqs is the famous ‘khanjar’ which is national symbol of Oman. You can also buy wood carved doors and brass studded dowry chests (mandoos), shelves, and miniature reproductions of dhows, as well as various pottery items.
This post is written for a indiblogger contest organised by Oman Tourism. I hope to offer a glimpse into the wonderful land from Arabia which has everything from ancient, exotic to truly modern for everybody. You can watch this video put up by Oman Tourism to understand the surreal beauty of OMAN.