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11 Fun Things to Do in Oman
Nizwa Market in Oman
Oman: The Dream of Old Araby
Like the smell of frankincense in the warm desert breeze, the smell of rare spices, the chatter of the souks, or the roaring silence of the desert? Then, the Sultanate of Oman is for you.
This Jewel of the Gulf, with its wadis and deserts, its beaches and mountain areas and its forts, old souks, weekend village markets and camel racing has caught the imagination of almost all who come to its shores.
Oman's capital city, Muscat, lies on the Arabian Sea along the Gulf of Oman and is close to the strategic Straits of Hormuz. Presently, it is the capital of the Sultanate as well as its commercial center. But the other areas have something unique to offer as well. Thus, it is not surprising that almost everyday, there is a cruise ship anchored in Muscat or Salalah, another port city.
I was lucky that my husband got a consulting contract there so we had a chance to explore the place. Every weekend, we went out of town and with our very knowledgeable guide explored places. We went to tiny villages, had a picnic in the desert, visited families and just had a really good time.
Nowadays, when we talk with other people about Oman, all of them say how welcoming and kind the Omanis are. So, if you have not yet been to Oman, go now and experience a more authentic Middle East culture.
Camel Ride in Oman
Map of Oman
Attractions in Oman - Desert, Seas and MountainsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Have you visited Oman?
Fun things to do in Oman
Many unique and interesting places dot Oman and these places still have traces of the old Arabic culture with markets selling things the age old way, villages still really unaffected by major digital westernization and people living their traditional ways.
So you can really have fun exploring in Oman.
The roads are really in top shape so you can easily rent a car and drive. Beware though because they drive very fast there.
1. Stroll the Port of Muttrah
In Muscat, Oman's capital city is the Port of Muttrah where you can take a stroll upon arrival in Oman.
Go around the port district of Muttrah. Stroll along Mina Sultan Qaboos and admire the yachts and ships moored at Muscat's main trading port.
Visit the traditional bazaar, Souq Muttrah and Sour La-Al-Lawatiah, a small community of houses surrounded by an old wall.
Make sure you buy spices, perfume, incense and frankincense to take home. Just going around the souq transports you to the traders of antiquities who ply their goods in exactly still the same way.
Muttrah in Oman - One Place you must visit in Oman
Muttrah is one place you should not miss when you visit Oman.
You can see in these videos the reason why this is a place to be.
2. Enjoy Oman's Beaches
Stay at the Al Bustan Palace where you feel you are surrounded by rocks much higher than you are. Then, as you go down, you see the ocean expanding its horizin in front of you. Enjoy Al Bustan's breathtaking foyer with Omanis in native costumes preparing frankincense. Burning frankincense seems to transport you to a magical place.
Al Bustan has its own beach and garden. If the Al Bustan price is too much for your budget, there is the Crowne Plaza and the Shangrila, which are also along the beach. You can enjoy the sunset from your room. The views awaken the painter in you. I did several paintings when I was there.
We also enjoyed walking in the beach from the Crowne Plaza to the shopping center about a kilometer away, have coffee on the way and enjoy mixing mixing our own unique perfume in one of the bazaars in the shopping center.
Best Beach Resort in Oman - Al Bustan Palace
3. Visit the Al Alam Palace
Al Alam Palace is the ceremonial palace of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos. Visitors are not allowed inside but the outside is quite impressive. It is surrounded by the Mirani and Jalali Forts built by the Portuguese in the 16th century.
As traditionally practiced by his predecessors, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos still continues to visit his people today, even those in the remote villages. Camping in the desert most of the time, he listens to his people about their lives and concerns. The Omanis love their desert. It is their life. Watch them hold the sand as they sit in the desert.In this picture, you can see how much our Omani guide loves his desert. They are one with the sand.
Images of OmanClick thumbnail to view full-size
Nizwa, Oman's Old Souk - The Old Fort
4. Visit Nizwa's Old Fort and Souk
Nizwa is an old fort. This fort is a monument to the Omani architectural ingenuity in the Ya'rubi era. Trudge through the Falaj Daris, a world heritage site that may date back two thousand years. A falaj is a channel that brings water, often over many kilometers, from underground sources or springs to support agriculture and domestic use, .
Don't miss the souk in Nizwa. It is bustling with vendors selling everything from meat, fish, fruits and vegetables to spices, dates, gold and silverware. Nizwa is renowned for its silver jewelry, which is considered to be the best in the country. You can watch Nizwa's masters make Khanjar (curved daggers worn by the Omani men with their ceremonial clothes).
If you are there on a Friday morning, go early and zip to the far end of the souk which hosts, in the shade of date palm trees, a lively livestock market. You will see local farmers parade their cows, goats and sheep to be inspected, auctioned and sold to the highest bidders. This is a hands-on event...no corrals...you and the goats are eye to eye and you have never seen bargaining like this before! This scene provides not only amusement, but an opportunity to observe local traditional customs. And watch out...you can become part of the good-tempered bargaining.
The Souk of Nizwa in Oman - The Livestock MarketClick thumbnail to view full-size
5. Cruise in the Oman Dhow
Having descended from the great sailor, Sinbad, the Omanis are great seafarers. They have perfected the building of the dhow, the traditional boat used in Oman. Cruise by dhow along the magnificent coastline. Stop at Bandar Khayran with its calm waters and isolated beaches to swim and snorkel. Lots of fish and turtle action so take a mask. Or just have a picnic and walk or lounge in the beach.
I was really impressed with our boat driver. He knew just the right places and the right time for snorkeling. Not only that. When I went up because there were some algae and they ended up in my hair, he was ready. He had a big bucket and he washed these from my hair. I found the Oman people really friendly.
Cruise Oman's magnificent coastline
6. Go Dune Bashing in Oman's Desert
Visit the desert. The most renowned Omani desert is Sharqiyah Sands (formerly Wahiba Sands) with its dunes rising to nearly 200 meters. Go dune bashing, and see how loud you really do scream in terror! Sleep out in Barsti huts, Omani BBQ under the stars, ride a camel and eat with the Bedouins. Your hotel can arrange this for you.
We had a wonderful and knowledgeable guide when we were there. He had contacts in many villages, some really not frequented by tourists. through his connections, we had a taste of what it is to be welcomed in an Arab house in the middle of a desert, dropped in on some of the tiny villages and met some families and of course, dune bashing. It was exhilarating.
The Vast Desert of Oman
Experience the Oman Desert - See the stars at nightClick thumbnail to view full-size
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The Vast Desert of Oman
7. Visit Salalah, City of Antiquity in Oman
Visit Salalah, the Perfume Capital of Arabia. Referred to as the "perfume capital of Arabia", Salalah is a city of antiquity, boasting both the ruins of a fortified town Sumharam, an important port from 100BC-400AD, and the resting place of the Koranic prophet Ayoub, Job in the nearby Jabal Qara.
The Port of Salalah, located approximately 15 km to the southwest of the city, is one of the major entry points to India, the Middle East, and Africa.
Salalah is a must visit when in Oman
You have to put Salalah in your itinerary. It is the capital of the province of Dofar. You can't miss this old port. The mountains change at different seasons and it is carpeted with flowers in the spring.
A Winter in Arabia - By Sara Wheeler
This book describes the 1937 journey of Freya Stark through the Handramaut, part of today's Yemen. From the drawing rooms of London to the solitary tent, Stark was a guest. Luxury and hardship, loneliness and intimacy are opposing forces that Stark grappled with. Her words sums up what she wants to tell us: "There are few sorrows through which a new dress or hat will not send a little gleam of pleasure, however furtive."
Get this book and experience this little gleam of pleasure with Stark.
Camel Race in Oman - Jockeys Under 5
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8. Go to a camel race
Watch a camel race. Omanis take pride and full care in raising their camels implementing strict methods of taming and nourishment. Camels bred for racing undergo intensive training in order to compete at national and international levels.
Camels are given names reflecting their respective abilities and endurance. Jockeys are drafted for their size (or lack thereof) and some make their professional debuts around five years old. The races are normally held on public holidays and during National Day celebrations.
9. Take Oman's Luban Route
Go through ancient cities
Take the Luban (frankincense) route. This route comprises the ancient cities of Al-Blaid and Shasr, Khuwr Rori, and Wadi Dooka, locations that collectively contributed to the flourishing of frankincense trade for many centuries.
10. Visit the Old Villages in Oman
Peaks, Gorges and Wadis
Visit the villages of Saiq, Wadi Bani Habit (the village of the old houses) and Al Ain. These villages overlook a spectacular landscape of dramatic peaks, gorges and wadis.
The roses of Jabal Al Akhdar fill the air with fragrance when in full bloom (March / April). Rose water is distilled in the homes of the villagers.
The Sultan of Oman - The Modernization of Oman
Interested in Oman's becoming what it is today? A modern sultanate? When we were there, we were told that the Sultan each year takes off to the desert and hold consultations with his people. We saw how intimate the Omani's relationship is to the desert as they touch its sand and enjoy its feel.
11. Go diving in Khasab at the tip of Musandam
You may not associate Oman with diving but this area is one of the most sought after diving destinations.