ABOUT OMAN

Country Profile

Muscat

The Capital of Oman since the late 18th century, its relaxed pace of life and old world courtesies make it a great place to have a holiday and we also think it makes a wonderful city to live in.  Muscat stretches for about 100 km either side.  As there are restrictions on the heights of buildings, and thus development in the city of Muscat has spread horizontally rather than vertically.

 

We are based in Muscat (most guidebooks refer only to Muscat, Muttrah, and Ruwi) and we know the city and its people well.

 

Much of the city’s charm lies in its location between stunning rugged mountains of either limestone or ophiolite and the warm waters of the Sea of Oman.  Nestled on the beaches of Muscat there are several excellent hotels – Al Bustan Palace, The Chedi & Shangri-La along with other excellent hotels that have opened in the last few years  that we visit frequently.  We can book rooms for you in any of these or in one of the town based hotels scattered in the surrounding suburbs of Muscat.

 

In Muscat there are a number of museums whose displays and exhibitions focus on the history and culture of Oman.  Our favorites are – Bait Al Zubair, which gives an overview of Muscat’s history, and The Armed Forces Museum.

 

Make time when you are in Muscat to visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. The quality of workmanship is outstanding and the attention to details is remarkable.  We include it on our Muscat City Tours and can visit it at the start of some longer tours of Oman.

 

The Muttrah souq area is a labyrinth of small shops selling an eclectic mix of products, naturally including gold, frankincense & myrrh.

 

Salalah

The capital city of southern Oman’s Dhofar Province and the second largest city after the capital Muscat.  The region is famous for its annual monsoon, which transforms the desert terrain into a lush, green landscape and creates seasonal waterfalls and springs.  Salalah and Dhofar are historically important for the frankincense trade and Prophets memorial tombs. The Frankincense Land Museum, part of the Al Balid Archaeological Site and Sumharam Archaeological Site, recounts the city’s illustrious maritime history.

 

Nizwa

“The Pearl of Islam” is the ancient capital of Oman, originally established in 793 A.D.  It sits on a plain characterized by seasonal rivers and palm groves  at the foot of the Hajar Mountains.  It is well known for its Fort, a castle with a large cylindrical tower built in the 17th century to defend the city’s position on a major trade route.   The Nizwa Souq is lined with handicraft stalls and silversmiths working in small shops.

Nizwa now is the second biggest tourist destination in Oman.  It is still a conservative town, however, and appreciates a bit of decorum from its visitors, It was named the Capital of Islamic Culture in 2015 by ISESCO.

Musandam

Is a peninsula located on the northern border of the Sultanate of Oman, and guarding the southern side of the strategically important Strait of Hormuz, the Musandam Peninsula is known for its beautiful khors (rocky inlets), small villages, and dramatic mountain-hugging roads. The juxtaposition of sea and mountains is considered one of the exclusive features of this area. Excursions in boats and traditional ships give the visitor unforgettable enjoyment, with great diving spots of beautiful coral reefs and sea life. Archaeological sites also abound in this area as well as sea animal fossils dating back some 280 million years and amazingly lifted up to the top of the 200m mountains.

Khasab

Is the main town in Musandam Governorate and can be reached by daily flights on Oman Air from Muscat, by sea in fast ferries, and by car through a road that cuts through the United Arab Emirates.

 

The Hajar Mountains

“Hajar” means “stone” In Arabic.  This dramatic mountain range in the north of Oman spreads for nearly 700 km from Sur in the southeast of Muscat up to Musandam in the north.  The Hajar Mountains formed as the Arabian Plate collided with Indian Oceanic Crust, where the Indian oceanic crust moves over the Arabian Plate. These mountains are chiefly made of cretaceous limestones and ophiolites, with slopes on the desert side and cliffs along the coastal side.

The mountains are rich in plant life compared to most of Arabia, including a number of indigenous flora and fauna species.  Pomegranate, walnut, and Damascus roses are very common plants in the mountains where they flourish due to the cool temperature.

The Al Hajar mountains are extensively grazed by domestic goats, mountain gazelles, Arabian tahr, Arabian foxes, and Arabian wolfs, with a number of birds that are found in the mountains including Egyptian and lappet-faced vultures. 

The eroded stunning wadis (Valleys) form a unique environmental system characterized by variety, diversity, and a wealth of natural attractions.  Within this fertile environment, people have lived and cultivated in terraces in the sides of the wadis of Oman for thousands of years. We visit some of these wadis during our tours, with chances for a wild swim in the pure crystal natural water.

 

Oman’s Deserts

Wahibah Sands, It’s also called “Sharqyiah Sands” as it’s located in the Ash Sharqiyah province, and formed of the forces of southwest blowing monsoon. Sandy desert of 200km length by 100Km width, the area is occupied by Bedouins who are well known for raising and training the best racing camels in Arabia.  In the 1980s expedition by the Royal Geographical Society they noted some 16,000 invertebrates as well as 200 species of other wildlife. They also documented 150 species of native flora.

 

The Empty Quarter, Rub’ al Khali

Is the largest sandy desert in the world and occupies an incredible 650,000 square kilometres including parts of Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.  The terrain is covered with sand dunes with heights above 300 meters, interspersed with gravel and gypsum plains with brackish salt flats in some areas. 

Frankincense caravan trails lead across the Rub’ al Khali through the lost city of Ubar.  Between 1946 and 1950 Wilfred Thesiger crossed the area several times using the local Bedouins from southern Oman and mapped large parts of the Empty Quarter including the mountains of Oman, as described in his 1959 book Arabian Sands.  We have been running tours into the Empty Quarter for years and our guides know every corner of it.

 

 

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