Oman is a coastal country blessed with breathtaking natural views ranging from vast turquoise oceans to cocoa brown mountaintops, and is the home to many legends, ancient structures and contemporary architecture.
Sure to entice both adventurers and history buffs alike, we take a look at the top things to see and do in the beautiful sultanate of Oman.
1. Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
This glorious work of modern Islamic architecture was a gift to the nation from Sultan Qaboos to mark his 30th year of reign. Step into the main prayer hall and you’ll be at awe at the breathtaking interiors and ornate details. The Persian carpet alone measures 70m by 60m wide, making it the second-largest hand-loomed Iranian carpet in the world; it took 600 women four years to weave.
2. Royal Opera House
Having just been opened in 2011, the Royal Opera House cannot be considered a historical landmark; despite its age, it’s already a prominent arts and culture venue, hosting artists from all over the world including Plácido Domingo, Andrea Bocelli and Yo Yo Ma. The opera’s remarkable architecture is a fusion of contemporary architecture with historical Omani architectural styles and is a must-see design attraction when visiting Muscat.
3. Mutrah Souq
Step into the Mutrah Souq and you’ll immediately be engulfed by the culture and charm. One of the oldest markets in the Arab world because of Oman’s rich trade history, the souq is filled with various stalls and shops, some of which are hidden away in dark lanes beautifully lit by antique lights, making the architecture of the souq one of its prominent features. Almost anything can be found here, from handmade jewelery from Nepal, Afghan war hats to British coins and compasses(some of which are said to be from the Second World War).
4. Wadi Shab & Wadi Bani Khalid
Because of its rugged landscape dotted with springs and wadis(valleys), Oman is a haven for people attracted to the outdoors. The most famous wadis are Wadi Shab and Wadi Bani Khalid, with the latter being easier to access. A little over 10 minutes of walking and climbing through the breathtaking valley and you’ll be rewarded with a turquoise oasis to cool off.
5. Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve
Watching the turtles make their way back to the sea just before sunrise is a unique experience definitely worth checking off your Oman bucket list. Centres like the Ras Al Jinz Turtle reserve offers this experience every morning, and if you’re lucky enough, you could even spot baby turtles hatching and trying to make it to the ocean.
6. Nizwa Fort
Nizwa Fort is another site you can’t miss. Built over 12 years in the 17th century by Sultan bin Saif al Yaruba, the first imam of the Ya’aruba dynasty, the fort is famed for its 40m-tall round tower. It’s worth climbing to the top of the tower to gauge the scale of the surrounding date plantations and to admire the view of the Hajar Mountains that dominate the town.
7. Jebel Akhdar
Jebel Akhdar is part of the Al Hajar Mountain ranges, and a haven for adventure travellers and nature lovers alike. Take a scenic drive through the majestic mountain, and make sure to make stops at the small mountain-side farms to buy some pomegranates and dates.
8. Bimmah Sinkhole
The Bimmah Sinkhole is a beautiful limestone hollow that boasts of the kind of clear waters normally seen on holiday postcards. Locals believe the sinkhole was created by a falling star, and although geologists have confirmed it was caused by erosion, the legend definitely goes better with the beauty(and magnitude) of the place.
9. The Wahiba Sands
The Wahiba Sands in Sharqiyah province is the country’s most accessible desert. Still home to Bedouin tribes, it spans 4,000 square miles of rippling red-gold sand and towering dunes over 300ft high. There are a number of permanent camps where you can spend the night stargazing and enjoy dune bashing, sandboarding, quad biking and camel rides.
10. Bahla Fort
A UNESCO World Heritage site since the 1990s, the beautifully built Bahla Fort is one cultural site that must be seen and experienced. Now open to visitors, the historic fort was built around 3000 BC when Bahla was a prosperous oasis open to trade and visitors from around the region. Inside the fort visitors can see the areas where the traditional souqs were, the different alleys, houses and chambers, all representative of traditional Omani architecture.
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