Those who are in the know will tell you that the Sultanate of Oman is an up-coming destination, quietly establishing itself as a country willing to embrace the future as well as holding onto its culturally rich past. With miles of coastline offering the finest beaches, a world-renowned warm welcome, and land studded with historic forts and palaces, the 'Jewel of Arabia' is several holiday locations all rolled into one.
One of the oldest continuously independent states in the Arab world and the third-largest country in the Arabian Peninsula, the magic of Oman is sure to leave a long-lasting impression on everyone who visits. Boasting ancient culture, awe-inspiring natural beauty, and flourishing cities, experience a luxury holiday in Oman with Elegant Resorts to discover the wonders of this charming country. Not sure where to begin? We've compiled a list of our favourite things to see and do in the 'Jewel of Arabia'.
1. Be humbled by Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
A masterpiece of amazing architecture, complex mosaics, and beautiful marble carvings, the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque towers over the skyline of Muscat. Featuring a remarkable combination of Islamic, Middle Eastern and Omani architectural styles and built using local granite, white marble, and more than 30,000 tonnes of pink sandstone imported from India, this impressive mosque has the capacity for 20,000 worshippers, making it the largest mosque in all of Oman! Spend time wandering through its beautiful halls and be in awe of the huge, 24-carat gold plated chandelier in the centre of the men's prayer hall which features 600,000 Swarovski crystals on its trim. Soak in the second largest single piece hand-loomed carpet in the world, or spend time in the double-storey library, considered a cultural landmark of the contemporary Omani renaissance.
2. Float in the Emerald Water at Wadi Bani Khalid
If you're looking for something refreshingly different, visit one of the many wadis in Oman. Meaning 'valley' in Hebrew and Arabic, the wadis provide a stunning location for an invigorating swim in turquoise waters. Approximately three hours' drive away from the capital city of Muscat, Wadi Bani Khalid is easily accessed from the main roads and visitors can experience a truly magical oasis in the desert. With warm sun-heated waters and pools full of tiny fish, why not spend a relaxing afternoon at this stunning desert oasis, swimming in the sizzling pools surrounded by a rugged valley and lush palms? Those looking to escape the crowds can swim through the gorge and discover the pools and caves hidden on a second, higher level. But remember, Oman is a Muslim country so it's important to dress modestly and respect the local culture.
3. Discover turtles at the Ras Al Jinz Reserve
Animal lovers are in for a treat with a visit to the Ras Al Jinz Reserve, located in a fishing village on the Eastern shores of the Arabian Peninsula. The mission, since 1996, has been to help conserve the fascinating and remarkable nesting processes of the native and endangered Green Sea Turtles. This amazing eco-tourism project offers visitors the opportunity to watch the unique nesting process of these gentle water giants and learn about the human-induced threats they experience. Visit the beach early morning or late at night with a knowledgeable guide, and witness hatchlings as they emerge from their eggs and make their first dash towards the warm waters during a truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
4. Spend some time exploring the iconic Nizwa Fort
One of the most visited places in Oman for a reason, the Nizwa Fort is a monument to old Omani architecture, comprising a castle, fort, and museum all in one! Home to a wealth of exhibitions and beautifully furnished rooms, an afternoon would be well spent here. Walk around the castle and climb up for amazing views of the ruins of houses abandoned around the fort, observe the traditional way of living in Oman through fascinating exhibits, discover the fort's complex defence system, or climb to the platform at the top of the Nizwa Fort Tower and enjoy striking unobstructed views of the gunnery, the town, and the Nizwa Friday Mosque.
5. Get lost in the Mutrah Souq in Muscat
Oozing culture and rich in people and surroundings, the Mutrah Souq is one of the oldest markets in the Arab world, boasting a vast array of stalls and shops. Amble through the bustling markets, spot hidden gems and experience shadowy lanes beautifully lit by antique lights but be careful not to get lost in the Souq Al-Tha'laam, which in Arabic means 'Market of Darkness', thanks to the myriad of alleys and roads being lined by shops which block the sun during the day. Loose yourself admist the aromatic smells of Omani frankincense, fresh street-food and hole-in-the wall coffee shops, and browse handmade jewellery or traditional crafts to seek out the perfect souvenir.
6. Explore the authentic Misfat Al Abriyeen
Away from the hustle and bustle of modern Omani life, experience the stunning Misfat Al Abriyeen. After a steep hike up the main plateau, you'll be greeted with the welcoming sight of a genuine mud village, built into the rock of the mountainside around it. Dating back at least 300 years, this village is an oasis of lush terraces, hard rock and shadowy passageways, that the original dwellers of the village built using whatever resources they could find. The houses of Misfat Al Abriyeen use the mountain rock as their foundation and then built from smaller rocks, stones and mud with palm foliage for roofs. Discover the natural architecture and visit one of the newer cafes which aim to protect the town's rich culture and heritage through community-led, sustainable tourism.