What do you want from your next holiday? If you want something a little adventurous, exotic, unusual, historic and geographically beautiful, Oman probably offers the holy grail in ‘soul-satisfying’ holiday destinations.
Without a doubt there is plenty that this small, gentle, laid-back country offers but here are Steppes’s Big 5 reasons to go to Oman.
1. Nizwa’s Friday Cattle Market
Nizwa town is a few hour’s drive from Muscat into the interior of Oman. It was once the capital of Oman between the 7th and 8th century. Surrounded by immense palm oases, Nizwa is famous for its fort and its gold and silver handicrafts. A visit to Nizwa is a must, particularly on a Friday when their weekly cattle market takes place. Between 7 am and 10 am there is a livestock market where traditionally attired men, many with a khanjar (traditional omani knife) in their belts, a cane to hand and possibly a rifle slung over their back, bid for goats, sheep and cattle. The market is an exceptional insight into traditional life in Oman.
Accommodation Pick: Alila Jabal Akhdar
2. The World of Karak Chai
On your journey around Oman you will see numerous local eateries and ‘hole-in-the-wall’ cafés. These establishments are treasure troves of flavour and should not be missed. Spend some time savouring the exceptional taste of ‘Karak Chai’ combined with Rakhel, a crepe like snack. There are more than 10 different types of tea, made with tea leaves and flavouring of your choice for example Saffron, mint, ginger, cardamom. The combination of Karak Chai with a Rakhel is utterly irresistible.
Accommodation Pick: The Chedi Muscat
3. Turtles in Ras Al Jinz
Do not miss a visit to Ras Al Hadd Turtle Reserve. Ras al Jinz, a fishing village located within the Ras Al Hadd Turtle Reserve is an important turtle-nesting site. With over 20,000 green turtles returning annually to the beach to lay their eggs, this area is rich in marine biodiversity. It is possible to stay very close to the beach to see the turtles on the beach. The guides are excellent and only take small, intimate groups. Sightings of the giant turtles laying their eggs take place at night. You wait for a while in the dark with the amazing desert sky full of billions of stars and only the sound of the waves crashing on the beach. It is an incredibly moving experience to watch these prehistoric type creatures struggling up the beach in order to lay their eggs in safety. Slowly the eggs hatch and baby turtles make their scramble towards the ocean. The survival rate is tiny which makes the experience that much more emotional. You find yourself caught in a moment, a privileged experience that you will always remember.
Salalah is the capital city of southern Oman’s Dhofar province. It’s known for its banana plantations, Arabian Sea beaches and waters teeming with sea life. The Khareef, an annual monsoon, transforms the desert terrain into a lush, green landscape and creates seasonal waterfalls. The Frankincense Land Museum, part of the Al Balid Archaeological Site, recounts the city’s maritime history and role in the spice trade. The ruins of the fabled city of Ubar, chronicled in classical works as the “Atlantis of the sands” are among a series of archaeologists excavations currently underway along the route. In the Rub-Al Khali (The empty quarter) area, it is possible to experience dune driving for an exhilarating end to a fascinating stay.
Accommodation Pick: Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara
5. Walking in the Jebel Akhtar Mountains
Meaning ‘Green Mountain,’ the Jebel Akhdar refers to the mountain range that stretches across a large swathe of central Oman. Dominated by the 3,038-metre-high Jebel Shams, this iconic region is home to some of the country’s most attractive scenery.
Dotted with villages and crisscrossed by numerous wadis, the Jebel Akhdar is a fascinating place to explore by bicycle, on foot or by 4×4. Irrigated by ancient ‘falaj’ water channels, the area is known for its desert roses, walnuts and pomegranates.
Accommodation Pick: Alila Jebel Akhdar for the ultimate stay in this impressive mountain range.