Awarded Top 10 country to travel to in 2022About Best In Travel 2022
In Muscat's Grand Mosque, there is a beautiful hand-loomed carpet; it was once the world's largest rug until Abu Dhabi's Grand Mosque, in the United Arab Emirates, pinched the record. This is poignant because Oman doesn't boast many 'firsts' or 'biggests' in a region bent on grandstanding. What it does boast, with its rich heritage and embracing society, is a strong sense of identity, a pride in an ancient, frankincense-trading past and confidence in a highly educated future.
For visitors, this offers a rare chance to engage with the Arab world without the distorting lens of excessive wealth. Oman's low-rise towns retain their traditional charms, and Bedouin values remain at the heart of an Omani welcome. With an abundance of natural beauty, from spectacular mountains, wind-blown deserts and a pristine coastline, Oman is the obvious choice for those seeking out the modern face of Arabia while wanting still to sense its ancient soul.
Oman: Voted Top 10 Country as Best in Travel 2022
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These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Oman.
Many people come to Mutrah Corniche just to visit the souq, which retains the chaotic interest of a traditional Arab market albeit housed under modern timber roofing. Shops selling Omani and Indian artefacts together with a few antiques jostle among more traditional textile, hardware and jewellery stores. Bargaining is expected although discounts tend to be small. Cards are generally accepted in most shops, but bring cash for better deals. The main entry is via the Corniche, opposite the pedestrian traffic lights.
Rising without competition from the surrounding plain, Jabreen Castle is an impressive sight. Even if you have had a surfeit of fortifications, it's worth making the effort to clamber over one more set of battlements – Jabreen is one of the best-preserved and whimsical castles of them all. Head for the flagpole for a bird's-eye view of the latticed-window courtyard at the heart of the keep; the rooms here have distinctive painted ceilings.
Quietly imposing from the outside, this glorious piece of modern Islamic architecture was a gift to the nation from Sultan Qaboos to mark his 30th year of reign. The main prayer hall is breathtakingly beautiful. 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. Mwasalat buses stop outside the mosque.
Built on the foundations of a pre-Islamic structure, the towers and entrance of this fort were constructed during the reign of Imam Said Bin Sultan in 1834. There are excellent views of the Batinah Plain from the ramparts, and the majlis (reception room) on the top ‘storey’ of the fort makes a cool place to enjoy the tranquillity. The windows are perfectly aligned to catch the breeze, even in summer.
Well-labelled and atmospherically lit at night, the ancient ruins of Al Baleed belong to the 12th-century trading port of Zafar. Frankincense was shipped from here to India in exchange for spices. Little is known about the port’s demise, but the excellent on-site Museum of the Frankincense Land charts the area’s settlement since 2000 BC and illustrates the nation's maritime strength, including its recent renaissance. The site includes several kilometres of landscaped paths and the adjoining reed beds make for good birdwatching.
Aptly named in Arabic as the ‘Gorge Between Cliffs’, Wadi Shab is one of the most lovely destinations in Oman, despite Hwy 17 slung across the entrance. The wadi rewards even the most reluctant walker with turquoise pools, a busy falaj (irrigation channel), waterfalls and terraced plantations; kingfishers add glorious splashes of colour and year-round trusses of pink oleander bloom by the water’s edge. A five-minute boat ride (OR1 return) is required to cross the mouth of the wadi to the trail head.
The upper plateau of Jebel Samhan suddenly ends in a vertiginous drop more than 1000 meters to the coastal plain below. Barely a ledge interrupts the vertical cliff, and it seems impossible that there should be any route down from here that didn't involve a rope and crampons. But in fact that is not the case: locals, armed with nothing more than a snake stick and a kettle, have been climbing from plain to jebel for centuries along their own hidden paths.
The term 'Grand Canyon of Arabia' is wholly deserved for this quintessential feature of Oman's spectacular mountain scenery. A short path leads to the edge of the limestone cliffs with a vertiginous 1000m drop into Wadi Ghul below. There are no safety barriers, but the cliff edge is stepped at the top allowing visitors to sit in safety while contemplating the view. There are other viewpoints along the Jebel Shams road, but this is the most expansive.
Marking the highest point along the paved road, this spectacular viewpoint overlooks the full reach of the Hajar mountain range. With little hint of the scale of the vista on the paved ascent, the viewpoint comes as a breathtaking surprise after the long climb from Al Hamra. From the other direction, there is satisfaction in reaching this point after the arduous four-hour off-road drive from Wadi Bani Awf. Bring a picnic to make the most of this eagle's-nest location.
Experience a world beyond in Qatar
Surrounded by the Arabian Gulf, Qatar seamlessly blends cultural heritage with modernity. This warm and friendly peninsula offers a wealth of attractions from iconic art and culture museums to historic heritage sites and souqs, from beautiful beaches and desert escapes to family fun at brand new theme parks. The best hotel brands, restaurants, spas, and shops have created an oasis of adventure and relaxation in the heart of the Middle East.