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Oman Travel & Holiday Tips
 
 
 

Muscat

Muscat, the capital city of Oman lies sparkling white, topped with golden minarets in the middle of a maze of brown pleated mountains reaching down to the Arabian Sea. Described as "Arabia's jewel”, this city is a blend of the old and the new. Muscat is green as green can be, and defies being classified as part of a desert country.

Oman’s capital is divided into three main districts: Muscat, Mutrah and Ruwi. Muscat, the old walled port town, is dominated by the Sultan’s palace, buildings of the Royal Court and Government offices. Two well-preserved 16th-century Portuguese forts, Al Jalali and Mirani, guard the entrance to Muscat, and the city walls contain three beautifully carved original gates. The town’s old houses and narrow streets are overlooked by the hillside Mutrah Fort. The Ali Mosque, Sultan Qabus Grand Mosque and the New Mosque beside the sea add to the district’s charm. Mutrah port is the capital’s commercial centre and its fish market, souq and many bazaars are well worth visiting. Ruwi is the capital’s business district and has excellent streets for shopping. The National Museum, featuring fine displays of Omani silverwork, and the Sultan’s Armed Forces Museum, which outlines Omani history, are located here. There are some stunning beaches, like Qurum Beach, Bandar, Al-Jissah and Yeti, as well as some beautiful gardens: Quram National Park, Riam and Kalbouh.

Salalah

The capital of the southern region is a city set amongst coconut groves and banana plantations, sprawled along sandy beaches that run the length of its plain. The lush vegetation makes Salalah seem almost tropical, particularly as it is one of the only places in the Arabian peninsular that catches the monsoon. The Al-Balid and Samhuram ancient cities are a major tourist attraction. Nabi Ayoub (Jacob) Tomb and Tomb of Prophet Omran are interesting to visit.

For most of the year, the unspoiled beaches of Salalah are ideal for scuba diving, canoeing, sailing, jet skiing and diving. The marshy khawrs along the coast line are sanctuaries to a broad variety of migrating birds turning the region into a bird watchers paradise. But during the summer Salalah is easily Oman's coolest destination to visit during the Khareef with its crisp unpolluted air, cool misty clime, high rolling seas and leafy ambiance.

Less than half an hour's drive from Salalah is Ain Razat, a picnic spot with springs, hills, gardens and streams. Nearby is the equally resplendent Ain Sahanawt. Seventy kilo- meters east of Salalah lies Mirbat, famous for Bin Ali's tomb (Bin Ali was revered in the early days of Islam as a sage and holy man.). Taqah, 36kms from Salalah is a picturesque, quaint village. The fort at Taqah goes back several hundred years and is well stocked with authentic decorations and appointments.

Rising high above the coast is the Jebel Samhan plateau, the highest point in Dhofar at 1800 meters. Here you can find the hanging valley of Wadi Dirbat which is impressive in full flood. Further into the jebels is Tawi Attir (the hole of the birds), a natural sink hole over 100 metres wide and 250 metres deep. Nestled in a hidden valley is the Baobab Forest with huge bulbous trees, one tree over 2000 years old and 30 feet in diameter at its base.

To the west of Salalah are many stretches of beautiful beaches. One of the most popular of these is Mughsayl where you can find unusual blow holes in the rocky shelf close to the shore. These holes display dramatic bursts of water and foam sometimes reaching 50 feet in the air. Further to the west close to the Yemen border lies the town of Rakhyut and is a pleasant spot for picnic and swim in the ocean.

To the north of Salalah is the region known as the Nejd. This is a barren desolate area that is actually the southern fringe of the R'ub Al Khali. Here you find sweeping sand dunes and parched wadis. Lying 175 km north of Salalah is the remote village of Shisr. Here in the early nineties, with the help of satellite imagery from the space shuttle, explorers found what they believe to be the lost city of Ubar. Called by T. E. Lawrance (of Arabia) as the "Atlantis of the sands", Ubar was once considered to be the trading centre for frankincense before it was buried in the rising dunes.


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