Oman is a country with an enormous wealth of natural attractions, fascinating culture, stunning landscapes and warm welcoming people. Oman is a rapidly emerging destination for UK tourists, divers, wildlife and nature enthusiasts, hikers and tourists, who relish the pristine waters, mountain ranges, stunning desert, and fascinating forts and souks.Home to a wide range of award-winning five-star hotels, Oman is the perfect destination for leisure, business, conference and incentive travel with state-of-the-art convention and conference facilities along with first-class air, road and telecommunications networks.
Its rich cultural and archaeological heritage reflects hundreds of years of international trade and foreign influences, evidence of which is spread all over the country, home to more than 500 forts, castles, watchtowers, four UNESCO heritage sights and rock paintings.
The second largest country in the region, Oman’s greatest attraction is its contrasting diverse landscape including majestic fjords in the far north in Musandam, virgin sandy beaches, magnificent desert expanses, rugged mountains and a lush green south.
The range of activities available is equally as varied from diving in the Indian Ocean to canoeing the fjords, bird watching to rock climbing or caving. Boat trips to see dolphins, close encounters with nesting turtles or browsing the souks for frankincense, make a stay in Oman unique.
Getting there: Muscat International Airport is located 40km from Muscat city centre and also serves domestic flights.
Flying from Heathrow’s Terminal 3, Oman Air, the national carrier of the Sultanate of Oman, is the only airline to offer daily, non-stop direct flights from London to Muscat. Many international airlines fly into Muscat including Gulf Air via Bahrain, Etihad Airways and British Airways via Abu Dhabi, Emirates Airlines via Dubai, Qatar Airways, Kuwait Airways, Lufthansa, Thai Airlines and Swiss Air.
Location: The Sultanate of Oman is the second largest country in the Arabian Peninsula with the United Arab Emirates dividing a small section in the northernmost tip. The country’s entire East Coast is fringed by the Indian Ocean and its land neighbours include Yemen to the south, and Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates on its western border.
Local Time: GMT + 4 hours
Visas: Visa on arrival facilities are available to citizens of over 50 countries including UK residents and Irish passport holders.
Currency: The rial (RO) is the Omani currency and is divided into 100 baisas. The rate of conversion is £1 = RO 0.61 as of October 2010. Banks and exchange bureaux are found throughout Muscat.
Credit cards: All major credit cards are accepted in main hotels, stores and larger shops, but in traditional souks, cash is used.
Electricity: The electrical system is based on 220/240 AC volts with British type plugs.
Alcohol: Alcohol is served in hotel, club restaurants, bars and international restaurants.
Language: Arabic is the official language, but English is widely spoken.
Oman welcomes 2.5 million visitors a year with an average of 100,000 British tourists.
Where To Stay:
Almost all renowned hotel chains, including Shangri-la, InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Radisson SAS, Hyatt International, The Chedi and Sheraton have a presence in the country, with the showcase property being the Al Bustan Palace Hotel, the venue for many regional heads-of-state meetings.
For a luxurious stay in Muscat there are plenty of options, all with world class dining facilities. Beyond Muscat there is a wide spectrum of accommodation too, from budget and mid-range options in the interior to luxury desert camping in air conditioned Bedouin tents.
In the southern region of Dhofar the Marriott Salalah, Crowne Plaza and Hilton Salalah lead the high end options and in Musandam, Oman’s northern peninsula, the Six Senses at Zighy Bay offers a world class luxury stay near Oman’s majestic fjordland. Both regions offer budget and mid-range options ideal for the soft adventure enthusiast, divers and those wanting to be off the beaten track.
Oman currently offers over 8,000 rooms including many four, five and six-star properties. This is set to increase to 15,000 by 2015. Oman’s portfolio of hospitality brands is rapidly expanding to open high profile properties in the future, including Four Season Hotels & Resorts, Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts, Angsana Resorts & Spas, Missoni Hotels, Rotana Hotel, Club Med, Mövenpick, and Marriott.
What To Do:
Muscat, the capital of Oman, is a perfect blend of old and new. The city enjoys a dramatic setting with mountains on one side and the Indian Ocean (Arabian Sea) on the other.
Ensure your clients do a city tour and take in some of Muscat’s highlights. Start with the stunning Grand Mosque in the early hours. Take a trip to the old port area, the site of the Sultan’s palace and the two forts, Jalali and Mirani. Visit one of the many museums, choose from The Oman Museum, The Natural History Museum, Bait Al Zubair, Bait Al Baranda, The Sultan’s Armed Forces Museum, The National Museum in Ruwi and be sure to sample some local cuisine at one of the many local café’s.
End a city tour late afternoon at the bustling Muttrah souk, visitors can find everything from spices to houseware, fabrics, toys, antiques, gold and silver.
Muscat can cater to both the adventure enthusiast and those seeking rest and relaxation. The city’s long coastline and temperate waters are ideal for almost every type of water sport, and beyond Muscat visitors will find a playground of landscape ideal for the adventurous thrill seeker…
From the vast plains of the Wahiba Sands desert, ideal for a desert adventure and just a couple of hours from Muscat to the majestic Hajar mountains, Oman has a wealth of diverse terrain for the more adventurous…
As a destination for rock-climbers, Oman is unmatched in the region for its appeal and many outdoor activities take place around the mountain ranges. More than 160 climbs have been pioneered, and graded from easy to extremely difficult. Jebel Ghul in the Al Dakhiliyah region towers 300 metres and offers Alpine-style climbing at its best. The mountains provide excellent conditions for trekking. Trips to Jebel Akhdar and Jebel Shams in Nizwa can be arranged easily through local tour operators. The Eastern Hajar Mountains enable you to combine trekking in the mountains and camping on the beaches. In addition to enjoyable trekking, these spots provide breathtaking views of surrounding areas. Jebel Shams, or “mountain of the sun”, is the highest point in Oman at over 3,000 metres. The trek to the Wadi Nakhr Gorge, also known as the Grand Canyon of Oman, is an unforgettable experience.
Another popular activity in Oman, and one indigenous to the region, is “wadi-bashing”. Wadis are dry riverbeds that run through the mountains to form a narrow valley that can often be negotiated in a four-wheel-drive vehicle to discover lush greenery, sparkling pools and waterfalls.
In the Dhofar region discover the Frankincense Trail, explore the lush green valleys or dip in to the warm Indian Ocean for stunning off-shore diving.
The Musandam peninsula, with its stunning fjordlands, often referred to as the “Fjords of Arabia” lends itself to world class diving and is ideal for dhow cruises and canoeing on the pristine waters, on land good hiking routes are available in and around the peninsula.
Lighter options such as snorkelling, sailing, a dolphin and whale watching trip, sunset cruises, kite surfing, or even a round of golf at the new Muscat Hills are all easily organised by a local tour company.
A trip to Oman would not be complete without divulging into the country’s 6000 years of civilisation, the country's landscape is punctuated by over 500 hilltop forts and castles, monuments to a turbulent and fascinating past.
On the cultural side, Oman’s rich cultural heritage yields a number of ancient sites, many of which have now been granted protected status by UNESCO and are listed as World Heritage Sites. These include the Bahla Fort, the archaeological sites of Bat tombs dating back 3,000 years, the falaj system (irrigation system) and the Frankincense Trail in Dhofar.
Spend a day trip or overnight visiting Nizwa, the old capital, a two-hour drive from Muscat and witness the bustle of the Nizwa Souk famed for its silver crafts, antiques, pottery and traditional wooden chests that are hand carved with brass fittings and studs. A souk with a difference is the open-air livestock market where cows, goats and sheep are offered for inspection and sale. Niwa is also home to the stunning Nizwa fort and mosque.
Calendar of Events
Apart from its diverse landscape and rich culture, Oman now offers even more reasons to visit with an amazing array of performing arts, sporting and cultural events running from 2010 to 2011.
In December 2010, Muscat hosts the 2nd Asian Beach Games - the first major international sporting event to come to Oman, featuring athletes from over 45 countries competing in beach and water sports. After being home to athlete’s during the 2010 Asian Beach Games, the Millennium Hotel, Musannah will become a landmark in the new waterfront complex.
The Muscat Festival returns in January-February 2011, with the very popular cultural village, demonstrations of the traditional arts, as well as Oman's first Food and Fashion Festival.
Add in the Tour of Oman cycle race, the Extreme Sailing World Championships and performances by the Oman Royal Opera and Symphony Orchestra to make your visit even more memorable.
There has never been a better time to come and enjoy the beauty of the Sultanate of Oman.
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