Why over 100,000 British people visit Oman every year
The Sultanate of Oman, celebrating 42 years of Renaissance, has so much to offer that it is hard to know where to begin. There are literally hundreds of attractions in this country - and the diversity of choice will make almost any length of holiday seem too short to take everything in. Here are just 10 of the most popular things visitors see, do and experience to get the most from their visit.
The vibrant capital of Muscat
Selected as the Arab Tourism Capital 2012, Muscat's charming beauty, cultural events, luxurious accommodations, The Royal Opera House Muscat, the Muttrah Souq and Corniche, Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, aquatic activities, and wild water sports bracing its coastline alongside traditional dhows are some of the features that appeal to all tourists. What is striking about Muscat is the breathtaking intermingling of ancient cultural heritage and modern style. You will see authentic houses, gates, old markets, small shops, and winding roads side by side with modern malls buildings and streets. This allows Oman to preserve its historic character, and at the same time enjoy its contemporary spirit. Oman has developed its own architectural style that allows its historic buildings to blend comfortably with modern edifices.
100% pure luxury
Oman is keen to meet the demand for luxury travel. The Chedi Hotel and Spa Muscat has led the way for some years with its award-winning service and new spa complex in the sophisticated GHM style. The Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort has an extensive CHI spa themed around a Chinese wellness philosophy based on the five elements of earth, fire, water, metal and wood, and Himalayan treatments feature alongside Omani healing practices. The spa at the Six Senses Hideaway Zighy Bay is a sensuous oasis. Built beside a little wadi, it has two Arabian hammams, a Thai massage room and luxurious treatment rooms offering everything from holistic massages to rose milk baths. The completely refurbished Al Bustan Palace Hotel is more than ever synonymous with luxury. Oman has also invested in creating top golfing facilities and sporting venues to accommodate their sporting tourists, the facilities have already been used for regional competitions, such as Almouj Golf at The Wave. New luxury mountain View camps opened in 2011: The View and the Sahab in Jabel Akhtar.
The vast expanse, emptiness and silence of the desert is an antidote to modern living. Fall in love with the beauty of the desert at night, as the sand cools and a million stars come out. Experience the thrills of dune driving and learn more about the Bedouin people. Glamorous camping in luxury tents is the best way to experience the culture and unforgiving sandy expanses with the comfort of modern conveniences at the Desert Night Camp or for a unique experience try Hud Hud Travels' bespoke camps where Oman becomes your empty map for a one-off adventure. If you prefer, Oman also offers a host of traditional camping opportunities for visitors to experience the desert in its purist form.
New cruise destination
The cruise industry is booming in Oman, with 40% more ships set to dock there this year, helped of course by the opening of a new cruise terminal at the Mina Sultan Qaboos port in Muscat. Visit Oman for any number of nights as part of a Middle East cruise to enjoy Muscat's many delights alongside its Arabian peninsula counterparts. Cruises in Oman are an inseparable part of its history. Oman is surrounded by the sea and Omanis are famous for their love of their azure waters. Cruises abound from many beaches and cities, and there are specialised centres such as: Marina Bandar Al Rawda in Muscat Governorate. Many tour operators organise a variety of activities, whether it is watching dolphins or sailing. These tours are not limited to the capital Muscat, as both Musandam and the city of Sur in A'Sharqiyah South Governorate (Eastern Region) are famous for their marine trips. There is barely a beach in Oman that does not organise such trips.
6000 years of history and culture
The ancient ramparts of Bahla Fort, Aflaj Irrigation Systems of Oman, Archaeological Sites of Bat, Al-Khutm and Al-Ayn are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the carefully preserved Jabrin Castle dating from 1670, or the art of Dhow building that has come down through generations of Omanis, all help visitors to relive the glory of an ancient civilisation. Explore a land where Shahrazad's stories from '1001 Nights' or the legendary Sinbad the Sailor come alive and visit hundreds of castles, forts and archaeological sites steeped in mythology. 24 of the 500 Omani forts have been renovated including one currently being turned into a boutique hotel.
Warm welcoming people
Omani people are characterised by a broad smile and authentic Arabic generosity. This is evident in Omani hospitality which is widespread throughout the country, with every person you meet making you feel at home from your arrival at the airport to farewell by the taxi driver and hotel staff.
Fjords of Arabia
The Musandam Peninsula is a rugged and starkly beautiful region. Musandam overlooks the straits of Hormuz, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.
Unique Frankincense from Salalah
Once considered more precious than gold; this aromatic gum resin makes for ideal gifts and souvenirs and the Omani variety is considered the best in the world. Frankincense is a symbol of life; or rather it is life itself, for the Dhofari people. It is not a mere tree, but an embodiment of Omani culture, history, sociology and geography. Its lingering perfume can be enjoyed throughout the country. Salalah, in the South of Oman on the Indian Ocean, is famous for its Frankincense trees as well as being a truly unique and beautiful place. The climatic factors make Salalah a magical spot and visitors marvel at the monsoon season which creates a lush carpet of nature against the steep mountain views. Frankincense is also used in the production of Amouage Perfume, with the factory in Muscat being open to visitors.
Nature, wildlife and adventure
Oman has a rigorous 'green' policy and a fascinating array of animals thrive in the many protected areas. Oman features and protects five of the world's seven species of turtle, each year green turtles nest on Omani beaches, visitors can watch as these tiny creatures hatch between September and November in Raz al Hadd. Approximately 400 birds have been recorded in Oman including many migratory species. With its 1700 kilometres of unspoilt coastline and beaches Oman offers so many opportunities for adventure; visitors are rewarded with the sight of dolphins and whales, divers also enjoy moray eels, corals and a spectacular array of tropical fish. Not to mention the chance to participate in water sports, fishing, sailing, climbing, trekking, caving, horse and camel racing and off-road driving.
Responsible and sustainable tourism
Oman has embraced responsible tourism and has been awarded the accolade by the United Nations Environmental Programme of having one of the best records in environmental preservation. Not only have the government put in place firm environmental laws to protect the beautiful landscape and architectural sites but they have also started many projects which are aimed at protecting endangered species such as the Arabian Oryx; and protecting Ras Al Jinz to be used solely for turtle breeding. Hotel groups have also started their own initiatives by recycling and limiting washes and waste.
For more information, visit omantourism.gov.om.