Postcards from Oman

Posted by Crooked Compass

You think you know what to roughly expect when you travel to a new destination. You know, when you have done so much research that you feel like you have already been before you actually arrive. I thought I had my bases covered. I thought I knew what was coming when I flew into Oman. How wrong was I.

I was completely knocked off my feet as soon as the touched the dusty ground.

Qantab Beach Muscat
Overlooking Qantab fishing village, Muscat

I thought I knew what to expect. Rolling sunburnt sandunes, buck tooth camels dotting the landscape, stunning arabesque architecture in a dry dusty city crammed with beat up cars, horns endlessly blazing. I assumed odd odours would assault the senses intertwined with a rich and fascinating culture. Some of this assumption was correct, but not all! Instead I was greeted with turquoise beaches, sheltered by golden towering mountains, a modern and breathtakingly impressive city. Everything sparkled and gleamed white. Everything looked clean, new. Cars were modern, street lamps were elegant and intricate, lawns not only existed in this harsh desert climate, but they were a refreshing GREEN! Sprinklers danced, oceans glimmered. Muscat was polished, refined and more beautiful than any other Arabian capital city I had visited. My arabian nights fantasies were to come to life and I felt like Princess Jasmine in a mystical land, minus the magic carpet.

Grand Mosque Muscat
Our guide, Ali, leading the way into the Grand Mosque Muscat

Follow my journey through Oman in pictures as I encounter hypnotising landscapes, colossal sand dunes, swim in remote oases, explore quaint crumbling villages, embrace local encounters and learn the cultural traditions of this Arabian jewel.

Wadi Tiwi
After a long hot hike up a narrow road, and climbing down the steep, dusty rocks, I had this emerald oases all to myself in Wadi Tiwi. Pure paradise!

Wadi Bani Khalid
Wadi Bani Khalid

This is Wadi Bani Khalid, a much larger oasis with canyons to swim between and if you can make it to the end, some great walking trails with small waterfalls to tackle. The harsh landscape and dry heat, makes this swimming hole very welcoming for a refreshing dip.

Eid Feast Oman
We were luck enough to join a local family in their home for the big Eid feast.

We were privileged to be welcomed into our guides best friends home and join their family of 20 people for the Eid feast. Two baby camels and a goat were cooked traditionally underground for 24hrs - we arrived just as they were unwrapping the succulent meat. It literally fell off the bone and slid effortlessly onto the large metal plates as they removed the hips, legs and skull. The animals had been delicately wrapped in dried banana leaves before a layer of woven palm leaves was placed around the outside and held together firmly with wire. Steam surged upwards from the meat, swirling into our nostrils, making our mouths water. The meat, so tender. The men and women sat in separate rooms, cushions covered the floor. They treated us as one of them. Talk about a culturally immersive experience!

Wahiba Sands
The rolling dunes of Wahiba Sands. We caught the last of the suns rays as they dipped beneath the horizon.

We made it - just! After way too much food at our Eid celebration, it was a race to the top of the sand dunes before the sun set. We skidded over the dunes, having to pause several times to let more air out of our tyres. We climbed the colossal dunes and crept closer to edge, our 4WD perched at the peak. With the wind whipping sand into our eyes, we scrambled desperately to the dunes behind our car to capture this stunning shot of the last light over the desert. Soft pinks and mauves surrounded us, the sun a fireball, glowing over the ripple of dunes, before sinking below the horizon.

Wahiba sand swirls
Wahiba sand swirls

The colour of sands varied from dune to dune. From golden to rusty. The wind leaving whisping patterns in its wake.

Camels Wahiba Sands
My bucktoothed friends

Here they are... the camels I had expected! Resting in the heat, not realising how spectacular the landscape they live in truly is. Barron, desolate, harsh but beautiful.

nizwa
Overlooking a crumbled and abandoned town on the outskirts of Nizwa

After a random detour, we crept our way up a steep and crumbling road to an electrical tower on the outskirts of the former capital, Nizwa. The view? A panoramic spread beneath us of crumbled villages and an oases of lush palm trees. An unexpected place to stop and take a break, the world at our feet.

Al Hamra
The old mud houses of Al Hamra

No, we didn't suddenly transport to Yemen. This old crumbling town of Al Hamra, resembles the mud houses found in Yemen. Almost abandoned, this town was eerie yet fascinating to explore. We were the only ones here. Words cannot describe how incredible this town is. There were no sounds except the crunch of our feet over the dusty rubble, the gurgling of the local falaj and the slow whir of a bicycle chain as a local glided by. The heat stifling. The air still and dry. A ghost town.

Al Hamra
Old doors of Oman in Al Hamra

Misfah Fort
Exploring the hidden alleys of Misfah Old Fort

Hidden in the mountains, clinging to the edge of a cliff, is the spectacular Misfah Fort. Winding alleys following the gurgling sounds of the falaj (Oman's unique water supply and irrigation system). Shaded by bowing palms and banana plantations, you can actually stay in this fort. Be treated to Omani delights as you eat and live like a local.

Nizwa
An elderly man slowly walks by, passing the crumbled remains of an old village on the outskirts of Nizwa

lazy river-2
Time to kick back on the lazy river

Back to Muscat and to the Shangri La. Check out my tan!

Shangri La Muscat
Best seats in the house, Shangri La Barr Al Jissah, Muscat

The perfect place to watch the sunrise, sunset and to chill for the day. Occasionally dolphins frolic in the bay.

BAB, Shangri La Muscat
Evening cocktails on Muscat's only rooftop bar, BAB. A must do for any visitor to Muscat!

As the temperature drops and the moon rises, the place to head for cocktails and canapes is BAB. Muscat's only rooftop bar. Chill in a cabana, sink into the plush lounge cushions and bop along to funky beats whilst mingling with guests and staff.

goat
My friend the goat

Not the most professional of photos, but definitely one of the most hilarious. This goat on the Musandam Peninsular would not stop following me. He tried to eat my shoes, my camera bag, my camera strap. He then got distracted chewing on a stick. Isn't he just the cutest?

Musandam goat
Omani door and random goat

The Musandam Peninsular is definitely a region to explore. A flight away from the main core of Oman, this sleepy peninsular is perfect for those wanting to explore remote fishing towns, swim with dolphins and dive in the balmy waters.

Omani Door
Omani Door

It's all about the doors in Oman.

Strolling through an oasis.
Strolling through an oasis.

This picture is a little out of order but thought it would be a nice shot to end the blog on. Walking through this labyrinth of palms, out the other side was the crumbled mud town of Al Hamra. The vast contrasts that Oman offers is nothing short of surprising (and super impressive). From soaring jagged mountains, to sapphire blue waters on the coast. Humble hilltop villages to gleaming mosques. Bustling souks, to bulky turtles lugging their bodies up onto the sand. Cultural immersion, wildlife encounters, swimming spots, unique accommodation - Oman has it all.

 

Want to explore Oman? Check out our Oman Small Group Tours.

Whispers Through the Empty Quarter - Take a 4WD across the Omani desert

Soul of Oman - Want to experience all of the above? This is the tour for you!

Arabian Delights - Explore the Musandam Peninsular