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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
The colour of sands varied from dune to dune. From golden to rusty. The wind leaving whisping patterns in its wake.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Back to Muscat and to the Shangri La. Check out my tan!
The perfect place to watch the sunrise, sunset and to chill for the day. Occasionally dolphins frolic in the bay.
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.
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?
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.
It’s all about the doors in Oman.
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
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.