place of interests and things to do
Oman is one of those destinations where the possibilities of things to do are truly limitless. Its diverse natural landscape and rich culture make it the perfect place to meet the diverse needs of every traveler, whether for research, adventure, or simply to relax and unwind, here are some of the best places to visit and things to do to help make your next visit to Oman a memorable one.
THE SULTAN QABOOS GRAND MOSQUE
Inaugurated in 2001 to celebrate thirty years of his reign and entirely financed by the late Sultan’s personal funds, Oman’s main mosque is located in Bawshar. Open to both Muslim and non-Muslims, its proportions and interior decoration are impressive. The exterior consists of three main aisles, five minarets, several ablution courts and three vaulted passageways. Headed by a central dome, the men’s prayer room is monumental with walls and pillars in Carrara marble, stained glass and Persian style tiles.
THE ROYAL OPERA HOUSE MUSCAT
The late Sultan Qaboos was a fan of classical music and arts and ordered the construction of this premier venue in 2001. Located in the heart of the capital, the Qurm district, this monumental opera house was finally inaugurated in October 2011. Apart from its architectural success, a style between modernity and tradition, it offers each season a selection of the most beautiful works from the classical international and oriental repertoire. For information on the latest shows:
THE BAIT AL ZUBAIR MUSEUM
Located in a beautiful traditional house of Old Muscat, this small ethnographic museum devoted to everyday life and clothing is one of the most interesting in the capital. Weapons, jewellery, costumes and decorative items are on display inside, while the back garden recreates a typical village. http://www.baitalzubair.com
THE NATIONAL MUSEUM
Located in Old Muscat, it retraces all the history and traditions of the country with more than 7000 objects exposed. In total, it consists of 12 galleries, such as the maritime gallery, the splendours of Islam, Oman and the world, etc., another gallery for temporary exhibitions, a warehouse and a workshop area for children.
THE OLD PORT OF MUTTRAH
If Muscat prides itself on its role as political capital, the real economic heart of the city is Muttrah. Worth a visit is the seafront with its old mansions dating from the 18th century, the small fishing port and the most complete souk in the Arabian Peninsula. There are traditional clothes, handcrafts and antique jewellery, Bedouin rugs, as well as live workshops to learn how to manufacture the khanjar, a traditional dagger carved in horn.
BANDAR AI KHAYRAN RESERVE
OMAN CONVENTION & EXHIBITION CENTER MUSCAT
Opened in 2016, Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre in Muscat is just 4 km away from the international airport. It has 2 auditoriums with 3200 and 450 seats, 20 meeting rooms (capacity for 25 to 360 people), 2 theatres with a capacity for 2,360 people, a 22,396 m2 hall (without columns) divisible into 5 spaces, Hall 1 & 2 (10,000 people concerts, large meetings), 1 large ballroom (1,200 people), 1 junior ballroom (540 people for banquets), 10 reception suites, 1 VIP pavilion and 4,000 parking places.
HELICOPTER TOURS OF MUSCAT
In 2020, Al Sharqiya Aviation initiated the first flights in helicopter over Muscat. From Quantab to the
charming ledge of Muttrah, through Bandar Al Khayran, this is a unique service to discover the capital
from the air. Individual or shared 15-minute flights available. www.asa.om
Since October 2012, Muscat boasts four 18-hole courses offering breath-taking panoramas, beautiful routes and optimal practice conditions from October to April. Also, several hotels offer “Stay & Golf” packages or just weekly golf packages.
Opened in 1969, the Ras Al Hamra Golf Club is the oldest golf course in Muscat on a course of
Sand. Recently, it has been redesigned by Graham Marsh Golf Design teams to become an 18-hole
course on grass. It is also the first fully lit golf course in the country. www.rasalhamragolfclub.com
NIZWA FORT & SOUQ
A couple of hours from Muscat is the historic town of Nizwa, whose architecture and powerful landscapes invite you to explore it
Sometimes, the most beautiful, most exciting places are really the ones that carry the least hype. Oman, a tiny Sultanate at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, is one such country. In this sliver of land bordering the Arabian Sea, rugged mountains and beautiful wadis rub shoulders with deserts, oases and pristine beaches. Heritage and history vie with modernity, making Oman a land of diverse experiences.
MISFAT AI ABRIYEEN
Misfat Al Abriyeen village is located in Wilayt AlHamra in A’Dakhiliyah Governorate. It is characterised by its alleys, traditional buildings, high mud buildings, and agricultural terraces that wrap around the mountain, along with the old buildings. Misfat Al Abriyeen rises a thousand metres above sea level.re on display.
The Green Mountain which rises to an altitude of 3,020 m is located in the highest central part of the Hajar Mountains, the backbone of the country. It separates the governorate of Al Batinah (literally the “belly”), the coastal plain which borders the mountains, from the governorate of A’Dhahirah (“the back”) and its interior plateaus. Several villages are scattered in the mountains, including Seiq Al-Sherija, Wadi Beni Habib, Al Ain, Al Saqer, Al Manakher, Hil Al Yaman, Al Qasha. One of the main attractions is the rose and fruit tree plantations (pomegranate, peach, apricot, almond …) on the Saiq plateau.
At the other end of the western Hajar range, “the mountain of the sun” is the highest point in the country with its peak at 3,075 m. Covered by several hiking trails, the Jabal Shams is one of the most breathtaking natural sites of Oman: the “Grand Canyon” of Wadi an Nakhar. A good road, first paved, then which turns into a track, leads to the crest of the canyon at a place called “Plateau” that reaches 1,950 meters above sea level.
AL HOOTA CAVE
This cave, 5 km long and crossed by an underground river, is located at the foot of Jabal Shams, in the province of Al Hamra. It looks like an underground gorge and has two entrances located at an altitude of 1040 m and 810 m. Stalactites, stalagmites, limestone rocks and karst crystals line the ceiling and the soil, while some rare species of insects and crustaceans live on water generated by the rains.
In the heart of eastern Oman, the Wahiba Sands is an ocean of regular dunes that seem to stretch out endlessly. Pale gold at noon, the towering piles of sand shift between rich yellow and coppery orange when the sun is at lower angles. Just a three-hour drive from Muscat, an overnight stay here offers an easy way to experience the primal power of the desert from the comfort of luxe camps.
WADI BANI KHALID
Wadi Bani Khalid is one of the best-known wadis in the Sultanate of Oman. Its stream maintains a constant flow of water throughout the year. Large pools of water and boulders are scattered along the course of the wadi. As a geographical area, the wadi covers a large swathe of lowland and the Hajar Mountains
RAS AL JINZ TURTLE RESERVE
Evenings and nights are the best times to go to the Green Turtle Reserve in Ras Al Hadd or Ras al-Jinz
whose beaches are home to almost 30,000 turtle eggs each year. Sea turtle laying season spans from
June to September, but the activity is guaranteed almost all year round.
Sur is the main coastal city located southeast of Muscat. Historic centre of commerce and shipbuilding, Sur has kept the appearance of the old Omani cities. Shipyards and ancestral techniques for dhow’s construction remain here, the wood-made large traditional ships used for fishing and trade. Very lively in the morning and at the end of the day, Sur is home to a fort and a maritime museum.
Just out of Muscat, Wadi shab is a stunning gorge hike with crystal-clear water, secret rock pools and hidden caves, and incredible views. This gorgeous spot is a 2 hour out and back trail, with an end you can only get to by swimming the pools.
Khasab was a city isolated from the rest of the region for long time. Only until since the contraction of the new road coming from the United Arab Emirates that Khasab itself started to develop in terms of infrastructures and and a more serious touristic interest driving companies.
Luscious tropical plantations and long sandy beaches give Salalah a desert mirage ambiance right at the borders of the sandy dunes of Rub-al Khali. An impression enhanced by the multitude of small stalls selling fresh fruit juice and coconut water and the dromedaries enjoying the fresh ocean mist right by the seashore or in the natural pools.
DISCOVER WONDERS BENEATH THE WAVES
Adventure doesn’t just happen onshore — there are countless marvels waiting to be discovered just below the waterline. Brave the depths and venture down to the ocean floor, or scope out the reefs as you snorkel along the surface of the sea.
Sea tours departing from Muscat are not to be missed, just for a few hours or on an overnight excursionincluding camping on a deserted beach. Various operators and offers: dolphin watching, Muscat discovery from the sea (Muttrah, Old Muscat and the Sultan’s palace, the surrounding fishing villages), combined with snorkelling in Bandar Al Khayran bay and even a dinner cruise. The choice of boats isvaried: traditional wooden boat (dhow), catamaran, a more luxurious yacht with cabins or a speed boat
Take your adventure underwater and discover a whole world that’s teeming with life. Swim with sea turtles and manta rays, float over vibrant reefs, and explore colorful coral forests on a snorkeling excursion designed to bring you up close with the ocean’s most beautiful natural treasures.
There’s no better way to explore the beauty beneath the waves than on a guided scuba excursion.
Muscat has a dozen diving clubs that offer day trips. About twenty dive sites are easily accessible by boat (5 to 90 minutes) from Muscat: Fahal Island Cave, Bandar Al Khayran Bay and the Al-Munassir shipwreck sunk 30 meters deep (many seahorses) are among the favourites. Practicable all year round, its waters host 85 varieties of coral, beautiful coral tables, and 900 species of fish, from the smallest to the majestic whale shark. Visibility is between 10 and 15 meters and, due to the lack of current, the dives are perfect for beginners.
Oman has become an institution for board water sports, as it offers exceptional wind conditions from May to September. There are two kitesurf centres affiliated with the VDWS Water Sport Association: in Mussanah (Millennium Resort) 70 km north of Muscat, suitable for beginners from October to April, and on Masirah Island (5 hours’ drive from Muscat) from May to September. One-off trips can also be organized from Sur as well as in the Dhofar. www.kiteboarding-oman.com
KAYAKING AND SAILING
The Musandam fjords are a dream setting for sea kayaking tours in coves and beaches accessible only by sea. Each winter, several tour operators offer itineraries combining sea kayaking and hiking. In the program: bivouacs on wild beaches, plus swimming with green turtles and dolphins. Natural bayslocated south of Muscat are also ideal for kayaking, often directly from the beach resorts.
Oman Sail, the official sailing structure of the Sultanate of Oman, manages four sailing schools in Muscat (Marina Bandar Rowdha and The Wave-Muscat complex) and in its region (in Mussanah) as well as in Sur, where visitors can follow training or hire equipment for the day. Through its charter company, Oman Sail also offers sailboat and catamaran cruises with skipper to discover the uninhabited islets of the Daymaniyat and the splendid bay of Bandar Al Khayran. A la carte itineraries are proposed from one to seven nights. http://www.omansail.com
DEEP SEA FISHING
Fish is a main resource in the Omani waters of the Arabian Sea. Along the shoreline, medium to large
game fish is aplenty, while the big game and pelagic fauna (tunas, swordfish, groupers and snappers) can be found offshore. Although practicable all year round in Musandam and around Muscat, for the recreational angler the best of the fishing season goes from October to May. In the Dhofar, the Hallaniyat islands host an impressive population of ignobilis jacks (30 to 40 kg), but also of king mackerels, beaks, black tip jacks, yellow fin tuna, dolphin fish, amberjacks, among others.
ADVENTURE ON LAND
No matter what your ideal adventure involves, Shore Excursions make it easy to immerse yourself in each vibrant destination you visit. Unleash your inner explorer and discover bold new ways to connect with the people, culture and places around you as you sail from one unforgettable shore to another.
Several mountain sites are equipped for abseiling, especially in Jabal Shams (a 180 m descent), or combined with other activities (canyoning, speleology). This activity must be supervised by instructors.http://www.holiday-in-oman.com
To name just one of the many spots, Wadi Bani Awf, the Snake Canyon’s narrow gorge (Wadi Bimmah) reserves a very sporty canyoning route of 3 to 4 hours for the initiated. In some easy-to-access gorges, canyoning is similar to water-hiking (in Wadi Dayqah and Wadi Bani Khalid).
CLIMBING AND VIA FERRATA
With over 160 sites listed, Oman is a renowned destination for climbing enthusiasts. The most requested site is the Jabal Misht (Western Hajar), its 1,000 metre cliffs are aimed only for the very experienced. Other sites are more accessible and equipped with a via ferrata or climbing wall: the Grand Canyon (Jabal Shams), in Jabal Akhdar and the Snake Canyon (Wadi Bani Awf), the latter being currently closed for renovation.
Home to the second largest cave chamber in the world (Majlis Al Jinn on the Salmah Plateau) and numerous others, the Sultanate has plenty of caves to explore.
The Hajar massif is home to huge networks of underground cavities, including Majlis Al Jinn, the second largest cave in the world. Some easier-to-access caves (Muqal Cave) can be explored as part of a canyoning route. However, most of the caves in the Selma Plateau require solid training and professional supervision.
In the mountains, in the desert or along the coastline, hiking is a regular, popular activity in the Sultanate and global tour operators specialized in hiking and trekking propose their tours from October to April. True backbone of the country, the imposing chain of the Hajar mountains offers a majestic setting of high mountains and over a hundred kilometres of marked trails. Full contact details of specialized tour operators at: http://www.experienceoman.om
With its large unspoiled spaces, its high mountains suitable for mountain biking and its ideal climate in winter, the Sultanate of Oman is a fantastic destination for cycle tourism and mountain bike activities. From The View hotel near the Jabal Shams, there are 8 mountain bike trails supervised by professional monitors, to discover the Hajar massif and its traditional villages. These programs are available in three different levels of practice: from the 21 km uneven route in the middle of palm groves, to a sporty mountain-bike at an altitude of 2000 meters around the Jabal Shams. www.bikeandhikeoman.com
Oman is famous for the Arabian Thoroughbreds and renowned for its royal cavalry. Galloping on the Omani beaches, trotting in the sand dunes, walking in the wadis … the Sultanate is one of the world’s largest riding arena. Tour operators, agencies and equestrian centres organize horse treks with an instructor.
Historically, camels were used by local Bedouins for transporting goods and people through the desert and around the country. Today, owning camels has become more a sign of prestige, with many Omanis breeding them for racing and beauty contests.