SULTANATE OF OMAN Travel Guide
Plan to see the best of the Sultanate of Oman Tourism offer!
Welcome to my OMAN Travel Guide to help your plan an unforgettable trip!
Photos, info’s, maps, tips, best things to do and places to visit, plus off the beaten path destinations…. All you need to plan your itinerary in Oman and discover the dramatic landscapes with mountains, canyons and desert as well as the history and architecture with forts and palaces…
if you have reached this Travel Guide, you are probably already thinking of traveling to Oman. Great choice!
If you are still unsure or if you just want to day dream, below are some general articles to show you how incredible Oman is: beautiful landscapes, nice people and history.
According to the tourism board it is where Beauty has an Address…
Discover my favorite places to visit and things to do in Oman with photos and videos, the best of the Oman Tourist places. I am also sharing stories when I met the welcoming Omani people and, as always, sunrise and sunset photos.
THINGS TO DO IN MUSCAT
Muscat is the capital city of Oman. It is a beautiful white and vibrant city contrasting with the bare brown hills and the turquoise waters.
There is much to do for tourists within the city itself. Plus, it is conveniently located, if you don’t want to go itinerant. Many places to visit are reachable on a day tour from Muscat.
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
A gift from the Sultan to the nation, the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque Muscat is an imposing piece of Islamic architecture with breathtaking decors in the prayer hall.
Built over 6 years, starting in 1995, this mosque can receive 20000 worshippers, including 6500 in the main prayer room. This grand building is a mix of Omani, Islamic and modern architecture.
You cannot get this view of the whole mosque from the public entry next to the parking. You need to stop on the other side. When driving on the Sultan Qaboos road with the mosque on your right, you pass a bridge and can stop.
How to get to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque Muscat
- The mosque is located in the heart of Muscat
- More precisely it is located in Bawshar along the Sultan Qaboos Road
Visiting the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque Muscat
- Entrance is free
- Mosque Opening hours: open to non-Muslims every day except Friday from 8:30 to 11AM
- Grand Mosque Dress code: Women and men must cover arms, chest and legs – Women must cover their hair and neck – you can rent an abaya at the entrance
- You have to remove your shoes to enter the prayer rooms
- I read that children under 10 are not permitted – however I have not seen any sign so cannot confirm
- The Oman tripper website says you can go outside the official hours if you just want to see the outside (for example at sunset). I have not been able to confirm though.
- I spent only 1h30 looking around the place. I recommend you plan more to really explore the rooms, corridors and all of the mosque.
Oman’s highest mountain, Jebel Shams (Mountain of the Sun; 3009m), is best known not for its peak but for the view into the spectacularly deep Wadi Ghul lying alongside it. The straight-sided Wadi Ghul is known locally as the Grand Canyon of Arabia, as it fissures abruptly between the flat canyon rims, exposing vertical cliffs of 1000m and more.
Until recently, there was nothing between the nervous driver and a plunge into the abyss, but now an iron railing at least indicates the most precipitous points along the track, and rough car parks pick out some of the best viewpoints into the canyon. Near the summit, the terrain flattens out into a large plateau making an ideal place to camp and picnic…or buy a carpet! There are also a couple of well-established hikes here, the most famous of which is the Balcony Walk just below the canyon rim.
Built on the foundations of a pre-Islamic structure, the towers and entrance of this fort were constructed during the reign of Imam Said Bin Sultan in 1834. There are excellent views of the Batinah Plain from the ramparts, and the majlis (reception room) on the top ‘storey’ of the fort makes a cool place to enjoy the tranquility. The windows are perfectly aligned to catch the breeze, even in summer.
There are many features to look for: gaps where boiling cauldrons of honey would have been hinged over doorways, spiked doors to repel battering, round towers to deflect cannonballs and falaj in case of a siege. The entire structure is built around a rock – a common feature of Omani forts, which saves the problem of having to construct sound foundations.
After many years of restoration, Bahla Fort, one of the largest in Oman, makes a grand sight looming over the sprawling modern settlement of Bahla. Built by the Bani Nebhan tribe who were dominant in the area from the 12th to the 15th centuries, it was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1987. There are a few interpretative panels, but the chief attraction of this enormous fort is its scale and the panoramic view from the battlements.
The surrounding mud-brick houses are a fine example of a medieval Islamic community organized around the afalaj (irrigation channels). It is better to explore the twisting lanes here on foot.
A destination in their own right, or a diversion between Muscat and Sur, these beautiful dunes, still referred to locally as Wahiba Sands, could keep visitors occupied for days. Home to the Bedouin, the sands offer visitors a glimpse of a traditional way of life that is fast disappearing as modern conveniences limit the need for a nomadic existence.
The sands are a good place to interact with Omani women whose Bedouin lifestyle affords them a more visible social role. Despite their elaborate costumes, with peaked masks and an abaya (full-length robe) of gauze, they are accomplished drivers, often coming to the rescue of tourists stuck in remote sands.
It is possible to visit the sands as a day trip, but the majesty of the night sky and the pleasure of dawn in the dunes makes a stay at one of the deserts camps a better bet.
The upper plateau of Jebel Samhan suddenly ends in a vertiginous drop more than 1000 meters to the coastal plain below. Barely a ledge interrupts the vertical cliff, and it seems impossible that there should be any route down from here that didn’t involve a rope and crampons. But in fact, that is not the case: locals, armed with nothing more than a snake stick and a kettle, have been climbing from plain to jebel for centuries along their own hidden paths.
However, this is definitely not recommended for the casual visitor. Better to sit back from the cliff edge and watch the birds (mainly crows and some large birds of prey) as they tumble over the rim or ride the thermals from plain to cliff top in search of food.
Al Baleed Archaeological Park
Well-labelled and atmospherically lit at night, the ancient ruins of Al Baleed belong to the 12th-century trading port of Zafar. Frankincense was shipped from here to India in exchange for spices. Little is known about the port’s demise, but the excellent on-site Museum of the Frankincense Land charts the area’s settlement since 2000 BC and illustrates the nation’s maritime strength, including its recent renaissance. The site includes several kilometres of landscaped paths and the adjoining reed beds make for good birdwatching.
The term ‘Grand Canyon of Arabia’ is wholly deserved for this quintessential feature of Oman’s spectacular mountain scenery. A short path leads to the edge of the limestone cliffs with a vertiginous 1000m drop into Wadi Ghul below. There are no safety barriers, but the cliff edge is stepped at the top allowing visitors to sit in safety while contemplating the view. There are other viewpoints along the Jebel Shams road, but this is the most expansive.