All you need to know Oman
Peter Hilton shares all you need to know about Oman – covering its highlights, the best places to stay and more.
LOCATION: Oman, officially called the Sultanate of Oman, sits on the south-east tip of the Arabian Peninsula, overlooking the Arabian Sea, the Sea of Oman and the Arabian Gulf. It also controls the Strait of Hormuz, which links the Sea of Oman and the Arabian Gulf, and is a gateway to all ships entering from the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea.
LANGUAGES: Arabic, but English is widely spoken.
POPULATION: 2.9 million.
TIME ZONE GMT: +4 hours.
CURRENCY: Omani Rial (OMR) £1 = 0.6 OMR.
VISAS British nationals require a tourist visa, which can be obtained on arrival. The cost for up to 10 days is 5 OMR per person; the cost for up to 30 days is 20 OMR per person.
POTTED HISTORY: Oman’s first kingdom was established in the 3rd century AD, lasting until the arrival of Islam in the 7th century. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive, in the early 16th century, conquering what was then known as Muscat and Oman – but, they were driven out in 1650. More recently, Sultan Qabooss bin Said became the new ruler in 1970, changing the country’s name to Oman, so as to represent the country’s unity.
Ras Al Junaiz beach, an hour’s drive outside of Sur, offers a rare opportunity to see giant turtles laying their eggs at night. Under the careful supervision of qualified rangers, visitors can witness each turtle laying up to 100 eggs.
BEFORE YOU TRAVEL
WHEN TO GO
Between October and May are the ideal times to travel climate-wise, as summer temperatures frequently hit 40º celcius.
WHAT TO READ
Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger The British author and adventurer’s riveting account of his journey across the desert in the company of local Bedus.
SAS Secret War by Tony Jeapes
In the early 1970s, while the world’s eyes were on the war in Vietnam, Communist guerrillas were waging a savage campaign in Oman which could have given them control of the Gulf and threatened Western oil supplies. This is the account of an SAS spearheaded counter-insurgence operation, one of the most successful in recent history.
Sultan in Oman by Jan Morris
In 1955, when the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman was a truly medieval Islamic State, rumours of subversion and the intrigues of foreign powers coupled with the prospects of oil propelled the then sultan across the hinterland on what was a historic first crossing of the Omani desert by motorcar.
FIND OUT MORE
The Oman Tourist Board’s website offers information on the latest news and events in Oman, as well as suggestions on where to eat and visit.
WHERE TO STAY
Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah
Set in 50 acres of landscaped beachfront gardens in a private bay, the resort comprises three separate hotels, numerous restaurants, shops and an award-winning spa.
At 1,400 metres above sea level, The View affords spectacular panoramas over the surrounding landscape. Its 15 tentstyle rooms each have their own terrace.
More than just a desert camp, Desert Nights offers luxurious Bedouin-style tents, the perfect base from which to explore the terrain and sleep beneath the stars of Wahiba Sands.
WHAT TO EAT
Oman’s cuisine is a mixture of several staples of Asian food, with chicken, lamb and fish the prime ingredient, served with rice. Two of the more popular dishes are Maqbous, a rice dish flavoured with saffron and cooked over spicy meat, and Mashuai, consisting of a whole spitroasted kingfish served with a side of lemon rice.
TRAVEL WITH COX & KINGS
Discover Oman – Self-Drive Journey – 9 Days / 7 Nights from £1,595 per person. This 9-day itinerary visits many of the major highlights of Oman.
Oman: Land of Frankincense – 9 Days / 7 Nights from £2,095 per person. A fascinating cultural tour of the country.