A journey in ... Oman


| May 1, 2015

Cox & Kings clients Mr and Mrs Smith tells of their time in Oman, from exploring Muscat to seeing turtles hatching on the beach; from dune bashing in the desert to relaxing  in a luxurious resort.

Muscat

We live in Saudi Arabia and have visited a number of interesting places in the Gulf region. We were looking for somewhere unspoilt and with lots to see and do, and Oman had been on our list for some time.

Flying into Muscat, an historic city beside the ocean, it was good to see a city with a mix of old and new buildings, and without the skyscrapers you see in Dubai or Abu Dhabi. We immediately found the people welcoming and friendly and found that the city and the country are clean and tidy with a good infrastructure, often lacking in this region. The food is international with Indian food being plentiful and of good quality. Being September, the temperature was still in the high 30s, but not too humid and quite bearable.

To the tour! The plan was to spend a couple of days in Muscat to see the sights, drive down the coast to see the turtle nesting site at Ras al Junaiz beach, on to the desert and from there into the mountains; and finally circling back to Muscat to stay at Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah resort to chill out at the end. As it was our first time visiting, we were driven by a local guide.

Muscat

Muscat has many interesting sights, such as the beautiful Grand Mosque and the Muttrah souk, one of the oldest in the region. The fish market is also worth a visit.

On the second day, we were driven north of Muscat to the fishing village of Barka, where the fishermen land their catch on the beach, then walk it across to the market where it is auctioned. From there we took in Nakhal and Rustaq forts, and a spring where hot water bubbles out from deep underground. We stopped for lunch by a river. If you take off your shoes and put your feet in the water, the ‘doctor fish’ will give you an instant foot spa.

barka-fisherman

Sur

From Muscat we drove south towards Sur, an old fishing village where traditional dhows are still made. Visiting the turtle nesting site at Ras al Junaiz beach, we were lucky to see all stages of the process – females laying eggs, covering them and also baby turtles hatching and heading out to sea. The coast road to Sur has stunning views with deep blue ocean and empty white sandy beaches, as well as beautiful wadis and a sinkhole that you can swim in. Everywhere you can see the old traditional mud buildings, mostly abandoned.

sur

Wahiba Sands

From Sur we headed into the desert via some stops at wadis and historic forts. The wadis are lovely and the water all contains ‘doctor fish’ in case you need a quick pedicure. We arrived at Wahiba Sands and the driver took us dune bashing in the Landcruiser. Initially it was a bit unnerving, but was also great fun and the drivers really know how to drive in these conditions. Wahiba Sands is a stunning location with deep red sand that is constantly moving, creating whorls and dunes. At sunset we climbed the high dunes to watch the desert light up with orange light.

wahiba-sands

Nizwa

In the morning we left Wahiba Sands to visit Nizwa, a historic location with an old fort and souq where traditional Omani halwa is made. The forts have been carefully renovated and most have plaques in English telling the story of the fort.

Return to Muscat

On the return journey to Muscat there was a visit to some traditional villages, one with mud houses abandoned and falling down and another with stone houses that predate Islam, still very much alive with an interesting irrigation system and banana and date groves. Despite being a desert country, Oman is actually very green with springs, wadis and rivers.

We returned to Muscat for a couple of days of R&R at the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah resort. This is a beautiful hotel in a lovely setting. It is extremely relaxing and the service is impeccable. We paid to upgrade so had afternoon tea and a private beach with free soft drinks all day. There is even someone who cleans your sunglasses.

So that was our trip to Oman and I can honestly say I fell in love with this country. There were too many experiences to fit into a small article, but we will be going back soon and will probably fit in a trip to Salalah too.

Mr and Mrs Smith travelled on a tailor-made itinerary to Oman. For more information on Cox & Kings’ tailor-made tours, please call 020 7873 5000 or visit the website >

Images proved by Mr and Mrs Smith.

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