The oasis city of Nizwa, the largest in the interior province, was the capital of Oman in the 6th and 7th centuries. Today it remains one of the most popular tourist attractions with its historical buildings and imposing fort built in the mid 17th century by Imam Sultan Bin Saif Al Ya'ribi, The town's immense palm oasis stretches for eight kilometers along the course of two wadis. It is famous for its bustling souq where tourists can buy exquisite copper and silver jewellery and other craft items.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
Touristy but worth a visit: Wadi Bani Khalid
Wadi Bani Khalid is one of the touristy things to do in Oman... sometimes we're not all in the mood for a crazy adventure on the wild side, so why not?
We stopped here on the 2nd day of our road trip towards Sur. It is located approx. 200km from Muscat and approx. 100km from Sur, in a region known as Sharqiyah. Wadi Bani Khalid is famous for its natural beauty and is pretty easy to find. The Omani government has "improved" on its natural beauty and has made the wadi more accessible for tourists and locals alike. A road (often with signs) runs in a zig-zag through the mountains and small villages before dropping down a steep path into the palm groves and the lush green valley below.
You don't need a 4x4 to reach Wadi Bani Khalid, as you park your car in the main car park and walk into the wadi. You can reach it after walking about 500m along a faraj (irrigation channel). There are numerous local children running around here with wheelbarrows, offering to take your bags, towels and picnics into the wadi for payment.
Many who live in the privileged West and developed world may frown upon or be worried about this "child labour", but although it's not ideal, at least these boys have found a safe and honest way of supporting their family's income. It's up to you whether you'd like to use their services or carry your bags yourself.
Once inside the Wadi there are various clear and blue pools of cool water, water falls, numerous palm trees that offer much shade, some toilets and also a small but quite nice restaurant offering grilled meats and fish, sandwiches, salads and fresh juices.
We spent 2 hours here for lunch and a bit of cooling-off in the water. Further upstream there are some caves which you can explore (you'll need to bring a torch/flashlight) - maybe we'll explore them on our next visit :-)
IMPORTANT NOTICE: Many Omanis also visit these pools, and as this is a Muslim country women need to cover. There are also signs alerting tourists to wear "conservative clothing" - this means that men can swim in their shorts as usual, but women should not wear a bathing suit or even bikini here. We went swimming in shorts and t-shirts. Trust me - you'll feel far more comfortable and so will everyone else by not showing too much skin.
This wadi is always popular with people. You can camp here, but you probably won't get much "quiet time" as its always busy.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Family Travel
- Road Trip
Nature never seizes to amaze: Bimmah Sinkhole
This sinkhole is about 500m inland and is 40m wide and 20m deep, and is one of Oman's many natural wonders. It is located near the coast (ca. 200m) and there is a fresh-water spring and cave system inside this limestone crater. It appears that the smashing waves created a deeper and deeper cave underground, working their way towards the underground spring, until one day the unstable layers of rock collapsed.
The gorgeous turquoise colour of the water comes from the mixture of fresh and salt water here. I had read about the sinkhole on an Omani expat forum and definitely wanted to stop here. The government has built a small "park" area with a fence around the sinkhole. There are some changing rooms and toilets here (but be warned, they are very basic).
This is a lovely place to stop, stretch your legs and cool off in the lovely water. We took a dip and enjoyed the tiny little fish nibbling at our toes! :-) You don't need a 4x4 to reach the sinkhole as it's located just off the main highway.
Look for the signs HAWIYAT NAJM PARK.
Here's an interesting view from above: http://www.waymarking.com/gallery/image.aspx?f=1&guid=d6f77f4c-5bce-4184-b683-4e99ce838bcc
--> TIP: You can swim here but women should please respect the local culture and religion and cover. A swimsuit or bikini just isn't acceptable so please wear shorts and a t-shirt to swim.
The Ras al-Jinz Scientific and Visitors Centre
If you are interested in wild life and especially in marine biology and conservation, then a trip to this centre is a must!
The Omani coast provides one of the world's largest breeding and nesting sites for various species of turtles, and thankfully over the past few year the Omani government has stepped-up its efforts to protect the natural habitat of the turtles along its beaches.
Until a few years ago, these beaches were open to the public and many turtle nests/eggs were destroyed by people driving their cars onto the beach, digging them up, etc. Thank goodness this is no longer the case!
We came here with a large group (all guests of our friends' wedding) and there are tours at various times of the day. For large groups, it's best to book in advance.
Small groups are taken down onto the beach in intervals, and you are instructed to walk closely together behind the guide, no lights allowed, keep noise to a minimum and photography is absolutely not allowed... this is all so the turtles are not disturbed. We were actually lucky enough to see female turtles who were busy digging a nest, another was in the middle of laying eggs, and we even saw some baby turtles who had just hatched, dug their way out from the sand and were racing towards the water.
The babies follow the glow of the moonlight on the water, so if you were to have torches with you (or if there are villages or towns nearby) they sometimes follow the wrong light, crawl away from the water and are then either caught by predators or doomed to die a slow and painful death once the sun rises. That's why it's vital to conduct these tours in complete darkness and as silently as possible.
The most numerous turtle species in Oman is the green turtle. They can live up to 80 years, weight up to 350 kg (700 pounds!) and may return to the same beach to lay their eggs 3-4 times during their life. The Omani guides had a great sense of humour and a wealth of knowledge about these amazing creatures. You could tell that they have a great love for these animals, and were proud of the work they do for their conservation. We had a fabulous time and I thought this was a great place to learn about the turtle and support the conservation of their habitat.
3 Omani Rials for adults,
1 Rial for children,
5 Rials for 2 adults and 1 child under 12.
Open for turtle tours at 9pm up to 4am.
--> I don't have any photos of our visit to the centre as photography (with or without flash) is strictly forbidden during the tours, and rightly so! This way the animals are not disturbed when they are in their most vunerable position on the beach. I have included photos from a brochure here instead.
Here is an interesting article from January 2010 by a UK journalist who visited the centre: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/travel/destinations/middle_east/article6978180.eceRelated to:
- Family Travel
Off the beath path: Wadi Al Khaba
On our drive from Dubai (United Arab Emirates) to Ras Al Jinz, we decided to spend our 1st night of the road trip camping in a wadi. Our friend had been to Wadi Al Khaba before and sure enough, it was a great place!
The wadi* is very long with various small villages clinging to its steep sides. The drive in took us about 1 hour (you will definitely need a 4x4!) but once we reached the half-way point, the going got tough... huge rocks and boulders were scattered all over the canyon, and even in my Landrover Discovery the rocking, bumping and jumping over big rocks was starting to worry me!
Thankfully, we spotted a small dirt path on the side of the wadi (yes, it had been there all along and we had decided to be stupid and take the really difficult route.... Argh!) and we made much better progress - after all: we wanted to set-up camp before the sun set.
At this time of the year (March) there were only a few small, trickling water-crossings we had to make. Usually I would never advise to stay in a wadi, but a large and wide wadi with villages, like this one, is different and pretty safe.
We found a small oasis nearby one of the villages with a lake of fresh water, a remnant of the previous winter season's rain showers. Here, we assembled our tents, inflated our air mattresses and started gathering fire wood (which is always a bit of a challenge in the Arabian Desert!).
Eventually we settled down for the night to a yummy BBQ and campfire stories. The only disadvantage of our camping spot? Mosquitoes! We had repellent with us and tried to keep all lamps off, so it wasn't too bad.... until nature called my name and I had to disappear behind a dune for a few minutes by myself. I won't go into great detail, but if you've ever watched "The Long Way Round", remind yourself what happened to Ewan McGregor's "derriere" during their trip through Mongolia. That's what happened to me :-(
Darn those pesky critters! They attack you when you're more vulnerable, haha!
*Wadi = riverbed / river valley in Arabic.Related to:
- Road Trip
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The Sands can be visited as a daytrip from Muscat. Beautiful copper coloured sands, with camels, Bedouins and authentic desert living.
A 4x4 vehicle is a must, and might be best to go on an organized trip with a driver and guide.
It is a destination in Oman that can keep you busy for a few days. The road from Muscat to Wahiba Sands is extremely picturesque and almost a trip in itself.
This is a must visit!Related to:
- Road Trip
- Adventure Travel
Western Hajar Mountains
Distance from Muscat - 200 km (to Al Hamra)
Average drive time - 2.5 hours
How to get there - Saloon cars and 4-wheel drives can be hired from Car rental agencies. Four wheel drives are required for off road into the mountains and wadis.
Beyond Nizwa, the southern flanks of the Western Hajar Mountains can be readily seen rising over 2000 metres above the surrounding countryside. Within these mountains, rugged networks of wadi channels have carved networks of dramatic canyons and caves. The most fertile of these have been cultivated by the hardy shuwawis, mountain people, who have adapted to this harsh lifestyle under the tropic sun. At Wadi Tanuf, the ever-flowing springs are tapped to produce a commercially popular brand of drinking water. In Al Hamra, 400 year-old mud houses are still standing and occupied to this day. Out along the nearby wadi at Hasat bin Sult Rock, ancientpetroglyphs estimated to be over 3000 years old lie in wait.The dark reaches of the Falahi/Hoti cave system await intrepid spelunkers. Hidden neatly in a crevasse on the mountainside lies Misfah al Abreen, a garden paradise of humble farmers and herders.
To the west of Al Hamra is the road to Jebel Shams(mountain of the Sun), the tallest peak in Oman at 3010 metres. Here it is where you can find oone of Oman's greatest natural wonders, the Wadi Nakhr Gorge. Inside the canyon, you can haggle with the local rug weavers, trek to the cliff dwellings along the canyon rim and visit remains of towns once occupied ages ago by Persian settlers. Rock climbers will want to test their mettle on the stony crags of Jebel Misht while antiquarians willl want to visit the mysterious Beehive Tombs of Bat.
FOR 1 TO 2 DAYS TRIP
Visit 1) the Grand Mosque 2) The Sultan's Palace 3) Take a walk around corniche at sunrise or at sunset 4) Go to Riyam park and check out the view of the city from the tallerst tower 5) Go shopping at the Mutrah Souq and 6) Visit the Bait al Baranda Museum behind Naseem Hotel.
Make sure you taste the seafood platter at Marina Hotel.
Walking Tour: Mutrah to Muscat
This walking tour can take up one full day. I started my tour at Mutrah Port. If you are there early enough, visit the fish market. Walk along the cornishe, pass the Al-Samak roundabout. From here one already have a beautiful view of Mutrah Fort. On the right hand side you will see the beautiful merchant's houses. Further on, at the traffic lights, cross the street to visit the Mutrah Souq. One should return to the souq to spend more time there. Continue along the cornishe.
As you leave Mutrah, you will see a interesting fountain, which is visited by many locals. Next you will reach Al-Riyam Park. Continue along the cornishe, which will eventually bring you to Muscat gate, where you can find the Muscat Gate Museum. Continue into Muscat proper. Here you will find the Sultan's Palace, Al-Jalali Fort, Al-Mirani Fort, Bayt -Az-Zubair, French-Omani Museum and many places, buildings of interest.
The stretch from Al-Riyam to Muscat is a bitt stiff, so carry enough water with you to drink.
I really enjoyed this walk, which did take up a big part of a day.
On the way back from Wahiba Sands to Muscat (about 80km before Muscat), camel races were taking place in a small road side village. If you get the oppurtunity, you should try your best to watch this local sport.
Men, young and old are dresses in traditional attire, with belt and khanjars. The race was attended by a huge crowd of men, women and children. There were camel races as well as horse races.
It seems that these races are not advertised, and one should ask around as to they are to be held.
This is one of the highlights in Oman.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
Cost of Living
Hi I was given an offer to Oman Sohar as an interior designer, with a pay of 430 OR..Is it possible that i can save enough money in a year before i go back to the Philippines. and how much is the rate for a room share with 1 person as long as the place is clean and safe..and at the afordable and reasonable price..
Treasure hunting at the souk
Go for a evening walk in the lovely stalls of the Muttrah souk/market. Here you'll find almost anything and it's like walking into the Thousand Nights and a Night. Some great quality stuff and some touristic gifts side by side here you can do a bargain on silver and gems.
We wanted to see the golden desert of Oman but we never thought we'd get such great service!
It was off-season (the desert camps where you can stay overnight are closed in July and August due to bad weather) when we visited in late July and hard to find anybody willing to take us out there. We read that Al Qabil Rest House is a meeting point for tours into the Sharqiya desert but at this time of year you need advance appointments. The Rest house suggested we call Salim al Harthy who runs a tour company and a desert camp.
Salim was willing to take us out there on a two hours drive on the sand dunes (OMR 25 for two persons). He gave us a thrill! Salim knows how the desert behaves and gladly shared this with us. We saw the camps, drove on the sand dunes, jumped in the desert and had it all for ourselves for a couple of hours. It might sound boring going to the desert but it was an amazing experience.
Tours should be done early in the morning (like 6 o'clock or so) or in late evening. We got out there at 4pm.
There are many tour operators offering tours of the desert. I warmly recommend Salim al Harthy. He can be reached on his cell +96899450063
His company offers overnigh stays in camps as well.Related to:
Whadi Bani Khalid
The wadi can be visited as part of the daytrip to Wahiba Sands. The winding road which you take to get to the wadi is in itself a great experience. Magnificent views of the mountains, with some look-out points.
It is worth visiting more than just the waterhole. The villages at the other end is a wonderful experience, as it is not touristy - and very friendly locals.
The waterhole can be quite packed with visitors, but a great experience. It is worth going with a tour operator, as some of the roads can only be reached with a 4WD-vehicle.Related to:
- Adventure Travel
Day trips from Muscat
It is well worth taking a trip to the desert (Wahiba Sand) and Wadi Bani Khalid. It can be very expensive for the solo traveler (OMR 120). It is better to go as a group of 4 people, to share costs. Our trip was great, but did not include everything that was promised as part of the package. No Bedouin Family visit, a very poor lunch (from a road-side take-away) and we got lost at some stage. Getting lost was great, as we ended up in traditional villages, which was a great experience. Remind your driver and guide what you actually paid for, as an all-inclusive package. Despite this hiccup, I would do this trip anytime again!Related to:
- Road Trip
- Adventure Travel
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