Seeking authentic Arabia? Welcome to Oman

The perfect setting for an Arabian Nights adventure, Oman is safe and easy to visit, with the best beaches on the Arabian Peninsula.
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Oman is a little-known oasis of calm in the Middle East – a sunny sultanate of stirring landscapes to soothe the soul and lift the spirits. Its exotic eastern souks, shifting sands, Arabian fortresses, starry desert nights, stunning sandy beaches and seas full of colourful fish conjure up tales from The Thousand and One Nights.

The perfect setting for an Arabian Nights adventure, Oman is safe and easy to visit, with some of the best beaches on the Arabian Peninsula. It has carefully preserved its thousand-year-old history and cultural traditions.

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Heritage hotspot

Stretched out along the eastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula, next door to the UAE and just south of the Tropic of Cancer, Oman is roughly the size of Italy.

Long before oil was discovered in the peninsula, the Omanis had built an empire based on sea trade stretching from Arabia down Africa’s east coast to Zanzibar, buying and selling exotic wares such as frankincense, harvested from trees that grow wild in the mountains.

Legend has it that the Queen of Sheba lived in Oman, and Sinbad the Sailor set sail from the ancient ports of Sohar and Sur, where traditional wooden dhow boats are still built to this day. In fact, the dhow has become as much a symbol of Oman as the iconic khanjar dagger worn by Omanis on ceremonial occasions.

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The capital city, Muscat, is the country’s epicentre. Home to more than half of Oman’s population, it’s also brimming with cultural sights such as the state-of-the-art National Museum. The capital also features a glittering Grand Mosque, the region’s only Royal Opera House and Mutrah Souq, one of Arabia’s oldest markets. Exploring old Muscat offers a rare window into authentic Arabia, unaltered by the passage of time.

Muscat is also a gateway for exploring many of the region’s man-made marvels, including UNESCO-protected fortresses standing watch over oases planted with palms in nearby Al Batinah and Al Dakhliya.

Natural attractions

Geographically, Muscat sits at the heart of a country awash with fascinating enclaves and natural attractions. From scenic wadis to subtropical waters, Oman’s hidden green oases, towering dunes and remarkable hot springs are the setting for countless outdoor adventures.

Oman’s landscapes are in stark contrast. The hefty Hajar Mountains dominate the northern half of the country and create fjord-like seascapes in the Musandam Peninsula, while the annual monsoon turns the southern state of Dhofar verdant green. To the west, Oman borders the world’s largest desert, the Empty Quarter, that has long-fascinated explorers such as T E Lawrence and Wilfred Thesiger, and to the east the sea of Oman bubbles with underwater life.

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Along the coast, Oman’s crystal-blue waters offer the chance to sail, kiteboard, kayak and windsurf, and scuba diving is particularly rewarding in the protected Dimaniyat islands. The golden beaches indenting the country’s coast are an idyllic setting for a beach holiday, and secluded coves provide nesting sites for endangered turtles. The sweeping dunes of its desert hinterland give rise to sand-surfing, quad biking and dune bashing. Deeply carved wadis and dizzyingly-high mountains can be traversed on foot, mountain bike or by Via Ferrata, affording rock climbers an iron trail into the sky.

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Oman at a glance

Getting there: Oman is around a seven-and-a-half-hour flight from the UK. Flag carrier Oman Air has direct daily flight from London Heathrow to Muscat.

Getting around: Travellers to Salalah and Khasab can connect with regional Salam Air or Oman Air flights from Muscat airport. Cheap petrol and a good road network make getting around by car easy, and taxis are inexpensive.

Climate: Oman’s warm mild winters make it the ideal winter sun destination, while in summer temperatures regularly exceed 40 degrees Celsius.

Currency: The local currency is the Omani Rial. One rial is roughly equivalent to two British pounds.

Time: Oman is three hours ahead of UK time in summer and four hours ahead during winter.

Visas: British nationals need a visa to enter. A 14-day visa is free for UK passport holders. An e-visa can be made online at: evisa.rop.gov.om.

Customs: Visitors can respect local customs by wearing clothing that covers shoulders and knees, though swimwear is fine around private hotel pools and beaches.

Language: Arabic is the official language of Oman. English is widely spoken.

Alcohol: Drinking alcohol is permitted in licensed areas in Oman. Hotel bars and some restaurants serve alcohol.

Become an Oman Ambassador

To learn more about Oman, take the online training course Oman Ambassadors at omanambassadors.com