Oman: hidden gem in the horn of Arabia
Oman, a hidden gem in the “Horn of Arabia” that, despite the increase in tourist flows, preserves intact its authenticity and its cultural and natural heritage. The architectural and landscape beauties are in fact the real beauty of the Sultanate, which is almost so far to the name often attributed to it, as a “hermit of Arabia”. So not to waste time and leave to discover one of the revelation countries of this year.
From January 10 to February 9, Muscat is the setting for the traditional festival that every year animates the capital with shows, cultural events, gastronomic and sports events dedicated to adults and children. The event, which will take place at Amerat Park and Al Naseem Park, will amaze visitors thanks to the rich exhibition of activities, including concerts, plays, exhibitions and games for children.
The variety of landscapes is one of the strengths of Oman: from the rugged mountain ranges you move towards the soft dunes of the desert, which makes up 80% of the Sultanate area: among the most fascinating are the Rub’al-Khali, also known as the “empty quarter” because of its vastness and the absence of population centers and accommodation facilities. It is a desert still partly unexplored, suitable for explorers with great experience. To visit it, it is advisable to rely on specialized operators who organize tailor-made tours, expeditions and desert therapy.
Near the capital, it is worth discovering the dunes of the Sharqiya Sands, easily accessible, even during the day, with excursions in 4×4. In order not to miss anything, you can spend the night in a tent under the starry sky: those who prefer authenticity will appreciate the traditional tent camps like the 1000 Nights Camp; those who cannot give away to comforts can stay in luxurious eco-friendly camps with hot water, private bathroom, wifi and solar panels, such as those of Magic Arabia that satisfy even the most demanding travelers who dream of a thousand and one Night.
Oman is an increasingly popular destination for lovers of water sports: snorkeling, diving, dolphin watching, deep sea fishing, windsurfing and kitesurfing are among the most popular activities. For diving, the recommended site is the natural reserve of the Dimaniyat archipelago, which with its nine islands covers an area of 100 hectares: here, at a depth of between 20 and 30 meters, there are real underwater coralsfer gardens: among the deer corals, the lettuce corals and the immense expanses of acropora, there is a spectacular underwater fauna, including rays, groupers, sea eagles, barracudas, whales, sharks and turtles. The reserve is located about 18 km from the north-eastern coast facing the town of Barka, an hour’s journey by speedboat and about an hour’s boat ride from The Wave Marina in Muscat.
The Muscat marathon, scheduled for 18 and 19 January 2019, will be one of the sporting events not to be missed in the coming year. For the eighth edition, there have been 6 paths of different types, which will wind along the most characteristic streets of the capital. But in Oman you keep yourself in shape even taking the adventure to new levels: hiking, mountaineering, archery and mountain biking are just some of the many activities to be enjoyed in the mountains. Among others, the Via Ferrata, which has recently been extended for another 200 meters, deserves a special mention, offering the possibility to live an experience full of pure adrenaline. Along the Via Ferrata, the muscles are strengthened while resistance and breathing are improved. The greatest satisfaction, however, are given by the breathtaking views that can be seen as you climb the massif.
Fort of Bahla
The list of World Heritage Sites includes both natural beauties and works created by man throughout history. Among the first is the Incense Route, a medieval path of 2400 km that crosses deserts and valleys, pastures and villages, in the southern region of the country, the Dhofar. Along it came populations coming from everywhere, they exchanged goods but also traditions and legends. The second category includes the Fort of Bahla (Nizwa), the archaeological site of Bat and the five aflaj, a unique irrigation system, which represents an important ancient heritage and contributes to the lush growth of vegetation and crops.
No place in Oman is more spectacular than Musandam: the majestic cliffs are kissed by the sun and by the winds coming from the hinterland that favor the lowering of humidity even in summer, when temperatures exceed 40° C. The best way to observe the cliffs is from the sea, opting for a cruise on board the dhows, traditional omanite boats similar to sailing ships and equipped with all comforts. It starts from the port of Dibba at a time of hidden bays and cliffs that descend to peak, paradisiac points for fans of snorkeling and diving. Even those who want to keep their feet on the ground will not be disappointed, thanks to the wild charm of this peninsula. An idea could be to venture off-road between the mountains and the oases, stopping at the imposing fort of Khasab, dating back to the 16th or the picturesque village of Kumzar located at the tip of the peninsular, also ideal for quiet walks.
From March to May, the plateau of Jabal Akhdar is colored in pastel shades thanks to the blooming of damask rose, offering a spectacle for eyes and smell without comparison. Cultivated in the villages of the area, the rose is a very important plant for the Omani people: in addition to being the base of many perfumes, its buds are used for the production of attar, the water of Omani roses. In addition to being an effective homeopathic remedy to treat headaches, the attar is also used as a remedy for the skin, as a fragrance or even to flavor coffee and chocolate. Finally, after a meal, it is used to sprinkle guests as a sign of respect.
Desert Village in the Incente Route
The area of Salalah, in Dhofar, is one of the most fertile regions of Oman and is the perfect setting for many activities: from here you start to visit the famous Incense Route, embellished by the trees of Wadi Dawkah: this ancient route is special not only for the scenic beauty, but also because in the past it was the meeting point between distant worlds. Not far away, and more precisely in the heart of the historical site of Al Baleed, there’s the Museum of Incense: here is told the story of this sacred resin and are explained timing and techniques of collection and processing.
50 km west of Salalah, you can visit the Mughsail geyser which, with its jets up to 4 meters high, offers an authentic natural spectacle. Finally, why not enjoy a traditional Omani meal based on rice and fish or meat, to finish with a good cardamom coffee? After lunch, those who want to dedicate themselves to shopping will be satisfied: in the souks of Al Husn and Al Haffa there are many typical products of the Sultanate, local crafts, colorful fabrics and quality incense.