Oman is a Gulf State that may not be on many people's list of places to visit, but it is actually a great country to pop in if you are touring the region. Oman may not have the opulence of Dubai, but it also doesn't have the conservatism of Saudi Arabia. It is also one of the most stable countries in the region - nothing like its unfortunate neighbor Yemen to the south. It is a superb place to explore the Arabian Peninsula and Arabic culture. There are many reasons why it should be everyone's next Middle Eastern trip.
About Oman And Its History
- Capital And Largest City: Muscat
- Population: 4.8 Million
- Official Language: Arabic
- Official Religion: Islam
- Size: 120,000 Sq miles or 309,000 Sq KM
Oman is officially the Sultanate of Oman and has long been a country on the Arabian Peninsula. In the 17th century, the Omani Sultanate was a powerful regional empire, its lands or zones of influence included parts of Baluchistan (parts of representing day Iran and Pakistan) and territory down the African coast that included Zanzibar. Zanzibar was used by the Omanis as a base for the lucrative slave trade (the African slave trade was not only to the Americas and by European states).
In the 17th century, it competed in the region with the British and Portuguese Empires. But as its power declined in the 20th century it came under the influence of the British Empire. The relations with the British were generally cordial and have remained close and friendly ever since (e.g. Britain is the largest source of foreign investment in the country and Oman hosts a British naval base).
- Empire: Oman Was Once A Regional Empire
Today Oman is rich in oil reserves but unlike some other oil states its economy is not wholly reliant on oil. Its economy also rests on fishing, dates, other agricultural produce, and tourism.
When To Go And What To Do
Oman has mountains, a stunning coastline, semi-arid regions, and a vast gravel desert plain. Most of the population lives on the southeast coast. The climate is very hot and dry so if you do plan to come, try to avoid the summer months.
In fact, the climate here is one of the hottest in the world with summer temperatures in the capital Muscat averaging 86.0 to 104.0 °F or 30 to 40 °C in the summer. Southern Oman around the area of Salalah is cooler and wetter as it receives monsoon winds from the Indian Ocean. Rainfall occurs from late June to late September. In this part of the world, rains are welcomed and people may go out in the rain to feel it (a welcome change to the normal hot desert sun). Summer temperatures here range from 68.0 to 86.0 °F or 20 to 30 °C and the temperatures are often cooled by cool moisture and heavy fog.
- When To Go: Avoid The Heat Of Summer
Tourism has been growing quickly in Oman. Oman is a developed and stable country in the Middle East that is easy to visit and is safe for tourists. Oman is also a hotspot for adventure and cultural tourism in the Middle East - in 2012, Lonely Planet named Muscat the second-best city in the world to visit. Oman also boasts one of the most diverse environments in the region meaning that there is a range of landscapes for tourists to visit.
- Visa Policy: Visa-Free For 14 Days, eVisa For 30 Days For All Western Countries.
Oman has many attractions for visitors; these include its beaches and resort hotels, desert safaris, caving, markets and shopping, and visiting its five UNESCO-listed sites.
Oman is hot so everyone will want to take a dip in the sea. Oman boasts many stunning sandy beaches and is well set up with resorts lining the coasts. Activities here include; snorkeling, kitesurfing, boating, surfing, and other beach activities. There is a daily sea breeze on its beaches making it ideal for kitesurfing.
Oman is also an ideal place to have excursions in the great Arabian desert. Most desert tours are either camel riding or 4WDing. Here you can explore the Wahiba Sands (which is one of the breathtaking deserts you should visit). While most deserts are not actually sandy (that is an impression mostly from movies and travel guides), the Wahiba Sands are the ideal embodiment of massive and expansive yellow sand dunes. On these tours, you can also stay in Barsti huts and visit nomadic Bedouin communities.
World Heritage Sites
Oman has five sites listed by UNESCO, and these are:
- The Ancient City Of Qalhat: Once The Center Of Trading And Now Abandoned
- Aflaj Irrigation Systems of Oman: Ancient Water Channels From around 500 AD
- Bahla Fort: A Large And Impressive Fort Built From Mud Bricks And Built On A Hidden Oasis
- Land Of Frankincense: Sites That Were Integral To The Incense Trade
- Archeological Sites of Bat, Al-Khutm, and Al-Ayn: Sites That Date From The 3rd Millennium BC
Caving In Oman
Additionally, Oman is perhaps a surprising location for caving. Majlish al Jinn is the world's second-largest cave. Oman has many caves thanks to its limestone-rich sedimentary deposits and caving here offers choices for amateurs through to experts with specialized equipment.
In short, Oman is a great destination to explore the rich Arabian desert and Arab history and culture.