I have always been fascinated by the Middle East. I am not sure if it is the geometric art, although admittedly repetitive, somehow intricately beautiful. Or maybe it is the impossible to read, but beautifully intertwined script that is as much a piece of artwork as it is written word. Whatever the reason is, this region provides a certain sense of exotic adventure that just makes you want to see more.
What I quickly learned is that not every Middle Eastern has that ‘old world’ era feel that makes you feel like you are escaping back in time (see an example with Qatar here). Luckily, if you are looking for a trip to Oman you have come to the right combination of modern meets preserved history.
I went to Oman in April of 2017 on an annual birthday girls trip. We tied the trip in with a few days in United Arab Emirates (UAE) using Sex and the City as our inspiration. Lets just say it did not disappoint.
Oman has been influenced by the Portuguese, Persians and British. Since the early 1900’s, however, it has been able to maintain a caliphate preserving the countries culture as well as its crucial position in the Persian Gulf. We had less time than I would have liked in the country, but unlike its flashy neighbor in the UAE, Oman seems to have maintained more of its core culture.
GENERAL INFORMATION WHEN TRAVELING IN THE MIDDLE EAST (GULF STATES)
Clothing: As one can expect, conservative clothing is a must when traveling in the middle east. Some places are more liberal than others, but generally knees, shoulders and neckline should be covered at all times. That goes for women and men – men’s shorts are generally ok, but the nicer you are dressed, the better service you will receive. Long loose clothing is also simply the most comfortable when traveling in this hot and arid climate.
Getting around: Renting a car from the airport is the most efficient, easy and best way to cut down on expensive costs of booking multiple tour packages to get around. This is how we got around in Oman. Most countries require a slightly aggressive driving style, but generally it is the best (and easiest) way to get around. Download google maps to your phone and you are golden.
Visas: Check out your country requirements, however, most visas can be easily purchased on arrival at the airport
Day 1-3 – Muscat, Stay at Somerset Panorama
Musts in Muscat: Muttrah Souq, thought to be one of the oldest markets in the world
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, check the times for when you want to go. Non-Muslims can come to visit the Grand Mosque from 8am to 11am from Saturday to Thursday, while the library is open from 9am to 2am and 4pm to 9pm Saturday to Wednesday (on Thursday the library is open for the morning session only). *Visitors must dress conservatively especially women who must cover their hair, shoulders, and arms when they visit the mosque.* If you didn’t come prepared, not to worry they have stalls with hajib to wear while in the
See a show at the Royal Opera House
Eat your heart away at one of these amazing top 18 restaurants
Other great ideas found on the Culture Trip
Day 3-4 – Nizwa, Bahla Fort
Nizwa is one of the oldest cities in Oman and a great stopover point on your way to see UNESCO heritage site Bahla Fort. After a full day of self-touring we stayed at:
Misfah Old house hidden away in the Hajar mountains.
NOTE: We were only able to stay one night at this lovely guesthouse but if you are able to take at least a few nights, it is well worth your stay. The house itself is very basic accommodation (floor mats), but the authentic experience of being in this small village town is well worth your time!
Day 5 – Hike the Hajar Mountain range
We organized a walking tour through the hotel that took us to a local village at the top of the mountain where we learned about the local people, how they lived and even had the opportunity to ask questions over coffee and dates. Note — If you aren’t tired of dates and coffee by the end of the trip you haven’t done enough! They are served for literally everything and will continually be offered to you went entering someones home.
Day 6-8 – Camp out Bedouin style in Rub’ al Khali Desert
al Khali is the ‘largest contiguous sand desert in the world’. If camping in the middle of all that sand doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, check out this 5 star resort which gives you the Bedouin experience with a/c, activities and built in adventure: Desert Nights Camp
Side story: Don’t ever forget you are in the desert, despite the luxury around you. Although unlikely to happen to you, we found this little critter exploring around in our room. After my two (very tough) girlfriends jumped onto their beds to get away from this guy (not more than 3 inches), I was able to trap him using our water glass. Good thing we caught him because the nearest hospital is a solid hours drive from the desert camp. What’s camping without a little adventure?
Day 8 – Bimmah Sinkhole on your way back to Muscat
Jump off into the clear blue water in this easy stop off point on your way back to Muscat from the desert. Click here – for everything you wanted to know about visiting.