As I looked out at the clear blue sea, the powder soft sand and the majestic mountains that lined the sea, I thought to myself that the best part of Oman is that it is natural and not man–made. I was visiting Oman for the first time and didn’t know what to expect. I had heard about its natural beauty and the many contrasts that make up this fascinating country and yet its beauty exceeded my imagination. The road from the airport to the hotel was spotless and dotted with well-manicured lawns and trees. Muscat, the capital city of Oman lies sparkling white, topped with golden minarets in the middle of a maze of brown pleated mountains reaching down to the Arabian Sea. Described as “The Pearl of Arabia”, the city is a blend of the old and the new. The city has steadfastly retained its old-world character and natural beauty unlike some of its neighbours. The highlight of the city and the best place to take in all its glory is the Corniche, with its promenades and souqs. We drove to discover the charms of the city like architectural wonder Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and the old souq of Muttrah, a treasure trove of Arabic souvenirs and knickknacks. With some of the best luxury resorts in Muscat it was easy to find a place to stay that would keep everyone happy. We settled for the Shangri La’s Barr Al Jissah, an oasis of luxury, with distinct hotels that cater to the families, businessmen and luxury travellers too.
It was almost dusk and we quickly made our way to the Bawsher sand dunes in the city for a round of quad biking. It was surprisingly easy and we spent the hour on the sand dunes as the sun came down. To see the real sand dunes head to Wahiba sands, about 2 hours drive from Muscat. Once in Wahiba, you will be amazed by dunes 200 km long and 100 km wide running south from the Eastern Hajars to the Arabian Sea. The dunes are 100-150 metres high in shades of colour from orange to amber. Stay overnight in the desert at a luxury camp such as the Desert Nights camp offering accommodation, food, dune bashing, camel rides & Bedouin style experience. As you enjoy a barbecue dinner with traditional Bedouin music and gaze up at the stars you could easily believe that you are a part of an Arabian Nights fairytale. With the desert on one side and the Sea on the other the contrasts of Oman couldn’t be more profound. Oman also offers some of the best sites for snorkeling and scuba diving. Its diverse marine life, small caves, bays, cliffs and island make Oman one of the best dive sites in the region. From Bandar Khayran to Daymaniyat islands near Muscat to Mussandam in the north, you will be spoilt for choice.
Along with sea and sand, if something defines Oman then it is definitely its wadis. These fertile valleys with their pretty streams cutting through rock formations and swaying palms make the wadis a much loved attraction for a day trip. The Wadi Bani Khalid, about 200 kilometers from Muscat, is famous for its natural beauty. The drive offers spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, villages and palm groves. This region has some amazing large natural pools with clear fresh water for swimming. Oman is also famous for turtle watching at Ras Al Jinz, historic monuments of Nizwa and the mountain ranges of Jebel Akhdar. If you haven’t had enough of the spell binding beauty of Oman you can return to it again and again as beauty has an address just two and half hours away!