18 months ago, I knew virtually nothing of Oman, apart from pictures I’d seen from a couple of people I knew who’d spent time out there in the oil industry and the armed forces. In three weeks time I’m heading back for my second visit to the amazing city of Muscat and the surrounding area to learn more about this enchanting country.
Before I tell you why Oman is a must visit destination, let me tell you about how I ended up holidaying there at Easter 2017. My husband and I had decided to go to India during my Easter break (I’m a teacher), and were looking at flights, we had a vague itinerary which I have written about previously, and were finalising our plans. We were pretty much set on flying out with Emirates, mainly because I’m a bit of a plane geek and wanted to experience the A380, and also the flights were reasonably priced on the way out, but hadn’t decided on return flights. We knew we wanted to relax on a beach somewhere and were considering Goa, although it wasn’t peak tourist season, but this would have meant two stops from Jaipur where we were finishing the first part of our trip. Then after a long time staring at Skyscanner and considering many different options, I hit upon Oman Air, with a few days stopover in Muscat on the way back to the UK. The prices were excellent, and they had good reviews for their service. In addition, the A330-300 aircraft that they fly on the MCT-LHR route has a 2-4-2 configuartion in economy, meaning I could avoid my pet hate, having to climb over another passenger if I needed to use the facilities. In reality, whilst it was economy class, the whole experience was much more akin to premium economy with British Airways or other airlines, and at a fraction of the price!
5. The Weather
So here in the UK, it’s been -2oC – ish for the last few days, whilst in Muscat, it’s 26oC, making it the perfect winter getaway from the UK. The sum
mer months can be extremely warm, highs of 40oC are normal. The winter and spring months have clear sunny days, perfect for lazy days by the pool and the occasional bit of sightseeing!
4. The Authenticity
Unlike many Gulf countries, there are strict limits on development in the Sultanate, this allows the country to retain it’s authentic feel. This traditions of Oman are apparent from the moment you arrive, the current airport (the new airport opens later this month) is built in the style of the forts that can be seen in Muscat. Oman is a country founded on it’s maritime history and one of the most popular excursions in Muscat is a dhow trip.
There are many opportunities to experience traditional ways of life in Muscat and the surrounding areas. One of the things I am most looking forward to about our next trip is the visit to one of Oman’s many desert camps, sleeping in tents and experiencing a traditional way of life.
3. The Natural Beauty
Muscat is possibly the most striking city I have ever visited, it is built sandwiched between the sea and the rocky mountains which enclose the city. On our first visit we took the Big Bus Tour from the Intercontinental where we were staying, and every time we turned a corner, the view became more and more stunning. The tour was a great way
to experience the city quickly, especially as it is spread out over a large area. The city also has beautiful public beaches such as the one at Shati Al Qurum, which comes to life as the sun sets on a Friday evening as families come out to play, picnic and paddle.
2. The Luxury
The Omani government has developed tourism as a means to enhance the country’s economy whilst moving away from a heavy reliance on the oil industry. However, unlike some of it’s neighbours, Oman has developed its tourism strategy using a low volume high value model. This has led to a highly service orientated tourism sector with huge importance placed on customer service. Muscat has a significant number of luxury hotels from global chains, including the Shangri-La hotels and the Intercontinental, as well as the Al Bustan Palace, catering both to the needs of business travellers and the increasing number of leisure visitors. All of the major hotels have restaurants of extremely high standards, as well as the ubiquitous extravagant Friday brunches. I am looking forward to sampling brunch at the Grand Hyatt on our next trip.
1. The People
The ultimate thing that makes Oman, and Muscat in particular a must visit destination is the people. I have never experienced such genuine friendliness from everyone I came into contact with as I did whilst visiting Oman. From the brilliant airport staff who welcomed us whilst our visas were being processed (as a side note, Oman has changed it’s visa policy with effect from this month), to the concierge at the Intercontinental to the staff on the tour buses and in restaurants. What made it most apparent was the contrast between what we had experienced as we left India and what we found when we arrived in Oman, India was chaotic and the staff unsmiling and business-like, whereas we felt everyone we met when we arrived in Muscat was genuinely welcoming us to their country and wanting us to have a fantastic holiday.