When one thinks about holiday destinations, Oman is not a country that would automatically come to mind. It might not even feature on the top twenty list of places to visit but one thing is for sure – after seeing what the Sultanate of Oman has to offer in terms of its natural beauty and the diverse landscapes, it should definitely be among the top must-see destinations for any traveler looking for a unique experience.
This is the land of Frankincense, Myrrh and Gold. It is a land that conjures up images of bedouin tribes and caravans criss-crossing the desert, oases of clear turquoise water and date palms. Anyone visiting it can find all of this and more. Situated to the east of Yemen and south-east of Saudi Arabia, Oman is on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula with the sea spanning from the north east to the south giving it a coastline of over 3000km. Having opened its doors to tourism in the late 90s, Oman has still retained its old world charm. The capital, Muscat is tucked between the rocky mountains on one side and opens up to the Gulf of Oman on the other. There are no skyscrapers and along the corniche life still remains simple as you can see men in their crisp white dishdashas and women in their black abeyyas while they take their evening stroll. Omanis are warm and hospitable and everywhere we went, we were never in short supply of welcome tea and dates.
Even though its a world class city with great infrastructure it has still managed maintain its culture and way of life. I hope it remains to be so despite the increase in tourism.
March 23, 2012 :: Day 1 – Muscat to Ras Al Hadd ::
After an early morning flight out of Bangalore and a transit in Sharjah, we arrived in Muscat at 10am. Compared to the heavy traffic and the bustle of Bangalore, Muscat was a quiet and welcome relief. It was probably made more evident because we arrived on a Friday and the roads were empty since it was their equivalent of a Sunday. We had hired what seemed like the smallest car on the road, a Suzuki Celero and it was clear that the Omani’s liked their 4x4s (which made sense to us later on as we discovered the terrain).
Despite the small size of the city, finding our way out of Muscat without the help of a GPS took a couple of wrong turns and in the process, we discovered the Oman Dive Center and the luxury resort of Barr Al Jissah near Al Bustan. After a brief walk around the resort and making a mental note to come back on our last day, we were finally on the open road and on our way towards Sur.
Sur is a sleepy fishing town about 350km to the south of Muscat. The newly built dual carriageway linking Muscat to Sur took us past numerous wadi’s, through mountain passes and then back along the coast. We initially thought that the place we were staying at was in Sur but later found out that the Turtle Resort was at Ras Al Hadd, a further 40km away. Nonetheless, we found our way there occasionally stopping at the petrol stations to ask for directions.
In the end, we arrived at the resort and it was worth all the wrong turns and detours. It was quiet, rustic and rewarding to sit there in what seemed like the middle of nowhere looking out into the sea. We did not spot any turtles but we did have a good dinner so I guess it made up for it. It was time for an early night considering we would have an early morning start the next day, driving out towards the 1000 Nights Desert Camp in the Sharqiya Sands.