Oman is one of those rare gems avid travelers stumble upon and surreptitiously stow away, lest excessive tourism put a stain on its old-world charm. With pristine beaches overlooking the Persian Gulf, breathtaking landscapes and a rich culture-meets-modernity vibe, Oman is paradise on earth — especially for those who love adventure. Get your wanderlust on and be sure to book your tickets before the Thai Airways flights fill up.
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It has the best diving in the world.
Image: Courtesy of almarsamusandam.com
Oman boasts a near-untouched coastline that extends over 1700 km, covering the breathtaking Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman as well as the vast Arabian Sea. A sophisticated traveller’s little secret, visiting divers can expect an incredible underwater world that has all the attributes of a far-flung paradise — beautiful, tranquil and yet to be overrun with tourists. Go for the alluring coral reefs and the fascinating variety of marine life. You might even spot a whale shark if you get lucky.
It’s also famous for whale and dolphin watching.
Image: Courtesy of diveworldwide.com
As far as holiday getaways go, few things are as envy-inducing as an afternoon of whale watching. With clear waters and few to no interruptions due to its secluded nature, Oman makes the ideal place to observe whales and dolphins in their natural habitat. Lounge on a yacht as dolphins dance through the air around you. Brace yourselves — the magnificent whales that emerge from the waters are sure to blow you away.
You can go dune driving at Wahiba Sands
Fans of Sex And the City might remember a particular scene from the second movie, where Danish architect Dr Rikard Spirt emerges from the golden sands on a four-by-four. These exciting shenanigans are not limited to Hollywood screens — the undulating desserts in Oman are perfect for a little dune-driving adventure of your own. Head over to the Wahiba Sands, with dunes towering up to 150 metres in vibrant shades of amber, orange and red. Whether you’re up for a dune drive — don’t worry, you can get a skilled local to help take the wheel — or a camel ride, there’s an array of exhilarating possibilities waiting for you out on the dessert. You can even go glamping — after all, nothing beats sleeping under the stars!
Or explore an ancient mountain village.
Being in Oman can feel like you’ve set foot into a different era. Head out of the bustling capital city and you’ll find abandoned villages literally carved into the mountainside. With palm roofing and mud walls, the ancient villages are a fascinating glimpse into a long-gone age. While locals still occupy some of the villages and have had them somewhat developed over the years with electrical wiring, but the original lifestyle still remains.
There’s a million-year-old cave.
Image: Courtesy of omran.om
If you thought the villages were old, wait till you see this. The Al Hoota Cave has been around for over 2 million years, and is also the only cave in Oman that offers guided tours. Expect to see natural lakes and intriguing creatures that dwell in the cave, from blind fish to bats. As an added bonus, tour guides use a special type of lighting to avoid disrupting the animals, so you can enjoy yourself while minimising your impact on the environment.
The newer stuff isn’t bad either.
While the ancient heritage is enough to blow you away, the more modern city of Muscat is also a must-see. Considered one of the most cultural cities in the Middle East, glittering Muscat is the capital of Oman. It was originally a port city with a trading history that goes back millennia — word has it that it’s been around since the sixth century BC. Today, it’s known as home to Oman’s spectacular Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque — made from over 300,000 tonnes of stunning Indian sandstone. Other unmissable attractions in the city include the Royal Opera House, the traditional fish market at Mutrah port and the Bait Al Zubair Museum. Despite it’s modern developments, the city still retains a no-skyscraper rule, giving it a charmingly quaint vibe.
You can swim just about anywhere — even sinkholes.
Image: Courtesy of wikipedia.org/bimmah_sinkhole
At Oman, it’s out with the infinity pools and in with the wonders of mother nature. Located in east Muscat, the Bimmah Sinkhole gives you pristine turquoise water that runs 20 metres deep. Tucked in that sweet spot between stunning seas and mountain views, it’s a beautiful place for swimming.
You can also slumber in the skies.
Image: Courtesy of alilahotels.com
Oman has its game going strong on the accommodation front. Offering some of the most luxurious stays in the market, visitors can choose from spectacular mountain-top resorts to beachside retreats. The Alila resort perches 2000 metres above sea level, boasting front-row views of the stunning Hajar mountains. Another equally jaw-dropping option is the Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar. Considered the highest five-star resort found in the Middle East, the retreat rises from the edge of a majestic valley. There are infinity pools, spa services and in-house fine dining restaurants. You can even stargaze from high amongst the clouds on your private terrace.
Food in Oman is incredible.
Meat lovers can rejoice — Omani cuisine is a platter of flavourful spiced meats. For those who prefer seafood, indulge in the freshest of the fresh. To take the local route, try dishes like Majboos — saffron rice served with spicy meat. The Shuwa is a more elaborate dish, where lamb, goat or even camel meat is marinated with spices such as coriander, nutmeg and cumin. Locals wrap the meat in banana leaves and throw it into sand ovens underground for one to two days. Enjoy the final product with rice and tomato sauce. Of course, you haven’t really been to Oman if you haven’t had a cup of Kahwa. A traditional hand blended coffee, it comes with sweet dates in a china cup mixed with cardamom and pistachios.
Thai Airways offers a non-stop flight from Bangkok to Karachi 3 flights a week. Air fares start from 15,235 baht. The flights also continue to Muscat after a one hour break. For more information, please visit www.thaiairways.com.