Arabia’s hidden gem: My adventures in Oman

According to the big bus, Oman is Arabia’s hidden gem. I was not sure of what to expect from Oman prior to visiting the country but I had an open mind.

Oman is a small country and it shares a boarder with UAE. When people visit Dubai on vacation, they tend to skip Oman, because to be honest, a lot of people don’t know that Oman even exists. I came across Oman while searching for less trekked countries on Pinterest.

I conducted extensive research on the safety of traveling to Oman before visiting, and I was delighted with the results because Oman is considered to be very safe- infact one of the safest countries in the world. Taxis are expensive in Oman, so it is advisable to rent a car, or hire a local who will act as a tour guide.

Coastline of Muscat, Oman

When I arrived in Oman, I took a taxi from the airport to the Airbnb in Muttrah (a very common and central area) which cost 20 OMR. My Airbnb host told me I should have only paid 7 OMR but since I got an airport taxi, it was very expensive. At the end of my visit to Oman, my guide was kind enough to drop me at the airport for free which beats paying for a taxi!

The name of my guide was Idrees, and he was an amazing guide. I met him on my first day when I told my Airbnb host that I had no idea of what I wanted to do in Oman. My host told me he has a friend who will be willing to take me around Muscat and its surrounding areas for a reasonable fee. I am glad I agreed to explore Oman with Idrees because he took me to several sights and gems that I would not have seen on my own. It was a fantastic experience.

Wadi Shab

In Oman, I will advise getting an Airbnb over a hotel because it is cheaper, and also because of the interaction with locals that comes with staying in an Airbnb. This is an added advantage in my opinion. I had several chats with my host and his wife and they really helped me with navigating Muscat. I spent 3 days in Oman and if I knew I would love it as much as I did, I would have spent less time in Dubai which I visited prior to Oman, and more time in Oman.

Here is a breakdown of my 3 day adventure:

Day 1

  • Old Muscat

The Old Muscat is the original historic city of Muscat. Idrees and I drove to Old Muscat from my Airbnb in Mattrah and it was a scenic drive. There are several mountains in Muscat and we drove my alot of them on the way to Old Muscat.

Old Muscat

  • Muscat Gate Museum

The museum was closed when I visited but I was able to walk around the grounds and admire the architecture.

 

  • Sultan’s Palace

It is also known as Al Alam Palace. This is the ceremonial palace of Sultan Qaboos of Oman. It is a beautiful palace, and the architecture is gorgeous. You can find several lookout towers behind the palace.

Al Alam Palace

  • Views from Hidden Gems and Valleys

We drove to several gems and valleys across the city which I am sure I would not have seen by myself. I was in awe because Oman is beautiful and it exceeded my expectations.

Beautiful gems in Muscat

  • Mattrah Souk

I stayed in Mattrah, so of course, I had to visit the souk. Mattrah souk is big, and it’s also known mainly for its Gold souk. I had a great time looking at several pieces of gold necklaces, bracelets, and accessories. These pieces are sold by weight.

Mattrah Souk

Day 2

  • Grand Mosque

Before entering the grand mosque, I rented an Abaya and a scarf outside the mosque which I used to cover myself. This cost 2 OMR. The mosque is holy ground, and it was such a privilege for me to enter. Respecting the Islamic faith and adhering to the ways of dressing was my priority because I did not want to offend anyone. I walked around the grounds with my guide, and I saw what is probably the biggest Chandelier in the world.

Grand Mosque

  • Hawkyat Najm (Sink Hole) Park

The park is a little drive out of Muscat, but it is definitely worth the drive. A sinkhole is caused by the erosion of the surface of the earth. The sinkhole is beautiful with clear, blue water and it is open for swimming.

Sinkhole National Park

  • Wadi Shab

A wadi is a valley. The hike through Wadi Shab took about 45 minutes, but it was worth it. At the end of the trek, a natural pool awaits. According to Idrees, if you swim past the pool, you will get to a waterfall. I cannot swim so I simply observed as people made their way to the waterfall.

Wadi Shab

  • Sur

We stopped by Sur after visiting Wadi Shab to view boats. Sur is a coastal town which is said to be Alibaba’s hometown (from Alibaba and the Forty Thieves), and the town is also famous for boat construction. I stopped by a workshop with Idrees to view some boats which were still under construction.

Boat in Sur

Coastline of Sur

  • Qurum Beach for Barbecue

The night ended at Qurum beach where they have a barbecue every night and I purchased chicken and lamb Kebabs. Yum!

Lamb Kebabs

Day 3

  • Wahiba Sands Desert tour

Driving to Wahiba Sands took about 3 hours from Muscat. The desert is also a popular camping spot. We drove through the desert in a 4 x 4 and at the end of the desert; there is a camp called 1000 nights camp. The camp is popular among people who want to experience the desert for an extended period and people who also crave a get away.

Wahiba Sands

Reception of 1000 Nights Camp

I also saw camels walking around the desert freely and this made me happy. If the car stops close enough to the Camels, they stop and stare, or they walk towards the car.

Camels roaming about the desert

  • Wadi Ben Khalid

Wadi Ben Khalid is a famous Wadi because it is beautiful, and people are allowed to swim in the water. The water is not as clear as the Sinkhole National Park or Wadi Shab, but it is a beautiful Wadi nonetheless

Wadi Ben Khalid

  • Food

Food in Oman is very affordable, and the portions are fair. A lot of Omanis and middle easterners eat with their hand. This might be a shock to someone seeing it for the first time, but cutlery is provided for people who prefer to use utensils.

This meal including a big bottle of water cost $6.. Wow!

Things to note

  • I had to get a sim card at the airport because my T-mobile sim which is excellent for roaming abroad did not work in Oman
  • Some social media apps (like Telegram) and websites are blocked, so it is best to get a VPN- I use Express VPN
  • Attractions listed above and virtually all the attractions in Oman are free
  • People are warm and friendly, and they treat each other like a family.
  • Omani Riyal is one of the few currencies in the world that is stronger than USD. 1 USD = 0.39 OMR.

Oman was a beautiful place to be on those three days. With such a heavenly experience, I would recommend it to anyone as a holiday destination.

Information about my guide

The name of my guide is Idrees. Send me an email (thestylishtrotter@gmail.com) if you plan to visit Oman and you want to be in touch with him. He is such an amazing guide and he does a great job of being a guide and a funny companion!

 

1 Comment

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Yvonnereply
May 25, 2018 at 7:09 am

Would you believe that Oman empire used to extend across the Strait of Hormuz (Persian Gulf/Gulf of Oman) to Iran and Pakistan, and to as far south as Zanzibar, Tanzania and northern Mozambique.To date you can totally see the Oman cultural influence along the East African coast in language and architecture. For sure it’s a gem. Salalah in Oman is a place i’d like to explore.
How huge was that chandelier at the mosque though? Haha

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