Oman is one Arab country that has it absolutely right, carefully modernising without sacrificing its traditional style or culture. This means visitors enjoy the best of both worlds – old world surroundings, hospitality and charm with good, modern facilities.

Occupying the south-eastern area of the Arabian Peninsula and bordered by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Oman was once the last stop on the spice route to India.

Today, this 119,500 square-mile country  benefits from oil and gas reserves and a small but growing number of tourists, who visit to enjoy its 2,000 forts, palaces, souqs (bazaars) and beautiful, sandy beaches.

Another big attraction is its varied and dramatic countryside – rocky mountains and deep water inlets in the north, a heartland of dunes and salt flats, a coast with untouched coves and beaches stretching thousands of miles and, in the south, Dhofar’s green, green hills.

Muscat, Oman’s modern, bustling capital has everything a visitor to Arabia could wish for and more, including an ornate Sultan’s Palace overlooking the historic city’s harbour, mosques, museums, souqs, malls and wonderful beaches.

Salalah, down in the south, has many more attractions – from the ruins of Queen Sheba’s palace to the sap of the frankincense tree and some of the best seafood in the country.

Oman’s official language is Arabic, and English is spoken widely. The local currency is the Omani Rial (OMR). All major credit cards are accepted. ATMs are available throughout the country.


See & Do

There are a number of sights to see and activities to do in Oman. Below is just a selection of what is possible.

  • Head for the desert. Get away from it all on a camel safari, rock-climb in the wadis, or explore by 4x4
  • Go to sea. From Khasab take a dhow for Khor (Oman’s fjords), try wind-surfing, sailing or deep-sea fishing from any outlet – and paddle, swim or snorkel from any beach
  • Bird-watch. Go to Al-Ansab lagoons for eagles and Qurum National Park for spoonbills, flamingos and wading birds
  • Pop to the shops. Strike a bargain or two – go for gold or virtually anything else at traditional souks and modern malls
  • Dhofar. Try a mud bath with the locals at Wadi Dhabat, be awed by Mugsail’s blowholes, and track down the frankincense tree
  • Muscat. Explore the whitewashed capital, the Sultan’s Palace and Portuguese forts
  • Nizwa. At Al-Hobta Cave take a train to its mysterious hidden depths and explore a wonderful world of limestone
  • Wadi Shab. Splash out in a pool designed for all the family



Oman offers visitors a great opportunity to experience shopping as it used to be. Muscat’s Muttrah Souk and its counterpart at Nizwa are everything traditional Arabian markets should be, offering a range of products at prices to be haggled over!

In fact, almost every Omani town has its souk – a good source of traditional items such as khanjars (a type of Omani dagger), coffee pots, saddles, silver and gold jewellery, hand-woven textiles, goat-hair carpets, baskets, camel straps and frankincense.

Of course, Oman’s retail therapy is not all souks and tradition – the country has its modern side too, and very much so. Muscat City Centre’s 140 shops and malls, such as the Markaz Al-Bahjah and Lulu complex, sell almost everything.


Food & Drink

There remains a good deal of tradition attached to eating out in Oman. In Muscat many locals still prefer to go to hotels, waiter service continues and away from Salalah and Nizwa small, traditional coffee shops and Lebanese and Turkish restaurants offer their usual fare. Visitors, quite naturally, are keen to try the local specialities – and there are plenty of them, including magbous (a rice dish with saffron cooked over red or white meat) and halwa (sticky pudding made from dates).


Oman is also big on international food – and even Western-style coffee shops – serving everything from Arab, Indian and Oriental to European dishes.


Here is a selection of recommended restaurants:

  • Al-Tarboosh (Arabia) – Qurum
  • Hormus Iranian Restaurant – Darsait
  • Punjabi Dhaba (Indian) – Darsait
  • Narjeel (Thai ) – Qurum
  • Madinat Qaboos (café) – Qurum Beach
  • Al -Marjan (French) – Al Bustan Palace Hotel
  • Coral Reef Café (international) – Al Sawadi Beach Resort
  • Café Glacier (café) - Qurum
  • Magic Wok (Chinese) - Muscat City Centre
  • Café de Muscat (café) – Shatti Al Qurum



Most of Oman’s nightlife centres on hotels and cinemas at Shatti Al-Qurum, while Muscat also has a few nightclubs. During the khareef – the rainy season in July and August – Salalah really gets into its after-dark stride for Festival.

Eating out and visiting traditional tea and coffee shops are an important part of relaxing in this hospitable Muslim country. And although local people avoid alcohol, visitors are always free to settle down with a drink at specially licensed hotels and restaurants.

Hotel bars range from quiet lounges to British theme pubs and clubs with dance floors.

Below are some examples:

  • Copacabana – Grand Hyatt Hotel, Al-Qurum
  • Saba Nightclub – Sheraton Oman Hotel, Muscat
  • The Kargeen – Al-Khuwair
  • British pub, Intercontinental Hotel – Al-Khwair
  • Safari, Grand Hyatt Hotel – Muscat
  • Lounge Nightclub, Oasis by the sea - Muscat



Sightseeing and other activities are mainly restricted to Muscat – and Salalah. Take an excursion to this southern town to discover the Queen of Sheba’s palace – or at least its ruins – the ancient frankincense tree, and seafood.

Health & Safety

Before travelling to Oman visitors will need to ask their doctor about vaccinations - and because medical services are expensive health insurance is recommended. Oman is generally safe but the usual precautions should be taken against crime. Women are advised not to appear in shorts or scanty clothing.

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