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The Sultanate of Oman welcomes travellers seeking to discover the romantic past of Arabia with genuine friendship and traditional hospitality.
The Sultanate of Oman
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Brief History of Oman
Little is known about Oman's pre-Islamic past, although it appears that the country was a source of copper around 2,000 BC.
In about 630 AD, Amr Ibn al-As arrived in Oman with a letter from the Prophet Mohammed to Abd and Jaifar, the two sons of al-Julanda, who at that time ruled Oman jointly. It is said that their embracing of Islam helped them defeat the Persians.
With the arrival of the maritime trade, the Omanis helped to spread the word of Islam deep into Asia.
The Portuguese occupied Masqat in the 16th Century, but after they were expelled in 1650, only the Persians would try to settle in Oman again.
Imam Ahmed bin Said, founder of the present dynasty, expelled the Iranians in 1741, and made Masqat the capital of newly independent Masqat and Oman.
After 1861 the ruler took the title of sultan, and close ties were established with Great Britain.
Imams challenged the rule of the sultan, in the early 20th century, but the backing from Egypt and Saudi Arabia was not enough for them to overthrow him; especially when he had the support of British forces.
In house rivalry, in 1970, resulted in Qabus bin Said toppling his father, Said bin Taimur, and claiming the throne.
The new sultan changed the name of the country from Muscat and Oman to Oman, and then set about unifying the country by liberalising politics and increasing spending on development.
The prosperity that oil brought to Oman also enabled Qabus to build himself a fancy waterfront palace; in the capital, Masqat.
Sultan Qaboos bin Said passed away in early January, 2020.
Muscat, founded because of its excellent natural harbour, is the rapidly expanding capital of Oman. Occupied by the Portuguese in the 16th century, many buildings still date from this period.
Beautiful sandy beaches, and mountain ridges that break up the city into more human sized townships combine to make this a very unusual capital city.
The streets are well laid out and driving on a par with Western Europe.
The town of Muscat itself with its flamboyant palace flanked by two medieval forts that overlook the natural harbour.
Dont miss the excellent museum Bait Zubair, the superb Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and the very traditional Souq (bazaar) in the nearby town of Muttrah.
You can also enjoy the experience of hassle free shopping wherever you go.
The ancient capital of the interior is dominated by the 17th century tower fort and 9th century castle.
The drive from Muscat takes you beside extraordinarily jagged mountains.
The highlight of Nizwa has to be the Friday market with the crowds of traditionally dressed people doing their weekly shopping that may include the odd live cow or goat.
Set at the base of the stark mountains and surrounded by a vast oasis of date palms this, like many Omani towns, has at its heart a vast fortress that dates to at least 600AD.
Close by is the town of Nakhl with its hot springs and off the tarmac road are many Wadis; the steep canyons that are so typical of Oman.
The capital of the southern region of Dhofar, is a popular resort for Gulf tourists escaping the Arabian heat in summer.
The surrounding mountains become the sub-tropical jungle that must the most unusual part of the Arabian Peninsular.
Dont miss the chance to visit these mountains at any time of year as they have a very spiritual atmosphere. This is enhanced by the tombs of many religious people including, set almost on the peak, that of the Prophet Job -- whose book in the bible still reflects the cattle, goat and camel culture that is found in these mountains today.
During the northern winter Salalah is a quiet, fairly typical, small Arab town.
One of the oldest towns in Oman; two hours west of the capital, Muscat.
The most eastern town in the Arab world is approached from Muscat through the Wahaiba Sand desert, from one side, or an impressive coastal drive (along a rough road) from the other.
This seafaring town still makes the wooden Dhow boats the traditional way - by hand.
Dont miss the chance to see the giant Green Turtles that nest on beaches in this eastern region.
Visitors must have a valid visa to enter Oman. Check for conditions at the local embassy or consulate.
From the UK, Contact:
Consular Section, Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman,
167 Queens Gate, London, SW7 5HE.
Tel: 0171 2250001.
From the USA, Contact:
Consular Section, Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman,
2535 Belmont Road, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006.
Tel: 202 387-1980.
Omani Travel Tips
Visitors to Oman will find themselves in a country where Omani men still wear the traditional white Dishdasha gown and the beautiful Kashmir Mussar turban on their head. But it's the exquisite silver dagger, the Khunjar, that is the most distinctive part of a man's attire.
Omani women clothes are colourful. In the main towns the style, while still very Arabic, is more cosmopolitan than in the interior of the country; where women still wear trousers with fine silver embroidery around the ankle and the equally dramatic knee length tunic.
In the desert edges the women wear that most practical facemask, the Birka, that behind its often golden sheen protect the face from sand blasting and immense heat.
Dressing modestly in this very traditional country, apart from protecting you against the harsh weather, means that you will receive a more positive reception from any Omani you meet.
Both sexes should not wear shorts or revealing tops and women, in particular, should wear a loose long skirt or trousers.
A stroll around the souqs is a must. Life in the markets is always interesting, and some of the khunjars - Omani daggers - are truly exquisite.
The shopkeepers in the souqs have an old world courtesy and if you feel like bargaining youll find it's always done with a smile.
Look for souvenirs like Frankincense, the gum of a tree, Omani silver crafts (always check to make certain it is Omani as there are many Indian versions of womens jewellery), Kashmiri head wear and even mens or womens traditional clothing.
If you're interested in Arabic music, Salim Al Araimi is the latest Omani star.
Within Oman, alcohol is available in the major hotels and restaurants and the standards of food hygiene is as good as can be found in developed nations.
Omanis eat with their hands -- the right hand only -- and are not allowed alcohol; although visitors to Oman may drink in most hotel bars and restaurants. If you're meeting an Omani here, don't offer them a beer.
Tap water is potable and mineral water is also widely available; even in the most remote village.
Use money changers rather than banks or hotels as the rates are far better and the opening hours are way longer than banks.
In Muscat, the number and variety of hotels is good. Outside of Muscat the choice becomes more limited.
Al Bustan Palace: Muttrah Beach, Muscat, Oman.
Secluded amid an emerald green oasis overlooked by the Al Hajar Mountains, this hotel stands proudly as one of the sultanate's landmarks.
The Al Bustan Palace Hotel in Muscat is among the best in the world and makes up for the sometimes leisurely service with its superb beach setting and very dramatic design.
Crowne Plaza Muscat: Qurum Heights, Muscat.
This is the perfect location for a view across the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Oman from a lush clifftop in Qurum Heights.
With a panoramic terrace, infinity pool and private access to Shatti Al Qurm Beach, Crowne Plaza Muscat is the ideal place to relax after exploring the ancient Muttrah Souq and Corniche.
Stay in the Heart of Muscat with spectacular views of the majestic Hajar mountains and just steps away from the Arabian Sea.
The Grand Hyatt Muscat embodies the richness of Omani warmth and culture within authentic Arabian architecture.
InterContinental Muscat: Al Kharjiya Street, Muscat, Oman.
The hotel sits in 35 acres of palm gardens between the Hajjar Mountains and the pale sand of the Gulf Coast.
Stylish accommodation is taken for granted at the InterContinetal Muscat while the elegant beachfront hotel’s culinary delights offer something fitting for everyone's taste.
Next to these elegant choices are budget hotels that have comfortable rooms. You can, of course, use the larger hotels for eating out in Muscat.
For business travellers the Sheraton Oman Hotel, in downtown Ruwi; Holiday Inn AlSeeb Muscat, close to the government ministries; or the Radisson Blu Hotel Muscat all provide good accommodation for a couple of nights stay.
The Nizwa Hotel, though set a bit far out of town, is a good hotel.
The Sur Beach Hotel accommodation is basic but passable for a night.
Salalah, in the south, has two good beach hotels - the Holiday Inn or the Hilton Salalah - and a range of small hotels in the main town; the best of which is the Haffa House Hotel, not far from the airport.
Eating Out in Oman
The Grand Hyatt's Tuscany Italian restaurant offers an unusual combination of excellent service, food and ambience; there's even a small Romeo and Juliet style balcony for dining.
Al Bustan's Al Marjan Restaurant is a French restaurant, where the food and ambience is outstanding. Its possibly the only restaurant in Oman that insists on men wearing a tie.
For a taste of Oman try the Al Bustan's Seblat Al Bustan (on Wednesdays). The live Omani entertainment makes it a very memorable night out.
Restaurants, apart from in the major hotels, tend to offer a standard range of Indian sub-continent food.
Some recommendations include the Golden Oryx with its Mongolian and Chinese cuisine; the Mumtaz Mahal for excellent north Indian food and one of the best views in Oman.
The Pavo Real is Muscat's favourite Mexican themed diner and the do it yourself entertainment, on some nights, can help break down business barriers.
The Curry House offers simple Indian dining with superb food.
The Oasis' Shatti Al Qurm beach location adds to the enjoyment of the freshly prepared food.
If you need a snack, many of the small coffee shops will do a chicken or omelette sandwich in Lebanese bread. Some of them also offer freshly squeezed fruit juices.
The bars in the Intercontinental and Radisson SAS are very popular but the best entertainment is usually in the Grand Hyatts Safari club.
The music may not be the latest sounds from Europe, and the alcohol is expensive, but the crowds are usually good natured and fun.
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