The Sultanate of Oman, as surprising as it may seem, is an increasingly popular tourist destination. Indeed, although located in the heart of the Middle East, the Sultanate of Oman is one of the safest countries in the world. Even if it seems counterintuitive, the World Economic Forum in its 2018 report « Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2018 » ranked the Sultanate of Oman in fourth place in the top 10 countries regarding safety and security .
Unlike the majority of its neighbors in the Persian Gulf, the small sultanate of Oman has valued authenticity, banning amrican-style skyscrapers and supermarkets. It is quite the opposite then as Oman, also known as “Sindbad Country”, successfully cultivates the atmosphere of the Arabian Nights. A tourist stay in the Sultanate of Oman is the assurance of a change of scenery in a country where hospitality is a real art.
What to do on a first trip to Oman?
Contrary to what one might think the Sultanate of Oman is not a great arid desert. The country of the Queen of Sheba offers breathtaking landscapes and gives you a multitude of activities to do. Oman is made of 3000 km of beaches, oases in the middle of the largest sand desert in the world, fortifications with breathtaking architecture, gastronomy that will delight and surprise the most demanding and jaded people.
To go to the Sultanate from Europe, there is only one way : take a ticket with the company Oman Air. It provides a direct daily flight from major European capitals to Muscat, the capital of Oman, but also Salaalah, Khasab and Duqum. On a first tourist trip to the Sultanate of Oman, the first stop after landing in the capital Muscat is Salaalah.
The city of Salaalah is located on the Omani coast, facing the Indian Ocean. Salaalah is recognized as the world capital of incense. The Sultanate of Oman is the world’s largest exporter of incense. UNESCO has declared the Incense Tree of the Sultanate of Oman a World Heritage Site.
Oman : a place for tourists who need a thrill
Salaalah is the perfect place to enjoy beautiful sandy beaches. You can swim in warm transparent, turquoise color water, while sipping the flagship drink of the country, the Karak, served as an aperitif and which is a sweet tea cut in milk with a hint of ginger and saffron. It is accompanied with delicious honey dates, black grapes and cashews.
For thrill-seekers, head for the Rub Al Khali Desert. In this huge place, you will enjoy in Dune-Bashing. This popular activity of the Omani consists in riding a big 4X4 full speed in sand dunes. It is also an opportunity to enjoy the magnificence of the landscapes offered by the Omani desert.
For lovers of architecture and culture, an expedition to the city of Ubar also called Iram “the city of a thousand pillars” is needed. Several millennia ago, the city was buried after a sandstorm, hence its nickname the Atlantis of the desert. Today you can only visit the ruins of its fort : the city of Ubar, which was the point of passage of many trade routes.
The Forts and Fjords of the Sultanate of Oman
Speaking of forts, the Sultanate of Oman holds the record number of 1140. If you were to visit only one Omani Fort, you should then visit the Fort of Taqah. Unlike many other forts, this one was still inhabited in 1984. Moreover, if you travel with children, they will appreciate the visit of this fort in which they can discover secret passages.
The Musandam Peninsula, also known as Oman’s Norway, is a must for hikers. Hidden in the Strait of Hormuz, this peninsula is home to majestic fjords surrounded by desert mountains culminating at more than 2000 m. Trekking is not the only activity offered. You can also afford a cruise on the Khawr Ash Shamm fjord or snorkel and watch the dolphins, sea turtles and majestic rays.
The Sultanate of Oman in its will to boost tourism has set up an online visa issuing platform in March 2018. Since then, tourist visas and express visas can only be obtained online. “E visa tourisme” guides you in your steps to get your visa for Oman in a few days. The tourist electronic visa for Oman is a single entry visa. It allows to make a stay of 30 days maximum, for a cost of 20 Oman rials, which is about 45 €.