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Bordering the Indian Ocean on the
eastern extremity of the Arabian peninsula, the Sultanate of Oman is a magical
land distinguished by the names of such legendary figures as Sinbad, Job, Marco
Polo and the Queen of Sheba
In contrast with its low-lying neighbours, Omanís landscapes are characterised
by a series of awe-inspiring mountain chains. Dramatic rocky peaks, several
around 3000m, alternate with oceans of vast dunes, over 100m high in places, and
seemingly limitless expanses of flat stony sands concealing exotic wadis and
leafy oasis villages perched precariously amid craggy peaks overlooking terraced
fields and palm groves. In the south, desert gives way to lush, monsoon-fed
plains in the Dhofar region. On the coast, deep fjords, coral reefs and mile
upon mile of deserted, sandy beaches reward those prepared to forsake the beaten
track to follow in the footsteps of great explorers who for centuries, since
Marco Polo, have been fascinated by this solitary Arabian outpost.
The best time to visit is between October and April when days are pleasantly
warm and evenings cool. Outside this period, summer temperatures in the north
soar to over 35įc, though the heat in the south, in the area of Salalah, is
tempered by monsoon rains between June and September.
Areas within Oman:
Muscat: Omanís capital city stands in a fine natural harbour flanked by
mountains which plunge steeply to the sea. Visit Old Muscat, still surrounded by
its original ramparts and protected by twin 16th century forts, with its old
merchant houses and colourful souk.
Hajar Mountains: To the north and west of Muscat, narrow gorges lead up
into the scenic Hajar mountains where fortified towns and villages stand guard
over valleys and mountain passes. Foremost amongst these are the forts at Nakhl
and Rustaq, whose crenellated towers and ramparts dominate the surrounding palm
Nizwa: This oasis city, set against a backdrop of high mountains, is the
medieval capital and cultural centre of Oman. Visit the renovated citadel, with
its 17th century fort and adjacent golden-domed mosque. A highlight is the
spectacle of the Friday morning market which attracts thousands from far and
Sur & Wahiba Dunes: Famed for the shipyards where traditional dhows have
been built for centuries, Sur is the nearest town to the turtle nesting beaches
of Ras Al Junayz and the spectacular dunes of Wahiba Sands which extend for some
180kms, providing extraordinary contrasts of colour and light, especially at
sunrise and sunset.
The Dhofar: Renowned in ancient times for its lucrative frankincense
trade with Babylon, Egypt and Mesopotamia, the Dhofarís main attraction today is
the garden city of Salalah which stands on a vast sub tropical plain where
coconut, banana and mango trees flourish. Some of Omanís best beaches line the
coast hereabouts, whilst Salalah itself is the main departure point for trips to
the Qara mountains and the archaeological site of Sumhuram, legendary palace of
the Queen of Sheba.
Musandam: Separated from the rest of Oman by part of the UAE, the
Musandam peninsula, bordering the Strait of Hormuz in the north of the country,
offers breathtaking coastal scenery comprising 600kms of spectacular cliffs,
coral reefs and deserted beaches.
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