The oldest independent state in the Arab world, the Sultanate of Oman is one
of the more
traditional countries in the Gulf region and was, until recently, one of the
most isolated. Located in the southeastern corner of the Arabian peninsula, the
country has been viewed as strategically important given its position at the
mouth of the Gulf.
Archaeological discoveries and research suggest that early civilisations
existed at least
5000 years ago. Sumerian tablets refer to a country named 'Magan' as a source of
copper. It seems certain that they referred to Oman. Evidence from excavations
near Sohar shows that the copper mining and smelting industry was well developed
by the year 2000 BC. Frankincense from Dhofar, which was so important in the
social and religious life of ancient peoples also provides evidence of the
existence of an early trading community. It is also clear that there were
farming and fishing settlements from the earliest times.
The ancestors of present day Omanis are believed to have arrived in two waves,
migration over a number of years, the first from the Yemen and the second from
at a time when various parts of the country were occupied by the Persians.
The Sultanate of Oman occupies the South-Eastern corner of the Arabian
The coastline extends 1,700 kilometres from the Strait of Hormuz in the North to
borders of the Republic of Yemen in the South. It overlooks three seas - the
Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. It borders Saudi Arabia and the United Arab
in the West; the Republic of Yemen in the South; the Strait of Hormuz in the
North and the Arabian Sea in the East. The total land area is about 309,500
sq.kms, and it is the third largest country in the Arabian Peninsula.
The Sultanate of Oman has a variety of topographical features consisting of
and mountains. The most important area is the coastal plain which represents
of the total land mass. The mountain ranges occupy about 15%. The Hajar range
from Musandam in the North to Ras Al-Hadd in the South. The Dhofar range
the monsoon, which brings unique weather conditions and creates a special
Dhofar. The remaining area which occupies 82% of the country is mainly sand and
desert or scrub, and includes part of the Empty Quarter.
309,500 square kilometres
Approximately 2.8 million
6.5 inhabitants/sq km
Muscat (population over 400,000)
Arabic (English widely spoken)
4 hours ahead of GMT
Rial Omani =US$2.60
1 Rial = 1000 Baiza's (£1= approx. 580 Baiza)
Al-Watan Oman Daily - Arabic Oman Observer -
English-language Times of Oman - English-language
International Dialing Code:
There are a total of 59 Wilayaat, 3
Governorates and 5 Regions. The head of a governorate will normally have
The head of a Wilaya is the Waali. In the Region's capital areas for example,
Nizwa, which is the capital centre of Al Dakhiriyah, the Waali becomes the
senior Waali for that region.
Muscat Governorate (6):
Muscat, Mutrah,Boushar, Seeb, Al-Amrat and Quriyat.
Sohar, Rustaq, Saham, Barka, Wadi Al-Mauly, Nakhal, Al-Khabourah, Suwaiq,
Shinas, Liwa, Al-Mussanah, and Al-Awabi.
Khassab, Diba Al-Bayah, Bukha, and Mad-Ha.
Buraimi, Mahdha, Ibri, Yanqul, and Dhank.
Nizwa, Adam, Bahla, Al-Hamrah, Izki, Samail, Manah, and Bidbid.
Hema, Al-mukhut, Al-Duqum, and Al-Jaazir.
Sur, Wadi Bani Khalid, Jaalan Bani Buali, Jaalan Bani Buhassan, Bidiyah, Ibrah,
Al-Mudhebi, Al-Dima Wa Tayeen, Masirah island, Al-Kaabil, Al-Akamil Wa Al-Waafi.
Salalah, Shaleem and Halaniyat island, Mirbat, Sadah, Taqa, Thamrait,
Dhalkut, Rakhyut, and Mugshiin.
Most major carriers have routes to the Sultanate (BA, Gulf Air, KLM, Kuwait Air,
Emirates, Lufthansa etc). Flight times vary but are between 6-9 hours depending
You will need a car and preferrably a good 4 x 4 off roader. To wet your
appetitie, how about a drive to Sur, without going via the Batina coast route.
Try the drive along the coast from Muscat to Qurayat and onwards to Ras Al-Jinz.
This is a good fast road with lots of panoramic scenery. Remember to stop at
Wadi Al-Shab, a truly beautiful wadi, which we have visited many times.
Probably the most friendly in the Gulf. Strong family orientated society.
People will travel for miles to see a friend and to sit and chat. Hospitality,
second to none.
Great sense of humour very much akin to our own.
In my experience, their education system has exceeded expectations.Their rising
generation are in the main well educated, becoming well travelled and intently
keen to learn and to take on responsibility. I know this as I had the priviledge
of teaching many of them over a sixteen year period. If you do get a chance to
visit the Sultanate of Oman grab it, you will never forget it.
The Omani people are well known for their hospitality and offers of
refreshment. To be invited into someone's home will mean coffee (kahwa), a
strong, bitter drink flavoured with cardamom, and dates or halwa, a sticky sweet
gelatinous substance which is made from brown sugar, eggs, honey and spices.
Lokhemat is another accompaniment to coffee, which are balls of flour and yeast
flavoured with cardamom and deep fried until golden then served with a sweet
lime and cardamom syrup. The sweetness of this dish often counteracts the
bitterness of the kahwa.
Endowed with some of the finest hotels and restaurants, Local, Asian, European
and Western dishes are all available and service is generally of a higher
standard than that of the UK.
Local fish is plentiful; try the Kana'd or Kingfish steaks as well as fresh
dates, and the local halwa.
Shuwa is another popular meal, which is meat cooked very slowly (sometimes for
up to two days) in an underground clay oven. The meat becomes extremely tender
and it is impregnated with spices and herbs before cooking to give it a very
distinct taste. It is usualy served with rice.
Sports and things to do
Football crazy. Great water sports facilities available (water skiing, diving,
jet ski's etc)
Beaches are sand and are usually very clean.
A favourite pastime of the expatriate community is weekend wadi-bashing or
desert safaris. This entails taking four-wheel drive vehicles off- road (these
are essential in mountainous and interior regions of the country) This is a
great way of exploring a truly beautiful country and to observe the camels
roaming the interior.
Places to visit
This old walled town is dominated by two well-preserved 16th-century Portuguese
forts, Al Jalali and Mirani. The town consists of old houses, narrow streets and
three beautifully carved original gates. The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Al
Bustan Palace Hotel, the Sultan's Palace and the Mutrah Souk
are a must for visitors.
Capital of the southern Dhofar region. It is a city set amongst coconut
groves and banana plantations, sprawled along sandy beaches that run the length
of its plain. The lush vegetation makes Salalah seem almost tropical. Visiting
it is a unique experiene particularly after the monsoon period. The Qamar range
of the Jebel (mountains) rise to 2,500 metres and extend for about 180
kilometres and include the Qarra and Samhan range.(see article under main cities
Situated in the northeastern province of Sharqiya. It is a seafaring town, a
fishing village and a trading port all rolled into one. Famous for its
traditional ship building, Sur started trading along the African coast as early
as the 6th century. It is an old town with winding streets, carved wooden doors
and old arabesque buildings. Sur souk is also well worth visiting.
There is a very large and functional souk (market) here full of tailors,
fruit-sellers and fishermen. An imposing four-storey fort with six towers
overlooks the bay.
The main town in the interior province. It was the capital in the 6th and
7th centuries. The town's immense palm oasis stretches for 13km (8 miles) along
the course of two wadis. It is famous for its fort and its gold and silver
The 17th-century fortified palace situated here is notable for its painted
wooden ceilings and the splendid view across the desert to the mountains.
This ancient town, known for its pottery, has a good souk and nearby is the
picturesque village of Al Hamra.
Literally 'The Green Mountain', noted for its picturesque terraced
On the northern slopes of the Jebel Akhdar is the fortress of Al Hazm Fort,
built in 1708, and the oasis town of Rostaq.
Encapsulates Oman's archaeology, history and culture. The National Museum has a
collection of silver, jewellery, weapons and ancient stone artefacts. From here
dhows cruise along the palm-fringed coast and there are excellent fishing
grounds and beaches.
Muscat city, once a thriving and strategically located port of the Arabian
peninsula in ancient times, is the capital of modern Oman. Its medieval
appearance with two old Portuguese forts, Jelali and Merani, flanking the rocky
cove around which the city is built, makes it a unique and unusually exotic
place. Muscat's picturesque old buildings co-exist with modern commercial and
residential quarters giving the city an ambiance of its own. the seaside palace
of H.M. Sultan Qaboos bin Said, nestled between steep rocky hills, offers a
spectacular sight, specially by night.
Largest city in Southern Oman, Salalah has a unique charm with its coconut
groves and banana plantations growing right to the water's edge. Its beautiful
beaches of white sand are a heaven for swimmers and sea lovers. The rugged
beauty of its fertile plains, its fresh water springs, its bustling souqs and
tropical landscape leave a lasting impression on the visitors mind. The best
time to visit Salalah is from June to September, When the monsoon rains lash the
region, turning it into a tropical paradise.
This is also where Frankincense comes from. This is used extensively throughout
the Sultanate for a variety of purposes. The Dhofari frankincense is considered
amongst the best in the world.
Oasis city of Nizwa, the largest in the interior province, was the capital of
Oman in the 6th and 7th centuries. Today it remains one of the most popular
tourist attractions with its historical buildings and imposing fort built in the
mid 17th century by Imam Sultan Bin Saif Al Ya'ribi. The town's immense palm
oasis stretches for eight kilometers along the course of two wadis. It is famous
for its bustling souq where tourists can buy exquisite copper and silver jewelry
and other craft items.
The coastal city of Sohar was once an important Islamic port and the largest
town in the country. Visitors will be attracted to its large and functional souq
with handy tailors, fruit sellers, and fishermen vying for space, and its fort
which stands apart with its four-story walls and six towers, an imposing sight
overlooking the bay.
An ideal location in the northeast Province of Sharquiya and is a seafaring
town, a fishing village and a trading port all in one. The highlight of the town
is the dhow builder's yard of the coast just beyond the town. Sur started
trading activities with the African coast as early as the 6th century A.D.. A
walk through its labyrinthine streets reveal many fine old houses with carved
doors, arabesque windows and other intricate details. Sur is also famous for its
breeding sites of world's rare sea turtles in Ras Al Jinaiz, which has been
declared a protected wild life area.
Separated from the rest of Oman by part of the United Arab Emirates, this is the
northernmost part of the Sultanate. It's rugged mountains rise up to 2100 meters
above sea level and the coast which juts into the strait of Hormuz has a
spectacular fjord like look. It is no wonder that Musandam is also called "The
Norway of the Middle East". Khasab Fort, Qadah Archaeological site, Jebel Harim
Mountain, Shim Gulf and Strait of Hormuz are the most important attractions in
Musandam. I spent much time in the Musandam peninsular and never tired of its
One of the two forts constructed by the Portuguese to
defend the Muscat port in 1587, it was first named as Sao Joa. It lies on the
eastern side of the port.
Merani Fort : This western fort was
completed in 1586 and was originally called Fort Capitan. The building of the
two forts remain virtually unchanged, though restoration works were carried out
in later times.
Nizwa Fort : Built by Imam Sultan Seif Al Yarubi in 1641 AD is one of
the largest monuments of Oman's historical and cultural legacy. It lies in the
city of Nizwa, 175 km south of Muscat.
Jabrain Castle :
Built in 1688 AD and situated in Bahla, not far from Niawa
is one of the most beautiful and magnificent historical monuments of Oman.
Rustaq (Hazim) Fort
: Situated in Rustaq, 160 km
north-west of Muscat was built in 1702
Nakhl Fort : This fort is built on a 200
ft. high mountain peak and it dates back to the pre-Islamic era. It lies in
Nakhl which is 121 km from Muscat.
Sultanate is endowed with numerous splendid hotels, some of which are:
Al Bustan Palace Hotel, Intercontinental and the Grand Hayyat.
The Sultanate of Oman welcomes tourism for which
it is well set up.
Excitingly different, it offers a multitude of activities and interests in a
friendly and unique part of the world.
As I said previously, if you get the chance, grab it, you will not be