Area: 309,500 square kilometers
Population: approx. 2.6 million
Currency: Rial (OMR)
Oman is at the easternmost edge of the Arab world. Known as “the Land of Frankincense and Myrrh”, Oman is a country of dramatic mountains, deserts and historic towns.
Traditionally seafaring traders, the Omanis used to dominate trade along the coasts of the Indian Ocean and in the Arabian Gulf. This heritage has made the Omanis an open-minded and cheerful people. Oman is a very authentic place, with a lot yet to be discovered.
Muscat is Oman's capital, and its financial and trade centre. This prosperous city began to expand rapidly after 1970. It has three core districts; Muscat, Muttrah and Ruwi.
Muscat is dominated by trade. Traditional exports of the city include dates, mother of pearl, frankincense and fish. Many of these items can be found in the souks (markets) of old Muscat and Muttrah.
Muscat is an old city, known since the 2nd century AD. In the past, Muscat used to be a walled city. Parts of the original wall still remain, and in these are located the three main access gates to the city: Bab al Matha'eeb, the Greater Gate and the Lesser Gate.
The old walled port town is dominated by the Sultan's Palace, buildings of the Royal Court and government offices. Two 16th-century Portuguese forts, Al Jalali and Mirani, flanking the Sultan’s Palace, guard the entrance to Muscat.
The district of Muttrah has one of the best souks in the area. Main entrance is from the Corniche. The hillside Muttrah Fort is another Portuguese fort, but it is closed to the public.
The Oman Museum, in the Medinat Qaboos, west of Muscat, covers Oman's long history. There are also displays on shipbuilding, Islam and fort architecture.
The Aquarium in Muscat, displays species native to Omani waters.
The National Museum in Ruwi exhibits Omani silverwork. Ruwi is Muscat’s business district, and has good shopping streets.
Muscat has a number of beautiful beaches such as Qurum Beach, Bandar Al-Jissah and Yeti.
Sohar is renowned for its copper deposits, and archaeological evidence points to copper extraction being carried out 5,000 years ago. There are still three copper mines in operation in Sohar.
Sohar has clean, safe beaches and a number of archaeological features.
The whitewashed, square-shaped Sohar Fort, is one of the city’s most important landmarks. Sohar also boasts a number of beautiful public parks. The souk is quite extensive, and full of craftsmen, fruit-sellers and fishermen.
Situated on the coast of the Gulf of Oman, Sur became a centre for trade with East Africa in the 6th century AD. Sur is a fishermen’s town, famous for its building of dhows, the traditional vessels of the Arabian Gulf. It is an authentic Arabian town with winding streets, carved wooden doors and old arabesque buildings.
Nizwa is an oasis that was the capital of Oman in the 17th century, during the reign of Imam Sultan Bin Saif Al-Ya'arubi.
Nizwa Fort, built in 1668, is the biggest fort in the Arabian Peninsula. The fort was once used as the Imam's headquarters and is a stronghold designed to withstand some of the most aggressive sieges.
Next to the fort is the lively souk, where outstanding copper and silver jewellery and other craft items are available.
Bahla is known for its pottery and its impressive fort of unbaked brick. This ancient town, 180 km southwest of Muscat, has 11 kms of ancient defensive walls. UNESCO has listed Bahla as a World Heritage Site. Bahla’s era of prosperity was from the 12th to the end of the 15th century, when the Banu Nebhan tribe ruled it. There is a good souk here. The picturesque village of Al Hamra can be found nearby.
Enjoy some panoramic views of Bahla Fort.
The Bat Tombs
This protohistoric site extends north of the village of Bat in the Dhahira region (not related to flying bats). Together with the neighbouring sites, it forms the world’s most complete collection of settlements and necropolises from the 3rd millennium BC. The necropolis of Bat bears witness to the evolution of funeral practices in the area during the first Bronze Age.
The tombs were discovered in 1976 by a team of Danish archaeologists. UNESCO listed the site as a World Heritage Site in 1988. It was the second site in Oman to be listed by UNESCO.
The southern section of the site consists of 'beehive' tombs containing up to five graves. Another section contained tombs of a different nature, which appear to have been communal graves.
"The Green Mountain", is a mountain range, 160 km from Muscat. It extends for 300 km and is noted for its palm groves, wadis and terraced villages. The way of life remains traditional with scattered communities growing date palms and fodder crops fed by groundwater and springs. Communities such as Wadi Bani Habib, Saiq, Al Manakher, Al Ain, Kotom al Hail and Al Shuraijah have clusters of farms growing pomegranates, apricots, peaches, cherries and walnuts.
Jabal Shams, reaching a height of 3,000 m, is the highest peak in Oman. Night temperatures can drop below zero in the winter months, from November until March, and there can be snowfall. In summer the climate is very pleasant, and the area is a welcome retreat for campers with 4x4 vehicles.
Forts of Al-Hazm and Rustaq
On the northern slopes of the Al-Jabal Al-Akhdar is the fortress of Al-Hazm. It was built by Imam Sultan bin Seif the 2nd in 1711, when he established Al-Hazm town as a capital of Oman instead of Rustaq. The fort distinguishes itself from other Omani castles and forts by its magnificent shape and massive building.
The impressive Rustaq Fort is among the oldest forts in Oman, and is surrounded by watchtowers. It was originally known as Qal’at Al-Kisra, and was built in the 13th century. Rustaq Fort is situated in a large oasis at the foothills of Al-Jabal Al-Akhdar.
Salalah is the capital of the southern region, more than a thousand kilometers from Muscat. Fringed by high mountains, Salalah is set amongst coconut groves and banana plantations, giving the city an lush, tropical atmosphere. In spite of its remote location, Salalah is quickly becoming a major destination for both local and international tourists.
Salalah is historically famous for the Frankincense tree, which provides the sap that was so sought after in the ancient world. The place to buy frankincense and myrrh is the Haffa Souq in Salalah’s old town.
Much archaeological research over the years has found evidence in the form of writing, inscriptions and signs indicating that a number of different civilisations have succeeded each other here. These excavation sites are protected by the UNESCO and marked as World Heritage Sites. The sites that can be visited are at Al Balid - downtown Salalah, at Khor Rohri (Samhuram), 37 kilometers from Salalah and Ubar at Shisr - believed to be the site of the Lost City, the Atlantis of Arabia discovered by the renowned explorer Wilfred Thesiger.
Salalah has a number of springs such as Ain Sahnot, Ain Rzat and Ain Hamran, around which parks and gardens have been set up.
There are some beautiful beaches in the Salalah area, but due to strong ocean currents, they can be very dangerous, even for experienced swimmers.
The ancient city of Samhuram was the capital of the ancient frankincense trade. Samhuram is thought to date back to 3,000 BC. Frankincense used to be shipped to far eastern destinations, and also to Egypt, Greece and Rome. The site is 30 km east of Salalah.