Boasting of its rich heritage and embracing society, Oman offers a rare chance to engage with the Arab world without the distorting lens of excessive wealth. With an abundance of natural beauty, from spectacular mountains, wind-blown deserts and a pristine coastline, Oman is the obvious choice for those seeking out the modern face of Arabia while wanting still to sense its ancient soul. We take you past some of its varied delights through this photo feature.
The Grand Mosque
Towering over the Muscat skyline with its beautiful dome and five towers that, incidentally, represent the five pillars of Islam, the Grand Mosque has an Indian connection too. Besides the sandstone that was transported all the way from India for its construction, some of its design elements, we are told, have been inspired by the Taj Mahal.
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Amouage Perfume Factory
Founded over 25 years ago, the exhibits here hark back to Oman’s centuries old perfumery heritage. Besides watching the distillation process that goes into creating the perfumes, you are sure to be impressed by around 49 kinds of perfumes on display.
Royal Opera House
Even if there is no performance on, it’s still worthwhile visiting the grand Royal Opera House that was constructed in 2011 on the orders of Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said who, we are told, is a connoisseur of classical music. Among the famous artistes from across the world who have performed here is the legendary Indian violinist L Subramaniam in 2013.
Visiting this souq that lies on the Muttrah Corniche in Muscat is a must to soak in the traditional flavour of Oman. The shops (many shopkeepers here are from Bangladesh who are thrilled about talking in Hindi) sell a range of wares- from souvenirs such as jewellery pieces to tribal artefacts, woven baskets, copper and leather items, coasters and hangings.
Dim lights, wrought iron and wooden furniture covered with bright rugs and cushions enhance the dining experience at Kargeen, which is famous for its traditional chicken, beef and lamb dishes and yes, some vegetarian fare as well.
A short flight from Muscat takes you to this charming ‘Norway of Arabia’ in the gorgeous Musandam peninsula, lying along the Strait of Hormuz. It offers not just tall and sparse desert mountains but also a spectacular coastal route that shows up artistic vistas of fjords with tall cliff rising from the water surface. These vistas can be savoured through a day-long dhow cruise.
The Khasab Fort, built by the Portuguese that goes back to the 17th century, is also worth a visit.
Wadi Bani Khalid
Wadi Bani Khalid is a pretty little emerald pool lying amidst date palm groves and rocky ravines. A short walk takes you towards the pools where you can swim, or just sit with your feet in water and let the fish give you a delightful ‘massage’.
The stunning beauty of this brown expanse that stretches for miles together is exhilarating. Do experience the fun-filled dune bashing in which your 4D vehicle goes racing across over the undulating surfaces leaving behind a trail of dust.
Nestling in the Ad Dakhiliyah region of Oman, this medieval town is famous for its souq that offers a great shopping experience with traditional artefacts. You’ll love walking through the market place selling khanjars, water pots, coffee jars, wooden chests, swords, etc.
Built in around 1680, this is easily one of the most stunning castles of Oman. The three-storeyed castle boats of pretty windows and balconies, arches with Arabic calligraphy and artistically designed ceilings.