Oman

Oman is a country of enormous diversity and natural beauty, which, while it has much to attract the discerning traveller, had until recent years been largely overlooked by international tourists.

The government was anxious not to promote the Sultanate to tourists until it was ready to accommodate them. Now, with an enviable infrastructure securely in place, a wide range of international hotels and a wealth of things to see and do, Oman is ready to offer its traditional hospitality to visitors from around the world.

Muscat and surrounds

Since the late eighteenth century Muscat has been the uncontested capital of Oman. Today, under the wise leadership of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, Greater Muscat has improved beyond recognition, but has never lost its pride in its heritage and culture. The capital area is a prime example of intelligent and aesthetic development, amalgamating modernity with tradition.

Modern Muscat is home to a range of luxury hotels, upmarket restaurants and a multitude of service companies.Among its attractions are a number of magnificent beaches and breathtaking creeks such as Qurum Beach, Al-Jissah, Yitti, Al-Khairan and Al-Bustan. Several restored forts, folk museums and traditional souqs are popular attractions not to be missed.

Muscat is the base from which to explore the inland areas of Nizwa and Wahiba Sands and Sur to the south.

The Musandam Peninsula

Musandam is the smallest and most northerly region of Oman, covering an area of around 3,000 square km. Its rocky headland juts out into the Strait of Hormuz, giving it strategic dominion over one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

The magnificent Hajar mountain range dominates the landscape of Musandam. It extends about 640 km from R'as Al-Hadd in the south up to Khasab and ends with Ru'us Al-Jebal plunging dramatically and dizzily into the sea creating deep fjords and inlets. Jabal Harim is Musandam's highest mountain at 2,087m.

The entire interior is basically mountainous, with a graded track stretching from Daba to Khasab that snakes through narrow gorges, round hairpin bends and down into wadi beds. The seas are rich with wildlife and the magnificent scenery is breathtaking.

Musandam has a population of approximately 30,000, largely concentrated in Khasab, the administrative centre. The people earn their living mainly through fishing, boat building and a number of traditional handicrafts, such as the manufacture of the Musandam axe or Jirz; the symbol of Musamdam that dates back to the Bronze Age.

The isolated and harsh environment of the region has instilled hardiness and resourcefulness in the people of Musandam, many of whom migrate to the coast in summer to fish and harvest dates.

Salalah and the Empty Quarter

Salalah is the administrative capital of the Dhofar region. Throughout the ages Dhofar has been characterised by its strategic location and prosperous commercial activities, being the chief source of frankincense, incense and myrrh.

For about 4,000 years, the frankincense trade was Oman's economic backbone, affecting directly or indirectly, the lives of all the inhabitants of the South. It was exported in huge quantities to Egypt, Greece and Rome in ancient times either by sea or by camel caravan.

Along the ancient overland route, kingdoms and cultures grew up relying for their very existence on the taxes and trade brought by the frankincense caravans. Acknowledging the role it has played in regional history, UNESCO added the Frankincense Route commencing in Dhofar to its World Heritage List.

The Rub' al Khali (Arabic: الربع الخالي‎), which translates as Empty Quarter in English, is one of the largest sand deserts in the world, encompassing most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula, including southern Saudi Arabia, and areas of Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. The desert covers some 650,000 square kilometres (250,000 sq mi), more than the combined land areas of the Netherlands, Belgium, and France.
The desert is 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) long, and 500 kilometres (310 mi) wide, and is neither inhabited nor traversed by the Bedouin. After Pedro Páez's presence in the late Sixteenth Century, the first documented journeys by Westerners were made by Bertram Thomas in 1931 and St. John Philby in 1932. Between 1946 and 1950 Wilfred Thesiger crossed the area several times and mapped large parts including the mountains of Oman.

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