Exploring Oman. I am back to the Middle East after about a year. This time to less known and visited destination, Oman. There I spent 5 wonderful days discovering landscapes, culture and traditions… Here is my travel diary, with all of my addresses and some practical tips!
Exploring Oman: What to see in 5 days
To reach Oman, I flew with Oman Air flight from Milan Malpensa to the capital Muscat. It lasted only 6 hours and a half, from 9:30 pm to 7:05 am local time. I had four and a half days, which was enough to visit everything we wanted. However, if we had stopped a few more days, I would have liked to visit both the capital Muscat and the coasts, as I was told that the ocean there is really beautiful.
To enter Oman, a visa is required, which can be purchased online (on the official website https://evisa.rop.gov.om/) at a price of around 11 euros for a stay of up to 10 days. A few hours after filling out the request with all the data and having attached a digital copy of the passport and a photo card, the visa arrived directly in my mailbox: a really fast service!
- no special vaccine is needed;
- tap water is drinkable but I preferred to wash my teeth to use the bottle (especially while I was in the desert);
- the time zone is only 3 hours less than in Italy (which becomes 4 when daylight saving time is in force)!
After landing we had about three hours by car to reach the first stop of our trip to Oman. Ananatara Al Jabal Al Akhdar resort is located in the mountains of the Al Hajar mountain range, more precisely perched on the Al Jabal Al Akhdar (literally the “green mountain”) at an altitude of 2,900 meters above sea level . This particularity makes it the highest luxury resort in the entire Middle East! It is a truly incredible place, also because of its architecture: the design is in fact inspired by a fortress set in the rocks, all surrounded by mountains. The temperature here is chillier than in the capital, where the average in this season settle between 20° and 30° C. While in the mountains there are 5° C less.
The rooms at the resort are all very nice: I had the pleasure of staying both in a one on the first floor, with a beautiful terrace with a panoramic view, both in a Cliff Pool Villa. It was incredible to find myself walking on the edge of an infinity pool overlooking the canyon!
One of the tour that you can book directly at the hotel is the off-road one to climb over 3000 meters above sea level and from there you can admire the sun setting right in the mountains, tasting a selection of delicious local dates: what a show!
As it’s getting dark, the resort is lit by fires that make the atmosphere even more magical! During the stay we had the chance to try some of the five restaurants. My favorites: the Bella Vista, a pool restaurant open only for lunch that offers Italian cuisine (the chef is a nice Sicilian guy) and Al Burj, the restaurant decorated with beautiful lanterns that you can see below!
The next morning we woke up early to go and visit Nizwa: the first capital of Oman until the 16th century. We spent the whole morning here, discovering the souq, or the market, and the fort, both located within the ancient city walls. Entering is like stepping back in time: you will find yourself walking alongside women wearing traditional costumes and discovering the smells and colors of a culture so far from ours.
The souq is very large and divided by sectors. First I visited the dates, which are the typical Omani product. The largest cultivation of date palms is in the area around Nizwa, and from there they are exported all over the world. The dates are a fruit with interesting properties: they are super energizing and can be stored at room temperature and even consumed for up to two years. This is why it is said that the Bedouins can not cross the desert if they do not have a stock of dates in their pockets!
In addition to this market there is also the livestock market (which is held only on Fridays from 6 to 9 in the morning), that of spices, silver and many other products. There are also several shops selling beautiful clay pots!
Visiting the souq was one of the most beautiful experiences of the trip and I recommend you not to miss it because here you perceive the true essence of Oman!
Once we left the souq we entered the fort, the oldest in all Oman: until the 16th century the kingdom was controlled from here. You can climb up to the top of the tower, 30 meters high, to enjoy a panoramic view of the city and the mountains: be careful because the steps are very narrow and slippery (as a defensive strategy in case of attack of enemies).
In the afternoon we return to Anantara to enjoy a few hours off in the pool before sunset! And suddenly they ring at the door offering us a giant plate of fruit and two delicious cocktails: how wonderful is this happy hour at sunset?
Before dinner, I had an amazing treatment at the spa, which relaxes me just enough to make me fall asleep early for the next morning’s wake-up call. In fact, to reach the desert it takes several hours by car: the road initially has many corners because we are coming down from the mountains, but the lanes are wide and our driver and guide, Abdullah, was very good at driving so I never had problems!
In about three hours we reached the Wahiba Sands and we were literally amazed at the sight of its colors: the sky was clear and the sun colored 12 thousand square kilometers of sand from all shades from ocher to red. This is the desert closest to the cities (hence the capital is just a couple of hours’ drive away), but in Oman there is also another desert, even bigger, shared with neighboring Saudi Arabia. This one can only be visited with a special guide, a Bedouin who knows it very well because there are no life forms and it is very easy to get lost or get bogged down in the sand. During our car trip to the 1000 Nights Camp we also met some wild camels roaming free at sunset: it was really breath-taking!
We then finally reached 1000 Nights Camp: my first night in the desert of Oman awaited me (I had already spent another night in the desert in Dubai: can you remember? HERE you can find the related story), sleeping in a real tent inspired by the Bedouins’ tents but equipped with every comfort (electricity, bathroom and shower with hot water). Only downside: the total absence of internet and wi-fi. In order to use the phone, in which I had inserted a sim bought in Oman, I had to be accompanied by Abdullah by car a few kilometers further away, near the first 4G repeater! It was quite hard to find it, we had use the compass in the dark in the middle of nowhere!
After leaving the camp, we went to visit a Bedouin family. We were welcomed into their tent with coffees and dates, and the smile of the 6 children of the couple! Here we had the opportunity to discover something more about the life style of Bedouins, who have told us that have changed a lot over the last 30 years. Now they live mostly a sedentary life on the edge of the desert, within houses assigned to them by the government. They still own tents, in which now live only their own animals. Very few spend their life exclusively in the desert. Most go there only over the weekend, because during the week the children go to school to get an education. The day of our visit was a Friday and for this reason I was able to meet the whole family!
Not far from their tent we meet their little goats: they also wander quiet and undisturbed on the sand!
Then we reached the last stop of my trip to Oman. A stop that I strongly desired, a dream that I cherished for many years and that I finally achieved. Only from September to December you can spot the sea turtles while laying their eggs and, if you are lucky, attend the exact moment of the hatching and when little turtles are born and run fast towards the sea! It can happen here in Oman, near the city of Sur, at Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve. The reserve also houses a hotel, where I strongly recommend staying if you want to photograph the turtles. I explain to you why.
It is possible to do turtle watching on two different shifts: one in the evening, from 8 pm to midnight, the other in the early morning from 5 am to 8 am. This morning shift is reserved for those who sleep in the reserve (for practical reasons: in the night a strong fog falls and it is not easy to venture on the streets to reach the reserve before dawn) and consequently includes a smaller number of people, never more than twenty. On the other hand, people coming from outside can join the evening group, which will be divided into several smaller groups on several hours. If you are still not convinced that the alarm at 4:30 in the morning is necessary, know that the morning shift is the only one in which you can take pictures! The flash is strictly prohibited: the rangers are equipped only with a small flashlight that points to a faint red light beam. Excessive lighting could confuse the little ones and scare the big turtles, which may no longer come back to lay eggs here. It is therefore impossible to photograph at night. In the morning, however, not immediately but at sunrise (around 5:45) you can indulge in making all the photos and videos you want, always taking care to keep quiet and not to get too close.
The beach of the turtles is very large: from the reserve it takes about 10 minutes of walk on the sand before arriving at the real beach, where the eye is immediately captured by the hundreds of huge holes spread along the entire length and depth of the beach. These are the holes where the eggs were laid. The holes are so many and they are huge, so that it seems incredible that they could have been carved by a turtle as far as they are wide and deep! Initially I saw only turtles intent to dig, but then just when it was dawning I was able to see even the hatching eggs and the small turtles walk up into the ocean: a really intense emotion!
Now it’s time to stop exploring Oman and to say goodbye to Abdullah Al Ramadani, the guide (and driver) who has accompanied us step by step in these wonderful adventures, satisfying our every desire and making this journey even more special thanks to his fun facts and interesting stories! If you need information, you can contact him via WhatsApp at +968 95040320: he speaks English but can put you in touch with other guides who speak Italian or any other language!
Thank you so much toOman Tourism Board for this incredible experience!
Happy Thursday to all of you!