I like Oman! It is full of people who are proud of their country and want to tell you how beautiful Oman is. In addition, it is a country in which a lot of the old glory has been preserved. Old castles, deserted villages… a desert where you can wander around for days or high altitudes to reach off-road driving with your 4×4. An all-in-one country! Book 1 ticket and get 10 things in return. The men are dressed in traditional white dishdasha (dress) and usually wear a white kumah (hat with embroidery) or a mussar (turban). The country requires men who work for the government to wear these white clothes. It’s quite easy; you don’t have to choose what to wear in the morning! The dresscode for the ladies; wearing a jallabia (dress), sirwall (pants), thobe (overdress) and a lahaf (veil) or an abaya (black shawl). Completely covering black clothing. Oman is a fairly strict Islamic country. So for your typical breezer or anything alcoholic, you can search for a very long time. With the exception of exclusive hotels whom occasionally sell alcoholic beverages. The country has enough reasons to book a plane ticket to and spend 10 days there, with a number of cool spots to visit such as Nizwa, Jebel Shams, the desert Wahiba Sands, the turtle trek in Ras al Jinz, the coastal town of Sur and the capital Masqat. If you have a bit more time, then look at the option to go to the far south of the country to visit the town of Salalah. Salalah is a bit greener than her brothers and sisters and it is said to represent even more of the ancient Oman. The best way to reach Salalah is by a domestic flight as the distance is quite large. I skipped this city myself because I simply didn’t have time for a visit.
The capital is Masqat and the country has about 5 million inhabitants. It is not a known backpack country. Yet it is possible to travel there on your own initiative. Perhaps the prices in Oman are the reason why it is not a typical backpack country. Second; almost no Guesthouse or hostel can be found, so backpackers will be forced to spend the night in more expensive hotels or apartments.. The currency in Oman is the Omani rial (OMR). 1 Euro is about 0.42 OMR.
I entered Oman via a bus connection from Dubai to the capital Masqat. I also finished my route in Masqat. I had applied for a visa for 10 days, and I used up these 10 days to the fullest. During my visit to the country I made a roundtrip where I mainly saw the north, south, middle and little bit of west.
My Travelroute through Oman
“The castles are very well preserved and truely are the gems of this country”
“in “Ghost Town” Al Hamra you’ll find the ancient Oman…”
Masqat & Bimmah Sinkhole
It is very likely that you will start and end your journey in Masqat. It is an ideal starting point for a round trip through Oman which can be made in a large circle of about 1000KM. Situated on the Gulf of Oman, Masqat is home for the second-largest handmade carpet. An army of carpet builders in Iran took 4 years to make the carpet and then sent a 6 million USD bill to Muscat’s Grand Mosque. It is truly a grand mosque which is best visited at sunset. Check Google in advance for the most current opening hours for tourists as the time can change unexpectedly. Next to the Mosque, the Oprah house and the Palace are worth a visit if you are nearby. Personally I didn’t think the capital had much more to offer. But I’m not a diehard fan of capital cities anyway. If you start or end the tour from Masqat towards or from the fishing village SUR, you will pass the Bimmah Sinkhole (Google maps offline: 23.0271663, 59.0760076). You must make a stop there. The sinkhole is about 60 meters wide, 20 meters deep and the turquoise blue water can be reached by stairs. It is officially unknown how this hole was caused, but according to insiders it was caused by the impact of a Meteorite. Anyway: an excellent stopover to refresh yourself with a dive. It is located in a park, but admission is free.
Yes! If you want to feel like an Aladin, then Nizwa is the place to be! Unlike Masqat, Nizwa feels a bit more backwards in time. If you walk through the old-town alleys or you slowly linger through the streets and you hear in the background the calls from the mosque, you really are in a medieval town. Lovely! Plan your route along the different Souqs (markets). The fish souq, vegetables souq, meat souq, the general souq and the highlight (only on Fridays) the goat souq! So plan Nizwa on Thursday-Friday or arrive Friday in the early morning. The goats are often changing owner at an early hour. Ready with the souqs? Then it’s time for the Nizwa fort, which is located in the middle of the city centre. You can easily spend 3 hours in the castle and stroll through the castle corridors, have a rest in the resting room and from the top of the fortress then overlook the city. The knight at the gate grabs 5 OMR out of your pocket, which is reasonably pricey compared to all other highlights, but just do it!
“There is sand, sand and sand..”
Hike fanatics put Jebel Shams on their list, no doubt about. It is the highest mountain of Oman (about 3000 meters) and it is called the Grand Canyon of Oman. If you are hiking the balcony trail, you will understand why. This trail can be done in 2,5 hours but when the great views force you to grab your camera time after time, just schedule 3-3,5 hours for it. In a healthy condition you should be able to take this trail without any problems. If you are a diehard hike-fan, then you will take the trail which leads to the real top of the Jebel. Schedule 8-10 hours for that. On the way you will meet some super funny residents who will welcome you. You’ll be amazed at how well these goats can climb, even in trees! Plan your hike on time. Start no later than 2:00 p.m., as the sun sets from 5:00 p.m. The trail runs along terribly deep ravines and in the dark you really don’t want to do any hiking there. I have the dubious honor of having this experience. Spending the night in Jebel Shams comes at a price, that’s why I really went back to basics and spent the night in a basic ‘camp’. You’re here to hike, aren’t you? Not to sleep! And this way you can at least meet other travellers at the campfire. For the accommodation + basic dinner & breakfast I paid EUR70. To reach Jebel Shams you have 2 choices; go on an organized tour -or do it yourself and rent (for example in Nizwa) a 4×4 for about EUR70 per day. The sometimes steep winding dirt off-road mountain passes let your heart pump in acceleration but in itself that is also a cool highlight! Don’t try it with a normal car if you care about your life.
Al Hamra & Jabrin fort
Just an hour’s drive from Nizwa (on the route to or from Jebel Shams) you will reach Al Hamra. At first glance not very special, until you almost exit the town and suddenly end up in a spooky, big abandoned part of town. Throw your car to the side and jump out with your camera. You wander through the streets and you can enter the old houses to see what the old Oman used to look like. From the rooftops you have a great view over this ghost town. From the old you go to the even older; the Jabrin fort is a super well preserved fortress where you can take a look for 0,5 OMR. Also on the route.. must to see!
“Driving through Oman is no punishment”
Wahiba Sands & Wadi bani kalhlid
How did the Nomads live and how do they live now? What are their traditions and how do men seduce women with strict bedouin rules? What do their traditional dances look like and what are the ‘specs’ of a camel…? You’re about to learn all this when you visit the Wahiba Bedouin Rustic Camp. This camp is located about 15 km in the desert of Sharqiya Sands and brings all the temporary residents together to tell all about the Bedouin life at the campfire after sunset and after a joint dinner and a dance. Stay in your (own) tent and plant your chair in the sand in front of your tent to watch the stars from 22:00. After a short night you can climb up the sand hill at 05:30 for a great view of the sunrise (or you can enjoy it from your tent), have some breakfast together and then get to work! The goats need to be milked and the baby goats need their bottles of milk – and that’s exactly what YOU’RE going to do!
On the route from or to the pick-up point (google maps offline: 22.45152 58.81125) to the camp (the camp can only be reached by 4×4) you absolutely have to make a stopover at Wadi Bofficialani Kalhlid. A green wadi with crystal clear turquoise blue-green water between the rocks. A nice plunge to fully recharges your battery. You can park your car free-of-charge. Walk / climb as far to the back as possible, it is less crowded and far more scenic! Beware! IIt is expressly requested to show respect for Oman standards by not having a bare upper body while swimming. This also applies to men. So bring a fully covering shirt in which you can swim.
Turtle migration in Ras al Jinz
I skipped this one myself, but according to many it’s a must-to-see. Douzens of turtles drop their eggs in the sand at night and baby turtles making their way to the sea. The area has resorts which offer accommodation + tour, but booking only a tour is also possible. Please note: to protect the turtles, a limited number of people are allowed, so make sure you book a spot on time. Because I didn’t see it myself: google for more info!
“a hike through Jebel Shams is an absolute must”
Visa – Residents of the Netherlands need a visa for Oman. This visa can be applied for through the official website. You can apply for a visa for Oman for 10 or 30 days and it will cost EUR 12 – EUR 45. After filling in the form you will receive an e-mail within 2/3 days. (If you have another nationality check the up-to-date information at the Embassy or Consulate).
Accommodation – There are nearly no hostels or really cheap accommodation to be found in Oman. Prices start from about EUR 25 for a private room and 50 for a more luxurious double room. Spending the night in the heart of the desert or in Jebel Shams is of course a location where you pay for its location. I paid EUR 75 for a basic camp In Jebel Shams and EUR 70 for a tent in Wahiba Sands. Both of them include breakfast and dinner.
Food & Drink – After a day of dust-biting in the desert or a good hike in the Jebel Shams, you’ll have to quench your thirst with tea, Arabic coffee, soda or malt beer. Alcoholic beverages are nearly unavailable (with the exception of tourist-oriented more expensive restaurants and hotels). The food and drinks in Oman are safe and tasty. Especially the Omani tea with milk, honey and some kind of anise!
Some examples of prices:
Transportation – If you enter the country by plane, it is best to fly to Masqat International Airport. Don’t be surprised if you first hear a prayer from the prophet Mohammed in Arab airplanes, before you take off. It was later explained in English that this is done to pray for a safe flight. From the airport you can easily take a taxi to Masqat center, but beware of the taxis which are pricey at the airport. If you go to the bottom floor of the airport you will find buses that can take you to the center for 1 OMR. The country does not have a good public transport infrastructure. You are mostly dependent on the limited buses, taxis or your own rental car. For this reason I rented a proper car for EUR148 for 7 days. The traffic is not very busy and it felt safe to drive myself. They behave nicely in the traffic, partly because of the huge number of speed cameras. No joke, on some parts there is a speed camera every 1KM. One thing you should also take into account is the large number of speed bumps! Even on highways they just drop speed bumps. After a while you are getting sick of them. However; fortunately most speed bumps are neatly marked with a sign. But some of them don’t. Those are the moments you’ll be taught how to fly.
Climate & Season – On average, the warmest months are October to April. This period has an average temperature of 25 degrees, rising to 35 degrees. In the summer you would rather not be there, with an average temperature of 40+ degrees, rising to 50 degrees in the desert. Between June and September there is much rainfall, especially in the south. In the winter months the average temperature is around 15 degrees, with 5 degrees in the mountains.
“there are a number of ‘camps’ in the Oman desert”
Suggested daily budget – EUR45 per day (low budget) EUR90 per day (medium budget) EUR 90+ (high budget)