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Things to Do in Oman

The Arabian Peninsula nation of Oman combines an ancient Middle Eastern spirit with a modern appearance. Port capital Muscat is home to landmarks such as the Muttrah Corniche and the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, as well as plentiful people watching in Old Muscat’s cafes. The Al Hajar Mountains culminate in Jebel Shams, the country’s highest peak, which rewards with panoramic views. History-steeped Nizwa, once Oman’s capital, features an ancient souk and a 17th-century fortress begging to be explored. No trip to Oman is complete without a foray into the Wahiba Sand Desert, best seen from atop a camel or in a 4x4 vehicle.
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Wahiba Sands (Sharqiyah Sands)
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Stretching over 125 miles (200 kilometers) from the Eastern Hajar Mountains to the Arabian Sea, the Wahiba Sands (also known as Sharqiyah or Sharqiya Sands) are Oman’s adventure playground. Named after the nomadic Wahiba Bedouin tribes, this desert region is known for its amber-colored sands and towering sand dunes, some standing up to 330 feet (100 meters) high.

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Wadi Bani Khalid
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The most-visited of Oman’s wadi, or river beds, Wadi Bani Khalid also is one of its easiest to access. Join locals at this picturesque oasis to swim in a string of natural aquamarine pools flanked by boulders and palms, and picnic along the rocky trails.

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Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
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Situated in western Muscat, the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is one of the city’s treasures. Built in 2001 on the orders of the late Sultan Qaboos, and the only Omani mosque open to non-Muslims, it’s impressive for its cream-marble courtyards, minarets, and prayer hall topped by a golden dome.

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Hatta Rock Pools
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Situated just across the Unied Arab Emirates’ eastern border in Oman, the Hatta Rock Pools are spring-fed pools that flow through the rock passageways of the Hajar Mountains.

Visitors come here to escape Dubai’s urban crowds, swim in the turquoise waters, and enjoy picnics amid stunning scenery and cooler mountain climates.

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Nizwa
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One of the oldest cities in Oman, Nizwa sits on a plain in the Al-Hajar Mountain range. Once a stop on ancient caravan routes—and a center for trade, religion, education, and art—today’s Nizwa is a diverse place with agricultural, historic, and cultural points of interest.

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Al Alam Palace (Sultan's Palace)
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Occupying a waterfront spot on the harbor of Old Muscat, Al Alam Palace is the official ceremonial palace of the Sultan of Oman. Mushroom-shaped columns and a vivid gold-and-blue facade make it one of Muscat’s most arresting sights.

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Royal Opera House
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Opened in 2011, the Royal Opera House Muscat is Oman’s premier cultural institution and one of its signature sights. Visitors come to attend operas, concerts, and shows; enjoy its upscale shopping and dining mall; and marvel at its stunning Arabesque and Italianate design.

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Jebel Shams
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The highest peak in the Al-Hajar mountain range and in all of Oman, Jebel Shams (Mountain of the Sun) towers above the northern town of Al Hamra. Rising to about 10,000 feet (3,000 meters), Jebel Shams is a sharp contrast to the cool coastal towns along the Gulf of Oman.

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Wadi Shab (Shab Valley)
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Carving through high sandstone cliffs on the Gulf of Oman coast, Wadi Shab is one of the country’s most picturesque dry river gorges. The wadi’s palm-lined hiking trail and aquamarine waters make it a must for outdoors enthusiasts.

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Muttrah Souq (Mutrah Souk)
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Thought to be one of Arabia’s oldest marketplaces, Muttrah Souk is a maze of shop-crammed lanes and squares hidden off Muscat’s Muttrah waterfront. Open day and night, the souk lures travelers with its Arabian Nights atmosphere and outlets piled with Omani handicrafts, household goods, clothes, and spices.

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More Things to Do in Oman

Wadi Ghul (Oman’s Grand Canyon)

Wadi Ghul (Oman’s Grand Canyon)

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From 3,000 meters at the top of Oman’s tallest mountain, Jebel Shams, to the flat area just below the summit, you can see 1 kilometer straight down into Wadi Ghul, Oman’s Grand Canyon. From this area, called “the balcony,” the drop is so far and the canyon so vast it is hard to get a sense of scale. Rock formations and layers in the ancient rock give the canyon an almost other-worldly feel. It is the deepest canyon in the Middle East, and the second deepest in the world after Arizona’s Grand Canyon.

On the far side of the valley lies the Ghul village, a collection of traditional mud-brick homes built into the mountainside. With small plots of agriculture and date plantations, the green stands out against the orange mountains and lands. There is also an abandoned old Ghul village, where the trailhead for the trekking path begins.

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Bait Al Zubair Museum

Bait Al Zubair Museum

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Tucked into Old Muscat just east of the modern city, the Bait Al Zubair shines the spotlight on Oman’s history and heritage. The privately owned museum occupies three beautifully restored Omani houses and attracts visitors with displays of photos, weaponry, jewelry, and artifacts that provide insight into Omani life and history.

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Al-Hajar Mountains

Al-Hajar Mountains

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The Al-Hajar mountains abound in natural wonders as well as some of Oman’s most important and fascinating historical sites. Its arid expanses are periodically punctuated by green oases which loom mirage-like before your eyes.

The remarkable town of Misfat Al-Abriyeen, with its cliff-hugging mud-brick houses and date terraces, is one of the favored destinations here. Nearby, the aptly-named Green Mountain (Jebal Akhdar) offers a respite from Oman’s treacherous summer heat. Its lush slopes abound with pomegranates and other fruit trees, as well as fields of roses used to make rose water.

Other recommended sites include the old capitals of Nizwa and Rustaq, the stunning Wadi Nakhr canyon and Samail, the birthplace of Islam in Oman which features numerous mosques and an imposing hill-top fort.

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Tiwi

Tiwi

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The road to Tiwi, both a town and a beach, winds scenically through narrow canyons, along the coast and through the Eastern Hajar Mountains. Wadi Tiwi is a spectacularly deep gorge carved out of the mountains, ranging from its steep cliffs down to the valley and the sea’s edge. Crystal clear waters, dramatic scenery and natural beauty bring many to this area. Being so close to the ocean the blue sea water actually will mix with the green water of the wadi during high tide, creating an interesting sight.

The whole Tiwi area has a distinct desert oasis feel, including waterfalls that flow down the canyon walls. Exploring with a walk or a picnic is common for both locals and visitors. As a town, Tiwi maintains its traditional village feel. The village blends in seamlessly with the surrounding nature and feels like a calm and peaceful escape.

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Nakhal (Nakhl)

Nakhal (Nakhl)

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Nakhal (Nakhl) is a small town in the Al Batinah Region of Oman. The name translates to “palm,” many of which line the streets of this desert oasis. It is one of the more scenic towns in the country, set against the jagged peaks of the Jebel Nakhal Mountains of the Western Hajar range, and there is a hot spring and a small stream flowing calmly into town.

A main draw to the area for visitors is the historic Nakhal Fort, which sits atop a rock mound in the center of town. The castle dates back to pre-Islamic times, but like its neighboring forts it has undergone several renovations since. Even more palm and banana trees lie below in the orchards surrounding the structure. Climbing up the fort offers wide views of both the ancient town below and the magnificent surrounding landscape.

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Al Mirani Fort

Al Mirani Fort

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Perched high above the western walls of Old Muscat harbor, Al Mirani Fort gazes across the Gulf of Oman and its sister fort—Al Jalali—rising from the opposite side. Constructed by the Portuguese in 1550, its crenelated towers and walls make it one of Muscat’s most photogenic sights.

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Amouage Factory and Visitors’ Centre

Amouage Factory and Visitors’ Centre

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In 2012, the Amouage perfumery opened its Muscat factory to celebrate three decades of this niche luxury brand of fragrance. At the Amouage Factory and Visitors' Centre, discover the most expensive perfume in the world, which draws inspiration from the rich and colorful heritage of the Sultanate of Oman.

For shopping fanatics, the Amouage Factory is best enjoyed as part of an Arabian shopping trip and souq experience. Once at the perfume factory, a guide will explain how the perfumes are made by hand and you can watch as the bottles are filled and packaged by the small team who work here, perhaps even purchasing a bottle to take home for yourself. If visiting as part of a shopping and souq tour, you’ll then get to visit two modern shopping centers, before finishing up at the most popular and largest bazaar in Oman, the Muttrah Souq.

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Bahla

Bahla

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Bahla is known for its superstitions, myths and legends that date back centuries, and many locals still refer to the magic and mystery of the town. Its second name is Madinat Al Sehr, or the City of Magic.)

The biggest draw for visitors is the massive Bahla Fort, the oldest in all of Oman. Surrounded by a 12-kilometer-high wall, the fort was built by local Banu Nabhan tribes between the 13th and 14th centuries. Ruins of the original structure are walls made of unbaked mud brick and sandstone foundations, while its towers raise some 165 feet above the ground. The fort is a superb example of medieval southern Arabian architecture, today listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Bahla also has an old souk—where you can find the famous Bahla pottery—as well as an oasis, palm grove and mosque dating back to pre-Islamic times.

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Al Jalali Fort

Al Jalali Fort

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One of the two forts framing Old Muscat’s harbor—along with its sister, Al Mirani—Al Jalali is a defining sight of Oman’s capital. Built by the Portuguese in 1587, it served as a prison during the 20th century before being restored and becoming one of Muscat’s must-see landmarks.

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Qurum Beach

Qurum Beach

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The most popular beach lining the coast of Oman, Qurum Beach is known for its soft golden sands, water activities, and restaurant scene. It is popular with families and active visitors with its long, flat paths for walking and jogging. Walking in the sand is also possible at low tide. Several beachside hotels are located on the beach, so many facilities as well as coffee shops, snack bars, shops, and cafes are available here. Many restaurants face the water and enjoy scenic views of the ocean.

The long stretch of sand sits next to the Qurum nature reserve, so the area keeps its natural feel. In addition to relaxing in the sun and sand, water sports such as beach volleyball, kite surfing, and swimming are popular here. Locals often come to this beach to make BBQ dinners, play soccer, and enjoy the evening ocean breezes.

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Jebel Akhdar

Jebel Akhdar

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The name Jebel Akhdar means “green mountain,” but this scenic area is less of an individual mountain and more so the incredible limestone massif centered on the Saiq Plateau, 2,000 meters above sea level. The region falls in the northern section of the Hajar Mountains, with cooler temperatures and more rainfall than the rest of the country. These conditions are ideal for the growth of rich agriculture, shrubs and trees that are unique to the area. Peaches, pomegranates, apricots, walnuts, saffron and the roses that make the area’s famous rosewater all perfume the air here.

Due to conditions, this area was restricted to military use until recently. Now it’s possible to reach the top without a permit, though a 4x4 vehicle is required. You’ll be rewarded with the sight of massive drop-offs, ancient villages steeped into the mountainside and expansive views of the valley below.

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Al Hazm Castle

Al Hazm Castle

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Al Hazm castle is an impressive structure—one of the best examples of Islamic architecture in Oman. It is known as one of the most famous historical landmarks in the country and was built by Imam Sultan bin Seif II (whose tomb is still within the fort walls) in the early 18th century.

Approaching the castle, visitors are led to a massive wooden door, intricately carved with script and design. The roof of Al Hazm is uniquely held by columns, as opposed to the traditional wooden supports. On the exterior, there are two fortified towers to see, along with a collection of artillery and cannons. Inside there are the grand living quarters of the Imam, including a kitchen, a courtyard, and a madrassah—a Qur’anic school. The castle is on the tentative list for inclusion as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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Barka

Barka

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What was once a major sea port and trade center of the gulf is now a sleepy town called Barka on the Omani coast. There is a large fish market and an old souk to explore, as well as the impressive Barka Fort, sitting right on the ocean. Dating back to the 17th century, the fort was built to defend against Persian and Portuguese invaders of that time. From the fort and large octagonal tower, you can get expansive views of the rest of town, the date palm groves below and the blue waters of the Gulf of Oman.

Barka is also famous for its halwa, a traditional Omani sweet, and its bullring in the center of town, making it a popular place to watch bull-butting, a non-violent sport between two large bulls bred by Brahmin. Barka is a laid-back place steeped in Omani tradition and culture.

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Old Muscat

Old Muscat

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Cupping a small bay on Muscat’s eastern fringes, Old Muscat is Oman’s original capital. Overlooking the Gulf of Oman and framed by rugged promontories and mountains, this old city is steeped in Arabian charm and offers many Muscat must-sees, including two Portuguese forts and the Sultan’s Al Alam Palace.

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