She meticulously tied the scarf to hide her face from the sun. It was noon and wasn’t really ideal for walking. Oman Outdoor Adventure group through Ahmed al Jaabri which she contacted to organise the trip told her that it’s going to be an easy trek, one that is actually worth it. It’s been years since she last took a hike and working in super-city like Dubai, her kind of travel has always been posh and luxurious staying not only in the best hotels but also seeing popular, non-sweat inducing destinations. Two years prior, she spent her holidays in Russia. For many people working in the United Arab Emirates, the key destinations are either Europe or Asia.
Oman didn’t occur to her until her friends started barraging her social media walls with beautiful places to see in the Sultanate.
Yoanna Fame has been working in the Middle East for eight years now. As a communications and marketing executive for the maritime industry in the UAE, she’s more comfortable travelling mega-cities. She’s been eyeing Hongkong, Japan and Singapore and was planning to visit next New York and Canada.
But the Eid holidays brought her to Oman — on a bus, which she usually does not do.
“I wanted to experience travelling by land. I think part of it was an experiment to see if travelling as a female by road is safe. I’ve proven that not only was it comfortable, it was the safest I felt,” she shared.
Arriving in Muscat on a Thursday, her friends picked her up from Mwasalat Bus Terminal. She commended how efficient the bus experience and except for the long queue on the border, everything went very well.
“I rested for some hours and my friends showed me in and around Muscat later on the first day. The Royal Opera House Muscat impressed me so much. Knowing its history and fascinated with the craftsmanship, I highly think it is one of the capital’s treasures,” she shared.
She also checked out Muttrah Souq and the historical villages around it including some of the popular sites and museum.
“Most of them are closed but seeing them in person and learning their history, it was quite a wonderful afternoon. It was a good start to a hectic vacation,” she said.
The second day brought her to a rather different world uniquely Oman.
“I’ve always been close to nature. Growing up in Asia particularly in the Philippines, I used to do a lot of hikes and treks and I am also interested in history. The two-day camp Oman Outdoor Adventure prepared for me was very eye-opening,” she shared.
“In Wadi Shab, it was nature at its best. I was told of even bigger and better wadis but the quite romantic appeal of Wadi Shab was a great introduction for me of what Oman is all about. I wasn’t good in swimming so I totally missed the waterfall inside the cave everyone was gushing about,” Yoanna said.
“Our next destination and which was our first camp site was near to the secret Turtle Beaches between Ras al Jinz and Ras al Hadd. That was pure magic,” she said.
Yoanna shared that group leader Ahmed told her that Ras al Jinz has been very commercialised with maybe around 50 people coming each day to join turtle watching activity. Wanting to provide her with an exceptional experience, they brought her to a place not many people know about.
“I totally erased the name of the place in my head. What is important is that I’ve seen dozens of turtles laying their eggs, saw foxes trying to steal them and watch sunset and sunrise while perched on a cliff watching all the magic happen. How can I ever forget that?” she said.
The third day brought her to the historic city of Sur. From a tower that overlooks the bridge, to the historic lighthouse that guides sea vessels, to dhow factories, the long corniche and the painted art walls, she was in awe.
“I feel so stupid not to have discovered Oman sooner and I’m sure, many of my friends will all be dying to come,” she said.
“We watched the sunset in one of the gargantuan cliffs of Saa’ya village and settled for the evening on one the beaches. The two days were pure, pure magic. Now Oman is one of the top five countries for me everyone has to visit,” she said.
Al Jaabri shared that the key to discovering Oman is through the eyes of the locals.
“We know the ins and outs of the country. The knowledge of travel and tours operators in the country started out from the locals and they use this information to benefit their businesses. We do what we do to make a lasting and beautiful impression to our friends coming in for a visit,” he shared.
“The places we brought Yoanna to — these are usually off-the-beaten-path. Maybe they are known to a few people but we wanted to protect the integrity of the place so we make sure that we only give out as little information as we can,” he said.
For Yoanna who was Dubai-bound on a Saturday, she said she is definitely coming back.
“After seeing my photos, more than 10 of my friends already expressed their fascination and interest so for sure, I’ll be bringing a horde of them here,” she shared.
“Oman truly is a country of infinite adventures and just imagine, I only visited one side of it — one tiny part of a bigger whole. I haven’t ventured to the north or far south yet and just imagine the things I can possibly discover there. Expect me to be back,” she said.
Day 1 — Qurayat and Muscat
Check out Wadi Dayqah Dam
Explore the nearby villages
Swim in the falaj
Visit Royal Opera House Muscat
Shop at Muttrah Souq
Sunset dinner in Shatti Qurum
Day 2 — Turtle Beach
Trek to Wadi Shab
Explore the hidden waterfall
Grab lunch in Sur
Visit Ras al Jinz
Barasti night camp at Ras al Hadd
Watch turtles at midnight
Day 3 — Sur and beyond
Visit the lighthouse
Check out the painted harbour wall
Climb to tower overlooking bridge
Lunch by the beach
Explore Saa’ya village cliffs
Camp in nearby beaches