Oman is the third largest country in the Arabian Peninsula. Gifted with unique attractions, it is easy to understand why its endless coastlines, dusty deserts, naked mountains, unique waterfalls and acres of wilderness call out to travellers from around the world. Oman has therefore become a playground for thrill and adventure seekers who like to experience authentic Arabian experiences with touches of history and culture.
With so many things to do in Oman, you may have difficulty deciding where to begin. We’ve compiled 13 incredible activities that should be included in your ultimate Oman Bucket List.
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat is Oman’s biggest mosque with an area of 416,000 m2 and has a capacity of over 20,000 worshippers; 8,000 people can fit inside and the courtyard can easily hold up to 12,000 people. This mosque is one of the few mosques in Arabia which allows entry for non-Muslim visitors. The mosque is a wonder of modern architecture and is a fusion of Omani, Islamic, and Middle-Eastern architectural styles. The mosque opened in 2001. It is also a must to visit the Sultan Qaboos Mosque in Suhar inaugurated in 2016. Its Persian, as well as Arabic and other influences, make this mosque a beautiful stop.
Ad Dakhiliyah Governorate in northern Oman is surrounded by mountains and has played a very important role in the country’s history. Rulers of Oman have built forts in several parts of the country that very strategically protect these semi-states from outsiders. Bahla Fort is one of the biggest forts in Oman and is also enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On the way to Bahla, one can also stop at Nizwa Fort where every Friday, cultural activities take place. If you can afford some more time then Jabreen Castle, which comes after Bahla, is not to be missed.
While Oman has been marching towards modernisation, it is fortunate to see that it has not abandoned many of its traditions. The best way to explore these traditions and cultures is by visiting Oman’s old villages that hold the key to what life was like in the past. Some popular abandoned villages are Al Hamra, Birkat al Mouz, Sab Bani Khamis, Wadi Tanuf Ruins, Al Aqar, Misfat Al Abreyeen and Jaalan Bani Bu Ali. Recently Misfat Al Abreyeen was enlisted as a UNESCO heritage village because of its unique offerings to visitors which include staying in traditional Omani houses.
Hiking in Oman’s
Jabal Shams is home to the highest point in Oman. If you want a memorable trek, then exploring the Balcony walk (W6 ) is one of the best among many routes providing an amazing opportunity to see up close Oman’s Grand Canyon. There are many routes from easy to hard all over the mountain so make sure to plan out your destination beforehand. Jabal Shams is located in northeastern Oman and north of Al Hamra. It’s almost 3 hour-drive from Muscat and popular for its many sightseeing options. The best time to enjoy the hike is from October to March when the temperature is cooler.
Snorkel with the
Whale sharks on the Dimaniyat Island
Dimaniyat Island is a chain of nine unoccupied islands with a peaceful environment, shallow coves and pristine beaches. This island is famous for its stunning array of wildlife which includes various types of sea turtles, sharks and specifically whale sharks and migratory birds. It also has some of the best coral formations filled with different colours. September to November is the best time to spot and swim with whale sharks. A short boatride away from Muscat to Dimaniyat Island and one can experience pristine beaches and the underwater world.
Shopping and hopping
in the Souqs
Different wilayats in Oman have their own version of traditional markets (souqs)and are still very popular amongst the locals as well as tourists. These souqs are time-capsule sometimes selling antique items even old coins as well as accessories and gifting ideas. It is a perfect place to buy souvenirs, Omani dresses and hats, spices, frankincense, traditional jewellery, etc. Very interestingly, it is also the best place to see how Omanis greet each other and what are the unwritten social rules. For the nationals it is not only the place from where they shop, but also a place where they catch up with their friends, and relatives sometimes. Muttrah Souq is easily accessible as it is within Muscat. Other than this, Bahla Souq, Nizwa Souq and Sur Souq are also very popular. If you are lucky, you may be able to see some cultural performances inside the souq during the festival seasons.
Nizwa Friday Market
Apart from the souqs, Friday markets in a few places in Oman have gained high popularity for their importance. These markets open in the early morning at 6 am and sellers come from everywhere to sell everyday items.
Nizwa Friday market is one of the most famous markets for its livestock auction activities. Locals come with their goats/cows to auction here. The best quality Halwa are available in this market.
Traditional Potter of Bahla
Omanis are still very fond of using earthenwares for their day-to-day household chores. As per research, some earthenwares found in Oman trace their origin back to the 4th millennium BC. From their archaic beginnings, their continuous usage has allowed potters of Bahla to become even more creative with their designs but maintain the vessels’ functionality. Bahla is the place where mostly these potter hubs are still active, where one can buy beautifully designed pots and have an opportunity to see how they are made. On request, potters are generous enough to experience the process of making the pots from mud.
Traditional Camel Race
Surviving time and modernity, traditional camel races are some of the most unique experiences one can have in Oman. It’s the most famous traditional sport in the Arab world. Every year, the Sultanate of Oman conducts these races in different regions and in total, over a thousand races are conducted not just within the 46 high-level race tracks, but also even in smaller ones in some wilayats. The season for the camel races is usually between September to April. Before the race, the owners dress up the camels with colourful tassels and then walk them around the track. You may also hear them humming folk songs.
harvest seasons in
Al Jabal Al Akhdhar
Al Jabal Al Akhdhar is part of the Al Hajar Mountains, 2,000 metres above sea level, and famous for its wadi, irrigation system (aflaj), small villages, and different harvest seasons. Villagers harvest different crops in various terraced orchards throughout the year. Rose harvest season is between March to April. Pomegranate season comes between September to October simultaneously with figs while Olive season falls between especially the month of September and lasts till December. Al Jabal Al Akhdhar is much cooler than the other parts of Oman and also offers many luxurious and traditional stays.
hatching at Ras Al Jinz
Oman is blessed with natural resources and a very long coastline around the country. Every year sea turtles come to the shore to hatch eggs here.
One of the things that can be most proud of is its comprehensive protection laws for these gentle sea creatures. Ras Al Jinz is the most famous place to visit as they offer organised and guided trips for their guests. Five of the world’s seven sea turtle species can be found in Oman, making it an excellent choice for nature enthusiasts who want to catch a glimpse of these rare creatures. The best time to see turtles is from April to August.
Sand dunes are the perfect place for off-roading. Rimal al Sharqiya, which covers almost 4,000 miles, is the best place to experience a desert safari. Lots of luxury resorts in Al Sharqiyah provide Bedouin-style living experiences. But one can also opt to stay with the Bedouins in their camps. Apart from off-roading, camel ride, sand boarding, sand bashing, and watching the sunset sitting on top of the dunes are the best activities. Winter is the best time to explore the dunes, at other times of the year you may find the temperature around 50 degrees in the daytime.
Oman’s Unique Food
Oman is a place of wonder for food. Omani food alone has merged lots of influences but different nationalities contributed to the country’s unique food scene. If you want to experience authentic Omani favourites, you can’t miss “Shuwa” which is considered a delicacy. It is a fragrant combination of rice and meat slow cooked in a fire pit, most nationals prepare this on holidays or for some special occasions like Eid. Omani coffee is called “Khawa” with date served everywhere you go and visit, this comes as customary greetings. Some other favourites include the thin layer bread usually served with Oman chips, honey and even cheese spread. You can’t also go wrong with salona, harees as well as the Dhofari favourite, mishkak.