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Oman named among the 25 global travel experiences

What exactly constitutes a ‘travel experience’? To answer this, a pair of writers, a chef, an architect and a landscape photographer prepared a bucket list of travel locations from all over the globe. The Sultanate of Oman rightly earned a place for its natural beauty, the famed desert oasis of Wadi Bani Khalid or the Al Wasil camel rides. British-born essayist and novelist Pico Iyer went on to name Oman as ‘Bhutan of the Middle East.’

The New York Times recently published an article about the 25 travel locations one must experience during their lifetime.

A pair of internationally minded writers, a chef, an architect prepared the bucket list of locations and a landscape photographer who mentioned about the most extraordinary adventures a person should seek.

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The Sultanate of Oman was one among the 25 included in the bucket list for the adventure lovers.

Prominent writers Pico Iyer and Aatish Taseer, architect Toshiko Mori, chef and food scientist David Zilber and landscape photographer Victoria Sambunaris formed the five-person jury.

They gathered over Zoom to debate what, exactly, constitutes a “travel experience” and how some might rise above the rest.

Oman took the tenth spot with a title ‘swim in a desert oasis in Oman,’ mentioning Wadi Bani Khalid, as the best-known wadi (valley) in the Al Sharqiyah North Governorate located about 150 miles southeast of Muscat.

It mentions that many of Oman’s wadis dry up in the scorching summer months, but at Wadi Bani Khalid, wide pools of water glisten year-round.

Writers who experienced the desert sands mentioned the drive as ‘cliché of a gleaming desert mirage,’ which was no illusion.

Above the pristine pools, date palms sway in the breeze, and the rocky white cliff sides of the Hajar Mountains reveal canyons and caves.

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“If you hike into them, you can see shimmering waterfalls. Thousands of tiny garra fish flash beneath the surface of these pools, ready to nibble at the dead skin on your toes,” the article mentioned.

“Wadi Bani Khalid is a three-hour drive from Muscat, making it an ideal day trip, although there are lots of budget hotels and desert camps in the area. Many visitors stop first at the sandy outpost of Al Wasil for camel rides and an overnight stay in a Bedouin-style tent. From there, the mountain road winds through fishing villages until the vast expanse of Wadi Bani Khalid, with its nearly 12-mile stretch of water, appears on the horizon.”

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The article further praises Oman’s natural beauty saying it is as intact today as it was when Oman’s Bedouin tribes relied on it, and a visit here offers an instant connection to the region’s deep history. The Oman government has helped develop the site in recent years, too, bringing with it a paved parking lot, bridges and public restrooms.

Pico Iyer writes that he is so happy to see Oman on the list. “I think of it as the Bhutan of the Middle East because it’s so tastefully developed and preserved,” he adds.

Toshiko Mori writes that the geographical diversity is incredible, and Oman is a peaceful and stable place. “It’s absolutely gorgeous, the air is clear, the food is great and the climate is wonderful. It’s so easy for people to go here, yet Dubai takes all the tourists.”

Others which made to the list include Asador Etxebarri in Spain’s Basque Country, Muslim Spain in Al Andalus, Northern Lights in Norway, Trans-Siberian Railway Network, lunch at Ntounias in Western Crete, Greece, white Christmas in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, desert towns of Morocco’s Draa Valley, Dugongs of Mozambique for its elusive sea creatures, courtyard gardens of Yazd (Iran) and the 6,000-plus years of historic Erbil Citadel in Iraq.

Photos by Nasser Hamed Al Harthy


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