The Sultantate of Oman
In southwest Asia on the Arabian peninsula bordering the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west, Yemen to the southwest, and the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman to the east and northeast, respectively.
The largest cities in Oman include the capital, Muscat, as well as Sohar, and Sur in the north, and Salalah in the south.
Climate and Geography
Officially Oman is said to be 309,500 km2 (although some say it’s smaller), which makes it slightly larger than Italy. Oman is surrounded by natural barriers: the Al Hajar Mountains and Gulf of Oman in the north, and Rub al Khali (one of the largest sand deserts on earth) in the east, and the Indian Ocean in the west. Much of the country is sparsely populated or uninhabited, which is not surprising seeing as it is made up of 82% desert. Most of the cities are in the north in the 15% of the country made up of the Al Hajar mountains (the biggest on the Arabian peninsula) and coastal plains. This area, where you can go from sea to mountainside in 50 – 100 km, is where most of the action is. This is also where you will find Oman’s tallest peak, Jabal Shams at 2,980 m, and one of largest underground caves in the world, Majlis al Jinn Cave.
The climate in Oman can be fairly accurately summarized in one word: hot. Summer lasts from April to October. In some parts of the country it can get up to 53°C in the shade. In the capital, Muscat, however, the average temperature in the summer ranges from 30 to 39°C. The winter is much more comfortable with average temperatures ranging from around 18 to 26°C. Most of Oman receives little rain, and what it does get falls mostly in late January. The Dhofar region in the south, however, is subject to monsoons between June and September.
Although Oman was not part of the British Empire, there is a strong British influence and English is spoken fairly commonly in many places. Oman has a healthy tourism industry, mainly because of its wadis (valleys and riverbeds that flood when it rains), mountains, and beaches, which differentiate it from other nearby countries. Oman has been making an effort to bill itself as an upscale destination, and with some success, as it was chosen destination of the year in 2008 by Vogue magazine.
Oman has a few features that make it stand out from other countries. The most unique geographical features in Oman are the caves, which include Muqal Cave in Wadi Bani Khalid in the Ash Shariqiyah region, and Majilis Al Jinn Cave in the Muscat governorate, which is is one of the largest underground caves in the world at 310 m long, 225 m wide, and 120 m tall. Unfortunately visiting and exploring Majilis Al Jinn is an endeavor for advanced cavers only (the only access to the cave is by rope), although the government is working to make it more accessible.
Oman also has spectacular ocean wildlife viewing. One can watch turtles lay eggs in the sand on Masirah Island, or head out in the ocean to watch whales and dolphins. The climbing, diving, mountain biking, and trekking are all said to be excellent, and windsurfing, kitesurfing, and surfing, can all be done on the east-facing coastline.
- Sand skiing and sand boarding
- Scuba diving (wreck, reef, and cave)
- Rock climbing and abseiling (rapelling)
- Via ferrata
- Mountain biking
- Wildlife watching (whale, dolphin, and turtle)
- Surfing and bodyboarding
- Windsurfing and kitesurfing
- Kayaking (sea)
- Hang gliding
- Camel riding
- Horseback riding
On a Budget?
- If you want to book in advance, you will find hotels in Oman to be expensive, with the very cheapest around $30 USD per night. After you arrive, however, it is possible to find rooms for less.
- It is not difficult to eat cheaply in Oman. Local meals can be found at many different restaurants for less than $3 USD
Images (in order) courtesy of dave watts, ringogoingo, cmgramse, Brian Harrington Spier, Elvis John Ferrao, ~ilawar, Panoramas, B S Y, CharlesFred, localsurfer, sallylondon, and Photos particulières on Flickr.
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