Words can’t describe Oman, but pictures don’t quite do it justice either. From the fortresses overlooking the coast to the vast desert dunes, the country possessed multiple awing landscapes! I wish I could spend more time hiking and camping in the rural areas where it felt like the desert and mountains went forever in every direction. In these places, the locals invited us in for dates and tea, and everyone wanted to know why we came to Oman from America. Tourism is a huge part of their economy, but the Omani people are genuinely polite and welcoming. I can’t stress enough how peaceful every interaction was. When we were lost, people even offered us a free ride to our destination. I’d highly recommend Oman to visit! It’s well worth the trip.
Our guide, خير (Khair) started us with a trip to the desert to go dune bashing and drifting in his Land Cruiser. Flying across sand at 40+mph on a steep sidehill is a little intimidating, but he reassured us he’d only flipped a car one time… We survived that, and a took a few pictures from the top of a dune overlooking a village. We then went to a local Bedouin hut where I got to ride a camel(!), and we had a chance to sit down and have a snack before carrying on. We had lunch at a small Indian restaurant for 1 Omani riyal, or $3. Then we were off to Wadi Bani Khalid, a small river running through a canyon with swimming holes and waterfalls. It was a beautiful place to catch the afternoon sunshine, and I made friends with an Indian family’s beagle! Rufus and I both enjoyed a little break in the shade after hike up to the Wadi.
We chased to the setting sun along the coast to arrive at Hawiyat Najm with a little sunlight left. This massive sinkhole drops 127feet into a mix of fresh and saltwater, which is connected 200feet underwater to the ocean. I’d love to go back when the air and water are a bit warmer, but I’ll stick to the 20 foot jump! At sunset we sat with the security men and had dates and tea. Then we made the 2 hour trek back to Muscat.
The second day we woke up at 6AM to go to the cattle market in Nizwa. Goats and cattle are circled around a congregation of people, with the owners trying to sell them in the early morning heat. There were other individual markets for dates, fruits/vegetables, domestic animals, and hunting rifles. The Nizwa Fort overlooks the entire market and surrounding city, so we climbed up to tour that as well. The market is an odd combination of traditional practices (cattle auction) and tourist attractions, so it makes for an interesting visit!
We also had a chance to go the Grand Mosque in Muscat. It’s an architectural masterpiece and shows an entirely different side of Islam. It can seat 2000 people for Friday prayer, and has multiple massive chandeliers hanging over 100feet from the roof. The gardens outside were also gorgeous and provided a grand entrance.
The final few days consisted of spending time on the Corniche, visiting tourist attractions, and relaxing at the beach. With the fish market a stone’s throw from the local restuarnts, the seafood is incredible. We had a fresh (caught that morning) Kingfish, and shared it among the 3 of us traveling together. We also walked around Souq Muttrah and stopped at a few shops to talk to vendors and bargain! We had dinner on the beach one night and visited the Royal Opera House, although we couldn’t go beyond the lobby which was a shame. Our last night, we went to the Intercontinental Hotel for an International Food Festival. I tried South African kabob, Greek sweets, and Lebanese pastries, among other things.
Overall, it was an incredible trip. We met tons of people, and everyone was willing to share a story and chat with us. For as beautiful as Oman is, the people make it special. I hope to go back soon to see more of the natural beauty and complete a camping trip across the desert. Until then, I’ll have to make due with Doha- so long Oman!