Oman, known as the jewel of the Middle East, a country with little publicity, it has a lot of mystery surrounding it. Located in the Arabian Peninsula, it is a hidden jewel bordering with Dubai Saudi Arabia and Yemen, also well known as the land of frankincense. This beautiful destination has often made it as a top destination to visit over the recent years by the likes of Lonely Planet 2017, The Telegraph newspaper, and the Guardian, thanks to its beautiful wadis and natural reserves, which offer endless exploring of its untouched beauty. As Oman competes to become a well-known contender on the Middle Eastern map, it's set apart from its more commercialised sister countries in the sense it still greatly retains its culture and charm. This has attracted larger luxury brands such as Anantara, and Shangri-La and The Chedi, all of which have designed their properties to work in harmony with the natural surroundings. It's an ideal place for just about everyone from individuals seeking its mountain peaks or luxury resorts, to its beautiful sunsets alongside its untouched culture and heritage. Recently placing itself as the 4th safest country in the world (Times of Oman), you need a real good reason not to visit such a beguiling place
I wanted to challenge the people's views and knowledge of this little-known country, so I knew Oman was the perfect destination for me. Started my trip off with Wahiba Sands, I departed North back towards Muscat. For this, I hired a 4x4 via Muscat airport. The main roads are well
Bimmeh I took the coastal road to the Wahiba Sands, allowing me to visit Wadi Shab and Bimmeh sinkhole. Bimmeh sinkhole is known as the 'Hawiyat Najm' in Arabic, translating to the 'falling star'. Located in a small village of Bimmah just off the coastal road, it makes a great day trip visit but gets pretty busy on weekends.
Wadi Shab, in contrast, requires a full day, where the further you hike, the more of the oasis you will discover. You began your journey across the bank by boat, followed by some walking on rocky terrain, where you are slowly rewarded by magnificent views through the valley. Its submerged with mesmerising swimming spots and waterfalls throughout, with a beautiful cave which awaits you at the end. This is definitely a must do, and one of the most beautiful wadis Oman has to offer.
About 3 hours from Muscat you will arrive in Oman's empty quarter. It's perfect to spend a day or two for desert during or camel riding. It gets extremely hot here so October to Early April make it the best season. The desert its perfect for astrophotography/ star gazing, camel riding or dune bashing. If you want the full experience, there are many traditional Bedouin camps. I opted for desert nights camp which was isolated enough to make you feel deserted from civilisation, but close enough to the town Al Wasil for comfort
Dune bashing essentials
Stargazing under the stars
Jabal Akhdar Two of the most visited mountains in Oman are Jabal Shams (Arabic for the mountain of sun) of Jabal al Akhdar (mountain of green). Perfect for hikers or thrill seekers alike. From here it's easy to pass through the mountainous range when driving back to Muscat which is ideal to spend a couple of nights. In 2011 this was listed as a nature reserve by Oman's' government and is home to rocks as old as 6000 years. There is ongoing research in the area, and a bid to protect the biodiversity, making it ever so more special. It's at least 20 degrees cooler from Muscat, so understandably becoming an increasingly visited place to escape the heat during warmer periods. There are police checkpoints leading up, and a 4x4 is necessary to pass, so make sure you are prepared.
Where to stay?
It's home to two major resorts at the top, and I opted for the Anantara due to their fabulous hospitality I experienced in the past. This beautiful resort only opened in late 2016, and being 2000 metres above sea level'; the highest in the Middle East, you can be sure you grabbed the most exclusive seat to view the canyon. With a picturesque infinity pool, 82 canyon view rooms and 33 private pool villas alongside temperatures 15 degrees cooler than its neighbouring Muscat, it's the perfect retreat for the summer. I also love their approach to sustainable tourism, and the hotel has been built to harmonise the surroundings, giving you escape of peace and tranquillity associated with the mountains. It's the perfect home for Anantara and was the ultimate place in Oman for me. You can't come to Oman and miss this out
Anantara's' private dining experience (needs to be pre-booked)
Coffee on the summit
Views into the canyon from Dianas point -Princess Diana once observed the view from this exclusive spot
Consisting of 9 villas and 28 bedrooms, Anantara blends traditional Omani lifestyle into it architectural design, with exclusive views of the canyon. I really enjoyed the sophistication of the hotel, and the detail put into all the design throughout the whole residence. The reputable spa intertwines the Arabian garden space, combining indoor and outdoor ambience, giving an insight to how Omani people spend their free time.The spa includes traditional Arabian rituals such as a hammam and mud treatments
Anantara's' infinity pool overlooking Al Jabal Al Akdar
Outfit by Ralph Lauren
All rooms are equipped with Amouage cosmetics, one of the more premium cosmetic brands of the middle east, and the private villas are each equipped with a private pool. You will find an abundance of recreational activities to enjoy during your stay, as rock climbing, biking, hiking and cooking classes as well. Anantara's' concept is always about incorporating the cultural surroundings and values of their location, so residing with them will never be a typical 5-star experience.
Abdullah Saif the local rose water producer
Depending on the time of year you come, the mountain has some seasonal attractions.I loved their collaboration with Abdullah Saif, a local producer of rose water located in Al Ain. Guests are able to experience his rose water production skills in person by visiting I'm or from the Anantara on Fridays, where he hosts an observational event for their guests to watch I managed to catch the rose water production in April, a extraction method used to turn rose petals into consumable and cosmetic products, all 100% organic. agricultural products including pomegranates, walnuts, apricots, black grapes and peaches. It is also the site of honey bee
Price: Approx £300 starting £££
Address: 110, Postal Code 621, Al Jabal Al Akhdar, Nizwa, Sultanate of Oman، Nizwa 621, Oman
Phone: +968 25 218000
Jabal Shams is in close proximity to Al Jabal Al Akdar and the highest mountain in Oman, it's a well-known hiking and camping spot. There are plenty of spots you can just drive around and park up to enjoy a private picnic. It's quite a long drive up and requires some skill due to non-paved roads, however, it is perfectly manageable. Al Jabal Al Akdar is a great alternative if you are uncomfortable with off road driving, and can give you the same experience if you're willing to wander off course a little, but both these mountains offer unique views.
Views of the canyon
Nizwa fort is approximately 55km away, a beautiful area derived of the souks, once known as the Islamic capital of the Middle East, and prehistorically the capital of Oman. Here you will find traditional museums, historical forts lined with handicraft stalls and silversmiths. It's very close to Jabal Akhdar, and it makes a great day trip if you're looking to experience more of a cultural face of Oman
Muscat, the capital city is becoming an important hub for expats residing here and home to a few new hotels as it takes its peak in development. The Chedi is very popular amongst tourists and offers tranquil privacy on the beach of Al Ghubra in its 21 private acre Garden Oasis. With a spectacular trio of pools, one of which is a whopping 103metres long, whitewashed architecture, glorious sunset and the Hajjar mountain backdrop, you could be fooled into believing you were on a Greek island. The hotel is popular for business and pleasure and gives easy access to site seeing a stone fall away.
The 103-metre pool at The Chedi
Outfit by Noor_s_closet
Outfit by Ralph Lauren
With its arresting architecture, the hotel has a beautiful vibe, but they didn't have any evening entertainment and the pool closes pretty early. For the price tag I did feel this was a pretty important factor, so some evening I did head over the Crowne Plaza not far down the road, which has a very cool bar.
Things to do in Muscat
The Sultan Qaboos Mosque This grand mosque is central to Muscat, a magnificent mosque with breathtaking regal architectural features imported from different parts of the world. Their handcrafted rug took 4 years to produce in Iran (largest in the world) and has 1,7000000 knots, with a unique chandelier designed and manufactured by Italian designer Faustig. This great Moorish structure really is one to be appreciation by architectural lovers, and more of a peaceful presence amongst the bustling capital.
Souq Mattra doesn't compare to some of the Souks in the middle east. It's been reformed from earlier days, so it no longer looks traditional, however its worth doing for the beautiful bay its located by, where Bait Luban and The Palace is nearby
Muscat top eats:
Bait Luban is a wonderful Omani restaurant, where you can eat traditional food the traditional way. Compromising of floor seating, or exclusive balcony views which need to be booked in advance, if its authenticity your looking for this is the place
Traditional Mishkak: If you're willing to brave it go for Omani barbeque style street food (Mishkak) at Shatti Qaram.It gets rather busy in the evening as crowds gather around several stalls In a large parking lot, where you can choose from a variety of selections. You can buy a selection of meats with bread, dipped in a traditional sauce, and great as a quick snack or treat. Personally, I enjoyed this one the most, and I live by the rule, if the locals are all eating there, it must be good!
If your missing Western food head over to the wave, a newly formed shopping district with western restaurants and brands including Pizza Hut, Shakespeare and Co found mostly in the middle east with a variety of exotic milkshakes, bakery and ice creams, international restaurants such as Shang Thai and coffee house Starbucks or Costa.
Events to look out for:
Rose season in Jabal Al Akdar- April
Tour de Oman bicycle racing- Feb 14-19th
Yearly Al Jabal Akhdar summit hike
Hotels were booked through www.middleeastluxury.com#oman #omaniblogger #muscat #jabalakhdar #anantarajabalakhdar