|Image Source: Google|
The middle east has always intrigued me. I am awed by their huge buildings and their wonderful food. Their wide roads and their plush green heritage. The middle east is often shown as a place with mammoth buildings, camels and super rich Arabs. But there is more to this, than what meets the eye. I have had a forever long desire to visit the middle east and bask in their culture. If given a chance, I would love to visit the 1,000-mile-long coastal plain at the southeast tip of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. This is the country of Sindbad the sailor, more popularly known as Oman. Officially called the Sultanate of Oman.
Visiting a Muslim country is not easy, especially for a woman. Oman is a country which is very friendly towards women. Woman are allowed to work and drive around just like men. Plus it is not a mandate to wear a veil, if you are a non Muslim. Since I am not, this was a relief for me. A vacation is meant to be carefree and without any baggage. But I was determined to dress modestly, so that I do not hurt the religious sentiments of the locals. After all, their culture is their pride.
|The Corniche Area. Image Source: Google|
The first stop that would make would be at the capital of Oman, Muscat. Did you know that the city of Muscat was actually three small towns before? They later came together and grew into one big city. "Walled City" was the name given to the original city of Muscat. There are a lot of attractions in Muscat but The Corniche Area is a must visit. With the Hajar mountains as a backdrop, the Corniche has a perfect setting and is worth spending time. The water front is relaxing and is perfect for an early morning or evening stroll. This area also has a lot of eateries around, which is a blessing for a foodie like me. This area is also close to the Mutrah Fort from where we get a breathtaking view of this ancient city.
|Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. Image Source: Google|
My next stop would be at the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque which is the third largest mosque in the world. And yes, it is open to non-Muslims too apart from between 8am to 11am on Thursday and Friday. I'll make sure I plan accordingly. The Mosque is built from 300,000 tonnes of Indian sandstone. It has a wonderful Swarovski crystal chandelier and luxurious marble paneling. A major feature of the design of the mosque's interior is the prayer carpet which covers the floor of the prayer hall. It contains 1,700,000,000 knots, weighs 21 tonnes and took four years to produce, and brings together the classical Tabriz, Kashan and Isfahan design traditions. 28 colors in varying shades were used, the majority obtained from traditional vegetable dyes. It is the second largest single piece carpet in the world. Wow, quite something eh? I would love to catch a glimpse of this beauty too.
|Turtle Reserve At Ras Al-Jinz. Image Source: Google|
The next place on my list would be the Turtle reserve at Ras Al-Jinz. The Ras Al Jinz beach is world renown for the nesting endangered green turtle (Chelonia mydas), probably the most important nesting concentration on the Indian Ocean. This is the only place where the public can watch the nesting process of these amazing sea giants. That would be quite some experience. I love turtles and have wanted to have one as a pet. I could never get one, but watching them play around in the water and sand is one experience that I do not want to miss.
|The Blue City Area. Image Source: Google|
Another place that I do not want to miss is the Al Madina A'Zarqa also known as the Blue city. This is a $15 billion mega city project in the Sultanate of Oman and was expected to complete only by 2020. One hour away from Muscat, this was a dream city in progress. Divided into ten phases, only a single phase has been completed and this project went under financial loss. Blue City was to play a role in diversifying Oman's economy, creating over more than two decades an urban center 45 minutes north of Muscat that would eventually house 200,000 people, adding hotels, universities, homes and attractions. For now, this project is on a stand still. However, it would be nice to visit this place and see how it was imagined and how it could have been transformed.
|Jebel Harim. Image Source: Google|
I would also like to visit the other attractions. Khor Ash Sham for sighting the Dolphins. This place boast of a healthy population of dolphins. Dolphins are attracted by the sound of boats’ engines. They’ll often swim alongside passing dhows (traditional sailing boats), dipping playfully in and out of the water, reaching remarkable speeds and keeping up quite easily with even the fastest boats. Another must visit spot would be the mountain of women or the Jebel Harim. The mountain takes its name from the days when local women would retreat to caves up here in order to avoid being carried off by pirates or rival tribes while their menfolk were away on extended fishing or trading expeditions. This places offers breathtaking views of the mountain and skies and also stomach churning views of the deep gorges below.
|Al Sharqiya Sand Dune. Image Source: Google|
The next place that I would visit would be the Al Sharqiya islands. Of all the regions of Oman, Al Sharqiya is the one that can claim to have a bit of everything: the vast desert of Wahiba Sands, the magnificent cliffs and unspoiled beaches stretching east from Tiwi to Sur and south to the island of Masirah, the dramatic gorges and fertile wadis of the eastern end of the Hajar mountains and the historic towns of Sur, Ibra and Sinaw. There are also coral reefs, mudflats and lagoons frequented by large bird populations. While the scenery will mesmerize you, this places also offers activities like dune bashing. The Sharqiya sands offers a desert experience like no other. Here, the flat plain quickly becomes bounded on either side by mountainous sand dunes that change color as the hours march on from pale yellow to rustic red and back again. It is a treat to the human eye. I so badly want to take a camel ride here.
|Wadi Shab. Image Source: Google|
No trip to Oman is complete without a visit to the Wadi Shab, the number one tourist spot in Oman. This location offers the serenity of mountains, the sparkle of the sand, the hush of the wind and the surf of the sea. This wadi or valley is arguably one of the most gorgeous destinations in Oman. Beyond the breathtaking entrance, the valley rewards you with views of aquamarine pools, waterfalls and terraced plantations. Bright Kingfishers add glorious splashes of color to the scenery. This place offers a variety of adventures too. Swimming, boating, hiking and even a visit to a partially submerged cave. The natural pools here are pristine clean and is perfect for swimming especially since the weather here is known to be quite hot. I will surely take a dip here!
Oman has a long tradition of arts and crafts that include shipbuilding, indigo dyeing, silver work, potter, weaving and textiles, fragrance manufacture, woodwork, copper work, beekeeping, horse-breeding, camel-rearing and saddle-crafting. This rich cultural heritage and natural abundance makes Oman a unique eco tourism destination. I want to make the most of my visit and come back with wonderful memories and an experience of a lifetime. I am sure I will.
This is my entry for the 'Beauty has an address!' contest on Indiblogger in association with Oman tourism.