The subsoils of Oman conceal oil wells, but these are not the only riches to offer to the world this sultanate located to the east of the Arabian Peninsula. Its desert with its oases and its jabals, its mountains and its coasts adorned with beaches and diving spots ...
All of this is attracting more and more visitors to the country where Sindbad the sailor is said to have lived, the mythical ancestor of backpackers who is one of the heroes of the tales of the “1 nights”. Hiking, water sports, lazing on the beach, diving, breathtaking desert or mountain landscapes, gastronomy…. Oman brings many pleasures to travelers.
On the way to this pearl of the Orient!
Sublime hikes in the mountains and in the wadis
Hikers are pampered in Oman. Almost all the landscapes of the sultanate can be crossed on foot along routes crisscrossing its mountains, its desert or its seaside.
The chain of Hajar mountains alone offers more than a hundred kilometers of marked trails. Running along the country's north coast and continuing into the United Arab Emirates, this chain stretches for nearly 600 kilometers. The minerals it contains give it changing colors: purple (ophiolite), white-gray (marble and gypsum), green (copper), red (iron) ...
We set off to explore it from Muscat, the capital of Oman, in particular to admire the silhouette of its highest point, the Jabal shams (3 m), name which means Mountain of the Sun. One of its peaks is accessible to hikers. We can also orient ourselves towards Jabal Akhdar (Green mountain).
These hikes give the opportunity to go through canyons and wadis. These are made up of clear water basins where you can swim and rivers where you can practice canyoning after the rainy season, then walk in palm groves green, cultivated terraces or traditional villages.
Good to know: the most favorable period for hiking in Oman is between October and April and the majority of routes are possible during the day. If you wish, you can take a grand tour of the Hajar in ten days, between Jabal Shams and Jabal Akhdar, or even take camel rides!
Cherry on the cake, the camping is free, only the nature reserves impose specific rules on you. Of course, you must not disrespect the locals and their customs. Also know that developed camps exist in the most touristic regions.
Bivouacs on the sand of a beach ... or in the desert
Oman has 3 km of coastline overlooking the Arabian Sea and the Arabian Sea. They are bordered by high cliffs and rocky coasts, as well as exceptional sites such as those of the Musandam peninsula nicknamed "the Arabian fjords », Where small fishing villages nestle.
Not to be missed yet: ocher sand dunes du ash sharqiyah desert that extend to the sea - excursions into the latter are offered.
On a beach, where the sand is blond this time, or in a Bedouin camp set up in the heart of a oasis, like the magnificent and wooded one Al Hawiya (surprising: you can ski on sand!), your bivouac becomes that of an adventurer ... Something to be filled with the beauties of the surrounding landscapes and the discovery of the traditions of a people , who has inhabited this vast territory for centuries and centuries ...
In Oman, the sea is suitable for all kinds of recreation. You can swim there and practice various activities: sailing, kitesurfing, dhow rides (or dhow, a type of traditional sailboat in this region of the world) or catamaran, sport fishing, dolphin watching… Not to mention diving.
A paradise for diving enthusiasts ... and turtle lovers!
Oman is a flagship country for lovers of scuba diving. Its preserved funds are to be explored at several points of its coast.
Since Muscat even, we take advantage of about twenty spots, easy to access by taking a boat (trips lasting between 5 and 90 minutes) and, for the most part, ideal for beginners because they have no current.
You have, for example, the cave of Fahal Island or Bandar Al Khayran bay, where is the wreck of the seahorse-populated Al-Munassir ship, which is 30 meters deep! Everywhere, there is something to be amazed at with 85 varieties of corals and 900 species of fish, from the smallest to the largest, such as the whale shark.
North of Muscat, the waters of the uninhabited islets of the Dimaniyat Nature Reserve are also renowned. They are also home to various corals (deer coral, lettuce coral, acropora tables, etc.), as well as rays, dolphins, sharks (lemon, black tip) or whales.
Itinerant diving cruises are particularly to be done in the Musandam region, rich in drop offs and sheltered bays. Its rock formations are carpeted with soft corals and acropora tables, while the fauna consists of dolphins, whales, seahorses, nudibranchs, black tip sharks, parrot fish, angels or clowns ...
Diving cruises to discover the pelagics are also organized in the Hallaniyat Islands.
The dive sites of Dhofar, more secret, are only accessible from October to April, so outside the monsoon season, which gives rise to an astonishing ephemeral underwater forest of giant algae, from October to December. Also worth seeing: different species of rays, parrot or angel fish, batfish, sepias, octopuses, moray eels, nudibranchs and corals, soft and hard, as well as turtles.
In this regard, the Ras Al Jinz Green Turtle Reserve is essential. Its beaches are indeed so many places where three tens of thousands of them come to lay eggs (especially from June to September). Guided observations are offered there, as well as a visit to a Turtle Visitors Center which explains the turtle reproduction cycle and displays the objects of archaeological excavations carried out on site.
Getaway in Dhofar, land of incense
In addition to a coast adorned with superb natural sites and remarkable diving spots, the Dhofar There are many very attractive sites in store for you.
This region located at the extreme southern Oman is also the one that receives the most rain during the monsoon. Hence its heavenly allure with its pastures which abound in the plains as in the mountains, which can be discovered along hiking trails, meeting its inhabitants.
Its capital, Salalah, offers a dream tropical atmosphere thanks to its beaches lined with coconut palms and plantations of banana, papaya and sugar cane. We like to stroll on its ledge, in its streets or to go to Terre de l'Encense museum.
THEincense is the main product of the region and has been for a very long time. We can realize this by going to visit the Wadi Dawkah reserve which includes 1 frankincense trees, of the genus Boswellia sacra, from which a resin is obtained which will be used to make perfumes. This plantation is classified in World Heritage by Unesco, just like the archaeological remains dating back to the Antiquity of the caravan oasis of Shisr (Ubar) and those of ports of Khor Rori (Samhuram) and Al-Balid.
Of course, you can buy incense in the souks of the region among other specialties, culinary in particular.
The gastronomy of Oman, the land of dates
If incense is one of the most beautiful treasures offered by the land of Oman, the date is too. Also cultivated for millennia, it has been the subject of a traditional production process carried out by nomadic and semi-nomadic Bedouin tribes. Taking great care of their date palms, they always carry out pollination by hand.
The date is therefore an essential dish in Oman. For example, when you are received by its inhabitants, they serve you fresh dates as a sign of welcome, accompanied by a cup of coffee flavored with rose water and cardamom.
Another specialty that must be tasted in the country: the typical show. It is a meat wrapped in a banana leaf that has been buried for one or two days in order to refine the flavors.
You also have the kabsa, or makbous, a dish of chicken and rice garnished with a tomato sauce, or the biryani which is made from spicy rice to which is added chicken, lamb or fish. The latter indicates theinfluence of Indian gastronomy in Omani cuisine where meat and fish abound, prepared in tandoori, masala or tikka fashion.
The culinary art of Lebanon also exerts its attraction (chawarma, mezze, falafel ...), as do African recipes through Swahili and Dhofari dishes, one of the important ingredients of which is the coconut.
Finally, to cool off, we gladly drink the Lemon Mint, a drink made with lemon juice and crushed mint.
The discovery of Oman by self-drive
To get to the starting points of the hiking trails and, more generally, to travel through the Sultanate of Oman, the most practical way is to rent a vehicle. 4x4.
This way, alone, as a couple or as a family, we are autonomous and you can organize your own trips to discover the beauties of this pearl of the Arabian Peninsula. This is called the self-drive.
This vehicle is same an essential when you want to explore the wadi, take mountain tracks or browse the desert dunes. Good to know: before entering sandy areas, you must deflate your tires. This is how we best practice “dune bashing”, in other words driving in the dunes.
Of course, you need prepare your program well, find out about the times required for the trips you want to make, take into account the weather conditions of the period when you are going to Oman, remember to book your accommodation if necessary, equip yourself properly, etc. In short, be a backpacker who knows how to organize himself according to the rules of the art!
Go there with Oman Air, the national airline of the Sultanate of Oman, classified 4 stars. Founded in 1993, the company has grown rapidly from its hub in Muscat, Middle East. From France, Oman Air offers a daily flight from Paris to Muscat in a Boeing Dreamliner 787.
Prepare for your trip with our Oman online guide