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Why Oman is the Middle-East’s new must-see destination

Thinking of heading to the Middle East but not quite sure where? Try Oman.

This stunning sultanate is under a 2-hour drive from Dubai, but feels a world apart. There are old markets fringed by date palms, a mountain range often called the “Grand Canyon of the Middle East”, beaches where turtles hatch, deserts perfect for overnight camping, and dense greenery that feels like a tropical escape.

Throw in some of the kindest locals you could ever hope for, and you’ve got an amazing holiday on your hands.

Before you book flights or hop into that 4×4, there are some things you should know. Fortunately, we’ve got someone that can help. Dubai-based luxury travel journalist Danae Mercer shares all the top tips and insider insights you’ll need.

Fast facts on Oman

Oman borders Dubai, but couldn’t be more different. This traditional neighbour has a much calmer vibe, with heaps of nature (mountains, beaches, desert) and a conservative but incredibly friendly group of locals.

You won’t see a lot of other tourists — but that’s changing. Money is being invested in Oman’s tourism efforts and more hotels keep popping up. For travellers, that means there’s no time like the present to go.

“If you get a chance to visit Oman, do it,” says George Ryland, co-host of Oman’s Hi FM Morning Show with Robin Banks. “It’s an incredible country with so much to see. You can choose a night at the Royal Opera House or a night in the desert, shop in one of the souqs or escape the heat in the mountains.”

Why Oman is the Middle-East’s new must-see destinationposted on September 27, 20173110

Thinking of heading to the Middle East but not quite sure where? Try Oman.

This stunning sultanate is under a 2-hour drive from Dubai, but feels a world apart. There are old markets fringed by date palms, a mountain range often called the “Grand Canyon of the Middle East”, beaches where turtles hatch, deserts perfect for overnight camping, and dense greenery that feels like a tropical escape.

Throw in some of the kindest locals you could ever hope for, and you’ve got an amazing holiday on your hands.

Before you book flights or hop into that 4×4, there are some things you should know. Fortunately, we’ve got someone that can help. Dubai-based luxury travel journalist Danae Mercer shares all the top tips and insider insights you’ll need.

Fast facts on Oman

Oman borders Dubai, but couldn’t be more different. This traditional neighbour has a much calmer vibe, with heaps of nature (mountains, beaches, desert) and a conservative but incredibly friendly group of locals.

You won’t see a lot of other tourists — but that’s changing. Money is being invested in Oman’s tourism efforts and more hotels keep popping up. For travellers, that means there’s no time like the present to go.

“If you get a chance to visit Oman, do it,” says George Ryland, co-host of Oman’s Hi FM Morning Show with Robin Banks. “It’s an incredible country with so much to see. You can choose a night at the Royal Opera House or a night in the desert, shop in one of the souqs or escape the heat in the mountains.”

Or if you’re feeling a bit lazy? “You can get a nice hotel and a tan!”

Unwind at luxury spas in Musandam Peninsula

One of the joys of Oman is just how much slower it moves compared to its glittering, partying neighbours.

“Oman has a beautifully relaxed pace,” says Eva Stanley-Jones, PR and publisher of Oman Magazine. “It’s calm, peaceful and serene. If you’re coming from the rat race of a cosmopolitan city, take the time to enjoy the quiet. Embrace its ebb and flow.”

One of the best spots to do that is the ultra-luxurious Six Senses Zighy Bay. This private resort is less than two hours’ driving time from Dubai and transport can be arranged. There’s beach on one side, mountains on the other. A small local community sits in the valley.

Insider’s tip: “Paraglide into reception at the SSZB. It’s probably the most unique arrival into a hotel that you will ever come across,” says Simon Cameron, founder and CEO of LightfootTravel.

Climb down massive gorges in the Al Hajar Mountains

An 8-hour drive from Musandam Peninsula, the Al Hajar Mountain Range is often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the Middle East” — and it’s easy to see why.

“It offers world-class trekking, a via ferrata (climbing down a mountain attached to a metal rope) and stunning views,” says Julian Ayers, general manager for the Alila Jabal Akhdar resort (below). Pomegranates, abandoned villages and goats dot the mountains, making for scenic stops while hiking along any number of wadis (dried-up river beds).

“The silence here is deafening,” says Ayers.

Temperatures tend to be cooler than the rest of Oman. “During the winter evenings it can get a little chilly, but nothing a warm sweater can’t resolve,” Ayers says.

Explore opera & mosques in Muscat

Refined, elegant, with wide, palm-fringed roads, Oman’s capital city Muscat has serious cultural appeal — and it’s around a 5-hour drive from Dubai.

Head to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque (below) for stunning architecture. At the Royal Opera House, you’ll find everything from popular western shows to local performances. “They have a great season planned,” says Oman radio host Chris Fisher. The National Museum is now fully open to the public as well, where you can see some of Oman’s most precious historic artefacts.

The Chedi Muscat is one of the area’s most popular hotels. This symmetrical property includes three pools (one of which is 103 metres long) and a 21-acre garden oasis. A 40-minute drive southeast takes you to the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa (below), a recently relaunched 5-star venue.

Insider’s tip: “Experience Oman’s scenic beauty at the Bimmah Sinkhole (below), a deep pool where visitors can plunge into emerald-tinted waters; and Wadi Shab, which features waterfalls, aquamarine pools and lush green plantations of lemon, banana and date trees. Both can be seen in one day,” says Juergen Doerr, general manager of the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah.

Find out more here: http://www.travelzoo.com/uk/blog/why-oman-is-the-middle-easts-new-must-see-destination/ 

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