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Review: Oman

Escorted Tour - Coach

A week in Oman

  • By SilverTraveller Holland

    35 reviews

    Ribbon Ribbon

  • Dec 2008
  • Solo

68 people found this review helpful

What a captivating country. The Sultanate of Oman was intriguing, interesting, appealing and very beautiful. My negative comments have nothing to do with the country itself.

The current Sultan, Qaboos Bin Said, ousted his father in a bloodless coup in 1970. In the following 40 years he has developed his country into one of the most stable in the Gulf. Progress has been made in the areas of health, education, transport and tourism. Yet Oman maintains its spectacular scenery, wild and dramatic mountains, ancient forts, deserted deserts and an almost untouched coastline.

We arrived at our hotel, the Naseem, in Muscat after midnight. A hotel barely earning 1*. Most of the hotel and restaurant staff in Oman are from the Indian sub-continent though efforts are being made for young Omanis to gradually take over these jobs. 5a.m. was an unintentional wake-up call from the nearby mosque.

Our group was divided into our transport for the week: four 4×4′s. Our drivers, Harib the guide, Ahmed, Abdullah and Fahad, all immaculate in their white “dish-dash” By day two the drivers had changed into jeans and baseball caps but Harib maintained his rank by being the best dressed and always appeared in an impeccable dish-dash. He spoke good English and another of the drivers spoke a little but the remaining two spoke none at all which proved a problem. The other members of the group refused to move around in order to sit in Harib’s vehicle and learn something about the country. This caused friction and complaints about the lack of information.

After a visit to the grandiose and imposing Grand Mosque, built by the Sultan, with stunning chandeliers and carpets (do not walk on them…) we drove south to the coastal town of Sur, where old dhow boats are built and renovated, and to our desert camp. Actually little huts with “proper” beds. After dinner we went to a nearby turtle reserve to look out for green turtles who come to the beach to lay their eggs. Although December was not the season we were lucky and were rewarded, after a very long, silent, wait when one turtle came lumbering up the beach to lay her eggs.

A second stay in a similar desert camp included a “dune bashing” excursion; not for the faint hearted in our group. Then we drove inland for two nights in Nizwa, once the cultural and political capital of Oman with a very well restored 17th century fort and excellent exhibition.

Next day we drove to Jebel Shams, the highest mountain in Oman. This drive was stunning. Amazing mountain scenery. The top is controlled by the military so we stopped short of the summit to peer down into the “Grand Canyon”. On our journey up, and back down again to Nizwa, we stopped several times for photo stops and to visit small villages. One of them, Al Hamra had deserted mud houses but, surprisingly, an interesting tiny little museum with dusty artifacts and signs in English. We drove back to Nizwa as the sun was going down and the mountains reflected amazing colours.

Next day was Christmas Day! And an even more spectacular drive over the Jebel Akhdar mountains. The mountains seemed to be an amazing variety of shapes, sizes and hues. A geologist’s dream. We passed a school bus – a 4×4 minibus. Apparently children do this cross mountain drive to and from school every day; it must take four hours out of their day. We stopped at more renovated forts; some in built up areas of local villages and some, bizzarely located in the middle of fields.

Accommodation for two nights was at the Sawadi Beach Resort Hotel, right on the beach with a lovely swimming pool. Christmas dinner was a huge buffet with an extensive choice served outside, unfortunately accompanied by an awful band dressed as Santa and playing Jingle Bells.

I loved Oman. But this trip was spoiled by a guide who gave no information and a group who grumbled. On return home I bought a guide book to learn about where I had been!

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This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.

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