Oman

 Muscat, Oman  Arabian man

Why Oman?                                                                     Click here to view video

It’s a curious observation about travelling in Oman that the moment you tuck behind a sand dune and begin erecting your tent, however discreetly, someone will park alongside and start camping too. Never mind that it is the only car you’ve seen all day; never mind that there are 2700km of beautiful, empty sandy beaches; never mind that the mountains are so lonesome in parts that only wolves and hedgehogs meander into the night; and never mind that memories of Thesiger are the only evocations of the living to issue from the dunes of the Empty Quarter – the one-car-per-day will find yours and camp alongside.  What makes this observation a particularly topical one is that it’s only relatively recently that a network of roads and graded tracks, such as the coast road from Filim to Shwaymiyah, or the adventurous mountain track to the ancient tombs at Gaylah, has made it possible to penetrate Oman’s pristine landscapes, as well as its more visited ones. Muscat has been a port hub for many years, and today is the arrival point for everything from goods to cruise ships. In the Sharqiya Region you'll discover some of Oman's main attractions, like the beautiful beaches of Sur, turtle nesting sites in Ras Al-Jinz and the desert dunes of Sharqiya (Wahiba) Sands.
 
Those who are sufficiently intrepid to get off the beaten track will find that they can have the desert to themselves quite easily without mounting a major expedition. Now that the secret of Oman’s great untouched beauty is out, however, it surely can’t be long before groups of visitors are a common sight and it will no longer be necessary to seek the company of strangers at the end of a day’s exploration.  In the meantime, what should you say to the happy camper who parks in ‘your space’? As every hospitable Omani you’ll meet on your travels will tell you, there’s only one answer: ‘Ahlan wa salan! Welcome!’

  • When should I travel?
The best time to visit Oman is between November and mid-March, when the cooler air brings the mountain scenery sharply into focus and daytime temperatures average 25°C. For the rest of the year, much of Oman is oppressively hot and hazy, particularly between May and August. The redeeming summertime feature is the khareef, the mid-June to late-August rainy season in southern Oman. Many Gulf visitors flock to this area to picnic under the drizzle on Dhofar’s grassy hills. The rain (and the green) vanishes by mid-September.  The peak tourist season in the north is from November to mid-March.

  • Is it safe to travel and are there places to avoid?
Oman is a relatively safe country and serious crime is rare. The Royal Oman Police is notably efficient and honest.  Driving in Muscat can sometimes be a problem, although this is due more to congestion than bad driving on the part of the locals. Outside of the major cities, a common driving risk is falling asleep at the wheel due to the long stretches of featureless desert. Driving in Oman calls for attention to the unexpected. It has the second highest death rate from traffic accidents in the world (surpassed only by Saudi, followed closely by the UAE). Omani drivers outside of the cities tend to drive very fast and pass with impunity. Driving at night is especially hazardous as many drivers fail to turn their headlights on.

  • What money should I take?
The currency is the Omani Rial (OMR). All major credit cards are accepted here, including to a lesser extent American Express. ATMs are widely available throughout the county. ATMs are widely available throughout the country. Travellers cheques are easily exchanged in the major towns and cities. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in US Dollars.

  • What language will they understand?
Arabic is the official language. English is widely spoken. Swahili is also spoken by Omani descendents from East Africa. German and French are spoken by some hotel staff while Urdu, Farsi, Hindi and Tagalog are widely spoken by Oman's large expatriate workforce.a

  • How about my health?
Oman has an extensive public health service, with many hospitals and health centres. Standards are generally comparable to those in Europe although treatment varies according to the location. Hospital emergency treatment is available. Health insurance is essential.

  • Public Holidays

2012
01 January New Year's Day
05 February Mouloud (Birth of the Prophet)
17 June Leilat al-Meiraj (Ascension of the Prophet)
23 July Renaissance Day
19 August Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
26 October Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)
15 November Islamic New Year
18 November National Day and birthday of HM Sultan Qaboos

2013
01 January New Year's Day
24 January Milad un Nabi (Birth of the Prophet Muhammad)
05 June Lailat al Miraj (Night of Ascension)
23 July Renaissance Day
08 August Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
15 October Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice)
04 November Islamic New Year
18 November National Day
18 November Birthday of HM Sultan Qaboos

  • Do I need a visa?
South African passport holders can obtain a visa on arrival for a stay of up to 30 days.

  • Will I need any innoculations before I depart?
No innoculations are required for entry into Oman.