Luxury experiences abound in Oman, yet travelling through this Arabian treasure still feels as though you’re exploring a land unknown.
Those who venture to Oman feel as though they’re in on a cherished secret. As renowned chef Anthony Bourdain recently noted while filming his award-winning show Parts Unknown, this is a country that defies expectations. “It shouldn’t, according to the cruel logic of the world, exist. But it does, and it’s incredible,” he muses.
Wedged as it is between the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Yemen in the southernmost corner, you might expect to find a land in turmoil. Instead, this safe and peaceful country promises exquisite beaches, alluring watering holes and vast, craggy mountains. Even so, many travellers have never heard its name. Fewer still can place it on a map.
The capital Muscat sits close to Dubai – the flight lasts a little under an hour – but the two major cities are otherwise worlds apart. While Dubai’s forest of skyscrapers glimmers beneath the searing sun, Muscat’s cream and bone-white houses rarely reach ten storeys. They appear to rise from the shores of the turquoise bay at Mutrah, the old port region and city’s cultural heart, and wash up at the foothills of the Hajar Mountains, as though a wave has left behind buildings instead of a foamy wake.
Heady frankincense drifts through the tangle of alleyways in Mutrah Souq, the smoke coiling past shops adorned with gold jewellery, technicolour textiles and traditional prayer caps. Just outside, locals sit sipping fresh juices in cafes that spill onto Mutrah Corniche and wooden dhows (boats) float in the bay. Down the coast, young men play soccer on a golden stretch of sand while families watch on, picnicking on the manicured grass studded with frangipani trees or beneath the grove of palms.
Sandstone and smooth, pale marble commands the architecture at many of Muscat’s must-visit sites. At night, the elegant walls of the illuminated Royal Opera House are a sight to behold, while the magnificent 600,000 Swarovski crystal chandelier hanging in the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque keeps the polished stone in good company.
Oman’s luxury accommodation takes on a similar vein, with opulent stays designed to complement the country’s breathtaking natural beauty.
Drive high into the mountains where hotels teeter at an altitude of 2,000m, overlooking an enormous gorge cracking through the rock below. In the desert, chic glamping tents with plush beds and ensuites nest between the dancing peaks of dunes. Down south, seasonal rain transforms Dhofar into a subtropical paradise, awash with greenery, waterfalls and streams, and world-class hotels that stretch across a coast of pristine white sands.
With such a rich natural bounty to explore Oman can’t stay a secret for much longer. But for now, it’s a destination of unparalleled luxury experiences; ones you’ll hardly have to share.
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