Places we visit in Oman
Muscat means ‘safe anchorage’, and the sea continues to constitute a major part of the city: it brings people on cruise ships and goods in containers to the historic ports of Old Muscat and Mutrah. The city has a character quite different from neighbouring capitals - there are few high-rise blocks, and even the most functional building is required to reflect tradition with a dome or an arabesque window. It is famous for dazzling souks and superb seafood, but its terrain brings the biggest thrills as this port city on the Gulf of Oman is backed by the arid Hajar mountains.
Nizwa is an ancient city in the Ad Dakhiliyah region of northern Oman. This historic town lies at the foot of Al Jabal Al Akhdar (the Green Mountains). It is known for Nizwa Fort, a castle with a huge cylindrical tower built in the 17th century to defend the city's position on a major trade route. The adjoining marketplace, Nizwa Souk, is lined with handicrafts stalls and silversmiths working in small shops and the city is full of rivers, orchards and palm trees towering amidst a balmy atmosphere.
This venerable village at the foot of the Hajar Mountains is one of the oldest in Oman, and is interesting for its wonderfully well-preserved row of two and three-storey mudbrick houses built in the Yemeni style. There are many abandoned houses in the upper parts of the village which make for an atmospheric stroll.
Oman’s highest mountain, Jebel Shams (Mountain of the Sun; 3009m), is best known not for its peak but for the view into the spectacularly deep Wadi Ghul lying alongside it. The straight-sided Wadi Ghul is known locally as the Grand Canyon of Arabia as it fissures abruptly between the flat canyon rims, exposing vertical cliffs of 1000m and more.
Naklh (meaning palm) is home to one of Oman’s most picture-perfect forts, dramatically situated atop a small natural rock outcrop and backdropped by the jagged peaks of the Jebel Nakhal, a spur of the main Western Hajar range.
Rustaq enjoyed a spell as Oman’s capital in the 17th century and it remains an important regional centre. An imposing fort dominates this friendly town and some famous hot springs (Ain al Kasfah and Ain Towarah) feed into neighbouring public baths.
Quriyat is a small coastal town south of Muscat. The city’s past is defined by the violent resistance to Portuguese invasion, though these days it’s more of a quiet fishing village. The main attraction, Quriyat Fort, sits right in the middle of town. There are beaches, a small souk, an old Shareestha tree, a large mangrove swamp and a seaside corniche to explore. At the end of the corniche lies the small harbor, which historically was a major Omani sea port.
Hawaiyat Najm (known to foreigners as the Sinkhole, the Bimmah Sink Hole or the Dabab Sinkhole...) is a large hole in the Earths crust filled with fresh water. The hole, which is not the only one in Oman, is a 40m wide and 20m deep cavernous hole, filled with mutli-toned turquoise water. It is surrounded by the sea on one side and the mountains on the other.