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Jebel Shams means ‘Mountain of the Sun’ and, given that it is the highest peak in Oman at 3,000m, you certainly feel the solar power up here. Part of the Al Hajar range, this is also canyon territory, with sheer drops down to valleys 1,000m below. There is a trekking route up to the south summit, the north side an out of bounds military zone.
A desert island but not a deserted one, the most famous visitors being the endangered green sea turtles that come to lay eggs in the sands of this secret hideaway every year. There are also 12,000 human residents on this 95km by 12km island too, plus long empty beaches, fishing villages, and lovely hiking in the cooler seasons. It’s a 1.5 hour ferry ride from Shanna port.
Right up on the north coast, tucked in beside UAE, this remote part of Oman is otherworldly. The people here are fishermen and Bedouins who have traditionally lived off the waters and valleys of this fjordic landscape. Take a fjord cruise with a difference here on a traditional dhow, snorkelling and fishing, eating and chatting, for a truly local welcome.
Even the name is evocative, with Westerners associating it with an aromatic wine that awakens the senses. The Omani capital certainly awakens the senses too, from old souks to the Sultan’s Palace, the jewel bedecked Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque to a state of the art Royal Opera House. The backdrop is certainly dramatic too, with mountains, turquoise bays and sunlit sandstone cliffs.
The magnificent fort here dates from pre-Islamic times, and is an example of Oman’s fine desert architecture restored to perfection. Originally built to protect the picture postcard oasis of date palms and pomegranate trees, it’s also gateway to the Hajar Mountain range with wadis and wonderful rural villages. Check out the Nakhl hot springs, which have those weird fish that nibble the dead skin on your feet
A fishing village in the Ras AI Hadd, it’s a top choice for the turtles that return year after year to lay their eggs. In particular, the endangered green turtle that thrives in this turtle reserve, protected by Royal Decree since 1996. The turtles can be seen late at night or just before dawn, typically from late May to September.
This is the Dhofar region of Oman, far south, and a chosen favourite with Omanis in the monsoon, or khareef, where they go in search of rain and valleys that turn from arid to almost ambrosial. It’s a big port town, so it’s fine for a couple of nights, but it’s also a great gateway into the deserts of the south.
This is the home of the dhow-style traditional fishing boat still used by Omanis. Known as a safeena (ship) in Arabic, you can visit the yard where artisans still work on these boats today. This whole stretch of desert coast is still relatively undeveloped, although changing, with small fishing villages like nearby Ayega destined to become coastal chic in the near future.
If you are going to camp out in Oman, do it here, enveloped by the undulating red and white sand dunes that rise up to 200m and stretch as far as the eye can see, with spectacular views down miles of the coast. Stay with Bedouin hosts to learn about their extraordinary culture, with star gazing, camel riding, sharing dinner round a campfire, or listening to traditional Oudh songs all thrown in.