The southeastern part of the Arabian Peninsula is occupied by Oman — an Arab country with hot deserts, wide beaches, interesting museums and archaeological sites.
Things to do in Oman
The inhabitants of Oman were among the first to convert to Islam and turned their land into a powerful Arab-Muslim caliphate, successfully defending the borders from enemies. But, despite the military power, he could not cope with the Portuguese, who captured the country in the 16th century.
Today, the state structure of Oman remains the same as it was many centuries ago — the Sultan has absolute power. The title is hereditary. Half a century ago, the country was closed to tourists. But the situation changed when Qaboos bin Said Al Bu Said took the throne, ending the isolation and integrating Oman into the modern world.
The tourism industry is developing rapidly and brings good revenues to the budget. There are interesting sights in almost every city. Foreigners enjoy visiting ancient defensive fortresses, secret underground tunnels, Bronze Age necropolises, Arab palaces and mosques.
Oman attracts visitors with significant cultural events. Every winter, the Muscat Festival takes place in the capital, introducing the art and lifestyle of the Sultanate. At this time, ethnographic exhibitions, theatrical performances, and concerts are held here. Equestrian sports and camel racing are very popular. Events start in the summer and are held in different cities.
For active people, Oman has prepared original entertainment. Among the best are desert safari on camels or jeeps. The ticket price includes accommodation in traditional Bedouin huts, barbecue, sightseeing. In addition, tourists are offered boat tours in the Arabian Sea, bicycle races along special routes, and hot air ballooning.
To the east of the capital, the sea coast is dotted with beaches with modern resorts and hotels. Guests are waiting for sunbathing, swimming in warm water, riding water scooters, deep sea fishing, surfing, diving, sailing on a yacht.
Mounds at Al Dakhir
In the province of Al Dakhira, a group of necropolises are scattered: Bat, Al-Khutm and Al-Ain. In 1988 they were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The round mounds of Bath, built of oblong stones, are located inside a palm grove and are the main part of the site. There are a total of 100 buildings with a diameter of 20 meters and a narrow door opening. These necropolises are fragments of Bronze Age settlements. They testify to the numerous settlements in the Gulf of Oman in the 3rd millennium BC.
The ruins of Khor Rori in the Dhofar governorate are part of the region of the ancient southern Arab city of Sumkhuram. At the end of the 1st century BC, there was a fortified outpost of the Hadhramaut kingdom, consisting of defensive walls, towers, squares and shopping arcades. Today, picturesque ruins, studied by international archaeologists, remain from the glorious settlement.
During the excavations, samples of ceramics, fragments of residential buildings, inscriptions on stones were found, confirming that Dhofar was a leader in the production of incense and exported a valuable product throughout the Arabian Peninsula.
The historical fortress of Bahla at the foot of the Jebel Akhdar mountain is listed as a World Heritage Site. According to preliminary data, it was built in the 12th century to protect nearby villages from robbers. The complex has a round citadel with loopholes, powerful walls, labyrinths, gates.
This is a unique monument of medieval Islamic architecture, equipped with wells and underground channels for irrigation using the falaj system. The fort, built of unbaked bricks, has been restored more than once, but is still in danger of destruction due to strong winds and erosion.
Al Jalali Fort
The capital of Oman is the city of Muscat. In its harbor, a Portuguese fort, founded in 1580 to protect people from the Ottoman conquerors, has been preserved. The defensive complex contains barracks, warehouses, a chapel, watchtowers.
For many centuries, Al-Jalali was used as a prison for members of the royal family and ordinary prisoners. In the 1970s, the prison was closed, the fort was restored, trees were planted and fountains were installed in the courtyard, and the barracks were turned into a museum of the history of Oman. Among the exhibits are muskets, cannons and cannonballs, Persian carpets, ceramics, incense holders, and jewelry.
In Old Muscat stands the beautiful Al Alam Palace, used by Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said for ceremonial receptions. The oriental-style mansion was built 200 years ago.
The original building has a bright facade decorated with gold and a rectangular roof with a high spire. The royal residence is surrounded by green lawns and trees. Tourists are not allowed to enter the courtyard — passers-by are allowed to stop near the gate, admire the external decoration and take pictures.
Sultan Qaboos Mosque
The capital’s cathedral mosque bears the name of Sultan Qaboos, who during his reign took care of the material and spiritual needs of his subjects. Many religious buildings in the country were erected on his personal savings.
The Sultan Qaboos Mosque is an example of Islamic architecture. It has a square prayer hall with a wide dome, a main minaret 90 meters high and 4 side ones 45 meters each. The walls are covered with gray and white marble, decorated with floral and geometric patterns. The central hall is lit by giant crystal chandeliers with Swarovski crystals, and an intricately ornamented Persian carpet lies on the floor.
In the Al-Batinah region, a defensive fortification remains, the history of which dates back to the pre-Islamic period. It is believed that the Sassanids erected it, fearing the invasion of the Arab tribes. Buildings were often destroyed by wars, but were always restored in their original place. The last renovation took place in 1990.
The fort is surrounded by battlements, and a palm garden is planted in the courtyard. The premises have been converted into a museum displaying ancient weapons, soldier uniforms, traditional furniture and household items.
Mosque of Sultan Taimur bin Faisal
In the north of Oman, in Al-Mabil, at the direction of Sultan Qaboos, a mosque was built dedicated to Taimur bin Faisal, who ruled the country at the beginning of the last century.
The main hall of the mosque is finished with white marble and decorated with arched spans. The roof is crowned with an openwork fifty-meter dome. Slender minarets lined with Islamic mosaics rise from four sides.
The interior design is represented by expensive lamps, carpets, embossed Arabic drawings. It is one of the few mosques in the country that non-Muslim tourists are allowed to visit.
Natural History Museum
The Metropolitan Museum of Natural History opened its doors in the winter of 1985. The exhibits collected in it tell about the flora and fauna of the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula.
- On the ground floor, they demonstrate the inhabitants of the bays and report on the geological features of the seabed.
- At the second, they introduce you to the birds, insects, and mammals of Oman.
- On the third, they show meteorites, minerals and provide information about the solar system.
The “whale” exhibition with the skeleton of a sperm whale is especially popular.
By royal decree in 2013, the National Museum of Oman was opened in Muscat. A two-story building resembling an old Arab palace was designed specifically for the exhibition. It contains more than 5 thousand objects that highlight the culture, traditions and history of the state. Visitors can see archaeological exhibits, collections of weapons, ancient coins, Islamic art.
The National Museum has a children’s area, a learning centre, a library and a cinema.
Oil and Gas Exhibition Center
Oil and gas provide the main revenues of money to the country’s budget. In 1995, an oil and gas exhibition center was built in the center of Muscat. A significant part of the complex is occupied by a museum dedicated to mining.
Tourists have access to interactive exhibitions that tell about the discovery of oil in Oman, about how it is extracted and used. In the rest of the center, international forums and fairs are held, demonstrating innovations, the latest technologies used in production, industry and the oil and gas sector. There is a planetarium nearby, shops and cafes are open.
The Children’s Science Museum was established on the initiative of the Sultan in 1990. This is one of the most popular sights of the capital, which is visited annually by 50 thousand tourists. For guests there are expositions about the world around and scientific achievements.
On the tour, you can find out why lightning appears, how to control electricity or launch a balloon. The museum has special rooms for conducting physical and chemical experiments and for giving scientific lectures.
Parks and entertainment
Al Qurm Natural Park
Muscat looks modern and beautiful. Its center is decorated with al-Kurm Park, designed for recreation of tourists and local residents. The green zone is conditionally divided into two sectors:
- The first one has a picturesque lagoon surrounded by mangrove trees. Parrots live in dense foliage, storks nest near the water.
- In the second part there is a palm grove, a botanical garden, rose beds, a deep lake and an illuminated musical fountain.
The park has playgrounds for children, cafes, boat and bicycle rentals. Interesting vernissages and exhibitions are regularly held outdoors.
The largest aquarium in the Middle East has recently opened in the Muscat Mall. The exhibition area, which occupies 8,000 m², is divided into different thematic departments. They house the exhibitions “Deep Sea”, “Coral Reefs”, “Journey through Southeast Asia”.
30,000 marine life live in huge tanks. The aquarium daily feeds coral fish, sharks and turtles, shows circus performances with the participation of penguins, seals, dolphins.
The Royal Opera House was built according to the canons of modern Omani architecture in 2011. The magnificent building, lined with marble, can accommodate up to 1100 people and is the cultural center of the capital. This is the first theater in the world with Italian-made interactive displays built into the backs of the seats.
Famous musical groups and world opera stars perform on the stage. The architectural complex includes a concert hall, an art gallery, a restaurant and a shopping center with 50 boutiques. The shops sell fashionable clothes, perfumes, jewelry and souvenirs.