The Sultanate of Oman's entire east coast is fringed by the Indian Ocean. Its neighbours are Yemen to the south and Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates on its western border.
Muscat, its capital, is cosmopolitan yet relaxed. It doesn't have the hustle and bustle of many of Arabia's other capitals. It sits serenely on the shores of the Gulf of Oman and has a dramatic backdrop of mountains. Suburbs are made up of whitewashed low-rise homes with lush gardens, palms and colourful bougainvillea spreads over small and rugged red hills.
Character is provided by three imposing forts left from days of Portuguese control. It is a blend of new and old and that doesn't just apply to its interesting architecture. Shopping is exciting there are modern malls and quaint, traditional souqs.
A tall arch frames the entrance to Muttrah Souq, Oman's oldest and best known. It has row after row of tiny shops in winding lanes. Bedouin women in traditional dress sell fragrant aromas of sandalwood, frankincense and natural oils.
There are traditional shawls and trousers, caps, Bedouin jewellery, ornate coffee pots and khanjars, traditional Omani swords. Early morning and late afternoon are less crowded and visitors can enjoy the sights and sounds of the souq.
Gold souqs are in one area, antiquities in another, textiles in another and so on. Prices are negotiable and haggling is a long-standing tradition. It is expected of you!
Ibra Wednesday Souq is for ladies only and it offers a range of handicrafts, utensils and textiles.
Shangri-La's Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa is a luxurious three-hotel village, nestling alongside the bay of Al Jissah. The setting is dramatic with desert, rugged mountains and the beautiful beaches of the Gulf of Oman.
Rooms have been designed to reflect the Arabian spirit of traditional Oman, with artworks created by local artists. Guest rooms have marvellous views of the Gulf and dramatic coastline.
Al Waha, (The Oasis), has 262 rooms and is ideal for a family holiday. It has the air-conditioned Little Turtles Children's Club, and there are pools for little ones to enjoy. Samba Restaurant has a Latin flavour and Surf Cafe serves meals with children in mind.
Al Bandar (The Town), is at the heart of the resort. It has 198 rooms and is aimed towards corporate and leisure guests. It has an air-conditioned club for teenagers and exclusive retail outlets.
Capri Court features contemporary Italian cuisine, as well as Tapas and Sablah, an outdoor dining experience. Al Tanoor has an Arabian atmosphere.
Al Husn (The Castle) is rated six-star. It has 180 rooms focusing on luxury. Guests enjoy exclusive dining, bar, access to the private and secluded 100 metre long Mahhara Beach and personal butler service. Decor was inspired by royal Arabian palaces and all rooms face the sea, have balconies, terraces or patios and guests are served pre-dinner cocktails and canapes in their rooms.
Sultanah offers fine dining and Shahrazad serves traditional Moroccan cuisine.
CHI, the Spa at Shangri-La, is the most extensive and well-appointed private spa in Oman, with 12 treatment villas that create a sanctuary of personal rejuvenation and relaxation.
Snorkelling near Muscat is rewarding year round. Warm waters present an abundance of tropical fish, eels, stingrays, sea turtles, harmless black tip sharks and maybe even dolphins.
If you aren't lucky enough to see dolphin, it's pretty well guaranteed you will see them frolicking between fishing boats an hour out to see. Twenty-one species of whales and dolphins have been identified along the coast.
Oman in the Arabian Peninsula
Shangri-La's Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa's Castle rooms start at around $480 a night.
Desert Thunder Travel and Tourism offers snorkelling in the Gulf of Oman for around $110 per person.
Emirates has flights to Muscat.
Air fares from;
- Perth, $2757
- Melbourne, $3144
- Brisbane, $3150
- Sydney, $3162
- Adelaide, $3728
- Darwin, $4049
Valid for sale and travel until March 31, 2009.
For more information
Shangri La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa
PO Box 644
Muscat, Sultanate of Oman
Ph: (968) 2477 6666
Fax: (968) 2477 6677
Desert Thunder Travel and Tourism
PO Box 807
Al Khoud 132
Sultanate of Oman
Ph: + (968) 95 555 153
Sultanate of Oman Tourism
90 Pitt Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Telephone: (+61) 2 9113 5959
Ph: 1300 303 777
It is recommended travellers to Oman see their doctor at least six weeks before departure, as there are specific vaccinations recommended. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended and are best discussed with your doctor. For further information visit www.welltogo.com.au
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