Nizwa was the capital of Oman in the 6th and 7th Centuries, and is most famous for its towering fort which has been painstakingly restored to its former glory. Its imposing central tower rises over 35m above the rest of the structure, and is almost 30m in diameter. From the top, visitors have a commanding view over the surrounding countryside.

Below, the Nizwa souq is a dates, fragrances, and spices. On Fridays, the souq hosts a weekly cattle market where livestock is traded in a time-honoured way. However, Nizwa souq's most unique offering is handmade pottery from nearby Bahla.

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Bahla is an ancient town famed for its ceramics. Local potters use a unique local clay and work it in traditional fashion to produce pieces for sale in Nizwa. These potters have earned a reputation of the highest order as they supplied Oman with most of its water jugs and other ceramic pieces over the centuries.

Bahla is also home to the UNESCO World Heritage listed Bahla Fort, whose impressive towers reach up to 50m in height. Built 800 years ago at the peak of Bahla's prosperity, the fort deteriorated before being gradually restored to its former splendour over the last few decades.

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Just five kilometres from Bahla is Jabrin Castle, known as the Home of the Imams.

It is ornately decorated and is arguably one of the most picturesque castles in the country. One of the most alluring aspects of a visit to Oman is seeing the variations in architectural styles between the forts and castles which dominate the skyline in each settlement.

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Further north, Al Hamra is an old Omani village with a mix of ancient ruins and more modern dwellings.

Date palms surround the township and are still fed by the canals of the traditional, UNESCO World Heritage listed aflaj irrigation system. Al Hamra sits surrounded by desert, the green foliage of its palm groves erupting against the barren peaks of the mountains beyond.

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The Jebel Akhdar or 'Green Mountain' lies in stark contrast to the rolling desert sands of Sharqiah just only a few hundred kilometres away.

Jebel Akhdar is renowned for the rock rose which grows wild on its slopes and is used in many traditional Omani fragrances and rosewater. The cool local climate makes this a thriving centre for the cultivation of a wide variety of crops on terraced hillsides designed to capitalise on the precious water supply. Bee farms are another traditional local activity with bees collecting pollen from the native flowers blooming on the mountainside.

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At 3300m spectacular Jebel Shams, 'the Mountain of the Sun', is the highest point on the Arabian Peninsula.

Below it lies the breathtakingly beautiful Grand Canyon of Arabia, a series of jagged valleys and rugged escarpments disappearing into the distance. The famous Balcony Walk takes visitors along a narrow track just beneath the cliff top, providing stunning views into the canyon and across to ancient ruins clinging to the rock face.

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Ibri is nestled between the towering Hajar Mountains and the vast sands of the Rub Al Khali desert, and was historically a caravan town due to its location between major population centres of Oman and the UAE.

Today, trade fuels the captivating Ibri Souq, where daily auctions of livestock take place alongside stalls selling goods woven from the fronds of local date palms. Nearby, Ibri Castle provides yet another unique example of Omani architecture.

Overlooking Ibri are the ruins of Silayf with its castle, built in the early 1700s and slowly crumbling with the effects of each season's rain.

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East of Ibri and Silayf lies Bat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site of great archaeological significance. Here, the wonderfully preserved remnants of an ancient settlement provide a window into human life 5000 years ago, complete with a collection of stone-walled necropolises, fortifications, and spring-fed irrigation systems.

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Sohar is located halfway between the Omani capital of Muscat and Dubai. In ancient times, Sohar was the capital of Oman and is considered by many to be the birthplace of the Sinbad the Sailor legend.

Sohar is a diverse mix of the old and new, with a wonderful souk still providing a central trading hub for locals and visitors alike. One of the world's largest ports is being developed here to handle trade of a greater magnitude. While new infrastructure is built, careful attention is also being paid to restoring the icons of its historic past, such as the magnificent Sohar Fort.

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Nakhal is a small village where a natural spring sustains a green band of vegetation that contrasts the jagged peaks of the Hajar mountains beyond. The beautifully restored Nakhal Fort watches over the village, a remnant of a time when Oman was ruled by the Portuguese nearly 400 years ago.

Heading west, the landscape becomes more lush and fertile. For centuries, locals have taken advantage of the natural convergence of wadis at the base of the Hajars to cultivate crops, fruits and vegetables. The agricultural importance of this region is evidenced by its title 'The Bread Basket of Oman'.

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The Damaniyat Islands Nature Reserve lies off the south-eastern coast of Al Batinah, consisting of nine islands located approximately 20 km from the shore.

They are the perfect place for ecologically-minded travellers to experience nature at its best as they snorkel and dive amongst its many tropical wonders. Restricted numbers of visitation permits with strict conditions ensure that the site will remain beautifully preserved for generations to come.

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Rustaq, located about 2 hours from Muscat, is famous for its impressive fort and therapeutic hot springs. At one point in Oman's history, Rustaq was the nation's capital.

Rustaq Fort actually predates the arrival of Islam in Oman by four centuries, making its foundations over 1300 years old. Today, it has been beautifully restored and is open to the public. Nearby, hot springs are heated below the Earth's surface, beckoning those who dare to lower themselves into the steaming water to experience its healing properties.

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Located on the coast about two hours drive southeast of Muscat, Sur was an important port city in ancient times and provided a gateway for trade with India and East Africa.

It is the home of Omani dhow building. These traditional vessels have a distinctive timber hull, the design of which has remained unchanged for centuries. Today, they are manufactured using the same techniques used in antiquity, with timber dowels favoured over screws and tar used to create the waterproofing on the huge hull. A museum here tells the story of the dhow and gives visitors an insight into how they are made.

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Only 30km from Sur is the majestic natural gorge and waterway of Wadi Tiwi. This fertile wadi meanders through a number of agricultural villages which grow dates and bananas, enjoying views of the majestic mountains nearby.

Its colourful canyon walls soar skyward on either side of a bubbling spring which snakes down through the gorge.

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Further east, travellers come to Ras al Had, the gateway to the Ras al Jinz Turtle Sanctuary.

A modern, interactive visitor centre provides an informative background to one of nature's true spectacles: the nocturnal nesting of sea turtles on a stretch of unspoiled beach. Guided tours by specially trained staff allow visitors to get up close and personal with the turtles by torchlight without fear of disturbing the animals or their precious nest of eggs.

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Another treasure of the Sharqiah region is Wadi Bani Khalid - without a doubt one of Oman's most spectacular swimming spots. This is a genuine desert oasis of green palm trees and shimmering water rising out of the landscape.

Fed by a year-round spring, the waters of Wadi Bani Khalid beckon visitors with the opportunity to swim in a surreal environment after travelling through the harsh landscape of the desert. A relaxing picnic lunch by the waters of Wadi Bani Khalid will be a highlight of most travellers' time in Oman.

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Inland, the dunes of Sharqiah Sands, formerly known as Wahiba Sands, await.

Two and a half hours from Muscat, an hour south-west of Sur, these huge dunes are an off-road paradise with towering dunes curling and rolling to the horizon in every direction. Sharqiah is home to Bedouins who brave the extreme conditions here for all but the hottest parts of the year.

Nestled between the dunes, comfortable desert camps range from simple Bedouin style to luxurious modern accommodation. Few experiences compare to the magic of a desert sunset before retiring for a feast under the cover of the Milky Way.

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Further south and lying off Oman's east coast, is Mazirah Island, a booming kite-surfing and windsurfing destination which also offers opportunities for fishing, diving and turtle watching.

The island was historically used as a RAF base before it was handed over to the RAFO (Royal Air Force of Oman). This adventure playground is located a one-hour ferry ride from the coast.

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Duqm, the capital of Al Wusta, marks the midway point between Muscat and Salalah in the southernmost Dhofar region. The journey between the two makes for a truly memorable road adventure taking in much of the varied terrain and culture of Oman, and Duqm is a convenient stopover point.

Here, the city is being rapidly developed - albeit with typical Omani flair - to create one of the most significant shipping ports of the region. This marks a return to Oman's past where its location between Europe, Asia and Africa made it a strategic trading hub for spices, textiles, and precious metals.

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Al Wusta is the gateway to the Empty Quarter or Rub al Khali, an astonishingly vast region of seemingly featureless dunes - the largest sand desert in the world - spanning the western part of Oman and making up most of neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

Here, the distinct lack of any notable variation in the terrain - or any indication of life in any form - is a spectacle in itself. The barren, endless desert spans the entire horizon and has a veritable lunar quality to it. The convenience of modern, air-conditioned four-wheel drives allowing comfortable access to what was once impassable terrain.

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Dhofar's capital, the beautiful city of Salalah, is known as the southern capital of Oman. Facing south over the Arabian Sea, it boasts pristine white beaches to accompany its enviable climate.

Its vibrant culture reflects its historical association with Zanzibar, a one-time colony of Oman. Beautiful hotels, colourful souqs, and a stunning natural backdrop make Salalah one of the country's favourite cities for travellers.

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Nearby Mirbat is a picturesque seaside town, complete with its own majestic castle, a captivating souq, and the ruins of an old town dating back many hundreds of years.

Visitors will also enjoy the opportunity to see local fishermen bringing in the day's catch down by the water's edge, and are then able to purchase the freshly caught seafood at the souq shortly afterwards. An absolute delight.

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Taqah is another Dhofari town with a rich history, having been a major shipping port for both frankincense and myrhh.

Both of these fragrances are harvested from locally grown species of trees and at one point were worth more than their weight in gold. This led to a prosperous local economy, with the town's impressive Taqah Castle museum revealing tales of its glorious past in a collection of fascinating exhibits. Taqah is a favourite destination for Omanis as it represents the birthplace of their beloved Sultan, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos.

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East of Taqah, visitors will discover the remains of the ancient port of Sumhuram. Located at Khawr Rawri, Sumhuram is one of four sites on the UNECSO 'Land of the Frankincense Trade' World Heritage List.

Here, an impressive collection of ruins is still the focus for archaeological teams who seek to unearth more about this once thriving city. Sumhuram has commanding views over the waters of Khawr Rawri and across to the ocean, a key consideration in the town's planning which allowed for the monitoring of shipping and also ensured its safety from marauders.

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Another UNESCO-listed site is Al Balid Archaeological Park, with ruins dating back well into pre-Islamic times.

Like Sumhuram, it was also a trading port for frankincense. However, it was also a major port for the shipping of Arabian horses. References to Al Balid and its splendour date back millennia, including notable mentions by Marco Polo around 2000 years ago.

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Another UNESCO World Heritage site is at Shisr - The Lost City of Ubar. This remarkable relic was discovered in 1992 with the aid of a NASA satellite, having been buried under shifting sands for 1000 years.

It is thought to be the famed 'Atlantis of the Sands', a trading hub on the caravan routes of antiquity, and a place of unparalleled opulence that thrived as a centre for trading local fragrances with exotic goods from the East. Its ruin came suddenly when the limestone over which it was built collapsed, the desert sands quickly covering it. It quite literally disappeared off the map.

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Wadi Dawkah - another UNESCO World Heritage site - is a protected stretch of over one thousand frankincense trees situated about 40km north of Salalah.

The precious sap from these trees brought the country great wealth through the ages, and forged connections with other nations as the fragrance was traded as far away as Europe and China.

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Perhaps the best place to trace Oman's prosperous path through history is the Land of Frankincense Museum. Located in Salalah, this fascinating space hosts a range of interactive exhibits which take visitors on a journey through more than 10,000 years of human history.

Numerous ancient artefacts are on display, from the excavated columns of buildings built two thousand years ago to pieces of stone tooling used by fishermen two thousand years before that. This museum is perhaps the most complete and comprehensive in Oman - a must-see for any visitor to Salalah.

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Only 30 minutes drive from Salalah, Wadi Darbat is one of Oman's true natural treasures, an oasis of wildlife and lush green vegetation at the base of the Dhofar Mountains.

During the height of the khareef, waterfalls cascade over the wadi's rocky slopes. Camels graze on the abundant grasses on the banks, and birds nest in the wetlands. The region comes alive with the cool summer rains, creating a festival atmosphere. It will undoubtedly rank as one of the highlights of any Oman holiday.

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Above Salalah, on the northern side of the Dhofar mountains, travellers descend into Wadi Shuwaymiya. Here, they are greeted with richly coloured rock formations which curve and flow in remarkable patterns.

Every so often, the wadi floor is coloured by the vibrant green of acacias and palm trees, while limestone stalactites hang from cliff faces in the background. The majesty of Wadi Shuwaymiya has an other-wordly quality about it, its landscape distinct from the many other wadis to be found across Oman.

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Al Mughsayl is located about an hour by road west of Salalah. On a strikingly beautiful section of the Omani coast, the sea crashes against the cliff faces and rushes up through a small opening to create an impressive blowhole.

Al Mughsayl enjoys a breathtaking vista west towards Ras Sajir, where the beautiful charcoal mountains terminate in precipitous white faces which plunge into the turquoise sea. A visit to Dhofar will provide many of the highlights of an Oman holiday with its offer of stunning scenery, incredible history, and various unique elements of Omani culture.

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The Sultan Qaboos Grand is a contemporary place of worship, serving as a spiritual landmark for modern Oman. It maintains a perfect balance between aesthetics, culture and Islamic tradition and pays tribute to Oman's civilisations through the ages.

The mosque occupies a monumental site with the main prayer hall large enough for more than 6,000 worshippers, and a capacity of up to 20,000 on the grounds. In the interior, an 8-tonne crystal chandelier hangs from the 50 metre high central dome. The hand-stitched carpet in the main prayer hall measures 70 x 60 metres and weighs over 21 tonnes.

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Muscat's buildings never rise more than ten storeys - a longstanding decree by His Majesty the Sultan to ensure that the city's magnificent mountain backdrop is never overshadowed my man-made structures.

Rather than skyscrapers, the twin forts of Al Mirani and Al Jilali - perched atop the headlands on either side of the harbour - have pride of place on Muscat’s skyline. They represent just two of the many forts and watchtowers from centuries past which can be seen on the mountains surrounding the city.

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Al Alam Palace is the official residence of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos. It rests between the twin forts of Al Mirani and Al Jilali, and features a unique, striking design that includes a stunning forecourt area.

The palace sits right on the waterfront within the old city wall, parts of which have been lovingly restored. Contemporary travellers can pass freely through the gates into Old Muscat now and marvel at the fact that, until 1970, these gates were locked at sunset each day as had been customary for almost five centuries prior.

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Mutrah Souq provides an insight into a way of life which has remained largely unchanged through the centuries - stallholders still sell frankincense, silver jewellery, spices, fabrics and Bedouin handicrafts in its many shopfronts. A visit to Mutrah is a must-do on any visit to Muscat, with fragrances on the air and the sight of Omani men in their traditional dishdashas sharing the news of the day over cups of qahlwa making for a truly immersive cultural experience.

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Muscat's glittering new, world-class performing arts centre is a physical representation of the Sultan's vision for the future of Oman's cultural heritage. This stunning building features an exquisite decorative design inspired by Middle Eastern tradition, and is the first of its kind on the Arabian Peninsula. It is in the heart of Muscat and showcases diverse artistic performances from Oman, the region and the world. It hosts opera, music, dance and family events. An unforgettable night out in Muscat.

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Khasab is a lively town in the scenic north with landmarks that include the ruins of Bait al - Qufl, fortified buildings and picturesque Khasab Castle that overlooks the harbour.

Cruise the turquoise waters of Khor ash Sham - Musandam's most spectacular fjord - on a dhow, and explore the mountains that tower over the waters below.

Khasab can be accessed by road from Dubai (approx. 3 hours) or by air from Muscat (approx. 45 minutes). The world's fastest passenger ferries now provide services between Muscat and Khasab, offering luxurious comfort for the 5 hour, 450km journey.

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The nearby village of Tawi is home to fascinating rock paintings and petroglyphs depicting animals and warriors dating back millennia, a testimony to the long-standing settlement of the region.

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At the tip of the Musandam Peninsula is Kumzar - a town accessible only by boat. Kumzar marks the northernmost settlement of Oman, a place where the people have their own unique language and culture dating back over 500 years.

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Telegraph Island, or Jazirat Al Maqlab, is another popular destination in the region for snorkellers, combining awe-inspiring scenery above the water with a bounty of treasures beneath.

In the 19th century, a British repeater station was located on the island to boost messages along the London to Karachi telegraphic cable.

Abandoned nearly 150 years ago, the island remains deserted but for the ruins of the repeater station. A fascinating relic of the British Empire.

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explore the sultanate of oman

explore the sultanate of oman

explore the sultanate of oman

explore the sultanate of oman

explore the sultanate of oman

explore the sultanate of oman

explore the sultanate of oman

explore the sultanate of oman

learn more about the extraordinary experiences that await