Oman a Distinctive Tourist Destination

13 04 2009

From Oman Daily Observer

IT is not that very often that an international news agency disseminates feature reports eulogising the beauty of a destination. So when the reputable Australian Associated Press (AAP) featured the Sultanate in one of its latest feature feeds — a story picked up by various journals ‘down under’, it was indeed cause for celebration, most notably at Oman Air, which continues to be a key force in promoting Oman as a distinctive tourist destination.
“The report gives in a nutshell the unique attractions of Oman and why one should visit this country,” says Usama bin Karim al Haremi, Head of Corporate Communications and Media, Oman Air.

Titled Oman — A Land of Beauty, the report was prepared and distributed by AAP, one of the leading news agencies in the world to journals in Australia, and also to customers through AAP’s commercial

partnerships with all major international news agencies. We spotted this report beautifully illustrated in The West Australian newspaper.” In an interesting departure in writing style, the article starts with a Q&A-format introduction that has the writer asking pertinent questions about Oman and answering them himself. The Q&A goes as follows:

What do you want to go THERE for?
Because it is fabulous.
Isn’t it just desert?
No. It has mountains, fertile valleys, superb sandy beaches, fiords, a vibrant capital, exquisite Islamic architecture (including the jaw-dropping Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat), an ancient and fascinating culture that remains largely intact, an array of budget and world-class hotels and some of the best souqs in Arabia. Yes, there is plenty of desert, much of which happens to be very beautiful, plus oases, date palms, camels, ancient forts, archaeological sites, wildlife watching and plenty more.

Is it safe?
You are quite safe in Oman, which has a very low crime rate and a population of polite, gentle people who don’t hassle you and who seem genuinely happy to have you in their homeland, of which they are very proud.

But what do you do there?
Experience all of the above without the attendant masses of tourists you get in Europe, Asia and elsewhere. If it sounds like I am sold on the Sultanate of Oman, you have it in one. It is not for every traveller. Oman is generally hot and, with the exception of the monsoon months in the remote southern region of Dhofar, dry.

The AAP, according to Al Haremi, is Australia’s national news agency that holds a unique and enviable place in the media. “The work of its journalists provides the foundation stones of content in all daily newspapers in Australia; forms the backbone of radio news bulletins; and provides the background detail for talk-back radio shows and television news bulletins. AAP’s domestic news coverage is complemented by alliances with the major international news agencies. In this detailed report on Oman, there is a list of must-do things and must-visit places that the reporter finds impressive,” he says.

The article provides a sampling of things to do and places to visit in the Sultanate:
Muscat: Visit the Corniche at Muttrah, one of three cities that make up the sprawling, blindingly white capital of Muscat. It is an ideal starting point to get a feel for what Oman has to offer. As the name suggests, it is a crescent of coastline that is a modern working port, with a fish market, banks and hotels, yet it retains a romance that on first sight will make you catch your breath. The town is framed by a striking backdrop of bare mountains and the minarets of two beautiful mosques.

At night, when the locals — the men in immaculate dishdashas and the women in beguiling, ankle-length abbayas — stroll along the waterfront to catch the sea breeze, and the mosques are lit in ethereal shades of green and red, the effect is quite magical. Half-way along the Corniche is Muttrah Souq, said to be one of the best in all Arabia. It is like plunging into a parallel universe of silks, frankincense, silver jewellery and tubs of the addictive Arab sweet halwa. Haggle all you like then take a seat, sip a glass of tea, and watch the passing costume parade.

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque (Muscat): Truly, this is one of the most awe-inspiring buildings in the world. Marvel at the sublime lines and symmetry, at the sheer scale of it, at the one-piece, football-field sized carpet that took 600 Iranian women four years to weave, at the crystal chandelier the size of a block of flats, at the carved wooden doors and panels, at the cool corridors of receding arches, at the superb mosaics, at the soaring minarets and sculptured gardens. It is an active place of worship, with room for 6,500 in the main prayer hall alone (men only — the women have a smaller prayer hall to the side where they can watch the imam on CCTV). It is one of the few mosques open to non-Muslims, so act and dress with respect. Women must have head coverings and all visitors need to remove their shoes.

Desert Nights Camp (central Oman): Spend a night in the fabled Rimal al Sharqiya. Ride a camel or a dune buggy, watch the sun set from one of the surrounding high dunes or — better still — get up before dawn and watch the sunrise over the desert. The camp is the most luxurious of several offering overnight desert stays in central Oman. It is within easy four-wheel drive reach of Muscat. The falling Australian dollar makes it expensive (around $800 a couple for dinner, one night’s accommodation and breakfast), but considering you are in a desert, it is amazingly luxurious. One of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences!

Cruise the fiords: (Musandam Peninsula): Play Sinbad the Sailor for a day by cruising in an Arab dhow through the fabulous waters in the very north of the country. These adjoin the Straits of Hormuz, the strategically sensitive oil route between the Gulf states and the outside world. Watch dolphins surf the bow wave, snorkel on the reefs, marvel at the bare mountains and gaze at ancient fishing villages that remain accessible only by water.

Live like a king (Muscat): Stay a night at Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa on the coast just outside the capital. There are 680 rooms spread across three hotels: the family oriented Al Waha, the coolly stylish Al Bandar and the super-luxurious six-star Al Husn, which is perched like a fortress on the headland with a commanding view of the mountains and private resort beach. The hotels are linked by the so-called Lazy River, an aquatic travellator that you can catch at any time and be carried to your destination in blood-warm water. The ambience is of restrained opulence with service levels to match. Rooms from about $350 up to the 500 sqm Royal Suite in the Al Husn. If you have to ask the rate, you can’t afford it.




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