Muscat
Jebel Akhdar
Nizwa
Wahiba Sands
Musandam

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22.12.2012

Muscat Alien Arrival

A lavishly decorated Xmas tree greeted us at Muscat Airport at 02:00 am. We found this rather irritating! Didn’t we come to Oman to get away from exactly this? And now, the same ole “Jingle Bells” ambience? Minutes later nothing was the same. As the door opened into the arrival hall, we stared into a couple hundred faces, all male. Pakistanis, as our taxi driver later explained, picking up friend arriving on the plane from Karachi. He could not resist pointing out a big difference between him and them: Pakistanis pick up arriving...[more]

Category: Oman

23.12.2012

Scuba Diving in Oman

Ras Al Sawadi, an hour drive north of Muscat, was not really worth all the hassle. After fighting our way through a serious traffic jam coming from Muscat, we were rushed on a boat. Another hour we spent racing towards Daymaniyat Islands Nature Reserve for very little to see, literally. Visibility was appalling! If there were any major fish or turtles, we could not see them because of all the plankton floating around making it hard to even spot our group. October we were told is the best time for diving, with excellent...[more]

Category: Oman

24.12.2012

Muscat - The Myth

Are we in Muscat? We kept asking ourselves repeatedly while gliding along on the palm tree-lined highway. It seemed an endless journey along neat buildings without ever getting to a center. Why the confusion? Muscat is basically a 40-kilometer longish stretch along the coast, including smaller and bigger towns. At one point to decided to see what’s beyond the scenic highway and ended up right in front of a fish market and a large souk. Not a bad place to stop by accident. It was the souk that gave away the secret of our location....[more]

Category: Oman

25.12.2012

Nakhal and Rustaq

The fortress of Nakhal was the perfect start for our “fortress hoping” in Oman. Its hilltop location makes it the perfect photo opportunity, probably the best of all Omani fortresses and we should know - we visited eight out the 500 in total! Sitting majestically on a small hill is one thing, but this superbly renovated fortress brings its past back to life. Rooms full of old furniture and tools put the visitors hundreds of years back in time. Construction started in the 9th century, but extensions and renovation only ended in...[more]

Category: Oman

25.12.2012

Oman’s Death Road

This dusty, windy, steep and narrow road across the Hajer Mountains brought back great memories - biking down Bolivia’s “Death Road” (La Carratera de la Muerte) from La Paz to Coroico in 2007. Equally picturesque, but biking this road we would never consider! The incline was sometimes so steep that we could see nothing but the hood of our car. We could only hope that we were not going over a cliff or run head on into a car. Wannabe daredevils as we are, we had saved the 300 Euros for renting a GPS. It showed as soon as we headed...[more]

Category: Oman

26.12.2012

Wadi Ghul: the “Grand Canyon” of Oman’s Alps

Cold it was up there when we finally pulled into Jebel Shams Resort, at almost 2.000 meters above sea level. For 150 € (half board) the large room was very cozy and warm, but the restaurant reminded more of a cheap buffet of a high-school cafeteria. From our room we could see the lights of the military base high up on top of Jebel Shams. We were not envying the soldiers up in their chilly barracks. Guarding what? At the crack of dawn we started our trek into Wadi Ghul, Arabia’s Grand Canyon, following the narrow foot path hewn into...[more]

Category: Oman

26.12.2012

Tombs of Al Ayn - The Journey was the Reward

You would expect a minimum of protection for tombs built 3000 BC, in prehistory times, during the Bronze Age, wouldn’t you? Well, not even as much as a fence there was! We are talking about structures that are older than the Great Pyramids… You might also expect at least a sign, helping the clueless tourist find its way there. Well, there is simply none! We could see the tombs in the distance, neatly lined up on the ridge of a small hill, but found no access road, not even after an elderly man pointed in a direction. Desperate,...[more]

Category: Oman

26.12.2012

Bahla - Mud Fortress

Taking a wrong turn can be rewarding. In our case it took us straight to the gigantic Fortress of Bahla, Oman’s oldest Fort. Its renovation has been going for decades, since only hand made clay bricks are used, to get as close to the original as possible. Despite such immense efforts to make it look authentic, it comes across a bit too neat, like most castles in Oman. For unknown reasons, it is only open for the Omani weekend, Thursday and Friday. Thus we never set foot inside. But there are unique things to see right outside! Next...[more]

Category: Oman

27.12.2012

The Friendliness Gene

Three adjectives to describe Omani? Friendly, tolerant and not pushy! Evolution must have been especially generous towards the people in this area of the Arabic Peninsula. Only being equipped with extra large portions of politeness and tolerance genes could have made the Omani such relaxed, friendly and open-minded people. Especially tourists arriving by cruise ships expose locals to sightings that are difficult to stomach. Men and women in tight shorts and tank tops roam the souk, revealing plenty of sunburned flesh and large...[more]

Category: Oman

27.12.2012

Nizwa - The Perfect Base

Nizwa is the perfect base. The fortresses of Jebreen, Bahla, Nizwa and numerous oases wait to be visited. We interrupted our tour of the oases around Nizwa only to get out of the worst heat of the day. Our first choice to do so, Al Hotta Caves, were closed for maintenance. The other option was the museum inside Nizwa Fort with is great display of clothes, tools, household equipment, jewelry, coins and simple furniture. Despite the heat, we climbed to the top of the Fort to get a view of Nizwa. Unfortunately there is no walkway...[more]

Category: Oman

27.12.2012

Omani Cuisine - Indian Run

We did not really know what to expect. The last thing we had hoped for were the absolutely delicious fruit juices: mango, avocado, kiwi, pineapple, pomegranate... Can’t make up your mind? Have a fruit cocktail! It comes in colorful layers and is addictive. Mezzes come first - tabouleh, hummus, aubergine puree, yoghurt with cucumbers and mint - all long time favorites of us. Add excellent fish, shawarma and chicken. We missed nothing! Indian influence on Omani cuisine is omnipresent. Trade with India has brought the hot stuff to...[more]

Category: Oman

28.12.2012

Oasis - Mania

Oases are clearly visible from afar, announced by large palm groves. In the middle of desert-like areas, they herald the abundance of water. It comes from either mountain / underground springs or Wadis and turns the otherwise dry areas into lush gardens. Inside this maze of trees and under their leafy umbrella, all you hear is water gurgling, gushing & rushing. A sophisticated system of channels, called Alfaj, distributes the water among all families and their gardens. And this is meant literally: Falaj, the singular form, means in...[more]

Category: Oman

28.12.2012

Goat Market in Nizwa

Being there early is essential! Later in the morning, carloads of tourists roam the place. Even before the selling began, the round podium in the center of the roofed-in arena was filled with men dressed in white Dishdasha, looking elegant and important. A sudden noise of shuffling feet announced the selling and the crowd of humans and animals in the circle started moving. Soon the noise increased, as the men were calling out the price and touting the qualities of the goats, which they were dragging or carrying around this base. As...[more]

Category: Oman

29.12.2012

Al Mudayrib - A Myth

Without blinking we took a long detour, when our guidebook described Al Mudayrib as the most stunning oases in the region. Well, there was absolutely nothing worth coming such a long way… So we decided to admire what we had, a gigantic bulk of cars / trucks parked in front of a mosque. People had come from all around, even smaller villages, for Friday prayers. Via speakers the praying and singing was clearly audible outside. Now we were ready for a bit of adventure and decided to cut across the edges of Wahiba Desert on a dirt road....[more]

Category: Oman

29.12.2012

Ramlat Wahiba - Not Just for Us!

Wahiba Desert, 10.000 km2 of reddish dunes rolling all the way to the Indian Ocean! The simple beauty of this and the feeling of vastness leave nobody untouched. The more entrepreneurial Bedouins have turned the fascination with this endless desert into a successful business idea. Within a 20 to 30 kilometer range of the oasis of Al Wasil, various families have set up camps in the desert. When we had difficulties booking a nice camp back in September, it slowly sank in that it would not be just the two of us out there......[more]

Category: Oman

30.12.2012

Luncheon in the Dunes

Up at the crack of dawn… How does the desert look like early in the morning? Nothing special actually, with the sun still hiding. Slowly the camp came to life and the Bedouins got the camels ready. We spent a long time studying every move of these animals close up. Even got to feel their very moves during an hour-long ride through the desert - a heavenly experience. Back in camp, we realized that most visitors just stay for one night. Now that is was “our” camp, we almost regretted having asked Khaled, one of the guides, to take us...[more]

Category: Oman

30.12.2012

Wadi Bani Khalid - Paradise Lost

If there ever was a Garden of Eden, it must have looked like Wadi Bani Khaled - much more than the usual picturesque oasis! Here emerald colored pools lined with palm trees and reed welcome the visitors. An easy trek leads into a narrow canyon with more pools surrounded by large boulders. Needless to say that everybody wants to see such a place. Nowhere else in Oman did we see so many tourists in one place. And they are so obvious! Who else would bathe in public, stripped down to shorts and bikinis? That’s how most visitors present...[more]

Category: Oman

30.12.2012

Al Kamil - Khalfan’s very own Museum

A bit overdosed by fortresses, we reluctantly turned off the road when our guidebook announced another one. What also made the decision easier: the name of this small town had a nice ring to it - Al Kamil. Strangely, we could see the fort right in front of us, but we could not find the right alley to get there… We were about to give up when suddenly a smiling face appeared from behind a beautifully carved wooden door. The enthusiastic young man was Khalfan bin Khamis bin Halais al Hashmi, the grandson of the sheik who had given the...[more]

Category: Oman

31.12.2012

Ras Al Jinz - Nightly Tour of Turtle Beach

Thousands of Green Turtles arrive at the beaches of Ras Al Hadd and Ras Al Jinz every year to lay their eggs in the sand. To do so they dig a deep hole with their powerful flippers. A truly moving experience! We arrived a bit worried: all the odds for seeing turtles were against us. Turtles avoid the full moon, it had rained the day before and it was not best the season for turtle viewing. But luck was on our side and we were even able to watch various turtles at different stages of the elaborate process: digging the ditch, laying...[more]

Category: Oman

31.12.2012

Dhows Made in Sur

Dhows have been plying the oceans for thousands of years, taking Arab traders to India and as far as China. The city of Sur has a long tradition of building these wooden vessels, especially the very big ones, called Ghanjah. Of course, nowadays modern container ships do the job, but dhows have not disappeared and the dhow shipyard in Sur is the largest of all the Arabian countries. We were a bit hesitant - was it okay to simply walk in? None of the builders hammering and sawing away on two big dhows seemed to pay any attention, so...[more]

Category: Oman

31.12.2012

Made by Pakistani

Driving along excellent roads and looking at all the buildings that have gone up in the last forty years, you wonder how Pakistan has been able to supply all this manpower needed to support the incredible development of Oman. And Oman is not even “using” that many: only 25% of its population are expatriates. This is nothing compared to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States, where their numbers climb as high as 90%. There is clear order. Bangladeshi work the fields, Indians run shops and restaurants. Young women from South East Asia...[more]

Category: Oman

01.01.2013

Wadi Shab

Very long stilts - like the legs of giant spiders - support the six-lane highway spanning the mouth of Wadi Shab, right where it empties into the ocean. A surrealistic view! Deep down in the valley, shaded by the wide concrete band of the highway starts Wadi Shab, a canyon guiding a small river lined with the palm trees. After exiting the highway, a small road winds its ways down to the valley floor. To start the hike into the 14 kilometer long Wadi, we had to take a small boat across. Immediately we noticed the damaged palm trees...[more]

Category: Oman

01.01.2013

New Year’s Eve in Muscat

No shoes! Arriving in Muscat, Heidi stared down at her sneakers and realized they were still soaking wet from walking through the pools at Wadi Shab… But those were all she had. It was New Year’s Eve and we could not see ourselves in another cheap Indian restaurant where leaving a trail of muddy water behind might not have been noticed. Searching for presentable shoes we learned Omani hypermarkets have everything you can possibly think of, including sandals. The next issue was a bit trickier. Where should we spend the very last...[more]

Category: Oman

01.01.2013

Tourism in Oman

Numbers are rising. Two millions tourists came in 2011, quite an increase considering that 30 years ago there were none. Ambitions run high, Oman’s tourist authorities aim at 20 millions by 2020. The very symbol for these efforts is the immense constructions site of the new airport. And the sultan doesn’t want to give it away cheaply: the focus is clearly on upscale tourism. No problem for Oman’s most faithful clientele: European expatriates from other Gulf States. They love Oman - no other country in the gulf offers what Oman has:...[more]

Category: Oman

02.01.2013

The Fjords of Musandam

Our little propeller plane slowly descended on the Peninsula of Musandam, Oman’s most northern enclave. We could make out Iran in the distance and big oil tankers below us in the Strait of Hormuz. Then suddenly, the incredible coastline of Musandam glided into full view for those sitting on the right side of the aircraft. Cameras clicking and gasps of excitement filled the small plane. For those with a more untamed mind, the rigged coastline resembles giant crippled fingers reaching out into the ocean. Steep slopes of bare rocks,...[more]

Category: Oman

03.01.2013

Khasab - The Anti-Dubai

The Anti-Dubai seems the perfect dubbing for this sleepy harbor town on the tip of Musandam, only a three hours drive from glittery Dubai. Khasab, right on the straight of Hormuz, was not on the tourist radar 20 years ago and could only be reached by boat. Today, it attracts three cruise ships a week and is most popular with expatriates fleeing the traffic jams and glass palaces of Dubai to enjoy the cool mountain air and tranquility. Their pit stop is the luxurious Golden Tulip Hotel on the western end of the bay. The mountains...[more]

Category: Oman

03.01.2013

Smuggling to Iran

All day speedboats from Iran arrive in the harbor of Khasab bringing goats, fruits and vegetables. They return with everything ranging from TV sets, perfume to cigarettes. Rumors have it that even small cars are loaded into the small boats. On the Omani side this is official business but the Iranian police needs to be avoided. That’s why the boats travel in small group to spread out once they are spotted. But it can also be assumed that this business is tolerated for various reasons. Tourists who don’t know or haven’t read about...[more]

Category: Oman

03.01.2013

Wedding - Omani Style

A small procession was moving down the street, women and men together, blocking traffic. Some of the men were firing shots from ancient rifles. What could be it possibly mean? In that moment we remembered a conversation amongst the diving instructors - a huge wedding was about to take place in Khasab. Quick Iike weasels we turned around and followed them. By the time we caught up with them, the men had gathered in front of the groom’s home. We kept our distance but were motioned to come closer and Gilles was even allowed to take...[more]

Category: Oman

04.01.2013

Farewell Oman in Style

In a palace - like mansion right on the beach we spent our last night in Oman. What made it even more exciting - it seemed to be our destiny: on our very first evening in Muscat, we could not find the way back to our guesthouse Lana Villa. Cruising around we noticed this impressive building, not knowing that we would move in two weeks later. L’espace Guesthouse is a grand oceanfront building with three terraces, a little garden and exquisite furnishing. Our room was the size of a suite and from our private terrace we could watch life...[more]

Category: Oman

05.01.2013

Oman - Budget

Oman is an upscale and expensive destination, no matter how you travel and how hard you try to save money. We spent 2.000 € in two weeks per person, which brings expenses to 134 Euros per person per day. If you add the flights from Europe, it means 200€ per person per day. And we did not even splurge! Transport: First, there is no network of public transport, so you have to have a car. Car rentals are cheap in comparison to Europe and gasoline costs close to nothing, nevertheless this remains a significant part of the budget: 350 €...[more]

Category: Oman, Budget

15.08.2013

2 weeks in Oman - Summary

Oman is special. Where else on the Arabic Peninsula has some of the “Sinbad the Sailor” feeling survived? Besides this 1001 Nights flair, we were stunned by lush oases, ancient fortresses, sandy beaches, dramatic mountain scenery, rolling desert dunes, picturesque wadis, deep fjords and overly friendly people. All in one country! Our itinerary? We spent 2 weeks in Oman over X-mas 2012 & New Year 2013. Our itinerary covered Muscat (the capital), Jebel Shams & Jebel Akhdar (the mountains), Nizwa (oases, fortresses and more), the...[more]

Category: Oman, Summaries