Oman’s National Day: 52 wonders of Oman

1. Al Alam Palace, Muscat
One of the country’s most easily identifiable and iconic landmarks, Al Alam Palace is the centrepiece of old Muscat, and one of the residences of the Sultan of Oman. The palace, with its signature gold and blue façade, tapering marble columns and intricately latticed windows, in many ways signifies Omani values and culture: it is simultaneously an edifice of tradition, history, elegance and simplicity…positive qualities that have made the welcoming and hospitable nature of Oman renowned the world over.

2. Royal Opera House Muscat
Built to showcase the diversity of artistic creations from the Sultanate, the region and the world and provide a great space for culture, social and economic development and its implications, ROHM is the brainchild of the late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said bin Taimour, and was opened in 2011. One of the Middle East’s first opera houses, according to the Ministry of Tourism.

3. Muttrah Souq
Probably the oldest souq of its kind in the Arab world, Muttrah Souq stands as a symbol of the traditional Omani trade. A wide range of curios in silver, gold, precious gems and textiles are displayed in stalls deep inside the souq. Through the centuries, frankincense, oud and other scents prized in the Middle East have been sold and traded here. Silver lamps, urns and even antique Arabic manuscripts in traditional calligraphic script await your discovery. This is also the best place to find khanjars of different designs.

4. Corniches
Have a long walk along the Muttrah Corniche from the Fish Roundabout to Riyam Park. The busy walkway is crowded with tourists, expats, and locals enjoying the oceanic views and the proximity to the historic Muttrah Souq. After your walk, you can linger at one of the numerous restaurants and cafes. Al Ghubra Corniche is a lush green stretch situated at Al Izdihar Street, near Al Ghubra lake garden, which is fast becoming a popular destination for family picnics because of its safe, quite ambiance. If you stop in the garden after your stroll, be ready to pack up your stuff before 11pm to avoid getting showered by the water sprinklers. Shatti Corniche is located on Shatti Street, locally known as ‘love street,’ this walkway is in a very happening area. With its beautiful palms, BBQ areas, and plenty of restaurants and cafes, it is perfect for an afternoon chill or for a lively evening watching all the sporty cars in Muscat cruising up and down the lane. Seeb Corniche is a beautifully developed 8-kilometre corniche located between Mabela and the Seeb fish market. It’s been renovated and adorned with trees and flowers along the interlocked walkway which also features a kids’ playground. This quiet place is a must-visit in the cool evenings.

5. Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
It is one of the largest mosques in the Sultanate of Oman, and is an architectural and artistic marvel that reflects the beauty of Islamic, Oriental and Omani art. According to Oman News Agency (ONA), Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is characterised by its square shape, in the centre of which is the main dome, which reaches a height of 50 metres, and is bordered by five minarets which represent the five pillars of Islam. The height of the main minaret reaches 91.5 metres, while the height of other minarets reaches 45 metres.

6. Khabourah Castle
Khabourah being located on the coast saw much activity through trade and commerce, requiring the need for fortifications against those who would attempt to raid and plunder the area for its wealth. In contrast, though, Khabourah Castle was not used as a fortification, but as a court where local disputes were brought to light. Renovations to the castle were made in 1994, using materials sourced locally from the surrounding areas.

7. Muscat Gate Museum
It is located above Muscat Modern Gate, and tells the story of Oman’s long history, focusing on the history of Muscat. It describes the UNESCO world heritage listed Falaj irrigation system that Oman is famous for, as well as the nation’s distinctive architecture. According to Oman’s Ministry of Tourism, “The Muscat Gate Museum takes the visitor on a journey through the various stages of development and growth of the city over time, from a commercial port to a prosperous modern capital.”
Located on Al Saidiya Street, Muscat Gate was earlier an official entrance for the old city of Muscat, which used to be shut after sunset.  The museum is located atop the gate, from where you can enjoy the stunning views. Opened in January 2001, the museum contains displays about Oman’s history from the Neolithic times to the present. It has a number of special exhibits on Muscat’s water springs, the ancient wells, underground channels, souqs, houses, mosques, harbours and forts.

8. Al Minzifah, Ibra
The ruins of Al Minzifah, located a short distance from Ibra, the regional capital, provide an indication of what life in Oman was like for some in the early 18th century. The houses, many of which date from the period of prosperity, are of two or occasionally three stories, built from local stone, cemented and plastered with local juss. Care should be taken not to move the structures of these fragile buildings.

9. Al Ayn and Bat Tombs
Another of Oman’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Bat, Al Ayn and Al Khutm constitute a settlement and its accompanying necropolis that remain remarkably well-preserved given they were originally Bronze Age settlements. The tombs of Al Ayn are located some 30km northeast of the settlement of Bat, and feature 21 places of burial which seem to form up in an almost straight line. Built in a rather peculiar beehive-like structure, the tombs were constructed from limestone blocks and assembled with plaster made locally.

10. Duqm Rock Garden
Entering the Rock Garden makes you feel as if you’ve fallen off the face of the earth and landed on another planet. The rocks that lend the garden its name have been shaped by millennia of wind-based erosion, and do lend the area a distinctly other-worldly quality which is only enhanced by the quiet surroundings.

11. Sharqiyah Sands
Earlier known as Wahiba Sands, extends from North and South Al Sharqiyah Governorate to Al Wusta Governorate. With diverse terrain along with different species of flora and fauna, the golden dunes of the Sharqiyah Sands desert hold a special place in the hearts of those who live in Oman or come here as tourists. It extends over an area of up to about ten thousand square kilometres. According to Oman’s Ministry of Tourism, “The sand colour ranges from red to brown as far as the eye can see. It is the original homeland of the Bedouins. This area attracts many desert adventure fans, and is preferred by visitors owing to its ease of accessibility and availability of nearby services, which make it a first-class tourist attraction.”

12. Kumzar, Musandam
Travelling to Kumzar involves sailing through Musandam’s stunning fjords, which have earned this region the epithet ‘the Norway of Arabia’. The town overlooks the Straits of Hormuz, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, a fact reflected in the unique language spoken by its inhabitants, Kumzari,” says the Ministry of Tourism. “The town’s population currently stands at around five thousand, with its own school, hospital, power station and desalination plant. The inhabitants live largely by fishing for nine months of the year, netting barracuda, tuna, kingfish and hamour.

13. Sultan Qaboos Mosque, Nizwa
Built to blend in yet stand out from the surrounding area, the Sultan Qaboos Mosque in Nizwa, the capital of the Dakhiliyah region, was built in 2009, and spans an area of 80,000 square metres. The mosque is capable of accommodating up to 10,500 worshippers, and with Nizwa being an historic centre of learning and knowledge in the Gulf, is a fitting location for the largest mosque in Oman, after the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat.

14. Ayn Jarziz, Dhofar
Travel to Oman’s southern region in the summer, and experiences amazing weather seldom seen elsewhere. While the rest of the Gulf witnesses peak temperatures, the Dhofar’s Khareef season brings with it refreshing rains and cool breezes, which turn the entire landscape green and bring people from across the world.

15. Al Ayjah Bridge, Sur
Also known as the Khor Al Batah bridge, and considered to be Oman’s only suspension bridge, this 240-metre-long bridge was opened in 2009, and helped link Sur to the neighbouring settlement of Al Ayjah. Travelling to Kumzar involves sailing through Musandam’s stunning fjords, which have earned this region the epithet ‘the Norway of Arabia’. Many visit the country’s northern bastion to enjoy the rugged natural beauty, as well as the clear blue waters that are just begging to be dove into.

16. Mirbat, Dhofar
The former capital of the Dhofar region, Mirbat was an important port when it came to trading frankincense, and is a wonderful destination featuring many historical sites, delicious seafood and a lovely, serene landscape. It has many natural tourist sites, historical monuments and buildings of ancient architecture, most notably the castle of Mirbat, which is one of the most important historical and archaeological sites in the wilayat. It overlooks the coast of the ancient port of Mirbat and dates back to the ninth century AD. The castle sits on a cliff and offers superb views of the crashing waves along the coastline.

17. Salut, Ad Dakhiliyah
The ruins of Salut are about an hour’s drive from Nizwa, the capital of the Dakhiliyah region, and feature some of the first permanent settlements built in the country. While in the area, also visit Salut Castle, where a number of relics from the archaeological site have been painstakingly restored and installed.

18. Land of Frankincense, Dhofar
Located in the south of the country, the Land of Frankincense is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Salalah that consists of four separate sites. Farmers harvested the nuggets of the frankincense resin from the trees that grew in the groves of Wadi Dawkah, where they would be loaded onto caravans that stopped over at the oasis of Shisr, also known as Wubar. From there, the bags would be transported to the twin ports of Al Baleed and Khor Rori, to be loaded onto ships which would sail onward to destinations such as Egypt, Rome and China.

19. Barr Al Hikman
Located about 500 kilometres south of Muscat, Barr Al Hikman in Al Wusta Governorate is considered one of the most important bird migration stations both in Oman and the region. Many birds congregate here, especially water birds coming from as far as Siberia’s northern shores. In addition to being a sanctuary for birds and fish of all kinds, the existence of coral reefs off its shores makes it a favourite destination for divers. More than 1 million shorebirds flock to Barr Al Hikman and Masirah Island every year, according to experts.

20. Bilad Sayt
Bilad Sayt is a quaint village seated at the foot of towering and dramatic Hajar mountain ranges. With its picture-postcard perfection of terraced fields and sun-baked houses, it’s one of the prettiest villages in Oman. The villagers prefer visitors to park outside and walk in or simply view the village from a distance. A little haze blanketed the village that was built up on a hill with closely clustered homes made of mud and stone. The village is surrounded by date palms within it is terraced green fields making it look like a dream village. Jagged brown mountains surrounded and loomed over Bilad Sayt, dwarfing the whole village.

21. Masirah Island
Masirah Island in the Governorate of South A’Sharqiyah is a popular tourist destination. Known for kite-surfing, bird-watching, uninhabited beaches, magnificent sea views and rugged terrains, Masirah draws visitors throughout the year. The beaches are home to sea turtles. The tourists are attracted mostly by the turtles scattered along the beaches of Masirah.

22. Bimmah Sinkhole
With its emerald-green waters and serene surroundings, the Bimmah sinkhole is located some 120km from Muscat. Tourists who get to see the sinkhole and its pristine waters are more than welcome to descend to the bottom through a concrete staircase that has been erected for just this purpose.

23. Dates
Oman is known for its unique hospitality and it is common for visitors to be invited for Omani coffee and dates when travelling through the country. Be it any household or an office, guests are welcomed with home-grown dates and traditionally brewed drinks called ‘Kahwa. One can find many date palm fields across many governorates in the Sultanate and farmers grow more than 250 indigenous varieties of dates. Khalas, Khunaizi, and Fargh are some of the best dates grown in Oman.  While Al Khalas is believed to be of the best quality, other varieties like Nagal, Ash Patash, Bunaranja, Mmajdool, Hilali al Hassa, Barni, and Mathloob are quite in demand.

24. Ain Al Thawarah hot springs

Close to the Nakhal Fort, along a winding road framed by palm trees as far as the eye can see, are the Ain Al Thawarah hot springs. This spring is used as a trusted water supply, and there is even a small pool to enjoy the therapeutic properties of the mineral water. Beyond the date plantations that surround Nakhal Fort, this hot spring emerges from the wadi walls and is directed into a falaj (irrigation channel) for the irrigation of the surrounding plantations.

25. Bahla Fort
Bahla Fort is situated at the foot of the Jebel Akhdar highlands in Oman and is a UNESCO-listed fort.The fort underwent massive restoration efforts and reopened in 2012.  According to UNESCO, “ Bahla is an outstanding example of a fortified oasis settlement of the medieval Islamic period, exhibiting the water engineering skill of the early inhabitants for agricultural and domestic purposes. The pre-gunpowder style fort with rounded towers and castellated parapets, together with the perimeter wall of stone and mud brick technology demonstrates the status and influence of the ruling elite.”

26. Jabal Shams
About 3,500 metres above sea level, in the Wilayat of Al Hamra in the Governorate of Al Dakhiliyah is another tourist attraction. It has a unique temperature ranging between 0 in winter and 25°C to 35°C in summer. It is a part of the Al Hajar Mountains range. Life at the summit is something else. While being there, you can enjoy camping, and watching the sunrise and sunset. You can also visit the historical village of “Goul,” which is entirely built with rocks and mud, uniquely sitting on the edge of Jabal Shams, overlooking vast areas of farms. The village is called “Oman’s Grand Canyon” due to the fact that it overlooks a towering canyon called “Shurfat Al Nakhr.”

27. Wadi Bani Khalid
Located some 200 km from Muscat, Wadi Bani Khalid is a traveller’s paradise that encapsulates the unique, sometimes unbelievable, natural beauty of Oman. Often thought to be a harsh, unforgiving desert, Oman is anything but, and areas like Wadi Bani Khalid go a long way in proving that the Sultanate has a diverse and varied natural beauty.

28. Wadi Shab
Wadi Shab in Tiwi in the Wilayat of Sur is a famous tourist destination, especially in summer.  In the midst of awe-inspiring mountains, naturally carved into the most beautiful shapes by the water, there are shallow lakes surrounded by huge boulders, overlooked by narrow rugged trekking pathways attached to the mountains.

29. Wadi Al Hoqain

About 150 km from the Governorate of Muscat, is one of the most beautiful wadis in the Wilayat of Al Rustaq which runs throughout the year.

30. Wadi Daiqah Dam
It is in the Wilayat of Qurayat and is also one of the key tourist attractions.

31. Wadi Al  Arbiyeen
It is in Rustaq and is considered one of the most spectacular wadis in Oman. The deep pools at the edge of Al Hajar mountains, palm trees, mango orchards, and banana farms make it a must-visit place for visitors. Wadi Al Hawqayn is another picturesque wadi located between Muscat Governorate and Wilayat Rustaq. It had year-round flowing springs and streams, as well as cool waterfalls and palm trees. On the road to Sur from Bidbid lies the lush green Wadi Bani Khalid.

32. Manah
The wilayat of Manah is in the Governorate of Al Dakhiliyah, 160km away from Muscat. It is known for its old ruined villages along with modern houses, mosques, and towers. The wilayat has eight villages: Harat Al Bilad, Mu’ammad, Al Ma’arra, Izz, Al Faiqain, Al Mahiyul, Abu Nakhilah and Mitan. There are several archaeological sites and buildings of which Al Fiqain Castle is the most prominent one.

33. Jabal Akhdar
Situated 2,330m above sea level, the temperature is cool here, while the rest of the Gulf experiences scorching heat. You can see beautiful green terraced gardens, and if you love trekking, it’s a paradise for you. Apart from the pomegranates, you can see olives, figs, walnuts, and peaches on street stalls and in every house and farm. On the other hand in March and April, you can pluck fresh roses from gardens. You can also see a rose factory where rosewater and perfume are still made using traditional methods.

34. The Land of Frankincense
Located in the coastal area of Salalah between Dhariz and Hafa, Al Baleed is one of the ancient cities of Oman and was known to be one of an important commercial port.The Land of Frankincense is one of many UNESCO World Heritage Sites located in Oman and was once the centre of the ancient world’s thriving frankincense trade. Heaps of rubbles can be found scattered all around the main site where the excavation work is still under process.

35. Khareef season

The Khareef season is characterised by its cloudy and rainy weather due to the density of clouds and the temperature dropping to less than 30 degrees Celsius in the city of Salalah, while it drops more in the high mountainous areas surrounded by fog associated with light rain. Salalah is transformed into a beautiful oasis due to the light drizzles that cool the air.

36. Bandar Al Khayran

Tucked between captivating sandy mountains 21-kilometres up hilly Qantab Road from Muscat, Bandar Al Khayran is an idyllic retreat with crystal clear waters and a soft sand beach that will make you feel a world away.

37. Al Hoota Cave

Some 250km away from Muscat is the spectacular Al Hoota Cave amidst plateaus and rugged mountain peaks. Known for its natural formation of stalactites and stalagmites, Al Hoota Cave offers a fascinating insight into the cave that is more than 2 million years old.

38. Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve
Turtle nesting tours at Ras Al Jinz allow visitors to witness the spectacle in an intimate fashion without fear of interrupting the creatures. The turtle sanctuary at Ras Al Jinz combines an interactive museum with research laboratories and a wide range of amenities for visitors to learn all about the wonders of these ancient creatures in a family-friendly environment.

39. Khor Rori

Khawr Rawrī or Khor Rori is a bar-built estuary (or river mouth lagoon) at the mouth of Wādī Darbāt in the Dhofar Governorate, Oman, near Taqah.It is a major breeding ground for birds,and used to act as an important harbour for frankincense trade when it was an open estuary. Khor Rori is best known for the ruins of the ancient fortified port city of Sumhuram on the eastern bank. There are also archeological ruins on the two promontories at the mouth of Khor Rori. It is considered the most attractive to tourists as it contains Khawr Ruri port, famously known as Samharam.

40. Khawr Sham
Khawr Sham is located in Khasab and the lagoon covers 20 kilometres. Many villages overlook Khawr Sham, which can be reached only by sea in traditional vessels. Khawr Sham is considered a tourist destination for hiking, camping and watching dolphins. According to Oman’s Ministry of Tourism, “In the middle of Khawr Sham is a small island called Al Telegraph Island, as in 1860 it was used as a base to connect to the telegraph cable.”

41. Daymaniyat Islands
Rich in many types of coral reefs, including rare corals, The Daymaniyat Islands Reserve, lies 18 km off the shores of Barka and is 70km west of Muscat. The Ministry of Heritage and Tourism, describing the reserve, said in a statement, “The reserve is a group of nine islands with a total area of 100 hectares. It is distinguished by its beautiful beaches, white sands and clear blue waters. It also includes rare groups of coral reefs and large numbers of sea turtles which take shelter in the islands to lay eggs and nest. There are countless migratory and settlement birds too which can be seen here.”

42. Horse Racing

Horse breeding has been a long-treasured passion for Omanis and has always been an interest among Arab nobility. Horse racing is a sport enjoyed by all in Oman.
“Interest in horses in Oman is one of the most cherished pastimes for the Omanis,” said the Ministry of Tourism. “Horses symbolise integrity and pride. Because of the horse’s high status and appreciation by Muslims, Oman has been famous since ancient times for raising, breeding, acquiring and caring for horses. Horse racing is a favourite pastime for Omanis. Horse races are held annually, and include the Royal Horse Race, organised by the Royal Stables, and horse racing in the Omani governorates.”

43. Camels
Oman has a deep-rooted connection with camels, it is one of the countries in the Gulf region that has accorded a special status for camels. Known as the ‘Ship of the Desert’, camels have an extraordinary ability to withstand thirst and endure long journeys to remote places.

44. Khanjar
Of all the symbols and artefacts traditionally associated with Oman’s history, heritage, and culture, few have been so dear to locals and expatriates alike as the khanjar. A classic example of Omani tradition and reputation as one of the jewels of Arabia, the khanjar is a dagger worn for the most exalted and ceremonial of occasions, and residents in the country have not hesitated to express their praise for it.

45. Nizwa Fort
Nizwa Fort was recently ranked first in terms of the number of visitors among the castles of the Sultanate. One of the main attractions of the city, Nizwa Fort, an impressive construct under whose shadow the major part of old Nizwa lies. In the olden days, it served as a bastion for noblemen and peasants alike to take shelter from raiders and bandits who attempted to plunder the countryside.

46. Shuwa
Shuwa is a traditional Omani meat dish cooked in an underground oven during Eid.

47. Handicraft
Oman’s handicrafts which are mostly home-based and done by using simple tools have a huge demand among tourists who buy these artefacts as souvenirs. Showcasing the Sultanate’s rich culture and heritage, these handcrafted products include pottery items, products made of palm fronds, silverware and more. According to Oman’s Ministry of Tourism, “Omani arts and crafts are revered treasures that need to be preserved and popularised. Arts and crafts also serve as the main source of the vocation of the citizens in the interior regions of the country. The handicraft industry, if developed properly, can provide huge employment opportunities to artisans that include women and people belonging to interior regions of the country.

48. Wadi Darbat
Wadi Darbat is one of the most beautiful wadis in the Governorate of Dhofar due to its stunning views due to greenery, lush orchards, constant flow of water, and seasonal waterfalls. Wadi Darbat is located in the east of the wilayat of Taqah at a distance of 7 kilometres, where Sidr trees and many large shady trees are spread on its sides. Derbat is known to represent a natural park due to its combined elements such as mountains, waterfalls, caves, and flat plains on both sides, which allows wildlife such as the nests of endemic and migratory birds and various wild animals to exist.

49. Qalhat
Once the capital of ancient Oman, the city of Qalhat was recently placed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites for its historical significance and its role in Oman’s evolution between the 11th and 15th centuries. “The Ancient City of Qalhat presents a unique testimony to the Kingdom of Hormuz, as it prospered from the 11th to 16th century CE,” UNESCO informed in a statement. “Ancient Qalhat presents exceptional evidence of a major trade hub, which came under the rule of the Princes of Hormuz and profited from its geo-political position in the region.”

50. Rub Al Khali
Home to towering dunes there are many stories of famous explorers having travelled to Rub Al Khali. One of the largest sand deserts in the world, the Rub Al Khali (Empty Quarter) is teeming with wildlife, ranging from reptiles to various birds of prey and smaller mammals.

51. Dolphin Watching

 Several places in Oman are known for their dolphin habitats. The capital, Muscat, is of course known for dolphin watching, but other areas like the Dimaniyat and Masirah Islands are also popular, as both are great places from which you can spot dolphins, as is Musannah, which is roughly halfway between Muscat and Sohar.

52. Al Hamra
Al Hamra is a well-preserved old town in Ad Dakhiliyah, Oman. Walking through its warren of alleys and stone steps is like going back in time.  It is home to a number of villages including the mountainside village of Misfat Al Abryeen, with the village of Ghul to the northwest of the town, and Bimah to the north-northeast. The town and province lie on the southern slopes of the Akhdar Mountains.  


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