Oman Trip Adventure - 2016

The Big Trip: Oman


Wondering where to go for some winter sun? With its classic deserts, rose-speckled mountains and gorgeous blue seas, Oman could well be the answer

Wondering where to go for some winter sun? With its classic deserts, rose-speckled mountains and gorgeous blue seas, Oman could well be the answer

Oh, the wonders of modern travel! Yesterday evening I was shivering in grey and gloomy Britain, now I’m enveloped in a heavenly 30°C heat and surveying the smooth, soothing sands of the Arabian desert. It takes just over seven hours to fly south from London to the Sultanate of Oman, a magic carpet ride that delivers a lot more than instant winter sunshine. Touching down in this dry and crusty world of story-book forts, sugar-cube white houses and camels decoratively set beside palm-filled oases, there’s a clear sense of tuning into a hot, harsh landscape where man has been cutting a wary deal with nature for centuries.

With so much of the Middle East and North Africa in turmoil, it’s a blessing that this long, mountainous country bordering the Arabian Sea has remained safe and stable, thanks to the benign dictatorship of its 75-year old ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said. It’s a special day for His Majesty when we arrive in the capital, Muscat, so my wife is given a celebratory welcoming rose as we pass through Immigration – and you don’t get that at Heathrow.

Dune roaming: a sunset drive at Desert Nights Camp©

A recent report by the World Economic Forum declared Oman the ninth safest country in the world (we’re 63rd), and the abiding mood is one of civility. Omani men sport a smart national costume of long whitedishdashaandkuma(an embroidered cap that originated in Zanzibar), and unlike in the neighbouring UAE where you are overwhelmed with glitz, show-off architecture and expats, here you get to meet the locals. Omani men and women work across all levels of society, with the young often speaking good English.

While it’s feasible to tour Oman as a self-drive holiday, we’re grabbing a sneaky week away in winter so have opted for pre-arranged transfers. Just two hours after leaving Muscat, our affable driver Ahmed is stopping at Al Wasil to deflate the tyres of our 4×4 before we disappear into the apricot dunes of the Sharqiya Sands. Formerly known as the Wahiba Sands, this vast wilderness was famously crossed by the explorer Wilfred Thesiger in 1949. Today it is a choice spot for glamping, and our home for the next two nights is the enchanting Desert Nights Camp where your bedroom comes with a graceful tented roof and solid walls. Interiors reference Omani traditions with big wooden doors, chunky brass fittings and striped rugs, while an outside terrace offers the chance to sit on giant bean-bags contemplating the bewitching light of dawn and dusk.

The sense of getting back to fundamentals without sacrificing comforts is blissful. There’s no TV or wifi, and thankfully no belly-dancers or boozed-up incentive groups. Dinner is a generous buffet under the stars that includes Arabic mezze, salads, barbecued meats and fish, with musicians softly playing the drums andoud(lute). The staff will drive you into the corduroy-like dunes to watch the sunset, or you can go for a 90-minute camel ride into the wilds and hairdryer-hot winds. We do this with a local Omani, Rashid, who turns out to be an IT graduate. While we stand on a dune top, dutifully contemplating the mysteries of life as another day comes to a flaming end, he squats in the sand with his smartphone.

Video: Fishing for Monster GT with No Boundaries Oman

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Date: 09.12.2018, 22:14 / Views: 52331