- Continent: Asia
- Area: 309,500 km²
- Population: 4,013,391
- Capital city: Muscat
- ISO code: OM
- National language: Arabic
- International dialing code: +968
- Currency: Omani Rial
- License plate number: OM
- Alternative spelling: Omã, Omão
- Flight routes from Oman: 716
- Flight routes to Oman: 744
- Popular airports: Muscat (MCT), Salalah (SLL), Khasab (KHS), Mukhaizna (UKH), Duqm (DQM), Sohar (OHS)
- Large cities: Muscat, As Sīb, Salalah, Bawshar, Suhar, As Suwayq, Ibri, Saham, Barkah, Rustaq, Buraimi, Nizwá, Sur, Bahla', Al Khābūrah
- Airlines based in Oman: Oman Air, SalamAir
Oman travel guide (Asia)
Location: the Sultanate of Oman is on the south-eastern tip of the Arabian peninsula and borders in the north on the Strait of Hormuz, in the east on the Gulf of Oman and in the south on the Arabian Sea. The country shares borders with the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and with Yemen. The strategically important enclaves of Musandam on the Strait of Hormuz and Mahda in the Gulf of Oman along with numerous smaller islands in the Arabian Sea also belong to Oman.
Geography: Oman is a desert state and at the same time a mountainous country with stony and barren wastes, sand dunes, impressive mountains and lush green oases. There are long sandy beaches on the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman. A large part of the country is dominated by the extensive Arabian Desert: the Rub al-Khali that covers much of Saudi Arabia and Yemen and stretches far into Oman dominating the western part of the country. In the north of the sultanate, parallel to the Gulf of Oman the Al Hajar al Gharb-mountains form a natural border to the drier parts of the country. This is also the location of the highest summit of the country, the Jebel Shams (Mountain of the sun), which has an altitude of 3,020 metres (9,908 ft). The mountain range stretches for 680 km (422 miles) in an arch and reaches an altitude of up to 3,000 metres (approximately 9,000 feet). North of these mountains is the 300 km long and 30 km wide desert of Al-Batinah, which is used intensively for agriculture due to the fertility of the soil. This is also the location of the most important and most populated cities of the Sultanate of Oman. South of the mountain chain, the sand dune zone extends to the southwest to the hills of Dhofar and the elongated Qara mountains near the coast, where the large provincial town of Salalah is situated.
Climate and best time to travel: there are two climate zones in Oman that are very different from each other. In the interior of the country there is a dry desert climate, whereas in the coastal regions the climate tends to be subtropical and maritime. In most regions of the country it is hot and very dry all year round. For visitors from Europe the most agreeable time to travel is between October and March as daytime temperatures are more tolerable during this time, tending not to climb above 30° C. High air humidity is also not usual during this time of the year.
Language and Communication: the official language in Oman is Arabic. In general, English is understood in the larger cities and in the coastal towns. A few Arabic words and phrases may help in opening the doors and hearts of the locals.
Health, immunisation and safety: immunisation certificates are expected from travellers arriving from countries and parts of countries that have been designated by the WHO as infected areas. Vaccinations against tetanus, diphtheria and polio as well as hepatitis A are recommended. Health care outside Maskat does not comply with European standards and a worldwide travel insurance covering repatriation costs is recommended for visitors to Oman. A personal first aid kit is also indispensable along with some kind of protection against high temperatures. Since 1999, the death penalty has been in force in Oman for anyone found dealing with or in possessing of drugs. The importation of fresh food, especially pork products, is also forbidden. The police, military and border controls should not be photographed.
Entry requirements: British passport holders may obtain a visa at any port of entry in Oman but should check visa requirements prior to embarking on their journey. Information for those travelling with children and rules governing the entry into the country with prescription drugs can be obtained at the Omani representation in London.
Arrival and onward journey: the Sultanate is served by many of the major airlines. There are good connections from Amsterdam with the KLM, from London with British Airways, and with Oman’s national airline Oman Air (WY) from many European airports. Oman air also provides good connections from Masqat to Salalah (SLL), Sur (SUH) and Khasab (KHS), Masirah (MSH) and Thumrait (TTH).
Capital city: the capital, Masqat, has a population of 60,000 but if the entire metropolitan area is counted then the population increases to 900,000. The city, once occupied by the Portuguese, and that had a strategically important position in the middle ages for trade in the Indian ocean, is well shielded by the mountains and still has a great significance for the oil trade and the popular Omani frankincense, which is considered the best in the world. Only very few buildings still bear testimony to the 150 years of colonial past, these include the well-preserved fortresses of Mirani and Jalali from the 16th Century. The new and modern Muskat is a representative governmental and palatial city with many car parks and extensive parks. A search for oriental relics in the city will be in vain, the whole of the Arabic Souq and the inner city district have completely disappeared. Places of interest include the Sultan Qaboos Mosque, the Ali Mosque, the palace of the sultan and the dream beaches of Qurum, Bandar Al-Jissah and Yeti. Those in search of the magic of "1001 nights" are better off going to the neighbouring Matrah. This is where the lively oriental markets and the smell of the orient can be encountered.
Places of interest and beaches: Oman’s green coast of Al-Batinah offers the best and the cleanest beaches. The coast is accessible via a good motorway from Muskat. Cultural sights border the entire long coastal strip: castles, palaces and old oases that are attracting tourists with their Islamic architecture. Particularly recommended are the oasis towns of Rustaq, Al-Hazm and Nakhl, and the harbour town Sohar, also known as the birth town of Sinbad the sailor.
The exclave of Musandam on the street of Hormuz is also interesting. This is called the Norway of Arabia due to the unique fjord landscape. The area has a well-developed infrastructure as a result of its excellent location and the economic potential of the area. The area, once an insider tip, is sparsely populated and offers a wild landscape, providing an unforgettable holiday by a grand fjord landscape that can be explored either using a speedboat or the traditional Dhau.
The largest tourist area is in the south of the country, on the wide and green coastal strip of Dhofar, and this is where the inhabitants of the overheated Gulf States recover from the summer heat in the agreeable temperatures. This coastal strip is influenced by the Indian monsoon and has since the middle ages been the handling place for goods such as myrrh and frankincense and is the site of the UNESCO protected harbour town of Salalah, another tourist highlight as the town is host to the grave of the Queen of Sheba.
Highlight: In the interior on the way to the capital of Nizwa, the visitor is confronted by breathtaking countryside in the Rub al-Chali sand desert that is almost devoid of humanity. Since the middle ages, Nizwa has been the secret capital city of Oman as opposed to the world city of Muskat and the old town accommodates a massive fortress constructed to combat the Portuguese. Only the minarets and the blue and gold coloured dome of the Jamia Masjid are higher than the fortress building. Nizwa also gained in fame due to the excellent craftsmanship particularly in silver and gold that can be purchased in the souqs for a fraction of the European price. The oasis of Bahla, west of Nizwa, is also worth a mention as this is where the clay fortress of Hisn-Tamah is to be found. The fortress is a UNESCO world heritage site and is the largest in the sultanate with 14 gates and 132 towers.
Religion: the state religion of the sultanate of Oman is Islam. Other religions are tolerated due to the liberal theocratic attitude. A total of 86% of the population are of Sunnite belief. There is also a large minority of Hindus (about 13%) and a small minority of Christians, Buddhists and Jews.
Major cities and accommodation: Sib, Salala, Matra, Bauschar, Sohar and As-Suwaiq.