The Sultanate of Oman is an off-the-beaten track desert destination for lovers of empty sand dunes rolling into the distance, and miles of pristine beaches lining the Gulf. Mountain trails lead to ancient tombs, desert forts, wadi oases and walled castles, while cruise ships glide along the Gulf to Muscat’s busy port.
Day 1: Magical Muscat
Muscat has been a legendary sea port for centuries, and a strict eye for tradition means the city has an attractively uniform appearance of elegant domes and arches, with few nods to high-rise modernity. Hindu temples, Christian churches and a number of graceful mosques dot the city’s skyline, and Muscat’s eclectic collection of museums delve into natural history, Omani heritage, military history, and oil and gas exploration. Tour Muscat with a private guide for insights into Omani daily life and traditions, and take a stroll along the harborfront corniche by the port at Muttrah.
Day 2: Market Mayhem
Shopping in Oman can mean haggling for brass bowls, leather slippers, velvet robes and pottery in the traditional Arab souks. Gold jewelry and precious gems glitter by the port in Muttrah’s souk, plus local handicrafts and heady spices like frankincense and myrrh. You’ll find upmarket shopping malls of marble and glass in Muscat and Qurum, with European department stores and supermarkets alongside traditional Arab merchants specializing in richly colored carpets and textiles.
Day 3: Oman Day Trips
Day trips into the Omani desert travel through the mountains to oases of palm trees and the historic fort of Nizwa. Built in 1668, the huge fort’s tower and battlements protected this former trading center at the foot of the Hajar Mountains. Today, Nizwa’s busy souk is a lively reminder of the city’s former glory, and a particularly good place to source fine silver jewelry and souvenir copper coffee pots. For a fortified building with a difference, take a day trip to the fortress home of the imams at Barka en route to ancient Rustaq Fort, the epitome of a sandcastle stockade.