- By Asim Faluja
Spring Break guide | Oman
It is that time of year, the seasons are changing, the financial year is ending and children are on holiday.
Stresses can be very high at this time of year and those seeking to beet the mid Summer chaos are in desperate need of a break.
Whether what you are craving after winter is a boost of vitamin D, a shot of exoticism and rest or adventure in an arresting landscape, the Sultanate of Oman might be your place in the sun.
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Oman is the United Arab Emirates’ quieter, neighbour. Although the two nations overlap with Omani enclaves found within the UAE, there are no ski slopes in shopping malls here.
Oman has cemented a reputation as an unspoilt, high-end, safe destination that is rich in history, culture and dramatic natural beauty.
Muscat is Oman’s low-rise, mountain-backed coastal capital.
The Chedi on the Coast of Muscat, built on Eastern architectural principles, its lush flower gardens watered continually, jade-plumed parakeets swooping between its palm trees, is designed to slow the heartbeat. It houses three pools, the most spectacular is a 100-metre infinity wonder. Infinity pools are a very popular feature in Oman found on rooftops, beach side and even mountain tops.
Sumptuous large white divans line these pools. Chedi’s vast spas, overlook the sea offer suites with dark wood, light linen, sunken baths, complimentary nuts and dried fruit and are a medicated tonic for even the most trammelled of traveller.
It can be hard to tear yourself away from The Chedi and many don’t. However, a whistle-stop city tour, ideally in the morning to visit The Sultan Qaboos Masjid and catch the fish souq certainly has its rewards.
In the magnificent Sultan Qaboos Mosque, marvel at the centrepiece house-sized Swarovski chandelier.
At the Bait Al Zubair museum, learn the country’s rich ethnographic history, through its costumes and jewellery displays.
In the alleys of the Mutrah Souq, barter for spices such as local frankincense or antique Omani jewellery.
A stroll around the harbour, where traditional dhows bob alongside the Sultan’s super-cruiser, brings you to Omani restaurant, Bait Al Luban. Here try a celebratory dish, shuwa, of marinated meat slow-roasted in an underground firepit. Wash it down with mint, lemon, tamarind juice or frankincense water.
Two hours’ drive through the jagged Al Hajar Mountains, the recently opened Anantara Al Jabal Akhdar resort enjoys a commanding vantage over a breath-robbing, vertiginous landscape of crag, scree, scrub and canyon.
Again, it would be easy to laze here, at the highest-altitude five-star hotel in the Middle East: the clifftop infinity pool is surrounded by hot tubs, there is a lovely hammam spa, while my canyon-view villa, with sundeck and 12-metre infinity pool, was stunning – and spectacularly private.
At roughly 15 C cooler than Muscat, Al Jabal Akhdar (The Green Mountain) has the perfect climate for outdoor activities.
On a three villages guided walk, try a hike along a falaj (water channel) irrigating terraces of pomegranates, walnuts and damask roses.
A local guide can lead a fun afternoon of abseiling, cragging and traversing, with a via ferrata steel cableway bolted to the cliffs beneath the resort. Try saluting the sunrise with dawn yoga following Fjr (morning prayers).
Prepare, Oman is not cheap, the Omani Real is 9.55 times stronger than the AED used in neighbouring Dubai. A typical four night trip will set you back $2’500-$5’000 USD per person.
10 Must does on your day trip
1. Toast the sunset at Diana’s Point, visited by the princess in 1986, or watch the sun rise here in a yoga class.
2. Eat Oman’s cross-influenced cuisine, which marries grilled meat dishes such as shuwa with delicately spiced curries as Middle-Eastern, East African, South Asian and Persian dishes combine.
3. Shop for spices, antique jewellery, hand crafted artisan leather works and stunning textiles in Muscat’s Mutrah Souq, or the historic Nizwa Fort town.
4. Hike through the fossilised rockscapes of Al Jabal Al Akhdar seeking wadis, caves, wildlife and admiring falaj irrigation
5. Pray Fjr at The Sultan Qaboos Masjid or on the top of a mountain before watching the sun rise.
6. BBQ on the beach next to an open camp fire with Narghile (Sheesha), great food, oud music and sweet fruited chai.
7. Go diving with the exotic marine life of Oman.
8. Try your hand at some of Oman’s adrenaline packed activities, kiteboarding, quad biking, 4×4 off riding, climbing, potholing, hand gliding or diving. All manner of water sports and boating are highly popular in Oman from luxury Yatching to kayaking or bodyboarding.
9. Take a desert safari. Including Wahiba, 4×4 trekking, sandboarding down 100m sand dunes and camp out under the stars.
10. Take in the outstanding Omani architecture and public flower displays.
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