Oman: Inside Middle East's next top tourist destination

  • AFP
  • Updated: Aug 18, 2015 14:03 IST
Amid the ever-changing states of the Arabian Gulf, Oman offers a refreshing reminder of a seemingly bygone age. Overdevelopment has yet to blight its most. (Shutterstock Photo)

If you're looking for inspiration for this year's holiday, you should consider Oman. Beautiful mountain ranges, untouched beauty, warm waters and some of the oldest history in the world make the Middle Eastern nation a perfect place to visit. Add to that a brand new airport, hotel complexes by the likes of Hilton and Crowne Plaza, a new website...

In the south of Oman, the city of Salalah dreams of becoming the next tourist destination in the Middle East and hopes to attract curious travelers to the Dhofar region. Let's have a look at the up-and-coming tourist scene.

Beautiful panorama of Nizwa, Oman. (Shutterstock Photos)

Entry into the Sultanate of Oman requires a tourist visa. A 30-day single-entry visa will cost you €40. You can apply for one either at an embassy or directly upon arrival. Numerous hotels have recently been built in the Dhofar region, including several belonging to industry giants such as Hilton, Marriott and Crowne Plaza. Tourists can also stay in hotel-apartments, and reservations can be made on all the usual platforms.

Oman is accessible by plane, mainly with companies such as Qatar Airways, Oman Air or Emirates. Tour operators are also a great way to book a ticket while making the most of their knowledge of the tourist attractions unique to the country.

Historic adobe fortification, watchtower of Sunaysilah Castle or Fort in Sur in Oman

* The city of Salalah
The capital of Dhofar is the main point of interest for visitors. You should take care not to miss out on a tour of the Al Hafah souk (market), and make sure to buy incense as it is one of the most recommended in the entire sultanate for this purchase. Fans of beautiful monuments will marvel at the whiteness of the Sultan Qaboos Mosque and at the crystal chandeliers in the grand prayer room. The tomb of the prophet Umran, with a sarcophagus 30 meters long, is also a must see.

* The old city of Al-Baleed
A visit to the capital of Dhofar, Salalah, would not be complete without a detour through the old city of Al-Baleed, a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site. The archeological site is one of the main attractions in the country. Situated on the southern coast of the country on the Arabian Sea, the old port was a major hub for the incense trade. In fact, for those interested, there is even a museum dedicated to it.

* A picnic at Raza Spring
Surprising as it may be, tourists in Oman can actually take a moment of pause in a green space if they want. Thirty km to the east of Salalah is one of the most impressive waterfalls in the region. Humidity is such that grass grows around the area, making for a perfect place to have a picnic.

* Road tripping and camping in the Arabian Desert
The Dhofar region, situated at the entrance to the desert, is the perfect place for motorsport enthusiasts. There you can get behind the wheel of a 4x4 and zig-zag your way over and around the sand dunes. Getting into the Paris-Dakar rally spirit can also be done on a motorbike. In any case, the region is ideal for pitching your tent.

* See dolphins and whales, or witness the birth of sea turtles
The south of the Sultanate is the ideal spot to get up close to one of the 20 species of whales that populate the Arabian Sea. Boat excursions are organized out of the fishing villages of Saadah, Mirbat and Hasik. As for the dolphins, they come right up to the beaches. All along the Dhofar coastline, amateur photographers gather in the hopes of seeing sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs in the sand. Some lucky few get to see the newborn baby turtles scurrying back into the sea.

Zawawi Mosque Muscat, Sultanate of Oman


Because Oman is situated between Yemen, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and, off in the distance, India, its cuisine draws from each of these rich culinary styles. You'll regale yourself on biryani, the famous mixed rice dish from the Indian subcontinent, as well as falafel and Lebanese meze. Less adventurous tourists shouldn't despair though, as they'll find what they're looking for in the western influences that have invaded Oman, from fast food restaurants to pizzerias.

The Ministry of Tourism of the Sultanate of Oman has recently launched a website to promote the tourism opportunities in the Dhofar region. For more information, visit

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