Golden Age Arabia is ever present in Oman
The sultanate of Oman doesn’t worry itself with following in the footsteps of its flashier neighbours. It’s the oldest independent state in the Arab peninsula, and the low-rise cities and high-altitude mountains retain their ancient soul. ‘Rich’ means something else entirely here: and it certainly isn’t measured by taller-than-the-last skyscrapers or flashier-than-the-first resorts. Instead, the richness is in the landscapes, the culture, the history and the hospitality.
Omani people are proud: and there’s a strong sense of pride in the land. We can see why. The tapestry of constantly changing terrain can shift from the sandy-edged capital city; red-rock islands; wind-blown dunes; dramatic waterfalls and sun-soaked mountains within a matter of hours. This is a tale of many terrains.
Red, White & Blue
The Ad Daymaniyat archipelago is a cluster of nine red-rock islands, with stark white-sand coves and azure waters. The nature reserve is Oman UNESCO-protected (one of the islands is even named the Garden of Eden), and can be reached by boat from Barka or Muscat. Wildlife here is diverse: ride the waves next to pods of bottlenose dolphins, snorkel with turtles, and swim alongside black tip reef sharks, parrotfish and cuttlefish. The islands are uninhabited, save for a singular house for the Oman minister of environmental protection, who often pops up to check the permits of the boats moored on the beaches.
See the islands on a private tour with Sea Oman, where you’ll have complete flexibility to follow the wildlife-spotting eyes of the captain. You’ll have a beach cove all to yourself for lunch and a kayak to better explore the archipelago.
The Green Mountain
Jebel Akhdar – known as the green mountain – certainly isn’t named after its colour palette. Instead, it’s because of its thriving soil: vegetables, fruits and herbs grow here that won’t elsewhere. Pomegranates, apricots, grapes, garlic and walnuts line the mountain-hugging terraces; date and olive farms cling to cliffs. But the mountains prize produce is the Damask roses that bloom every spring, turned into rose water that is celebrated around the globe.
Hike the mountains and pass through three now-abandoned villages (save for basket-laden farmers, carrying their wares atop their heads) – Al Aqr, Al Qyn and Ash Shirayjah – barely touched by tourism, these tiny towns can be likened to an open-air museum. These trekking trails are remote and relatively rambler-free, save for some shaggy-haired blonde goats.
We’re all about getting out into the environment, but we’d also never turn down a beautiful hotel to bed down in. A great base for Muscat and the Daymaniyat islands is The Chedi Muscat – its intricate, perfectly manicured gardens are dotted with white-washed, dome-topped villas and three exceptional pools. For your visit to the Green Mountain, opt for Alila Jabal Akhdar, which clings to the side of the cliff it’s named after. Its camouflaged stone buildings are reminiscent of a traditional Omani fort. This is a seriously tranquil stay – made even more wholesome by sunrise yoga, meditation, geology walks and nightly stargazing.