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UK’s Mail On Sunday Suggests Six Things To Do In...Oman

Date: 28 Feb 2009

Well-known UK-based journalist Gareth Huw Davies who visited Oman recently has written a report on The Sultanate in The Mail on Sunday newspaper, where he has gushingly raved about Oman. The impressive introduction reads that in just two hours from the frenzy of Dubai is the Arabian Peninsula’s great surprise. "Bigger than the neighbouring emirates, Oman has many more wonders on which to build its still-small tourism industry. The writer toured castles and forts and sampled the sound of silence in 1,000 miles of beaches and headlands, mountains with yawning canyons and emerald-green wadis, to compile his must-do list in a land where ancient courtesies and kindness run deep," the introduction reads.

Gareth Huw Davies specialises in the environment, wildlife, and conservation as well as travel. He contributes to publications such as The Sunday Times, The Sunday Times Magazine, The Times, Daily Telegraph, The Independent, Mail on Sunday, Country Life, and other quality newspapers and magazines. Winner of Italian Tourist Board's "Most Intriguing Journalist" award in 1998 for an essay on Turin, Gareth was the runner up in the TV-am National Broadcast Journalist of the Year Awards, in the Best Specialist Press category in 1990.

Commenting on the report 'Six things to do in Oman', Usama Bin Karim Al Haremi, Head Corporate Communication and Media of Oman Air, said that the report is an example of the growing popularity of Oman as a safe and beautiful tourist destination. "Media representatives from all over the world, right from the US to Australia and Europe as well as The Middle East, are keen to visit the Sultanate and write about it too. Their reports talk highly of Oman's pristine beauty, its topographical versatility, and the gaming and adventure options it provides to the visitors." Al Haremi also noted about the infra-structural superiority of Oman and the presence of world-class hotel chains and their excellent service in Oman that featured prominently in Gareth's report. Out of the innumerable fascinating attractions, Gareth writes about six things to do in Oman, in a very interesting narrative.

They send a Bentley to pick you up from the airport for the ride to Shangri-La's Al Husn (The Castle) hotel, on its own private headland just north of Muscat. In this low-rise, skyscraper-free city, we saw nothing taller than blue-and-gold mosques, topped with floodlit minarets. They rearranged the coast to build the Barr Al Jissah resort where the hotel is located. But there's a green payback. There's a nesting green within the resort where hawksbill turtles are protected on a beach. October to April is the best time to avoid the heat.

Frankincense is Oman's special aroma. It wafts everywhere, in markets, hotels and restaurants. Muscat city celebrates this with an illuminated giant frankincense burner. A handmade incense-burning pot costs just £1 in the market. The tree they tap frankincense from grows in the green, abundant lands 600 miles south of Muscat around Salalah. Wilfred Thesiger set off from here on his epic crossing of the Arabian Empty Quarter in 1946. Today, the desert is an easy day trip. Marvel at the vast expanse of sand from a comfortable Land Cruiser. Drivers like to test your nerves - their party trick is to let the vehicle drift in the soft sand down a near-sheer 200ft dune.

Oman is split into two parts. The northernmost mountainous peninsula, Musandam, is on the Strait of Hormuz opposite Iran. Dolphins play in the aquamarine waters of the fjord-shaped bays. But it's a long drive from the rest of the country, separated by 45 miles of the United Arab Emirates. Now the Omanis, always fine seafarers, have found a nautical solution. A new service by the world's fastest diesel passenger ferry connects Muscat to Khasab, Musandam's main town, in a few hours at up to 60mph, with splendid views on the way. In Musandam they take you out in wooden dhows to swim. There are three classes - tourist, first class and VIP. About £50 one-way, tourist class.

Want an Arabian lamp - without a genie? Head for Muttrah Souk in old Muscat. At dusk we inched down the narrow ways between stalls crammed with the staples of the traditional Arabian market. You can find gold, bread, T-shirts and jeans, hijabs, spices, stands for holding the Koran, bronze statues, jewellery and traditional curved daggers - khanjars. Then over the road to join the sunset fashion parade along the corniche. Men wear the dishdasha, a fetching ankle-length, collarless gown in white, black, blue, brown and lilac. Subtle variations denote their tribe. Headgear is the mussar, a coloured woollen scarf woven tightly into a turban around embroidered caps. A short taxi-ride away in Old Muscat, two 16th Century fortresses tower over the harbour.

Oman beats the Middle Eastern opposition with its beautifully austere grey-red mountains. We took the fast new road from Muscat to Nizwa (90 minutes) to one of the many newly restored ancient citadels, as solid and imposing as our castles. I remember a blur of whimsical details on the way: the doleful look a camel gave us as it sped past, safely tied down in the back of a pickup; a shepherd dressed head-to-foot in red; a fly-past by delicate doves, each with a flash of maroon on its neck. In the castle, we saw decorated ceilings and cool, carpeted interiors strewn with cushions, then peered over the battlements on to neat white homes and date-palm plantations.

The cuisine is a riot of spices, herbs, onion, garlic, and lime, with meat and fish marinated and pit-roasted or slow cooked in underground clay ovens. Our culinary high point was the resort's Moroccan restaurant Shahrazad. My dish of the trip was their Pastilla Bil Hamam, a pie of pigeon meat, crushed almonds, and scrambled eggs covered with cinnamon and sugar. Then to the Piano Bar for a nightcap and live music from the resident pianist.

Head of Oman Air’s Corporate Communications and Media noted that the report appearing in Britain's second biggest-selling Sunday newspaper made it even more significant. The Mail on Sunday is now the leading mid-market Sunday paper with a circulation of 2.3 million, and readership of more than 6 million. He also notified that the article was published in The Associated Newspaper's website TravelMail, also its associated travel network of sites. The network including, reaches 12.3 million people who are actively looking for travel products.


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