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Welcome to the final frontier of Arabia: historically a seafaring nation of traders and fishermen, Oman has only opened up to tourism since the late 1970s. Since then, it has experienced a boom in development and modernization, all the while retaining its unique sense of identity and its Bedouin traditions.
Coming to Oman gives you the valuable opportunity to experience the Arab Kingdom without the distorting lens of excessive wealth and modernization.
Omani History 101
Oman is the oldest independent state in the Arab world, previously stretching from present-day Oman down the east coast of Africa. It estimated that humans have been living here for over 106,000 years.
Until the emergence of Islam in the 7th century, Oman was dominated by the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians, each seeking to utilize Oman for its strategic geographic location. As Islam later expanded, Oman was divided amongst various imamates and foreign powers. The Portuguese dominated the regions around Muscat in the 16th and 17th centuries, followed by a partial control by the Ottomans. The influence of these various foreign cultures is all reflected in Oman’s old military forts, castles, and villages, several of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Left: Khasab Fort, built by the Portuguese in the 17th century
Right: Nakhal Fort, one of Oman’s oldest forts, refurbished in the 19th century. The original is estimated to have been built over 1,500 years ago.
The Geography of Oman
The keyword here is “diverse”. Around 82% of the land is desert, 15% is mountainous and the remaining 3% consists of coastal plants. The famous but inhospitable Empty Quarter (Rub Al Khali) lies to the West of the country, but elsewhere there are many lush wadis, forests, and oasis.
A rugged and varied coastline stretches from north to south, with crystal-clear waters and colorful reefs. Along the way, you may also encounter some of Oman’s awe-inspiring limestone caves, deep and rocky sinkholes or long and narrow canyons.
The interior of Oman is separated from the coast by the Al-Hajar mountain range. This is where Oman’s highest mountain, Jabal Shams, stands tall at 3000m high. This country has one of the longest off-road dirt and mountain routes, connecting various rural villages together, an opportunity to explore unique village custom and culture.
Tourism in Oman is a year-round sector – with different regions having a wide range of climates depending on their geography. A quick glance at the weather tables below will illustrate the sheer diversity of climate in Oman.
Unlike popular belief, some regions here experience the most pleasant and cool weather during the summer!
Summertime in the eastern the coastal regions is characterized by hot and humid temperatures averaging around 37°C in the hottest months (June to August). It is during this time that the mountainous regions become refreshingly cool and pleasant with temperatures dropping to as low as 18°C and averaging around 21°C during the day. Mountain ranges are the perfect way for locals to escape the hot and humid city in the summer.
However, the South experiences drastically different conditions due to the Monsoon during the summer. This is known as the khareef (autumn) season. The result is temperatures ranging around the md-20’s°C, and thick, wet winds resulting in luxurious, rich green hills and oasis. This difference in climate provides ideal conditions for Salalah’s abundance of tropical fruit, and the South’s busiest tourism season.
During the winter (between November and mid-March), temperatures are at a pleasant average of around 22°C near Muscat. Temperatures in the mountains, however, can drop below 0°C, with the occasional snowfall at high altitudes.