By road, sea or plane, getting to Oman from the UAE is pretty easy. It’s a contradiction to it’s neighbouring country. Oman is much larger, much older and much more relaxed and whilst it has had its fair share of tourists over the years visiting Muscat, the Musandam. and most recently Salalah, it is still relatively unknown and unexplored by the masses.
I’ve been to Oman more times that I can count and despite the short distance and shared religion and on the whole, similar culture, even spending as little as a day there can feel like a refreshment for the soul. It is calmer, it is beautiful and it is slower. The slower pace of life has more of that familiar pioneering expatriate feeling.
There are loads of great places to explore and camp in Oman, I’ve recently been to the Sultanate twice with two very different experiences.
Dolphin watching in Khasab
Khasab is at the tip of Oman, a marine town with a former military outpost. Tourists and residents can take a dhow and spend the day coasting through the inlets snorkeling, swimming and if lucky dolphin watching.
The experience is relatively unchanged from what it was about twenty years ago, although now you can email Mr. Boatman to book your trip rather than having to rely on word of mouth.
My friends and I embarked on a road trip through the northern Emirates to the Omani boarder, a rather untimely journey ill-managed due road-works taking place in the centre of Ras Al Khaimah. Still, minus a rumble and tumble at the boarder post leaving the country, it was fairly smooth driving, taking approximately 2.5 hours.
Entering Oman, making our way to Khasab is a stretch of windy mountainous roads, bending past small coves and hamlets to the marine town of Khasab.
The day is very much a low key affair, easily organised with like-minded people for some fresh air out of Dubai ahead of National Day celebrations. With luck on our side, we had our own dhow for the majority of the day.
A dhow is a traditional Arabic fishing boat originally made from wood sourced from India that came through the Middle East on the spices route, passing by on the way to Africa. The large boats are carpeted and most usually are skippered by a couple of friendly locals who have the knack of whistling dolphins to their boat as well as teaching keen snorkelers how to pick up oyster pearls and line fishing.
It’s something that I have done several times, never failing to disappoint. You are taken along the coastline, whilst the crew point out landmarks such as the famous Telegraph Island, a former British military communications outpost, so called because it was the centre of recently constructed telegraph poles. It is also, supposedly, one of the locations that the famous ‘going round the bend’ saying comes from. As the tale goes, officers sent to the post were starved of company and comfort, based in the middle of nowhere it would make them go a little loopy leading fellow mates to describe their manic feelings when they were told, they would soon be going round the bend.
Luxe living at the Chedi Muscat
The white-washed hotel includes Asian and Oman design features. In contrast to the simple pleasures of dhow cruising, the 5 * resort offers a different type of simple luxury. No fuss, nothing too glitzy – just a wonderful place to relax and recuperate.
The hotel, located on 18 November street is the perfect retreat. The gorgeous grounds, impeccable design and delicious food are really a treat for the all the senses. Each of the suites has Aqua di Parma products in the bathrooms, and the beds are so comfortable you feel like you’re falling asleep inside a a marshmallow. Some words of advice, do not sleep through breakfast.
Each of the dining outlets serves a selection of Asian inspired food, seafood, salads – and aside from some of the chocolate and pastry desserts – is all very health conscious. The Restaurant, the main dining restaurant additionally serves Middle Eastern, Indian, Japanese and Mediterranean cuisine. It has a wonderful patisserie array, prepared by Gilles Winterberg and also, my personal favourite on Friday serves brunch with a ‘Make your own Bloody Mary bar.’
I made it my personal mission to swim in each of the three pools at the resort. The Chedi Muscat houses the longest pool in the Middle East, The Long Pool is 103m and additionally the The Chedi and Serai pool – I got 2/3. Yoga on the front lawn and treatments at The Spa are rather lovely ways to the spend the afternoon and drinks by The Long Pool in the evening is a great setting for sundowners.