Beyond Muscat: Five Things to See in Northern Oman

Nizwa
The 17th-century Nizwa Fort looks out over lush palm groves at the base of the Western Hajar Mountains, about 1.5 hours from Muscat. Built to protect the city of Nizwa, an important center for trade and religion, it’s the most visited national monument in Oman. For a very local experience, wander through the Nizwa souk. The animal auction is held there early on Friday mornings. That’s worth scheduling around.

Al Hamra & Bait Al Safah
The restored hillside village of Al Hamra is a time capsule of traditional life in Oman. Wander through the maze of mudbrick houses to Bait Al Safah, a living museum where local woman demonstrate domestic tasks done the old way. You’ll be greeted with tea and dates, an ageless gesture of welcome in Arabia.

Misfat Al Abryeen
The nearby village of Misfat Al Abryeen is an idyllic place, where you can take a shady walk among the terraced farms and orchards and catch stunning views of the surrounding mountains and gorge. Date palms, banana trees, pomegranates and goats are just some of the inhabitants of this oasis, all fed by the falaj irrigation channels trickling through.

Bilad Sayt
This impossibly picturesque village spills down a hillside above terraced green fields and palm groves with majestic mountains towering all around. Babbling falaj course through the village and fields and friendly locals offer dates and wild honey foraged from nearby caves. Park down the road and walk into the village.


Wadi Bani Awf

A wadi is a valley, and Oman has them aplenty. If you enjoy a hair-raising drive, you’ll love Wadi Bani Awf, which may have the most spectacular scenery in Oman, and that’s saying a lot. You’ll need a 4-wheel drive (all of our Oman touring is done in 4WD vehicles) and an experienced mountain driver. We highly recommend a local guide.

Read more about Oman here and here.

See more photos of Oman here and here.

See our Oman tours here.

NAME THAT COUNTRY Episode 67

If you’re up for the hair-raising drive in, through the craggy Al Hajar Mountains, the  village of Bilad Sayt is an enchanting, timeless corner of our mystery country. There are many such places in the country, which wisely balanced modernization and traditional culture as it climbed out of the Middle Ages and turned toward the outside world in recent decades. Far less flashy than some of its neighbors, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the easy authenticity of this country is one of its most appealing traits.

Can you name that country? 
See below for answers.

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Oh, Man – You Must Visit Oman!

My first question was, where exactly is Oman?

Ya’lla Tours made history by being the first US tour operator to operate an educational FAM trip to Oman.

I didn’t know this would be the case when I packed up for our visit to the UAE and Oman, but found out during the trip when the Oman tourism director showed up and made a point of personally greeting our group. Later, the US Ambassador to Oman, Greta C. Holtz, invited our Ya’lla person in Oman, Amur, to lunch after the holidays.

Oman is a land of contrasts, and has something to offer the visitor who wants soft adventure, authentic experiences and even luxury.

With a long Arabian Sea coastline with great beaches and desert and mountains, there is a unique variety that is really unexpected. Oman is also a photographer’s paradise. It is almost impossible to take a bad picture there.

Our travels in Oman took us from Muscat, the capital, to the desert, for a beautiful overnight, to the souks, and along the fantastic coastline. Along the way we visited the Royal Opera House, a work of art in itself, the 5th largest mosque in the world, the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, the Al Alham Palace, flanked by two 16th-century Portuguese forts, and the museum of Muscat, the Bait Al Baranda. A little later, further along the Corniche (promenade), we helped the local economy at the largest souk in Oman, the Muttrah Souk.

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We saw the Oman of ancient when we visited the brick-walled village of Bilad Sayt, nestled into the Rustag Mountains, and had a traditional lunch in a mud-walled building called Bait Al Safah outside the first capital of Oman, Nizwa. We spent the night about two hours from Muscat in a desert camp, Sama Al Wasil, which consisted of twenty suites and had another traditional meal Bedouin-style.

Oman is the best kept secret in the region. It is extremely clean, the people are kind and treat you like brothers and sisters when you talk with them, and it is totally unspoiled as a tourist destination. Look for even more interest in Oman, as Ambassador Holtz and the Sultanate of Oman have signed an “Open Skies” agreement.

Do your clients a favor, suggest a trip to Dubai for a couple of days, then a nice trip through Oman, and then maybe top it off with a visit to Abu Dhabi. Dubai is Las Vegas on steroids, Oman is Arizona-Arabian-exotic and Abu Dhabi is a real-life Disney World or Aladdin’s castle that has kept its natural heritage and culture intact. This is an adventure for singles, couples and families to enrich and enjoy the exotic that are usually the stuff of dreams.

To see some choices visit the Ya’lla Tours web site.

Remember, we can custom plan any trip for your clients, be it one person or a group.

Man, I really loved Oman.

Rich Davis, Ya'lla Tours USA Sales Manager, Midwest Region

Rich Davis, Ya’lla Tours USA Sales Manager, Midwest Region

Guest blogger Rich Davis is the Ya’lla Tours sales manager in the Midwest region.