Royal Opera House of Muscat
This is a magnificent building, inside and out. If you’re able to catch a performance there, we’re thrilled for you and a bit envious. If not, we highly recommend a taking a tour. The monumental proportions, sublime design and state of the art technology are testament to the high value Sultan Qaboos places on the arts. He’s a big fan of classical music himself but he had the opera house built for the people of Oman and visitors. Besides world-class performances, the opera house offers arts education programs, lectures and workshops.
Al Alam Palace
This is the ceremonial palace of the sultan of Oman. It’s not open to the public but it’s easily accessible for photos and visual consideration from the front and back. It’s a very unique piece of architecture, especially the central building, which I found kind of obnoxious initially, to be honest. But the more I look at it, the more I love it. It was completed in 1972, which explains a lot. The modern, organic Islamic style is whimsical and flamboyant in the most friendly way. I love it even more now than I did when I started writing this paragraph.
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
Another awesome building, outside it’s all cool, serene elegance, with gleaming marble surfaces and pearly arches. Inside, the exposed timber ceilings are warm and earthy, while heavenly multitudes seem to open out to infinity in the massive central dome. Modestly dressed non-Muslims are welcome.
Stroll the Corniche
The Muttrah Corniche pedestrian promenade rambles for about 3km along the sea wall in the Muttrah district of Muscat. If you avoid the midday heat, it’s bustling with locals and visitors and is the perfect vantage from which to take in harbor sights on one side and the pretty sea-front avenue backed by the craggy Hajar mountains and old Portuguese watch towers on the other side. From the corniche you can access the fish market, best in the early morning, and the adjacent fruit and vegetable market and down the way is the Muttrah Souk. You’ll find benches, a park and fountains along the corniche.
This, the oldest market in Oman, is a must, whether or not you’re a shopper. The streets closest to the corniche are pretty touristy but if you persevere into the maze you’ll find a feast of authentic shops. Some good buys are gold, silver and frankincense. Be sure to bargain. The souk closes from about 1-5pm each day and it especially bustles with locals in the evenings.
photos by Sallie Volotzky
Thanks to Sallie Volotzky for these photos from her trip to Oman with Ya’lla Tours
We have so many great images from our Arabian Peninsula fam trip to the UAE (specifically Dubai and Abu Dhabi) and Oman, I’ll keep posting them in nice juicy batches until you’ve seen them all. Most of these are from fam group member Sallie Volotzky, with one or two from our Midwest Sales Manager, Rich Davis.
Here are a few shots of the Bastakiya Mosque. The Bastakiya district is one of Dubai’s oldest neighborhoods and is full of traditional character.
Dubai’s Gold Souk is located in the business district of Deira. With hundreds of shops, the souk contains something like 10 tons of gold.
Traditional elements merge into a sleek, modern whole in Muscat’s sparkling Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. It was completed in 2001 and can hold 20,000 worshippers.
The ancient city of Sur, Oman, about 93 miles southeast of Muscat, was an historically important port and center for ship building in the Arabian Gulf.
Al Hamra is a largely-abandoned, 400-year-old, mudbrick village, the best-preserved of its kind in Oman. It’s located in northeastern Oman, about 140 miles northeast of Muscat.
Bait al Safa is a cultural center/museum in Al Hamra, where local women demonstrate traditional methods of milling grain, cooking, weaving etc.
On the road to Al Hamra…
Our tours to Oman can be found here and our tours to the UAE can be found here. They are all privately escorted and open for customization. We will also create custom itineraries from scratch in any of the areas we serve – Oman, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Egypt, Greece, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Turkey and Cuba.
Enjoy the weekend!
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.
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.
Guest blogger Rich Davis is the Ya’lla Tours sales manager in the Midwest region.