Oman’s culture is deeply rooted in its proud heritage and history of seafaring, trading, and exploration. Today, long-standing traditions blend seamlessly with modern day living, with the latest fashion and electronics brands sold alongside traditional handmade crafts, jewellery, and even livestock at souqs around the country.
This same blend of the old and new is reflected in Oman’s architecture, such as the Royal Opera House Muscat and Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat. Coupled with well-preserved villages and attractions like The National Museum, old forts and watchtowers like Bahla Fort, and several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, it is easy to see how the Sultanate has earned its reputation as a land of exquisite culture and rich heritage.
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FORTS & OTHER ATTRACTIONS
In centuries past, Oman’s forts held enemy forces at bay. Today, these historic structures welcome guests with impressive facades that continue to stand proud and have become a living testament to the ingenuity and craftsmanship of the period.
Oman is dotted with these striking attractions, the most famous being Nizwa Fort, Jalali and Mirani Fort in Old Muscat, Nakhal Fort in Al Batinah and the UNESCO listed Bahla Fort. The Sultanate is also home to a number of old and abandoned settlements, such as Manah Village or Samharam in Dhofar and more. Especially impressive are Oman’s ancient aflaj irrigation systems, like the UNESCO listed Falaj Daris that continue to provide water for many fields.
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Oman is a country that remains true to its roots, striking a successful balance between traditional and modern arts and entertainment. This unique blend helps cater to the entertainment needs of visitors whilst still preserving the country’s alluring Arabian charm.
A perfect example is the Royal Opera House Muscat, which is located in the Shatti Al Qurum district of Muscat. It regularly runs world-class performances including ballets, operas, and musicals.
The month-long Muscat Festival, which is held across different locations of the capital, promotes traditional culture, dance, foods, arts, and crafts. In the south, the annual Salalah Festival celebrates local culture and produce, and welcomes those exploring Oman’s most southern region during Khareef (monsoon) season.
HERITAGE & CRAFTS
Oman has always placed great importance on the preservation of its heritage and traditional craftsmanship. Handed down through generations, craftwork is still practiced according to old traditions and with a modern twist by Omani artisans across the Sultanate.
From intricate silver jewellery to Omani halwa, earthen pottery and the Sultanate’s famous dagger – the Khanjar – artists continue to create unique pieces that can be purchased at one of the many vibrant souqs dotted across the country.
Even the building of traditional Omani ships, known as Dhows in Sur continues to this day and will leave visitors inspired by the sheer hard work and artistry that goes into every build.
Oman has a number of museums, primarily in the capital area, that are focused on promoting culture, science, and heritage.
In Muscat, attractions like The National Museum of the Sultanate of Oman, Bait Al Baranda and Bait Al Zubair offer a glimpse into the country’s past with well-preserved artefacts from daily life and works of art. Bait Al Safah is located in Al Hamra, in one of Oman’s best-preserved old towns, and is a living museum. Visitors can experience locals demonstrating traditional ways of making Omani coffee, bread making and more.
The Museum of Frankincense Land in Salalah borders the ruins of Al Baleed Archaeological Park and is dedicated to the trading history of this ancient port. Visitors will find information on how trade with Frankincense and maritime strength ensured the region flourished in the 12th century.
SOUQS & SHOPPING
From aromatic Frankincense to traditional clothing and silver works, Oman’s souqs provide an atmospheric shopping experience that is uniquely Omani. Most larger settlements in Oman have their own souq, the most famous being Muttrah Souq, situated on the Old Muscat waterfront and selling everything from clothes, to silver, spices, Frankincense and more.
Nizwa Souq lies in the shadow of the Nizwa Fort and is especially worth a visit on Friday mornings, when the weekly livestock market takes place - goats, sheep and cows are sold in very much the same way they have been for centuries.
In A’Sharqiyah, the Ibra Women’s Market is held every Wednesday and provides an opportunity for women to come to town and trade in essentials, from textiles to jewellery and more. Men are not allowed to enter or sell items on this particular day.
Modern shopping is a favourite pastime in Oman, with large shopping centres developed across the Sultanate, including Muscat City Centre, Muscat Grand Mall and Oman Avenues Mall. Here, visitors can find the latest trends and brands from around the world.
UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES
Oman currently has five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, all of which deserve to be visited first-hand.
Bahla Fort was inscribed as World Heritage Site in 1987 and has since been beautifully restored. The fort reopened to the public in late 2012.
Credited to the Bronze Age (3rd millennium B.C.), the archaeological sites of Bat, Al Khutm and Al Ayn in Ad Dhahirah make up the world’s most complete collection of beehive tombs.
In Dhofar, the Land of Frankincense encompasses the frankincense trees of Wadi Dawkah Reserve and the remains of caravan and trading settlements such as Ubar, Khawr Ruri and Al Baleed – highlighting the importance of frankincense for the flourishing trade in the region during ancient times.
This ancient watering method is deeply rooted in Oman’s heritage, with over 3000 aflaj - or irrigation systems - still in use today. Using gravity to transport water from springs, the fair management of these waterways plays an important role in communities around the country. Falaj Daris in Nizwa, one of Oman’s longest falaj, is still in use today.
The Ancient city of Qalhat in Sur. This site has an exceptional international value for trading between Oman and the ancient world civilizations. Its considered as a distinctive example of the architecture and planning of active port cities in the middle ages.
Whether it is tasty street food or fine dining, visitors to Oman will find a wide range of options to suit all tastes. From contemporary restaurants serving all types of international cuisine in hotels, resorts, malls and commercial areas, to the casual shawarma eateries and coffee shops, the possibilities are endless.
Traditional Omani food can be found at a number of hotels and restaurants and is a combination of Arabian, Indian and African influences which has created a unique cuisine. Al Loomie at the Al Bustan Hotel in Muscat and Bait Al Luban in Muttrah are just some of the restaurants known to serve Omani food with a modern twist.