Day 1 – 2
Oman’s southern governorate of Dhofar is most famous for its trade with Frankincense, a practice that has been flourishing for centuries. As a result, it is deeply rooted in the culture and traditions of the region. A detailed history of the trade of Frankincense in Dhofar can be found at the Land of Frankincense Museum, just a short drive from Salalah International Airport. Al Baleed Archaeological Park is right next door. Altogether, there are four sites that comprise of the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is the ‘Land of Frankincense’ – the Frankincense trees of Wadi Dawkah, the remains of the caravan oasis of Shisr/Ubar and the ancient ports of Khawr Ruri and Al Baleed. Al Husn and the Al Hafah souq have remained almost unchanged since they were first built and are the perfect place to buy authentic Omani Frankincense. There are also a number of tombs and ruins in close proximity to the city that can be visited before you return to Muscat.
The capital of Oman and the perfect place to experience the old and new of Omani culture. Old Muscat has a lot to see, from the Al Alam Palace and old forts, to several l museums in the area. Nearby Muttrah Corniche is a great place to visit, especially after sunset, to enjoy sparkling waterfront views and shop at Muttrah Souq. A concert at the Royal Opera House Muscat is always a special opportunity, with artists from around the world and region performing anything from opera to world music.
Nakhl & Al Rustaq
Al Batinah has plenty of attractions on offer, here a few highlights for a day trip. Perched atop a large rock, the Nakhal Fort was constructed on the remains of a pre-Islamic structure in the 19th century. The hot springs of Ain Thowarah are just a short drive away, through Nakhal’s beautiful date plantations. Halfway between Nakhal and Al Rustaq is the turn-off to Wadi Mistal and Wakan Village. Though not for the faint hearted, a stopover in this mountain village is definitely worth it. Once the capital of Oman, Al Rustaq was an important trading hub between the Interior and coast. Its fort is one of the largest in Oman. The old souq opposite the fort and the Ain Al Kasfa hot springs are also worth a visit.
Oman’s interior awaits. The historic town of Nizwa is surrounded by date plantations and mountains and the starting point for today’s cultural adventures. Like Muscat, Nizwa holds a sprawling souq – complete with old and new part. Nearby is one of Oman’s most famous forts, Nizwa Fort. Both are worth a visit, especially on Friday, for the weekly animal market. Nestled at the foot of the Al Hadjar Mountains, Al Hamra has numerous mudbrick buildings making up its old centre. Best explored on foot, the settlement includes Bait Al Safah – a museum where locals show visitors first-hand the daily household routine of a traditional Omani house. Misfat Al Abreyeen, a stunning mountain village, is just 8 km from here. Jebel Shams, Oman’s highest mountains awaits with its very own ‘Grand Canyon’ and views that turn any photo into a masterpiece. A 4WD vehicle is required.
Bahla to Old Minzafah
Bahla Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest fort in Oman – from there, the road leads to Ibra. Having been restored according to ancient methods since 1987, Bahla Fort is now open to the public, just opposite Bahla Souq. Jabreen Castle was built in the 17th century and commands panoramic views of the surroundings date plantations. Over three storeys tall, Jabreen Castle was a private residence, not fortification, and its intricate ceilings and clever layout are a sight to behold until today. The old part of Ibra known as Al Minzafah once enjoyed great prosperity, with merchants building large houses from money made with trade. Today, Ibra’s old quarter lays mainly in ruins, but the surrounding watchtowers and old buildings are evidence of its former importance. Ibra also has a souq which, on Wednesday’s, is only open to women.
Sur to Muscat
This coastal road has breath-taking views and offers plenty of interesting stops to fill the day.