Oman is a naturally beautiful and geographically diverse country that has stunning beaches, rugged mountains, hot deserts and fertile green regions all wrapped up in a friendly package that has for many decades welcomed visitors from far and wide. Omanis are proud of their country and welcoming to visitors, making it a top destination for tourists from all around the world.
Location & Size
Oman is situated in the southeastern part of the Arabian Peninsula. It is surrounded by the sea on two sides, the sea of Oman to the northeast and the Indian Ocean to the southeast; it has joint land borders with Saudi Arabia to the west, Yemen to the south, and the United Arab Emirates to the north. Oman’s territory includes the tip of the strategically important Ra’s Musandam, which juts into the Strait of Hormuz. Oman’s part of the peninsula is separated from the rest of the country by the territory of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The Sultanate of Oman is the second-largest country after Saudi Arabia on the Arabian Peninsula, with an area of about 309,500 km2; it is predominantly desert, including stony plains and areas of sand dunes; the largest of these are the sand dunes of Rub’ Al Khali (or Empty Quarter) in the west and Al Sharqiyah sands in the east. The Sultanate of Oman commands a coastline stretching for about 3165 km from the furthest point of the southeast on the Arabia Sea and the mouth of the Indian Ocean, to Musandam in the north; it then overlooks the strategic Strait of Hormuz at the point of entry to the Arabian Gulf.
Northern Oman is dominated by three physiographic zones. The long, narrow coastal plain known as Al-Baṭinah stretches along the Gulf of Oman. The high, rugged Ḥajar Mountains extend southeastward, parallel to the gulf coast, from the Musandam Peninsula to a point near Ras Al Ḥadd at the easternmost tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Much of the range reaches elevations above 1,463 m (4,800 f); Jebel Shams (“Sun Mountain”), at an elevation of 2,980 m (9,777 f), is the country’s highest point. An inland plateau falls away to the southwest of the Ḥajar Mountains into the great Rub Al Khali (“Empty Quarter”) desert, which the sultanate shares with Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
The southern region of Dhofar (Ẓufar) is separated from the rest of Oman by several hundred miles of open desert. Dhofar’s coastal plain is fertile alluvial soil, well watered by the southwest monsoon. Wooded mountain ranges, rising to about 1,500 m (5,000 f), form a crescent there behind a long, narrow coastal plain, on which the provincial capital of Salalah located. Behind the mountains, gravel plains gradually merge northward into the vast Rub al Khali desert.
Oman has a number of islands located in the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea, the biggest of which is Masirah.
Flora & Fauna
Oman has a rich diversity of flora and fauna, typical of a desert environment. The Arabian Oryx, gazelle, antelope, Nubian ibex, Arabian Tahr, wild rabbit, bustard, striped hyena, black hedgehog and leopard are examples of rare wild animals. More than 400 bird species have been recorded and among them many migratory birds visit the coastal areas and islands regularly. The reefs provide a habitat for a vast array of marine wildlife. On the reefs some 108 types of corals can be found.
Oman has a desert climate with an average annual rainfall of 100 mm, declining to 50 mm in the interior. In the mountains rainfall can rise to 350 mm. Summer winds in sandy desert areas can cause heavy sand and dust storms. There are periodic droughts and periods of heavy rainfall, which can cause temporary floods.
The climate generally is hot and dry in the interior and hot and humid along the coast. Summer temperatures in the capital of Muscat and other coastal locations often climb to 43 °C (110 °F), with high humidity; winters are mild, with lows averaging about 17 °C (63 °F). Temperatures are similar in the interior, although they are more moderate at higher elevations.
The southern region of Dhofar is favored by monsoon winds that bring a considerable amount of rain during the summer. As Dhofar is dominated by this summer monsoon (Khareef), Salalah’s climate is more temperate than that of northern Oman. A rainfall up to 640 mm (25 in) has been recorded in the rainy season from late June to October. While the mountain areas receive more plentiful rainfall, some parts of the coast, particularly near the island of Masirah, sometimes receive no rain at all within the course of a year.
The official language is Arabic. Urdu, Baluchi, and several Indian and African dialects are also spoken, especially in the cities of Muscat and Matrah.
English is taught as a second language and is widely spoken. Almost all signs on the road, restaurant menus, and generally anything publicly written, would be available in both Arabic and English.
Oman has limited water resources. The country is dependent on groundwater and its limited rainfall (of around 100 mm annually) for about 65 percent of its water supply. The remaining 35 percent comes from desalinated seawater. While grazing lands, land for agriculture, and wildlife have always provided the mainstay for food production, the marine environment and fishing were the most important resources in the coastal parts of the country.
Oil and gas are the most important resources of national income. Among the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Oman has small proven oil reserves, but more important are its gas reserves. Other resources include copper, chromite, magnesium, gold, coal, industrial ores and raw materials for building materials such as sand, silica, marble, and limestone.
Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Fishing, Industries such as cement and chemical production contribute to the country’s economy.
Tourism in Oman has grown considerably recently, and it is expected to be one of the largest industries in the nation. Oman has one of the most diverse environments in the Middle East with various tourist attractions and is particularly well known for Cultural tourism.
There’s very little public transport in Oman except the bus services in and between main cities. If you are to really see anything of the country you’ll need your own transport, either by signing up for a tour, hiring a guide-driver, or renting out a self-driven vehicle.
Taxis are widespread, but without taxi meters, so your bargaining skills are essential
There are no mainline railways in Oman
Oman is one of the safest countries in the world. Street crimes practically do not exist. There are no pickpockets or scam artists in any of the markets of Oman.
Best time to visit
Generally the period between September and May is the recommended time to visit Oman. The winter months (October/November to February/March) are pleasantly temperate by contrast; with an almost Mediterranean climate and daytime temperatures rarely climbing much above 30°C, this is the best time to visit Oman. Evenings and nights at this time of year can be pleasantly breezy and even occasionally slightly chilly especially up on the cool heights of Plateaus and other elevated spots in the mountains.
During the summer months (May to September) almost the entire country is scorching hot; from May to July the thermometer can often nudge up into the 40°C. Visiting during this period is best avoided, with the exception of Salalah, where temperatures remain bearable thanks to the annual khareef which descends from June to August or early September. It’s a memorable time to visit the area, even if accommodation gets booked solid and prices go higher.
Do not forget to obtain your visas to travel to Oman! You should apply your Visa either in advance or receive it upon arrival at the airport or at the borders, depending on the origin of your passport. The list of countries whose nationals can acquire visa upon arrival can be found on the website of Royal Oman Police. If your country is not on this list, this means that you need to apply for your visa before you come to Oman. Contact the embassy of Oman in your country or the nearest country that has an embassy to learn about the visa requirements. Tourist Visas are issued with the validity of either for 10 days or for one month.
Money exchange & Credit cards
There are several Money exchangers in main cities and they keep similar hours to banks, but often open from around 16:30 to 20:00 as well. They usually offer slightly more competitive rates than the banks, and most charge only a nominal per cash transaction.
Visa, Master Card, American Express… All major credit cards are accepted in main hotels, stores, and most shops but in traditional souks, cash is the most preferred means for transaction.
Healthcare facilities in Oman are similar to the international standards. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 9999 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Muscat International Airport
Salalah International Airport