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Tucked into the southeastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula is Oman, a country with a history of merchant seafaring and a growing reputation of exceeding hospitality. Most Americans stop by Oman if they’re in the area — usually for a day trip from glittering Dubai, United Arab Emirates — but there are many reasons to visit this lesser-trekked country as a primary destination. To start, its capital of Muscat boasts luxurious resorts, uncrowded beaches, an opera house and a grand mosque.
If travel advisors strive to send their clients on off-the-beaten-path trips, a vacation to Oman is perfectly in line with this goal. Known as Dubai’s laid-back cousin, the country is ideal for relaxation.
“Oman and Dubai are day and night,” said Hope Smith, a luxury travel advisor with Born to Travel in Sierra Madre, Calif., upon her return from a two-week trip to Oman. “Dubai is all about the glitz and hotel high-rises. In Oman, there are no high-rises. Both have beautiful resorts, but in comparison, Omanis are very down-to-earth, and their hospitality is unparalleled.”
Located in Oman’s Musandam Peninsula, Six Senses Zighy Bay is a popular resort for Western travelers, offering activities such as paragliding, snorkeling and Bedouin family-style dining.
Desert oasis The Chedi Muscat is nestled between the Gulf of Oman and the Al Hajar Mountains, while an even more immersive nature experience awaits at Alila Jabal Akhdar, built more than 6,500 feet above sea level in Al Hajar.
“Oman is the true essence of Arabia,” said Renate Graham, founder and managing director of destination marketing firm Graham International. “It’s very diverse and has beautiful coastlines, desert plains and mountains.”
According to Smith, this makes the country ideal for adventure travelers. Hiking, walking on dunes, riding camels and diving and swimming in a wadi (a valley that becomes an oasis during rainy seasons) are just some of the activities awaiting travelers in remote Oman. Smith says that sleeping under the stars in the middle of the Empty Quarter — a vast desert spanning Oman and Saudi Arabia — was the main reason she visited the country. Her favorite part was how untouched these locales are; with the exception of their guides, clients are almost guaranteed a secluded outdoor experience.
Although both Smith and Graham agree that Oman is one of the safest and most welcoming countries they have ever visited, Smith does note that Oman may be intimidating to less savvy travelers. She advises that fellow advisors conduct proper research when hiring ground operators, and notes that while Oman may be considered a developing country by some, it isn’t cheap.
“Be adventurous, especially during the desert excursions, where travelers won’t have the facilities of a shower or toilet,” she said. “Clients also have to be comfortable in a Muslim country. They won’t have to be completely covered, but they should avoid wearing anything too exposing. The only time they must wear a head scarf is in a mosque.”
The DetailsOman Tourismwww.omantourism.gov