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You are in:  Top  →  Asia  →  OMAN

OMAN

Oman, officially The Sultanate of Oman, is a country in the south western part of Asia, on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Oman borders the United Arab Emirates in the northwest, Saudi Arabia in the west and Yemen.

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Oman

Nestled on the south-eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula where golden desert sands meet the deep blue Arabia Sea, Oman is a land of awesome beauty swathed in history, myth and legend.

From the harsh uninhabitable desert of the west to the Rub Al Khali (Empty Quarter), to the lush green monsoon climes of Salalah and from it's highest mountain called the Jabal Shams (Mountain of the Sun) to it's deep mysterious caves, Oman is an intriguing blend of natural contrasts.

Oman is a mix of old and new, past and present. Ruins of ancient cities, tombs, mosques and majestic forts a testament to its rich history, exist alongside modern, vibrant cities. Myths surrounding the Lost City of Ubar and the heroic journeys of Sinbad are as much a part of it as is the reality of a modern country and society on the rise.

While the cities and large towns have shops and malls stocked with the very latest of gadgets from all over the world, to truly experience Oman you should visit the souks (traditional markets) where the scent of incense blends with that of exotic spices.

Also worth visiting is the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat. A marvel of Islamic architecture, the mosque's main prayer hall has a magnificent 263 square-metre prayer carpet, which contains 1700 million knots, weighs 21 tonnes and took four years to produce. The main prayer hall also has 35 chandeliers, the largest of which is 14 metres in height and 8 metres across, has 1122 lights and weighs 8 tons.

Cultural events to look forward to are the annual Muscat Festival held in January-February every year. Another thing you might want to see in Oman is a traditional bullfight because it is a fight in which the bull always wins. There is no bloodshed as the fight consists of two matched bulls being pitted against each other and the only thing injured is the pride of the loser!

HISTORY

The history of Oman dates back almost 5000 years. Ancient Sumerian tablets refer to it as Magan, a land rich in copper. In medieval times, Oman was a prosperous sea faring nation trading with Africa, India and the Far East. Strategically positioned between the East and the West, Oman was only partly occupied by the Portugese who gained control of some coastal towns and the Muscat harbour where they built two forts Jalali and Mirani. The Portuguese were soon ousted but their forts remain.

Fortresses are an important part of Oman's history and there are several magnificent examples all over the country. Particularly notable are: Jarbin Fort with its painted ceilings, dungeons and secret passages. Nizwa Fort which over looks the rich date plantations of Oman's capital city. Bahia Fort which as Oman's oldest fort is on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

A large part of Oman's history is interwoven with the sea. The legend of Sinbad the Sailor and his fantastic adventures are said to be inspired by the stories of Omani sea captains.

To the south is the province of Dhofar, rich in history and frankincense. The region has been trading in this precious commodity since time immemorial. Studies date the trade to 5000 years ago though in all likelihood it stretches back even further. In Dhofar archaeologists have traced the outlines of an ancient city which might even be the lost city of Ubar.

With so much to offer, Oman is truly a fascinating destination for the traveller with an interest in history.

Facts about Oman

Location
Oman is the second largest country in the Arabian Peninsula with the United Arab Emirates dividing a small section in the northernmost tip. The country's entire east coast is fringed by the Arabian Sea and its land neighbours include Yemen to the south, and Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates on its western border.  

Local time GMT + 4 hours.  

Getting there
Seeb International Airport is located 40km from Muscat and also serves domestic destinations.

There are frequent direct flights from a number of European, Asian and African cities including London, Paris, Frankfurt, Zurich, Dar Es Salaam, Mumbai, Karachi and Bangkok. There are also direct flights from Dubai to Salalah, and Khasab, the gateway to Musandam.

There are also excellent connections from allover the world with Gulf Air (via Abu Dhabi & Bahrain), Qatar Airways (via Doha) and Emirates (via Dubai). Many international airlines fly into Muscat including Gulf Air, Lufthansa, Thai, British Airways, Kuwait Airways, Swiss and Emirates. Oman Air and Gulf Air are the two national carriers of the Sultanate of Oman.

Visas
Visit visas valid for a one month stay may be obtained on arrival by citizens of over 60 countries including European Union, USA Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Japan.   GCC Nationals do not require a visa. Common Visa and Reciprocal Visa agreements are in place with Dubai and Qatar - check with your airline or visit Oman police for the latest information.

It is important that your passport is valid for the duration of your stay and there are blank pages for the visa stamp.  

Customs
No customs duty is levied on personal effects brought into Oman. It is forbidden to import drugs and pornographic material. Videos, books and magazines are occasionally checked and videotapes may be temporarily confiscated.  

Language
Arabic is the official language, but English is widely spoken.  

Duty Free
For last-minute purchases there is a Duty Free shop in the arrivals area - non Muslims are permitted to import up to two bottles of alcohol per person.  

Currency and Banking
The unit of currency is the Omani Rial (RO) comprising 1,000 baizas. The Omani Rial has a fixed exchange rate that is linked to the USD - one Omani Rial equals approximately USD 2.60.

In general, banking hours are Saturday to Wednesday from 8am to noon, and Thursday from 8am to 1lam.  

ATM 
Automated Teller Machines can be found in most major supermarkets, hotels and other locations throughout the country.  

Credit Cards
All major credit cards are accepted in main hotels, stores and larger shops, but in traditional souqs only cash is accepted.  

Mobile Phones
  Oman has an extensive GSM network. Visitors can avoid roaming charges by purchasing a prepaid Hayyak SIM card or Nawras SIM card at Muscat airport or Omantel offices or Nawras offices.  

Public Telephones
Accept prepaid phone cards only Cards are available in supermarkets and smaller shops in units up to RO 5.  

Getting around
Oman has a modern network of roads and motorways. Taxis are the best way of getting around though it is essential to agree on the fare beforehand, as most taxis are not metered. Taxi fares from the airports to hotels are regulated and the rates are displayed.  

Car hire
Most visitors can use their own national drivers licence or International Driving licence.

Climate
Summer is between April and September when the weather is hot and humid. Mild weather is experienced in the mountoins ond in the Dhofar region all year round, which also enjoys a regular monsoon between June and October every year. An ideal time to visit Oman is between October and April with temperatures averaging between 25 and 35°C during the day and between 17 and 19°C. Air-conditioning is the norm in vehicles and in most buildings including hotels, conference centres, exhibition halls and shopping malls.

Electricity
The electrical system is based on 220/240 AC volts with 3 pin British type plugs. US­ made appliances may require an adaptor.  

Photography
Tourist photography is allowed but it is considered offensive to photograph Muslim women or near military installations. It is always courteous to ask permission before taking pictures.  

Business hours
The weekend starts on Thursday afternoon and Friday although government offices are closed the whole of Thursday and Friday. Most shops and malls open from 9am to 1 pm and 4pm to 9pm.   During Ramadan shops close late at night. Banks, embassies and consulates are open from 8am to noon, Saturday to Thursday.  

Religion
Islam is the official religion while other faiths are also respected.  

Ramadan
Ramadan is the holy month of fasting when Muslims abstain from eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours. As a sign of respect, visitors are also required to refrain from these activities in public between sunrise and sunset.  

Clothing
Lightweight summer clothing in cottons or blends is ideal for most of the year. Sweaters, a light jacket or a shawl may be needed for the cooler evenings. Oman is a Muslim country so it is important to observe a certain dress cade and behave sensitively.

Dress code
The dress code in Oman is comparatively relaxed, but extremely revealing and inappropriate clothing may be considered offensive. Men should wear long trousers and shirts. Shorts and sun tops are fine at the beach or by the pool.

Facilities for the physically challenged
Most hotels and public places provide facilities and make special arrangements for physically challenged visitors.  

Alcohol
Alcohol is served in hotel and club restaurants and bars, while drinking in public is not permitted.  

Health
While tap water is safe for drinking, a variety of locally bottled mineral water is widely available. This is generally offered at restaurants and supermarkets. Most hotels have medical help available and there is a modern medical infrastructure in terms of private and government medical facilities.  



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