Oman is a country that offers everything from beaches, historic cities and deserts to mountains. There is something for every visitor. Plus, it's a country that's still not too besieged by tourists, which certainly has its advantages. Travel with me to see the beauty of Oman, for example to Fazayah beach, visit the city of Muscat and climb Jebel Shams. Get inspired about what to visit in Oman and soak up the Arab culture.
I walk up to the car rental counter, and there sits a smiling lady in black. I explain to her that this is where I booked and paid for my car. The lady enters the details into the computer, nods with a smile and asks for the necessary documents. After a check of the plastic cards, she informs me that she needs a credit card because this debit card is insufficient. But yes, it is not embossed. I nod in agreement and see myself on my way out of Oman. A great introduction and a quick conclusion. I grab my luggage, sit down on a bench nearby, tired. I agonise over whether to find a return ticket or rely on a miracle.
After about three hours, an interesting thought comes to me. I take out a second card from my wallet, which is embossed, but has 23 cents on it. Hm, money is not everything... with this thought I go to the counter again and argue for the paid car. Another lady is now sitting there and she repeats what I've heard before, it's not working. At that point a gentleman in a shirt walks up and curiously examines the situation. After about half an hour, he joins my "game". Somehow it’s resolved. The car is ready. The roads are mostly 3-4 lane, radar every now and then, lots of cars, so I obediently blend in with the crowd. I have to admit that the driving here is great, the Omanis don't use their indicators much, but they are considerate drivers nonetheless.
In a KIA SPORTAGE 4×4 I set off to steal the first kilometres around the capital of Oman – Muscat. I pull out of the multi-storey car park at the first roundabout and make my way to the shopping centre, to buy supplies. Cool, there's a currency exchange in Carrefour, I change dollars into Omani currency and note that the dollar is somehow weak. For 100 dollars, I get 38 rials. I take the shopping trolley and wander between the aisles. A 5-kilo carton of mini bananas for 2 rials, a 5-kilo carton of tangerines for 2 rials, and my breakfast is set. Some flatbread, fresh vegetables, flavoured cheese in marinade and I can continue my exploration of this oriental country.
I arrive at the market, park my car and wander through the tangle of narrow alleys. I switch on my GPS and after a few minutes I find myself on a street stretching along the sea. I take some photos, including of some seagulls squawking. that swoop down in their hundreds to feast on the locals' offerings. I walk along the waterfront and see Mutrah Fort in the distance. The marketplace is already beginning to pulsate with the spirit of commerce. Everyone is offering almost the same goods and everyone is overdoing it in communication.
I move my car a kilometer further and stop in the car park of a small coffee shop. I get out and go to buy something, while the other people coming in just stop, honk their horns, and an attendant comes running out, takes their order, runs off and in a few minutes comes running out again with coffee and some food. I'm really happy too, I ate for 2 euros.
I sit in the car and choose a point of interest from my pre-prepared itinerary. My choice fell on Bimmah Sinkhole. The GPS shows roughly 130 km. Okay, here we go! The road on the Omani highway passes with complete ease, there are few cars, the maximum speed limit in the whole country is 120 km/h. I arrive at a cave filled with seawater, the ceiling of which has collapsed. This interesting natural creation keeps me occupied for many minutes and time ceases to exist. It is also possible to swim, but it is definitely better to come here first thing in the morning or before the evening.
I slowly head to my car, turn on the data and look for a suitable beach. I choose a small beach about 5 km away from the town of Fins. I am greeted by a tiny beach nestled among the rocks. I am not surprised that there is a family camping there and the head of the family is pitching a tent right on the shore. Never mind. I choose a spot a few metres up from the beach. With a good feeling I watch the panorama of the rocky mountains, melting in the rays of the setting sun. With peace in my heart, I realise that every country is simply beautiful and worth getting to know in person. Just after dark, I climb into my sleeping bag and watch the millions of stars through the mosquito netting. No light smog disturbs this fantastic cosmic spectacle.
I wake up with the first light modestly breaking over the sea surface. I make tea and wait for the sunrise. As the sun rises and occupies the sky, the air temperature rises rapidly. I look at the map and decide on Wadi Shab, which is quite close. I buy a ticket for 1 rial, which allows one of the ferrymen to ferry me in a boat 50 metres away, to the opposite shore. The price includes the return ferry. The surrounding cliffs rise to respectable heights. There is no wind in the narrow valley and I start to sweat. I must admit that I don't mind it at all, because at the end of this journey the biggest surprise awaits me. I put on my swimsuit and swim about 150 meters into a cave full of water. I carefully move my arms and legs to cross the narrow gap between the rocks, where only my head can fit. The ceiling of the cave is open, it is not a classic one, which is good, because there is plenty of light and warm air. Then I decide to leave. The road along the sea towards the town of Sur passes once or twice, then turns south and winds between the rocks, providing many interesting views. The last 30 km are the most interesting, climbing up serpentine hills. After three hours, I stop at the car park of Wadi Bani Khalid. After 500 metres I am at the water and go to see the Moqul cave. On the way from Wadi Bani Khalid I admire the huge number of palm trees, they give the landscape a more lively character.
My subconscious has decided that tonight I will sleep in the desert. There are quite a few campsites in the desert where they are happy to welcome you. You just need to decide where to go. I turn on the data and look for a pre-planned campsite. Let's go! So this is it? I end up somewhere at the end of an unfamiliar village. I stop and wonder what went wrong... I sit in the car and think. There are very few road signs in Oman, and despite this fact, I have a strong feeling that driving here is accident-free. The village is full of concrete speed bumps so no one actually has to worry about obeying the speed limit. I stop at my specific destination. I finally have it set up correctly in my mobile and head off to find a place to sleep. It's getting dark and it's clear that I'll be pitching my tent with a headlamp. After today's 250 kilometres, I enter the desert and in the darkness I choose a suitable "pitch" on which to pitch my tent. I switch on the lights on the car and in a moment my overnight camp is ready.
Today I wake up a little earlier as the nights are cooler in the desert. I get out of the tent and there are camels walking around, and I get acquainted with one right away. The camel slowly approaches me, with wide nostrils she sniffs the scent of her new friend and I stroke her forehead. I stare at the map of Oman on my phone for a while and decide. An attractive destination awaits me. I'm going to the mountains, and high up. Jebel Shams. On the way, my car alarms signals that I'm running out of fuel, and I stop at a gas station and report "Full" to the attendant. In return, the attendant tells me the final amount is 11 rials (for 54 litres). And I didn't even have to get out of the car.
Today will be mainly for the KIA, which will take me to an altitude of 2000 meters. As long as there is asphalt on the road, everything goes quite fast. Suddenly the asphalt ends and you have to be more careful. The final 12 km is a really great experience. I definitely recommend a visit to this magical place. There is a fascinating view into the endless depths of the canyon. I don't even want to leave here. There are a couple of treks here that are worth the effort. I slowly descend the road-not-road to lower elevations and watch the sun go down.
It's a new morning here and the plan is to visit the ruins of Birkat Al Mouz. I start the tour in Birkat, I mean I want to, I just somehow can't find the aforementioned ruins. I wander through the narrow streets, but to no avail. I get lost in the ruins of the historic city. I am intercepted by a Bangladeshi resident who takes up the task of a determined guide. With a smile, I accept and allow myself to be lazily drawn into the history.
I move to the town of Izki, where the Harat Al Yemen fortress should be located. With the determination of a professional, I create compositions that I simply like. Satisfied, I leave this photogenic monument. The next point of interest is the Al Hoota cave. The road winds its way through the rocky mountains and one has the feeling of being on Mars. The hour-long journey passes at a leisurely pace and there is more than enough time to admire the landscape. I arrive at the car park and look forward to seeing the underground spaces. I buy a ticket at the ticket office. They sure didn't skimp on the price here. The sum of 17 euros in conversion, says it all. This only intensifies my curiosity. This "hole" is definitely worth it... It is still about 200 meters to the entrance and it is time to check out all the secrets hidden from the light of day. After half an hour I come out from underground and process the experience. I realise that this cave was not worth visiting.
I change my plan and move to the very south of the country. This means covering a distance of almost 1000 km. A non-stop overnight move awaits me. In Oman, most of the highways are three-lane, illuminated and almost empty. The amount of speed cameras and the maximum speed limit quite easily determines the duration of this night adventure. I am completely alone on the road. Only the star-studded sky remains. The navigation announces that there are 100 km to Salalah. I am approaching civilisation. I pass through a police checkpoint. It looks like I'm crossing the border, but no one stops me. The approach to Salalah is strangely dramatic. The road is missing chunks of asphalt, and is as bumpy as cement and, as a bonus, has a steep descent. I'm already close to the sea and looking forward to a morning swim. Given my altitude, I'm in for an adrenaline rush. I wasn't wrong. I need to drop 700 meters lower. I carefully begin my descent into the valley. The serpentines transition into a gently descending flat area and I can smell the humidity in the air. I look to my left at the beautiful sandy beach, fringed by the endless sea with mute wonder. This is She. She doesn’t disappoint in the least.
I'm soaking up the romantic atmosphere of the beginning of the morning and I want to know what I'm actually going to end this show with. Suddenly the journey ends abruptly. I get out of the car and go to look up at the rocky outcropping. I stand and feel like I'm in a fairy tale. Down below me is a long sandy beach with waking waves lazily rolling over it, and I skip merrily between the boulders, heading straight for it. I pull out my beach towel and go for another swim. No one is here. I'm lying on my back, the warm waves rocking me in regular rhythms, amplifying the endless energy of one of the elements. I sit under a small rock and silently observe the undisturbed perfection of nature. Evening is approaching and the only right decision is to pitch the tent. I gather the remains of the washed up wood and prepare my evening campfire. The sun is setting, the sky is dark, but at the same time the light show of the sea begins. Wave after wave rolls in, creating a luminous tunnel the length of the shoreline. With sleep comes big waves... and with the waves comes a night full of surprises. (I didn't feel like writing about the flooded beach, the flooded tent, the flash move to the car and the rescue of my belongings ...!).
I am slowly leaving paradise on Earth. Today's first destination is a shipwreck near Efthylquot beach. However, finding the right turn-off to this attraction is almost impossible. All the navigations installed on my mobile phone fail (today I know why this happened). The road to the wreck does not exist. I trudge up the hills and in the distance I can see the right place.
I backtrack a few kilometres and choose a new agenda item. Mughsail beach. The beach is really long, the road ends at the end of it and there's an interesting looking rock just off the car park and a little further on, it vents in the rocky shoreline through which seawater shoots up at high tide. There is no show for me, it is low tide. I head north along the coast.
The next stop is the majestic baobab trees. They are beautiful. They silently stretch their arms to the sky and the diameter of their trunks is incredible. I take in their tremendous energy and know that I don't actually know anything. I don't even want to go on. The surrounding area is becoming less populated, rock formations of all shapes are appearing, cars are dwindling. The road is winding, the speed is dropping. From the left side there are high rocks, from the right side the sea. Suddenly a post with soldiers appears in front of me. I have to stop, roll down the window and hand my passport to the smiling officer. His first question is where I'm from and the second is where I'm going. He hands me back my passport and I continue driving. I enter the town of Shuwaymiyah.
The surroundings are not interesting, mostly sand and flat land surrounds me. I come to the conclusion that unless your priority is driving on sand and sweating in sand dunes, I recommend avoiding this part of the country. The only point of interest becomes the island of Al Masira. The island is about 20 km from the mainland. There are plenty of beaches and few people on it.
Hundreds of km ahead of me. I start to move away from the coast and the landscape becomes more civilised. I find that I could stay here for at least another week. The peace, the sun, the sea, the mountains, the sand, the rocks of incredible shapes, the communicative people willing to help and advise. But in the mass media they say how dangerous Arabs are... the opposite is true!
I enter the capital, which is absolutely great to drive in and although it is huge in size, the "comrades from the GDR" did not make any mistakes here. It is the final day of my road-trip in Oman.
My plan is basically clear. First thing in the morning I want to visit the Sultan's palace, which is only open to foreigners from eight to eleven. The Sultan's palace is only 5 km away. What remains is to find the entrance. At first glance it seems easy, so I take the nearest one, but the local coordinator and treasure guardian in one, guides me. So I cheerfully stride out and walk around the palace for a few hundred meters, to the valid entrance. A brief check of the right choice of clothing and I'm on the grounds of this lavish mansion of the now-defunct ruler of the Omani empire. I am pleasantly surprised by Qaboos' palace and return to the hotel with a head full of impressions.
I'm off to roam Muscat. My path leads to Mutrah Souq market, which I visited on the very first day of my stay. I want to buy some souvenirs and a few postcards for someone who is unable to go on such an adventure for health reasons. I hereby extend my warm regards to her and let her know that I have not forgotten her. This old town has its own unique atmosphere and I love coming back here.
I am slowly saying goodbye to the Arabian Peninsula, my thoughts are almost on the plane, but I still have to see the magnificent Royal Opera House. It's beautifully lit, and there's even a concert going on in the adjacent garden. I'm going to take a night Muscat ride to a great vantage point over the city. After 30 kilometres, I stand at the finish line and take in the magnificent view. With nostalgia, I move towards the airport. I take all my belongings out of the trunk of the car, hand over the KIA to the employee of the rental company and take a slow step towards the airport hall...
Summary: I have driven 3504 km, spent almost 53 hours behind the wheel, paid 68 rials for petrol. Thank you all for reading and have a pleasant stay in Oman.