The first thing you need to know about Oman is that it’s a lot more like a traditional Arab country than Las Vegas. Don’t be fooled by its proximity to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, with their imposing glass towers and boasts of having the world’s biggest, most expensive and flashiest of everything.
Oman shares a good deal of history with its neighbours, but its beauty lies not in how things are changing rapidly, but how they’re not changing too much at all.
The capital of Muscat is a beautiful low-slung city that looks like something out of Arabian Nights. This is typical of Oman – understated, classical beauty. The buildings that do stand out above the white stone parapets aren’t glass towers, but its mosques built according to the principles of traditional Arabian architecture.
The most dramatic scenes in Oman aren’t the topping out of a new skyscraper, or the creation of a new archipelago of artificial islands, although that can be exciting. In Oman, your breath will be taken away when the sun goes down behind the mountains surrounding Muscat, and the lights come on to create a bowl of Arabian light.
Luxury vs modesty
Oman has its fair share of luxury restaurants and hotels, where (like Dubai) alcohol is available to western visitors. But here the hotels blend in with their surrounding architecture immaculately, and many of them are in perfectly maintained old Arabian buildings. Even the new builds have been designed specifically to fit in with the region’s traditional aesthetics rather than to overshadow or refashion them.
Oman is by and large a more modest place than its neighbours. Many visitors who go to Oman for the first time after visiting Dubai or Abu Dhabi feel more at ease in Oman. Not only because all those reflective surfaces in the middle of a desert can hurt your eyes, but because it’s just generally a lot less flashy.
Providing guests respect the local customs, they will find Oman to be a peaceful and calming place. A walk through the back streets lit by old lamps, or moonlit dinner on the terrace of a restaurant can be as good as, or even better than the high-octane glamour of Dubai.
That’s not to say that Oman is boring, or there is nothing to do. On the contrary. From designer shopping to water sports and turtle watching, Oman is a place where relaxation is best enjoyed after a hard day’s fun.