FROM WADIS TO MOUNTAIN TOPS, fossils to turtles, roses to frankincense, Oman is truly a feast for all the senses, and although now might not be considered the best time for planning a trip to an Arab country, Oman has largely remained calm throughout the recent upheavals convulsing the region.
When Oman emerged from its hermit's shell over 40 years ago, it revealed to the world a land of friendly people and dramatic landscapes dotted with oases, forts and palaces. The intoxicating scenery and bewitching environment offer the discerning traveller a destination with a difference. The legendary home of Sinbad the Sailor, Oman retains its ancient atmosphere, today coupled with luxurious hotels, striking beaches and fascinating markets.
Known formally as the Sultanate of Oman and ruled by Sukan Qaboos bin Said, Oman is divided into eight main regions--Muscat, the administrative and commercial capital, Al Batinah, Al Dhahirah, Al Dakhiliyah, Al Sharqiyah, Al Wusta, Dhofar and Musandam.
Its rich cultural and archaeological heritage reflects hundreds of years of international trade and foreign influences, evidence of which is spread all over the country, home to more than 500 forts, castles, watchtowers, four UNESCO heritage sites and rock paintings. The range of activities available is equally varied: from diving in the Indian Ocean to canoeing the fjords, bird watching to rock climbing or caving, golfing to sailing. Boat trips to see dolphins, close encounters with nesting turtles or browsing the souks for frankincense make a stay in Oman unique. The geological history of the land adds to the dramatic scenery.
Almost all renowned hotel chains, including Shangri-La, InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Radisson SAS, Hyatt International, The Chedi and Sheraton have a presence in the country, with the showcase property being the Al Bustan Palace Hotel, the venue for many regional heads-of-state meetings.
The country's climate is predominantly arid and varies slightly from one region to another. In the coastal areas, the weather is hot and humid during the summer months, while it is dry elsewhere in the interior. Milder weather dominates the mountains and Dhofar region all the year round. Winter temperatures can be as low as 15[degrees]C and summer temperatures can be as high as 46[degrees]C in Muscat and as high as 50[degrees]C in the desert. Dhofar, located in the southern region of the country, however enjoys a regular monsoon...