Oman Newsletter – March-2023
ICICI Bank introducing VACATIONS – Your Monthly Travel Newsletter!
Introducing this month’s theme: Hidden Beauty of Lesser Known Places
Visiting lesser-known destinations can be incredibly rewarding, as they offer a unique and authentic experience that’s usually missing in tourist hotspots. Less popular destinations are often less crowded, letting you enjoy the beauty and tranquillity of the locales away from the maddening crowd. This is particularly true for natural landscapes, like beaches or national parks, where a crowd can often be a distraction.
This month’s destination: Oman is not very popular, and yet incredibly beautiful and rewarding.
An off-the-route destination gives you the opportunity to truly immerse yourself in the local culture and lifestyle. You are more likely to meet local people who are genuinely excited to share their culture and traditions with you. You get to learn about different customs, cuisines and other aspects of the local culture. In addition, lesser-known destinations are often more affordable and budget-friendly than popular tourist hub spots.
With all these advantages, why would you want to buy into the marketing hype or go where everyone else is going? Learn about these hidden gems, plan a visit and have the time of your life.
Soul Trip: Travel that touches our soul
Travelling can potentially change our lives. However, our travails more often than not, end up becoming homogenous. The destinations change but the crowd are the hustle remain and unfortunately, that kind of travel rarely touches our soul. Travelling is reduced to yet another ‘task’ that we undertake and get done with.
As travellers, we often crave an authentic experience. With the rise of mass tourism, many destinations have become overcrowded and commercialised while real, local experiences have become hard to find. Many popular tourist spots are now crawling with souvenir shops and restaurants catering to tourists, obscuring the genuine culture and the local way of life. Furthermore, with the growing popularity of social media, people flock to the same places. However, following a well charted plan and venturing off the beaten path, can reveal authentic and memorable experiences. Our newsletter brings such experiences to you every month, both in terms of destinations and travel styles.
Discover Your World
The beauty next door
The Sultanate of Oman is located in the Middle East, on the south-eastern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It borders the United Arab Emirates in the northwest, Saudi Arabia in the west and Yemen in the southwest.
As you would expect, Oman has one of the hottest and driest climates in the world. However, there are substantial differences between the coastal zone, the mountainous regions, the arid inland desert and the southwestern region of Dhofar. Summers can get significantly hot but winters are pleasant with daytime temperatures generally between 25° and 30°C. The beaches of Oman take on a splendid hue at this time.
The regions of Oman vary in terrain:
Hajar Mountains - a majestic range and the highest in the Arabian Peninsula, stretches into the UAE
Madha – a tiny exclave of Oman completely surrounded by the UAE
Masirah Island - a real desert island experience awaits on this haven for turtles and other wildlife
Musandam Peninsula - a rocky exclave on the Straits of Hormuz with some magnificent wadis
Wahiba Sands - massive rolling dunes as far as the eye can see.
Although Arabic is the national language, most Omanis speak good to excellent English, particularly in major tourist areas and cities. Swahili is spoken by thousands of returnees from Zanzibar and other parts of East Africa. Oman has a long-standing maritime and trade tradition with the ‘Swahili Coast’ of Kenya, Tanzania, Unguja, Pemba, Comoros, Northern Mozambique and Southern Somalia. In 1832, the Omani ruler Said bin Sultan moved his headquarters from Muscat to Stone Town, Zanzibar. His progeny were to rule the islands and part of the mainland coast, until their violent overthrow by Africans in 1964. In recent years, relations have been restored and there is lots of traffic both ways, making Swahili even more popular.
The presence of a large numbers of expatriates from the Indian state of Kerala, has made Malayalam a prominent language, while the historical presence of other Indian traders has meant that Hindi is understood in some urban areas. A significant number of residents also speak Urdu, due to the influx of Pakistani migrants during the late 1980s and 1990s.
Oman is famous for its historic forts, the country's most striking cultural landmarks. There are over 500 forts and towers that used to be the traditional defence and lookout points, to deter potential invaders. Some of the best examples are conveniently located in the capital, Muscat. Jalali and Mirani forts stand at the entrance to the Muscat Bay and date back to the early 16th century. Bahla Fort at the base of the Djebel Akhdar highlands is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has 7 miles of walls. It was built in the 13th and 14th centuries when Bahla was a thriving oasis town.
Oman's rugged mountains offer some stunning scenery for driving in the dry wadis. Many of the wadis have roads made (often unsurfaced but decent enough), while others require serious off-roading. You can easily get well off the beaten path into remote areas of the terrain.
However, the prettiest hidden treasure of Oman is in its beaches (and in its old souks of course!). There are many city beaches in and around Muscat.
For example Bandar Jissah: A horseshoe-shaped bay protects Bandar Jissah beach from the elements, meaning good boating conditions in the crystal-clear water. More rocky than sandy, the coastline here is filled with ethereal rock formations and sea arches. It’s a 15 km drive from Muscat, making it a popular weekend destination. Fishing boats putter in and out and water taxis wait in the shallows, to take you out to the sea.
But for true respite from the crowd, head out of Muscat to the beaches near Salalah etc. such as Al Bustan Beach, Duqm’s Beaches and many more. Oman's beaches are major breeding locations for various species of sea turtle. Masirah Island is perhaps the best bet where four species breed, including the largest number of leatherbacks anywhere in the world.
When you are in Oman, you would feel a sense of familiarity because of its geographical and cultural closeness to India but at the same time, Oman will surprise you with magnificent views that you’ve never expected to find so close to home!
Ace flight delays and reschedules
In recent news, many travellers were hit by system breakdowns and long waits at airports due to delays and/or cancellations. If you are a frequent traveller, you are bound to come across these scenarios.
Stay calm: First, stay calm and composed. Getting frustrated will not help the situation. Remember, flight delays and reschedules are out of your control or that of the airlines’
Stay informed: Keep track of your flight status and any updates provided by the airline. Follow their tweets and e-mail/SMS updates. This can help you make necessary adjustments
Make use of your time: Bring a book, a laptop, or a tablet to pass time or catch up on work
Be prepared: Pack snacks, water and a small bag with essentials like a change of clothes, toiletries and medications. Be comfortable during long waits
Stay comfortable: Try to find a comfortable place to sit, like a lounge. Bring a travel pillow or a blanket to make your wait easy
Seek assistance: If you have a long layover or your flight is delayed, ask the airline for assistance. They may be able to offer you a hotel room or meals
Be flexible: Try to have a flexible attitude when it comes to flight delays and reschedules and take it as a part of the whole travel experience. The situation may teach you the ability to say ‘C’est comme ca (French for ‘That’s how it is’).
Sustainable Travel Tip of the Month
“To get a sample itinerary for Oman, "Click here”
Let’s all be responsible travellers
Don’t follow the herd
7 – day itinerary for Oman
Day 1: Arrive in Muscat, the capital of Oman and check into your hotel. Take a tour of the city, visiting landmarks such as the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and the Royal Opera House. Take a stroll through the Muttrah Souk, one of the oldest markets in the city.
Day 2: Take a day trip to the Jabrin Castle, a 17th century fort located in the Al Dhahirah Governorate. This castle is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Day 3: Drive to the city of Nizwa, known for its traditional souk and the Nizwa Fort, which dates back to the 17th century. Visit the Nizwa Souk, where you can find traditional crafts, jewellery and spices.
Day 4: Take a trip to the beach town of Quriyat and spend the day at the Quriyat Beach, known for its clear waters and snorkelling opportunities. Visit the Quriyat Fort, which dates back to the 17th century.
Day 5: Drive to the beach town of Sur and visit the historic city of Sur, known for its traditional dhow building and the Sur Fort, which dates back to the 17th century. Take a boat trip to the nearby Ras al-Jinz Turtle Reserve, where you can see turtles nesting and hatching.
Day 6: Visit the stunning Wadi Shab, a popular spot for swimming and hiking. Take a dip in the crystal-clear pools and admire the beautiful waterfall.
Day 7: Take a trip to the Wahiba Sands, a vast desert landscape with towering dunes. Enjoy a camel ride and a traditional Bedouin camp experience.
Being a responsible traveller means being mindful of the impact that your actions have on the places and people you visit. One way to do this, is by ditching the "herd" mentality when it comes to travel.
Instead of following the crowd to popular tourist destinations, consider seeking out lesser-known locations and those that lay off-the-beaten-path. This can help reduce the strain on popular destinations and support local economies.
Being a responsible traveller invariably leads to an enriched experience and at the same time, is good for the destination and the local community.
By staying away from the herd, you can have a more authentic and meaningful experience while also being responsible. The thronging crowd is often driven by a marketing push, deals or exposure through TV series and films. While it may seem like a good idea to go where everyone is going, a little bit of research can help you find destinations that are hidden, more authentic and brimming with pristine wonders.
‘Vacations’ is powered by OneShoe Trust for Responsible and Mindful Travels – a social enterprise that promotes travelling as a means to raise awareness about climate change and environmental issues. Incubated at IIM Bangalore, OneShoe is the source of the most authentic travel experiences around the world.
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