Unexpected Gift: Marvelous Oman by Karina Rain

Just a quarter of a century ago the Sultanate of Oman was one of the countries in the world that was inaccessible to tourists. The only way to get there was though obtaining a personal permission from the ruler of that time, Said bin Teimur. Everything changed when his son, Sultan Kabus, came into power. He opened his country’s borders for travelers and started to develop tourism industry in the country. Now you can find in Oman, in place of old fishing villages, new modern resorts and cities with advanced tourist infrastructure.
Oman is a quite unusual state. There are only two countries in the Arabian Gulf, Bahrain and Oman , which have rich history going back deeply to the ancient time. Saudi Arabia maintains the history of the Islamic period. The other Gulf countries, Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait, were until recently merely empty lands, and naked deserts. They started their own swift amazing development and fast growth just since the last century, when oil was discovered in the Arabian Peninsula.

The country name ” Oman ” is associated with a name of the historical figure – Oman bin Loot (the Arabian name of the Biblical character of Lot ). It is authentically known that the name of the country is very ancient, and was mentioned even by Ptolemy (85-165 g. A.D.). The historical monuments of this country stores the traces of the legendary Queen of Sheba.

Oman has a bewitching nature. Here, unlike other Gulf States , you can see the mountains that rise up to 3,000 meters in height above the sea level, surrounding the country from three sides as if they protect the country from the burning scorching breath of the desert. In Oman you can discover caves with underground lakes, deep gorges, waterfalls, green oasis and incense groves. Oman, the incense native land, located at the coastal waters of the Gulf and Arabian Sea , is an untouched paradise for divers. Civilization has not yet spoiled this corner of amazing nature.
In fact, the underwater world is very rich. In Oman there are 13 kinds of whales and dolphins. The reefs are occupied by large numbers of fish…butterflies, groupers, filefishes, moray eel which could be found under the sea stones, or spiny lobsters that might suddenly stick out of cracks in rocks, or runs of tropical mackerel that moves beside divers. There is a chance to see slopes, octopuses, even poisonous inhabitants or gigantic cuttlefish. The sharks also could be found in the sea.
But even if you are not interested in diving, it is impossible, however to avoid unexpected acquaintances with underwater world inhabitants, one of them being a big sea turtle. On the beaches of hotels every night from May till October the gigantic turtles creep out of ocean and lay eggs in the warm sand. At the hotel where we stayed, there was even a special turtle beach. We found clutches of turtle eggs everywhere, even between beach plank beds. Employees of the hotel have carefully fenced these special places off, and hung tablets containing explanatory information for tourists.

The green sea turtle or soup turtle (Chelonia mydas) is the largest type of sea turtles. The length of its armor is approximately one and a half meters, and its weight about 200 kg. But sometimes you may find giants with weight up to 450 kg.

Okay, let’s come back to the dry land. The Sultanate of Oman has a unique aspect if compared with the other parts of the Gulf region. In summer there is rain and the temperature does not rise above 23-25 degrees! Most surprisingly that at the same time the temperature might go up to +50 in Muscat the capital of the country.

It is truly a real oasis with green hills and mountains where you can hide yourself from scorching summer heat and forget about air-conditioners for a while. This place is called Salalah. It is the old capital of the southern region of Oman . The distance between Muscat and Salalah is a little far. By plane it will take about one hour, but by car you might need about 12 hours approximately to drive in the direction of Yemen . Oman has borders with Yemen , United Arab Emerites and Saudi Arabia .
We went to Oman to spend a family weekend. Three days on the seacoast, in a secluded place surrounded by mountains and greens was a gift of my husband for my birthday.
The capital airport is very small. The passport control took only 5 minutes. Our luggage arrived and immediately was picked up by agile carriers (skycaps). Most of them were Asians like the majority of workers in all the states of the Arabian Gulf.

A new comfortable car and a young cheerful driver dressed in traditional Omani style were waiting for us outside the airport when we arrived. Omani people are very friendly and hospitable. You can feel it at once on arrival to the country. On our way to the hotel we saw a lot of greens and flowers in the streets, white-yellow color buildings with recognized Gulf traditional designs, ancient forts and amazing mosques, and mountains, mountains and mountains… They are everywhere!!!
Sometimes I felt like a spirit was grasping me as the road coils through the mountains, moving sharply upwards, then suddenly downwards, then opens a marvelous view on a virgin Gulf in an environment of “stone’s stately guards.”

On arrival at the hotel we were warmly welcomed by friendly staff dressed in national Omani costumes: silk, wide trousers, bright orange shirts with embroidered belt and accompanied by “omama” or “kumma” for covering the head.

Three days which we spent in Oman reminded me of an ancient Arabian fairy tale. We were swimming in pools and the blue waters of the Gulf, walking on the beach and green parks, visiting forts, souks, palaces and villages. We felt relaxed and even forgot about computer and Internet. We just enjoyed each other’s company. In the evenings we would sit in the balcony or inside the oriental tent on the beach to listen to the music of surf and a roulade of crickets.

One day I’d like to visit Oman again… to the country which really takes my breath away and generously presents unforgettable moments…