Omani Beach and Culture
With teens in tow
With just their youngest yet to fly the nest, Alison and her husband were keen to escape our cold climate over one February half-term and opted for a mix of culture, desert fun and beach in Oman, keeping costs in check with a self-drive option:
After an overnight 7 hour flight from London, we spent our first two nights exploring fascinating Muscat. A small capital city in the scheme of things, there’s plenty to see and do for all ages. Top of the list is probably Muttrah Souk with its labyrinth of indoor streets, where market traders sell everything from dates to ceremonial swords – a great opportunity to practice our bartering skills! For a real insight into local culture, early-birds can visit Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque (make sure you get there before 11am). The building and gardens are beautful and there are guides on hand to answer any questions – it’s also a good way to escape the heat briefly! If you want to find out more about the history of Oman, it’s well worth visiting Bait Al Zubair Museum.
After picking up our hire car (4WD recommended!), it was off to the desert. There are a couple of routes you can take to the desert camps – one follows the coastal road to Sur, which makes a good stopping point for lunch, but you do need to leave early morning to allow enough time. Alternatively, there’s a quicker route that takes about 6-7 hours, allowing for a lunch stop and a break at a wadi (water-hole) en-route for a quick dip and freshen up. Travelling with an always hungry teen, it was a pleasant surprise to be presented with a £10 bill for lunch – the full works – for three!
There are several camps off the main road at Bidiyyah, depending on how much driving you are happy to do (don’t forget to deflate your tyres for off-road driving in the desert) and how much you want to spend. Top of the range is probably Desert Nights Camp, but a good alternative that is more purse-friendly is 1000 Nights Camp where we stayed – one night is really enough for a brief insight into bedouin-style living in the desert as there’s not a huge amount to entertain teens here – and, dare we say it, no Wi-Fi! We all agreed that the open-to-the-skies shower was a nice touch (good for cooling down!) and climbing the dunes to witness the glorious desert skies at sunset was a sight to behold. It might also be the quietest night’s sleep we’ve ever had…
We spent the next couple of nights in the hills near Al Hamra, basing ourselves at The View – most definitely 4WD territory! The views from our ‘pod’ were spectacular and the peaceful atmosphere was just what we needed (there is only Wi-Fi in reception). A visit to a fort is almost a pre-requisite for any visit to Oman and we saw several nearby, our favourite of which was Jabreen – just £1 entry including the all important audio guide. The Al Hutah Caves made for a different kind of excursion – in the company of plenty of bats – the Welsh Slate Mines it was not!
From there we headed back to the bustle of Muscat and the coast – the sun-loungers were definitely calling by this point! Upping the luxury stakes somewhat, we enjoyed three decadent nights at Al Waha, Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa, about 16km south of Muscat (twice daily free shuttle). Re-united with Wi-Fi and with staff on hand to look after our every need, we enjoyed some overdue R&R. It was refreshing to be able to order wine and alcoholic beer too as it wasn’t available elsewhere.
In terms of things to do, water-babes are well catered for at Al Waha, with a lazy river to float around on and several pools. There are plenty of activities to keep older children and teens busy – from tennis courts and a gym to organised camel and pony rides (extra). For younger ones there is also a children’s club. There are watersports galore, but these do all cost extra so you have to factor that in. If underwater adventure appeals, you can even learn to dive here. The highlight of our stay was a boat trip out to see the dolphins plus a snorkelling trip where we had fun swimming with a rather charming turtle.
Weather-wise, early mornings and evenings were slightly chilly so we did need to layer up with a sweater or wrap. For us though, it was the perfect pool-side temperature until about 4.30pm and both the pool and sea temperature were pleasantly warm.
To sum up, it ticked all our boxes for a mid-winter dose of culture and sun, somewhere new and fascinating – we loved the boat trips, the sight of camels roaming and the warm, friendly welcome from the locals wherever we went.
Other articles about Europe & Middle EastBACK TO THE BLOG
Get In Touch
Feeling inspired? Start planning your next adventure by contacting us today.