Let’s talk about Oman: the tiny little Middle Eastern country, wedged right in between the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. It’s totally underrated and you need to add it to your bucket list right now.
First of all, Oman is a solidly safe travel destination. If you’re craving a taste of the Middle East but want to avoid nations that are currently war torn and embroiled in conflict, Oman is the place to see. It’s a relatively wealthy nation that’s getting more developed every year, and it’s a truly peaceful place.
Secondly, Oman is freaking gorgeous. It’s filled with ornate mosques, breathtaking beaches, colorful souks, and of course, rich, spicy food. AWESOMENESS.
But what really sets Oman apart from its oil-rich neighbors? Less built up and commercialized than its neighbor, the UAE, Oman can give you a glimpse into authentic old Arabia. You won’t find the region’s ancient culture swallowed up by glittering shopping malls and manmade islands here.
Instead, you’ll find a whole lot of history, a ton of beauty, and a welcome spot amongst some of the friendliest people on the globe. (Omani hospitality is pretty legendary.)
So! Here are 6 reasons you should add Oman to your bucket list this year. And no, the ability to make unlimited “Oh man!” jokes is not one of them. Although maybe it should be.
1.) The landscape is ridiculous.
The Omani landscape has just about everything you could ever want—huge swaths of golden desert, a pristine coastline, mountains, cliffs—you name it, Oman’s got it.
Particularly awesome are the wadis—valleys or ravines that are dry except during monsoons, when they fill with water. They’re basically gorgeous little pools of happiness, surrounded by dramatic cliffs. Now is the time to do a cannonball, folks. And of course, don’t forget about the hot springs. Oman is kind of a water lover’s paradise.
Enjoy the H2O respectfully, though. Wearing a bathing suit is generally considered impolite, and may draw some scandalized stares. Shorts and a T-shirt will do the trick, and keep you cool in the desert heat all day long.
2.) Historical landmarks from old Arabia are well preserved and easily accessible.
Want to see an ancient Arabian fort, a medieval fishing village, or a cluster of tombs from the Bronze Age? Oman’s got you covered.
With more than 500 ancient forts scattered around the country, you can easily check out these imposing structures no matter where you’re staying. Steel your heart though—a local can show you where guards used to pour boiling honey or date juice onto attackers below. Ouch.
For slightly less terrifying sightseeing, check out the ancient beehive tombs at Western Hajar or the traditional mud brick houses at Misfat al Abryeen. Welcome to old Arabia!
3.) Animal lovers rejoice—you can bond with camels, ride Arabian stallions, and see literally hundreds of turtles.
Are you a fan of all things furry? Oman is where it’s at. Take a dune bashing trip on a 4×4 through the desert, and you’ll make a stop at a camel farm. Not only will you get to pet and snuggle the camels, you’ll also get to ride one. How cool is that?
Beyond the camels, Oman is home to the original breed of Arabian stallion that’s been the region’s claim to fame for hundreds of years. Want to go horseback riding on the beach? There’s no better place to do that than Oman.
Finally, don’t forget to hit Ras Al Jinz for some epic turtle watching. At night, hundreds of green turtles come up onto this remote Sharquiya beach to lay their eggs. So basically, you get to just walk onto the set of a Discovery Channel special. AWESOME.
4.) Some of the most beautiful architecture in the Middle East is here.
Omani architecture is known for being especially beautiful, which is saying a lot when it comes to the Middle East. If you’ve ever seen the inside of a mosque, you’ll know how gorgeous and detailed they can be.
Check out Muscat’s Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque to see all that Omani detail at its finest. And even if you don’t head inside—women with their hair and shoulders exposed will be denied entry—the exterior of the Grand Mosque is incredible all on its own. Make sure you swing by at night, when the minarets are lit up against the capital city’s skyline.
Mosques aren’t the only notable architecture you’ll find in Oman. Even the less lavish buildings are visually interesting—homes and office buildings tend to be built in geometric shapes you won’t typically find outside the Middle East. Plus, the country is known for having particularly beautiful doors.
That’s right. Oman’s full of fancy doors. You’ve never been so amazed by doors before, I promise you.
5.) Souks for days, my friends.
Souks are a feature of most Middle Eastern countries. Selling spices, carpets, fabric, pottery, and all kinds of other traditional wares, souks are an integral part of life on the Arabian Peninsula.
Omani souks are known for being some of the most bustling and colorful in the region. If you’re in the capital city of Muscat, check out the Muttrah Souk in the old part of the city. If you’re a lady who happens to be traveling through on a Wednesday, check out the women only souk in the city of Ibra. There are no other women only souks in the entire region—and rumor has it, this is the most awesome, colorful, kickass souk around.
So get out of here, boys. We’re keeping the best souk in all of Arabia for ourselves. Women know how to get it done, am I right?
6.) That food, though.
And finally, you’d have to be kind of insane not to fall in love with the food you’ll find in Oman. It’s based in marinated meat and spiced rice, not to mention all the fresh dates and coffee you could possibly want.
Finish off your meal with a beachside hookah session, and you’ll basically be vacationing in paradise.
How pumped are you about Oman right now? Because I’m super pumped. Were there any must-see spots that we missed? Let us know in the comments!