Cultural and relaxing break to Oman
We are quite interested in visiting Oman but are not completely sure what to expect. We have heard that it can be expensive, and are slightly worried that it will be similar to Dubai, which we found very sterile. We usually like a mix of culture and relaxation when we go on holiday so do you think Oman would be suitable?Alex Westwood, 26 August 2013
Oman would definitely be a suitable destination for you - indeed, it might well be perfect! I can say that in my experience Oman is remarkably different to Dubai, although plenty of people do ask this question.
Dubai can feel extremely modern and somewhat incongruous to its desert surroundings, whereas the pace of development in Oman has been much slower - there are no skyscrapers at all, and it has retained a rather sleepy and authentically Arabian atmosphere so it's anything but sterile. Muttrah's old harbour in particular, with its 18th century merchant houses, has plenty of character, and a stroll along the corniche in the evening is one of the best ways to take it all in.
Personally, what I have always loved the most about Oman is the real friendliness of the people, who are absolutely charming, and the striking scenery which you find in the mountains around Nizwa, and in the desert areas of the Wahiba Sands or Empty Quarter in Dhofar. There really is nothing in the region to compare it to, and I know that many of my clients mention the same thing when they return.
Oman has unfortunately carved itself a reputation as an expensive destination in recent years, although I am pleased to say that prices appear to have peaked; the combination of some cheaper 3 and 4 star properties which have just opened, and a raft of special offers from the existing hotels means that a great time can be had for a more reasonable budget. It still can be more expensive than some of the countries I cover, such as Egypt, but it does offer a very different experience; we think that our self-drive itinerary is a great place to start if you want to mix some adventure, culture and relaxation without blowing the budget. A couple more days at one of the beach hotels at the end of the trip would round things off nicely.