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Perched on the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, Oman overlooks the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman with a procession of pristine sandy beaches and off-shore islands, precious nesting grounds for endangered sea turtles. Close to the shore, hard and soft coral reefs teem with brilliantly coloured fish. The country’s most fertile lands lie to the north, where palms, frankincense, oleander and acacia proliferate. Beyond, the land rises to rugged mountainous slopes, dry as a bone in summer and lush with greenery during monsoon rains. At the heart of Oman lie vast areas of desert, ideal for camel trekking and camping under the stars.
Oman borders Saudia Arabia, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates. It has been inhabited since pre-historic times with signs of ancient cave paintings and settlements as old as 8000 years. The region was subjugated by numerous empires and in the 7th century AD Oman adopted Ibadism – a conservative form of Islam. As an organised and self-governing territory, the country traces its roots to the 16th century, when a Yemeni tribe from the region of Uman settled the area and established a Sultanate, whose male descendants continue to rule the country today.Read more
The Empire of Oman flourished in the centuries following its foundation, dominating the east coast of Africa as far as Zanzibar, along with areas of Iran and Pakistan. Although Ibadism tends to eschew ostentatious displays of wealth, many of Oman’s fine castles and fortresses date to Oman’s imperial era and its golden age as one of the world’s great sea-faring nations.
Today, Oman’s empire has been dismantled, but the Sultan continues to govern. Since the 1970s, the country has sought to institute market reforms and modernisation; change is slow, but encouraging. On the plus side, decades of social isolation have effectively maintained Oman’s traditional and tribal cultures in the countryside. Oman’s simple villages employ the traditional architecture of dried clay bricks, merging with the landscape.
Life revolves around the coming and going of rain, the herding of livestock and the call to prayer. Most men continue to wear traditional ankle-length robes called dishdasha, often adorned with curved ceremonial daggers, popularised by Muslim sailors and called Khanjar knives. Women tend to wear hijab and abaya. Traditional crafts remain very popular in Oman. Silver work including the production of rosewater shakers, boxes and message-holders is particularly fine.
Places of interest in Oman
An historic port perched on the Arabian Sea Muscat is the capital of Oman and the largest urban settlement in the...
The illustrious capital of Oman during the 6th and 7th centuries, Nizwa is today a small but prosperous city situated...
Sculpted over many millennia by the northern shamal trade wind and the south-west monsoon, the Wahiba Sands are vast...