Travel Report Oman (Apr 2019)

Travelreport Oman: 12 Days Phototrip with Stopover in Dubai in Apr 2019

12 Days on Tour in Oman, our itinerary

Routing:

Day 1: Munich -> Dubai (Marriott al Jaddaf)

Day 2: Dubai -> Muscat (Sheraton Oman Hotel)

Day 3: Muscat -> Jabal Akhdar (Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar)

Day 4: Jabal Akhdar -> Al Hamra (The View)

Day 5: Al Hamra -> Jabal Shams -> Nizwa (Falaj Daris Hotel)

Day 6: Nizwa

Day 7: Nizwa -> Wahiba Sands (Desert Nights Camp)

Day 8: Wahiba Sands -> Wadi Bani Khalid -> Sur -> Wadi Shab -> Muscat / Al Bustan Palace

Day 9-10: Muscat / Al Bustan Palace (Al Bustan Palace)

Day 11: Muscat -> Dubai (Sheraton Mall of the Emirates)

Day 12: Dubai -> Munich

What you should think about prior departure to Oman

Local currency: AED for Dubai and OMR for Oman, see also exchange rate calculator on this page for details.

For payments or cash withdrawals, you can use your credit card anywhere in the country. We had 150 OMR for a week, which was just enough for 2 people.

Vaccinations: Coming from Germany, no vaccinations are required. However, the standard vaccinations are recommended, see suggestions Foreign Office.

Luggage: If you arrive by plane, then you should only pay attention to the weight limit of the airline. Otherwise unproblematic, also with regard to the photo luggage.

Visa: As a german itizen you need a visa, which you no longer get at the airport, but have to request online prior to arrival. Cost are abot 12 Euros. Here the link to the official website: eVisa Oman. Important: Print and take it with you !

Driving license: You need an international drivers license. teh European one does not count for Oman.

Clothing: In April Oman temperatures go up to 40 degrees (!), At the same time evenings can be cool and also the air-conditioned rooms should not be underestimated. Really warm clothes are not necessary. If you want to visit the wadis, you should take “bathing shoes”. That is more pleasant. Women should definitely have a large cloth or something similar so that they can “cover” themselves when visiting the mosques. Shoulders and knobs should be covered (also in restaurants, etc.) and women in addition, the head when visiting religious institutions. When swimming in Wadi Bani Khalid and Wadi Shab women are ok to swim in a bikini. The locals are tolerant (Bani Khalid only in the back of the natural pool!). The Oman is a very friendly and open country and in “dress violations” are usually only subtle hints (except mosques). In the mountains, the desert and also most cities men and women can walk around in summer clothes, but also here (female) clothes should not be too provocative. We also took functional clothing with us to save luggage, so that everything was set up according to the well-known “onion principle”. In addition one other outfit for the upscale hotels (you do not want to sit in the outdoor pants in the restaurant).

Travel details Oman, Preparation, Highlights and Phototips

Preparation: As a German citizen you need a visa, which can no longer be purchased at the airport, but must be applied for online. It costs about 12,- Euro and can be requested here eVisa Oman (Attention, there are a lot of rip-off websites in the net, which demand much more). If you want to rent a car, then you need the international driver’s license. As for the car rental bookings, we have so far made the best experience with the large comparison platforms, because you easily get a good overview and usually a complete carefree package on top.

Day 1: From Munich via Frankfurt to Dubai, where we spend the first night. Arriving in Dubai at 10:30pm it’s still just under 33 degrees. From the airport we take a taxi to the hotel. Taxi driving in Dubai is relatively cheap. Check-in at the Marriott Al Jaddaf hotel is smooth and we even get a free late check-out until 6pm for the next day. Fantastic and unimaginable in Germany without additional payment.

Day 2: From Dubai to Muscat. Short breakfast and then head to the Dubai Mall, the largest mall in the world. The highlights are the seawater aquarium and the skating rink. Good food can be found in the food court, e.g. at K9-44 an Indian Tandori restaurant.

PHOTOTIP:

If it’s too hot outside and you still want to take a look at the artificial lake with its water features, you can go to the Nike Store and go all the way to the back. There are even benches available, so you can have a “cool” view of the action.

The flight to Muskat takes just under 50min. The airport in Oman is by far the cleanest airport we have seen so far. The entry is fast, the printed e-Visa is withheld. Interestingly, every check, including the rental car, asks for the plane ticket. Shortly after midnight we receive our Europcar rental car. An old Nissan Patrol. Luxury looks different for the rather high rental price of almost 100, – Euro per day. On the way to the hotel, we noticed that the steering of the Nissan is out of order. The hotel was immediately very helpful and tried to reach Europcar. Unfortunately without success. None of the given numbers, not even the emergency number, worked. One wonders what happens in a real emergency?

Day 3: From Muscat to Jabal al Akhbar. The breakfast in the hotel offers an incredible selection and if you like, you can eat through the specialties of all continents. The Sheraton Oman is highly recommended. Back at the airport (Europcar had not responded to email or phone calls) Europcar somewhat reluctantly exchanges the Nissan Patrol for a Mitsubishi Pajero. We did not notice that he just got out of “Cleaning”, but he is a bit more modern, has a cruise control and “only” 100,000km on the clock. After about 100km we fill up the tank for the first time. Since it is 22 liters until the tank is full, only one conclusion remains … it was not full on takeover … but at 12, – Euro fuel bill, we turn a blind eye.

At the checkpoint to Jabal al Akhbar mountains – from here only 4×4 vehicles are allowed – the police inspects your car. An hour later we reach the Anantara Resort, which – contrary to expectations – is located on the edge of a small village.

The check-in is stylish, with drink and small treats and is quick. We look around a bit and then we lie down at the infinity pool with valley view.

We take the sundowner at Diana’s Viewpoint. Really great, a small stand up bar, fire bowl and spectacular views. Only 35, – Euro for a beer and a gin and tonic appear to be a bit exaggerated for the Oman.

The dinner is buffet and in no case aligned with the 5 star status of the hotel. Exception is the desert, which is excellent.

Day 4: From Jabal al Akhbar to Al Hamra. 05:50 clock, sunrise. The hotel and the mountains are bathed in a great soft light.

The breakfast buffet is much better. At 12 o’clock we check out and make our way to Birkat al Mawz.

In Birkat al Mawz we stop and visit the ruins. Somehow it looks like a bombing raid, but it’s also fascinating at the same time, as it’s just hundreds of years old mud houses that are slowly crumbling away. For this trip you should plan for about an hour extra and park the car on the main road, as there is more space there. There is no signage yet.

Continue to Al Hamra. Actually, the plan was to take a shortcut, but we have somehow missed and so we get a first impression of Nizwa, where we eat in the shopping center at KFC (yes, not exactly typical of the country). 2 menus for less than 5 euros and top freshly prepared. We are positively surprised!

From Al Hamra its another 9km drive up  the mountains and here you really need a 4×4, as it is a gravel road with potholes and sometimes considerable slope. Arrived at the top the name of the hotel “The View” is well deserved. The view is breathtaking. Less great the check-in, which is not very friendly. The room and the view of the valley (we have the number 27 and can also recommend the numbers 26 to 30, is spectacular.) Who chooses this hotel should do it for the following reasons:

1) adventurous driving (really fun),

2) the infinity pool,

3) the view of the valley day and night.

Everything else is average and does not even justify the much too high price. Even with the food you should not expect a star kitchen. Tastes, but nothing for Instagram or the palate.

Most guests stay 1 night. The maximum I would see is 2 nights, as the way to and from the hotel is cumbersome and long and therefore you probalby stay at the hotel all time (book half board!). If you decide for 2 days, you will – if the weather plays along – have a very nice and relaxing time by the pool. To mention is also that there is only a very slow wifi and this works only in the restaurant and the front desk. For a hotel in this price range disappointing. The hotel has a check out at 10am and there is no alcohol (really nothing) in the hotel. No sundowner or wine / beer with your meal. The hotel is apparently not willing to buy the necessary concession despite the high price. Pity! Another tip: do not open the VOSS water bottle, which is offered free of charge, over the bed. Carbonic acid and shake (from transport to the room) have their regularities!

PHOTOTIP:

For any photographer, a visit to “The View” Hotel is a must for sunrise and sunset, as well as for the infinity pool. Best of all – unfortunately we did not have one – if you have a drone with you, then it will be really spectacular (see YouTube videos).

Day 5: From Al Hamra to Nizwa. 05:30 clock. Slowly the sun rises and the sky and the colors of the mountains and valleys are incredibly beautiful.

The breakfast – as the dinner – is not adequate for the admired hotel standard. Today Jabal Shams is on the plan. The journey should be a good hour (about 50km). The first 40km go fast, although it goes steeply uphill into the mountains. The last 10km are more than rough. Gravel road and extremely steep rise. Again one is glad to drive a 4×4. Follow the signs to the Jabal Shams Resort. The landscape is fascinating. Arriving at the resort you drive about 500m further to a plateau and then it is in front of you, the “Grand Canyon” of Oman. A really impressive gorge. The walking goats fit perfectly in the scenery, as well, that there is no security in front of the several hundred meters sloping wall.

Back at the foot of the mountain we are glad that the car is still “in one piece”, from the shaking. We continue to Nizwa, where we booked our next overnight stay at Hotel Falaj Daris.

Most visitors are recommended the twice as expensive Grand Tulip, which is certainly more luxurious. But it is located close to  Berkat al Mawz, not Nizwa and you have to go much further (good 10km extra). The Falaj Daris is perfectly located between the Grand Mall and the Fort Nizwa. It has the charm of a Spanish hotel of the 80s, 2 pools, nice rooms and very friendly staff.

In the evening we drive to the Nizwa Souk. For tourists there are reserved parking spaces directly in front of the fort! The souk is small but nice. Be sure to have a look at the food souk.

At 7: 30pm it still has a tight 32 degrees and we decide to eat in the restaurant “Al Mandi Al Dhahabi”. We order a few “little things”. The food is delicious, for not even 13, – Euro for 2 people. Recommendation “Chicken Nashef” and the grilled vegetables!

Day 6: Nizwa. First, we want to see the ruins of Tanuf. That is about a 30 minute drive from Nizwa. The Oman touristy is not yet developed and so far, one should not hope for signs. Tanuf is signposted, but the ruins are not, so we’re just heading for the mountains. And then you see them already. By the way, the “map” of the hotel for the highlights looked like this:

The thermometer shows 38 degrees. Next we want to look at Fort Bahla, which we reach after a good half hour drive. We look for the entrance. Right as we want to give up, we finally see the small entrance. No sign, no hint, nothing. The entrance fee is 2.50 euros for 2 people. The fort is huge and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After 1.5 hours up and down in the fort, it goes to the last highlight of the day, again an old fortress, Jabreen Castle. We reach this after another 15min drive. It is located in a garden surrounded by palm trees. 1 Euro admission and shorts and T-shirt are ok.

Jabreen Castle build in 1091.

PHOTOTIP:

At about 6 pm we drive to Nizwa for night scenes at Sultan Qaboos Mosque. A really big and impressive mosque, which in our opinion is more beautiful from the outside than the Grand Mosque in Muscat.

Day 7: From Nizwa to Wahiba Sands. Early in the morning we head towards Wahiba Sands, about 200km drive. In Al Wasil – the last place before the desert, we reduce the air in the tires at the gas station and drive to the Desert Nights Camp on one of the hardest slopes we have ever driven. The car vibrates and jumps over the hard runway. The last 3 km are great, because it is a pure sand track. The Desert Nights Camp is beautifully situated between 2 high dune ridges. Only 500m further on is the “Oryx Camp”, where you can admire some of the last Omani Oryx antelope in the gate.

We opted for the cheaper rooms vs the tents. The rooms are large and the bathrooms are modern. They are right next to the much more expensive tents and the experience is similar, but for half the price. We booked a “Dune Bashing” tour on arrival. That too a clear recommendation. It only takes 25 minutes but you get an impression of what a good SUV and a capable driver in the desert can have so much fun.

For the sunset we are driven up the dunes, where there are soft drinks and candys. The experience of walking barefoot over the seemingly untouched dune landscape is indescribable (the wind eliminates every night traces of the previous day).

PHOTOTIP:

For photographers an absolute dream backdrop, because you have enough space to not constantly have other tourists in your picture. We spent about 1 hour there, until the sandy winds became too strong.

Definitely take a plastic bag to protect the equipment from sand and best photograph with fixed focal length, because the fine sand quickly gets into the spaces between the extendable zoom lenses and damages it. In addition, a polarizing filter and a Greyfilter is helpful, since even with the sun setting slowly, the backlight is very bright. The following picture gives an “idea” of how violent the winds can be.

Dinner at Desert Nights Camp was the best on the tour and far better than Anantara or The View.

Day 8: From Wahiba Sands to Muscat / Al Bustan (via Wadi Bani Khalid, Sur and Wadi Shab). At 05:45 clock, the sky is bathed in bright red. Everywhere in the camp you can see traces of the desert foxes. The silence is impressive. Breakfast service and quality are top. Today we have a tight schedule again. We want to reach Wadi Bani Khalid, continue to Sur and to Wadi Shab and then in the evening arrive at the hotel Al Bustan, almost 300km in total. On the way back to Al Wasil, where we have to pump up the tires again, we see a herd of wild camels. They are so curious that they come to our car and we can feed them with apple pieces.

It is 40 minutes to Wadi Bani Khalid but from there you have to go up another 8km into the mountains and follow the signs “Pools”. At the end there is a little paradise. From the parking lot you walk about 5 minutes. In the front pool you are asked to stick to the dress code. There is a restaurant and toilets to change! If you walk further to the back natural stone pools, women may even swim in a bikini.

It is a great experience to swim through the natural rock channels. As we make our way back at 11:30 am, plenty of tourists are running towards us. So be there early, if you want to avoid that.

Via Sur (good 1,5h drive) we continue towards Muskat and another hour later we reach the Wadi Shab, which is well signposted from the highway 17. It’s just a short descent and the parking is right under the highway bridge you came across.

Parking is free, but for the “river-crossing” by boat (appr. 50m), OMR 1 per person is required, which is expensive for Oman. On the other side arrived expect a good 40min walk (good shoes, such as sneakers advised) to the first natural pools. Without knowing it, it was right to visit Wadi Shab in the afternoon, as one of the guides explained later, as it still has 37 degrees and sun shines into the canyon. We are very happy to have taken 2 bottles of water.

At the pools, we swim and rest a little. The last boat back is at 6pm. The way back is a lot more pleasant, as the canyon is now in the shade. we continue to Al Bustan. We are still planning to stop at Bimmah Sinkhole. Unfortunately, we miss the exit (there is no signage) and decide to not tunr around for this. After a good 2 hours drive we finally arrive at the hotel or better said palace. The Al Bustan Palace belongs to the Ritz Group and used to be a palace of the sultan, who still owns the 9th floor exclusively. Already the lobby is impressive.

The rooms are gorgeous and the hotel is just right. In the beach restaurant of the hotel, where we have a snack, we end the evening.

Day 9: Muscat. Breakfast is available until 11am (!) It is an insanely rich buffet, top quality. Afterwards we rest at the pool / beach and relax from the eventful last days.

In the evening we drive to Matrah. We eat at the Royal House, right on the quayside, which is good value for money and very nicely done. Then we stroll through the souk. Tourists must have been here more often, because the traders pounce on you, like the vultures on the carrion. But if you refuse thankfully, it is OK (or good, that you do not understand the language).

Day 10: Muscat. Cloudy sky (?), It looks like it’s raining, but it’s 34 degrees. We are getting up early, as we want to go to the Sultan Qaboos Mosque and this is only possible for tourists between 8 and 11am. The mosque is impressively large, as well as the rush. But the men’s prayer hall (yes, women and men pray separately!) Has more than 5000 square meters, so enough space, even for the famous and huge Swarowski chandelier. The mosque is only a few years old and rather mordern. The dress code is very strict here – especially for women.

The rest of the day we spend at the pool. I’ll shoot some pictures of the birds in the garden (who says there is no widlife?).

At 6 pm it starts to rain. When we get the car to drive to the city, we get horrified looks. As we leave, we understand why. After about 500m we have to cross the first water sink with 30cm depth. At an intersection, we feel like we’re in a fast-moving river and are happy to have our 4×4 SUV. We turn around and drive back, which feels like a boat trip. The evening sky is punctuated by lightning every second and the Omanis tell us that they have never experienced something like that before.

Day 11: From Muscat to Dubai. It is still raining cats and dogs but at 29 degrees. At midday it suddenly clears up. Blue sky, bright sun, beautiful pool weather. The hotel gives us a late checkout until 6pm (just great!) So we can enjoy the whole afternoon at the hotel. We drive to the Muscat Grand Mall, which is big but rather disappointing. The idea to fill up the car, on the way to the airport, becomes a small odyssey, because our GPS always thinks out new ways. There is no petrol station right at the airport! In the end, everything works, we return the car and go to the lounge. This is one of the largest and most beautiful lounges we have seen at airports so far.

With 30min delay our plane takes off to Dubai, where we land at 1:15 in the morning. 45 minutes later we are at the Sheraton Emirates Mall.

Day 12: From Dubai via Frankfurt to Munich. The hotel has a direct mall access, which is handy if you want to shop. In the afternoon we go to the pool and somehow the day is just gone. When it gets dark, I grab one last time the camera, for a few shots of Burj Khalifa.

Summary: Oman is a touristic yet unspoilt country, at least as far as the northern part is concerned. Unless the big cruise ships moor in Matrah and thousands of tourists rinse the city, it is surprisingly quiet. The itinerary of the few tourists is usually the same. The question is, “go counterclockwise or clockwise”? Concerning driving, you should know that there is, to my knowledge, no other country with such a high density of speed traps and therefore take care and take a car with cruise control if possible. Initially we were  unsure about the GPS, as it is quite expensive to rent this. In hindsight, even if it had its dropouts, it was absolutely right, because some tracks do not have sufficient signage (or other spellings) and you just feel safer! As far as people are concerned, we have seldom experienced a more hospitable country. The Omanis are helpful, friendly and the land is very safe. Should tourism increase, as in Muscat, that will certainly not stay that way in the future. But on the routes off the big tour operators, one experiences the original Oman and that is simply an experience. We will definitely come back sometime to explore the southern part.

Which Photoequipment to take to Oman and Dubai

The new Lowepro Pro Runner Trolley is really a great “camera trolley” as long as you do not intend to take your big telephoto lenses with you. Unfortunately, Lowepro did not think much about the flexibility of the interior. Also, the accommodation of a professional DSLR with more than 11cm height and mounted lens is almost impossible. This is a pity, because the trolley is otherwise a really great one, with many storage options and good concept. A much better and not much more expensive alternative is the Tenba Roadie Roller, which comes in different sizes and designs. The “21er” is almost perfect if you want to have the greatest possible flexibility and the ability to take this in the plane on board. I ordered the Tenba right after the Oman tour and the first impression is extremely positive. The Lowepro I find for smaller equipment also absolutely good to go.