Travel Report Oman plus Dubai (Apr 2019)
What a 12 Days phototrip to northern Oman, with stopover in Dubai, could look like?
In our Travel Report Oman we share our routing and the most interesting stops and places in northern Oman.
1.Day: Munich -> Dubai (Marriott al Jaddaf)
2.Day: Dubai -> Muscat (Sheraton Oman Hotel)
3.Day: Muscat -> Jabal Akhdar (Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar)
4.Day: Jabal Akhdar -> Al Hamra (The View)
5.Day: Al Hamra -> Jabal Shams -> Nizwa (Falaj Daris Hotel)
7.Day: Nizwa -> Wahiba Sands (Desert Nights Camp)
8.Day: Wahiba Sands -> Wadi Bani Khalid -> Sur -> Wadi Shab -> Muscat / Al Bustan Palace
9.-10.Day: Muscat / Al Bustan Palace (Al Bustan Palace)
11.Day: Muscat -> Dubai (Sheraton Mall of the Emirates)
12.Day: Dubai -> Munich
Where is Oman?
What you should think about prior your Oman trip
Local currency: AED for Dubai and OMR for Oman. 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, you should pay attention to the weight limits of the airline. Otherwise unproblematic, also with regard to the photo luggage.
You need a visa!
Visa: As a german citizen you need a visa, which you no longer get at the airport, but have to request online prior to arrival. Cost are about 12,- Euros. Here the link to the official website: eVisa Oman. Important: Print out and take it with you !
Better have an international drivers license
Driving license: You need an international drivers license. The European one does not count for Oman.
Pay attention to your clothes
Clothing: Temperatures go up to 40 degrees and more (!). Evenings can be cool and air-conditioned rooms should not be underestimated. Women should definitely bring something to “cover” themselves. Shoulders and knobs should always be covered and the head (only woman) when visiting religious institutions.
Swimming in "The Wadis"
You should bring “bathing shoes”. In Wadi Bani Khalid and Wadi Shab women are ok to swim in a bikini. “Dress violations” are usually handled via subtle hints (except mosques). In the mountains, the desert and most cities you can walk around in summer clothes, but not too provocative.
Detailed Travel Report Oman
Day 1: From Munich via Frankfurt to Dubai. Dubai, 10:30pm, still just under 33 degrees. From the airport we take a taxi to the hotel, which 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.
Day 2: From Dubai to Muscat. Heading 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.
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 50min. Oman airport is by far the cleanest airport we have seen so far. Entry is fast, the printed e-Visa is withheld. 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.
Better don't have too high expectations on rental cars and service
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. We highly recommend the Sheraton Oman. The breakfast in the hotel offers an incredible selection and rooms are nice too.
Rental car service isn't the best
Back at the airport Europcar somewhat reluctantly exchanges the Nissan Patrol for a Mitsubishi Pajero which is a bit more modern, has a cruise control and “only” 100,000km on the clock.
Full does not mean full
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.
No way to Jabal al Akhbar without 4x4
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 is located on the edge of a small village.
The check-in is stylish and quick, with drinks and small treats. We look around a bit and then we lie down at the infinity pool with valley view.
At sunset we take a sundowner at Diana’s Viewpoint. Really great, a small stand up bar, fire bowl and spectacular views. Only the 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 and the price you pay. Exception is the desert, which is excellent.
Day 4: From Jabal al Akhbar to Al Hamra. 05:50am, sunrise. The hotel and the mountains are bathed in a great soft light.
Breakfast (buffet style) is much better. Today we want to see Birkat al Mawz, specifically the old ruins.
Birkat al Mawz
In Birkat al Mawz we 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.
We continue to Al Hamra. The plan was to take a shortcut, but we have somehow missed it and so we get a first impression of Nizwa, when driving through. From Al Hamra its another 9km drive up the mountains.
The View Hotel
You really need a 4×4, as it is a gravel road with potholes and sometimes considerable slope. At “The View” you enjoy a breathtaking view. 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.
3 reasons for the View Hotel
Who chooses this hotel should do it for the following reasons:
1) adventurous driving (really fun),
2) 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.
Most guests stay 1 night. 2 nights is maximum in our opinion, 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 have a very nice and relaxing time by the pool.
Early check out at 10am, no Wifi in room and no alcohol
Very slow wifi, which only works in the restaurant and the front desk, an early check out at 10am and no alcohol (really nothing) in the hotel. Alcohol is allowed in Oman, but the hotel is apparently not willing to buy the necessary concession. For a hotel in this price range disappointing.
Another tip: do not open the VOSS water bottle, which is offered free of charge in the room, over the bed. Carbonic acid and shake (from transport to the room) have their regularities!
For any photographer, a visit to “The View” Hotel is a must for sunrise, sunset and 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. 05:30am. Slowly the sun rises and the sky and the colors of the mountains and valleys are incredibly beautiful.
Today Jabal Shams is on the plan, a good hour drive (50km). Our first 40km go fast, although it goes steeply uphill into the mountains. The last 10km are more than rough though. Gravel road and extremely steep rise. Again we are glad to drive a 4×4 and follow the signs to the Jabal Shams Resort.
Jabal Shams, the Great Canyon of Oman
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 wild goats fit perfectly in the scenery and there is no security fence 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”. 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 and you have to go much further (10km extra). The Falaj Daris is perfectly located, 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.
Still 32 degrees at 7:30pm. We decide to eat in the restaurant “Al Mandi Al Dhahabi” and order a few “little things”. The food is delicious, for not even 13, – Euro for 2 people. Recommendation “Chicken Nashef” and the grilled vegetables!
The ruins of Tanuf
Day 6: Nizwa. The ruins of Tanuf is a 30 minute drive from Nizwa. Oman tourism is not yet developed that far, so one should not hope for signs. Tanuf is signposted, but the ruins are not. So we’re just heading for the mountains and finally see them.
By the way, the “map” of the hotel for the highlights looked like this:
38 degrees! Next we want to look at Fort Bahla, which we reach after a good half hour drive. We search 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 and the fort is huge (a UNESCO World Heritage Site).
After 1.5 hours up and down in the fort, we drive to the last highlight of the day, Jabreen Castle. We reach it 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.
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. 200km to Wahiba Sands. In Al Wasil – last village 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 toughest slopes we have ever driven. Only the last 3 km are great, because it is a pure sand track.
Desert Nights Camp
The Desert Nights Camp is beautifully situated between 2 high dune ridges. 500m further on is the “Oryx Camp”, where you can see some of the last Omani Oryx antelopes.
We opted for the cheaper rooms vs the tents. The rooms are large, the bathrooms are modern and they are right next to the much more expensive tents for half the price.
Doing the “Dune Bashing” tour is a clear recommendation. It only lasts 25 minutes, but you get an impression of what a good SUV and a capable driver in the desert can achieve.
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).
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.
Take a plastic bag to protect your equipment. Use fixed focal length lenses, because of the fine sand, which quickly gets into the spaces between the extendable zoom lenses. In addition, a polarizing filter and a Greyfilter are helpful. as the backlight is very bright.
The following picture gives an “idea” of how heavy 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). Everywhere in the camp you can see traces of the desert foxes. The silence is impressive. Breakfast service and quality are top.
Wadi Bani Khalid
Today we want to see Wadi Bani Khalid, Sur and Wadi Shab, before arriving at the Hotel Al Bustan. Almost 300km of driving in total. On the way back 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.
Only 40 minutes to Wadi Bani Khalid but from there another 8km into the mountains – 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.
You can change clothes at the restaurant of Wadi Bani Khalid
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.
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 (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.
Best time for Wadi Shab is the afternoon
It was best to visit Wadi Shab in the afternoon, as one of the guides explained later. Still hot 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. Our way back is a lot more pleasant, as the canyon is now in the shade.
Al Bustan Palace
We plan to stop at Bimmah Sinkhole. Unfortunately, we miss the exit (there is no signage). 2 hours later, 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.
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 visit Matrah and eat at the Royal House, right on the quayside. 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. Today we want to visit the Sultan Qaboos Mosque, which is only possible between 8 and 11am. The mosque is impressively large, as well as the rush. But the men’s prayer hall has more than 5000 square meters, so enough space, even for the famous Swarowski chandelier.
Dress code is very strict here – especially for women (see picture).
In the afternoon I’ll shoot some pictures of the birds in the garden (who says there is no widlife?).
Floods in Oman
At 6 pm it starts to rain. Asking for our car creates horrified looks in the faces of the staff. Soon we understand why. 500m down the road, we have to cross the first water sink with 30cm depth. At an intersection, we feel like we’re in a river. We decide to 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.
Good bye Oman!
Day 11: From Muscat to Dubai. The hotel gives us a late checkout until 6pm. So we can enjoy the whole afternoon at the hotel pool. On the way to the airport, we drive to the Muscat Grand Mall, which is big, but rather disappointing.
No gas station a the airport!
The idea to fill up the car, on the way to the airport, becomes a small odyssey. 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 evening, 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”?
No other country has that many speed cameras
To our knowledge, no other country in the world has such a high density of speed traps. Therefore take a car with cruise control. Although renting a GPS is expensive, we recommend it, because some tracks do not have sufficient signage (or other spellings) and you just feel safer!
Omanis are the most friendly people in the world
We have seldom experienced a more hospitable country. Omanis are helpful, friendly and the land is very safe. Should tourism increase, as in Muscat, that will certainly not stay that way. But on the routes off the big tour operators, one experiences the original Oman and that is simply an experience.
Want to order a calendar from our phototrip?
Which Photoequipment to take for Oman and Dubai
The photographic equipment that we brought to Oman can be found below. In addition, you have the opportunity to order the used photographic equipment directly through our photo shop and to request further technical details. There are also a lot of extras.
- D850 (Nikon)
- D500 (Nikon)
- Apple iPhone X
- 70-200mm f/4 (Nikon)
- 20mm 1,8 (Nikon)
- 24-85mm (Nikon)
- 18-105mm (Nikon)
- 105mm f2.8 (Nikon)
- Sirui Carbon
- Ballhead (Sirui)
- Lowepro Pro Runner RL x450 AW ii
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.