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Oman

Main attractions

Grand Canyon of Wadi Ghul, Oman
Grand Canyon of Wadi Ghul / Andries Ourhoorn, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Southern Arabia is embodyment of fantasies about the mysterious, beautiful Arabia from One Thousand and One Nights. Oman with its breathtaking landscapes and mysterious monuments of history definitely represents a part of this realm.

Natural landmarks

Landscape of Oman is diverse and very exciting. It is true that most of the country is brownish-grey desert, but here is found also lush subtropical mountain landscape with beautiful waterfalls and even giant baobabs.

Especially impressive natural attractions - canyons, mountains, springs, and waterfalls are located in north-east (Al Hajar Mountains) and south-west (Dhofar Governorate) of the country.

Special, only lately appreciated pride of the country is its giant caves and sinkholes.

Canyons and cliffs

  • Jebel Misht - Al Dakhiliyah or Ad Dhahirah Region. South-east face of this mountain (2090 m above the sea level) is abrupt, 850 - 900 m tall cliff. This is considered to be the tallest cliff in Arabian peninsula.
  • Grand Canyon of Wadi Ghul (Wadi Nekhar) - Ad Dakhilyah Region. Most impressive canyon in Oman, with cliff sides up to 1,000 m high.
Ascending from the floor of Majlis al Jinn, Oman
Ascending from the floor of Majlis al Jinn / Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA-3.0

Caves and sinkholes

  • Bimmah Sinkhole - Muscat Governorate. Some 30 m deep sinkhole with deep blue lake in it. Beloved place for swimming, best known sinkhole in Oman.
  • Majlis al Jinn (Khoshilat Maqandeli) - Ash Sharqiah Region. Ninth largest cave chamber in world in unique setting, available only by abseiling 118 - 158 metres from the ceiling through a comparatively small hole. People live on the top of this enormous chamber which has only 40 metres thick ceiling. Cave contains one of the largest cave chambers in the world - 340 m long and 228 m wide, 150 m tall, floor area is 58,000 m².
  • Tawi Atair (Tawi Atayr) - Dhofar Governorate. Enormous collapse doline, 211 m deep, up to 150 m wide, with vertical walls around. Sinkhole is full with life: numerous birds and plants. Cave lake contains endemic fish - the only freshwater fish in 600 km radius.
  • Teiq Sinkhole (Taiq, Tayq, Tahik) - Dhofar Governorate. 1.25 km long, 1 km wide and 250 m deep sinkhole with abrupt walls, volume 90 million m³ - largest sinkhole by volume in the world. Two perennial streams enter the sinkhole and both disappear underground. Contains also largely unexplored cave.

Biotopes

  • Juniper woodland of Hayl Al Jawari - Al Dakhiliyah and Al Batinah Region. Unique montane woodland in the highest mountains of Oman, at the height above 2,200 m. Single species of trees are numerous very old Greek junipers (Juniperus excelsa M.Bieb. ssp. ). By some specialists this very isolated population of junipers is considered to be distinct, endemic species - Greek junipers in general grow further north, in Turkey, Greece.
  • Frankincense growth in Wadi Dawkah - Dhofar Governorate. Ancient growth of of frankincense trees (Boswellia sacra Flueck.). Frankincense resin obtained in this dry wadi was considered to be of the highest quality and was extremely important item of international trade in prehistoric and ancient world. In total here grow some 1,230 ancient trees.
  • Stand of baobabs in Wadi Hinna - Dhofar Governorate. Group of more than 100 baobabs (Adansonia digitata L.) with trunk circumferences up to 20 metres (some sources state - even 29 metres)! Relict forest, although some consider that baobabs are brought here by people. Baobabs are found also more to the west, around Dalkut, in beautiful, idyllic scenery.

Other natural attractions

  • Ain al Kasafa hot spring - Al Batinah Region. One of the beautiful hot sulphuric springs in Rustaq, emanates from deep, blue pool. Water is 45°C hot. Hot springs are met also in other areas of Oman.
  • Wadi Darbat Falls (Dharbat, Dirbat Falls) - Dhofar Governorate. Cliff face of Wadi Dharbat during the monsoon (Khareef) period in June - September becomes adorned with up to 150 m tall falls. Whole cliff face is more than 1 km wide, but waterfall does not take whole width. Waterfall deposits lime and there have formed impressive tufa formations.

Man made landmarks

Oman is very rich with archaeological heritage. Most of these historical monuments are not too spectacular, but they tell exciting stories the times when Oman was at the crossroads of prehistorical and ancient international trade.

Nowadays Oman represents an exciting fusion of local, many thousand years old lifestyle and rapid modernisation. Here are represented several indigenous cultures with ancient languages.

Ancient Ubar, Oman
Ancient Ubar / Wikimedia Commons, user 9591353082, CC BY-SA 3.0

Historical and ancient cities and towns

  • Ancient Shisr oasis (Ubar) - Dhofar Governorate. Legendary city, rediscovered in 1992. Neolithic settlement in ancient oasis, for many thousands of years served as station of transport of frankincense to north. Iron Age fortress was built here in 2nd century BC. Largely abandoned in 3rd century AD.
  • Al Balid (Old Dhofar, Al Blaid) - Dhofar Governorate. Ancient, once rich and significant city. Developed since Iron Age and flourished until 12th century AD. Nowadays remain only foundations of buildings including the remnants of Great Mosque.
  • Ancient City of Galhat (Qalhat) - Ash Sharqiah Region. Once upon a time very important and prosperous port city, flourished in 13th - 14th centuries AD, declined in 16th century. Now only ruins and countless sherds of imported Persian and Chinese wares cover the area of this once enormous city.
  • Old Town of Al Hamra - Ad Dakhilyah Region. The oldest part of city is located in picturesque setting and contains some of the oldest houses in Oman, more than 300 years old. Houses are built of mud, roofs are reinforced with palm trunks.
View from Nakhal Fort, Oman
View from Nakhal Fort / Andries Ourhoorn, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Fortifications

Ancient forts is one of cultural highlights of Oman. Nearly every village here has remnants of ancient fortifications.

  • Bahla Fort - Ad Dakhiliyah Region. Impressive fort, built in 13th - 14th centuries AD. Structure rises up to 50 metres high.
  • Khor Rori - Dhofar Governorate. Remnants of enormous, ancient fortress from the end of 1st century BC. Ancient, once very rich port, used for transport of frankincense since Neolithic times. Legendary site.
  • Nakhal Fort - Al Batinah Region. One of the best preserved historic forts in Oman. Looks very imposing, as it is located on rocky outcrop. Possibly built already before Islam, reinforced in 10th and 17th century AD.
  • Nizwa Fort - Ad Dakhiliyah Region. Built in 1668 AD, one of historically most important buildings in Oman - administrative seat of presiding Imams and Walis.
  • Rustaq Fort (Rostaq) - Al Batinah Region. Very impressive fort, built in 4th century AD, reinforced in later times. Walls are up to 3 m thick.
Beehiwe tombs of Al-Ayn, Oman
Beehiwe tombs of Al-Ayn / Wikimedia Commons, Figy, public domain.

Prehistoric necropolises and megaliths

  • The Necropolis of Al-Ayn - Ad Dhahirah Region. Well preserved necropolis from 3rd millenium BC. Group of 21 impressive dry stone tombs formed like beehives, placed in a row. Largest tombs are up to 4 m high.
  • The Necropolis of Bat - Ad Dhahirah Region. One of the largest necropolises from 3rd millenium BC in the world. In central part here are built more than 100 vaulted stone tombs with two - three chambers in each. Outside this central area there are several more hundreds of tombs. Site includes some 20 mysterious buildings with unknown purpose. Found remnants of pottery.
  • Megalithic tower of Al-Khutm (Al-Khutum) - Ad Dhahirah Region. Well preserved, slightly oval tower with several enclosures. Possible Bronze Age settlement around the central fortification.
  • Ibra beehive tombs - Ash Sharqiah Region. Well preserved, up to 10 m tall dry stone settings dispersed along the rims of Selma Plateau. These Bronze Age tombs (circa 3000 BC) have been shaped as beehives. These cones have surprising build quality.
  • Khor Rohri megalith - Dhofar Governorate. Bronze Age stone setting - ceremonial centre - from 3000 - 1200 BC, located on promontory and overlooking the natural harbour below.

Other man made attractions

  • Falaj Daris - Nizwa, Ad Dakhiliyah Region. One of the oldest falaj - sophisticated water supply system - in Oman. Total length of three channels is 7,990 m. Falaj supplied the ancient city centre of Nizwa. Age of system in unknown - but it is still working and governed by local people. This is just one example of more than 3,000 ancient and medieval water supply systems in Oman.
  • Falaj Al-Malki - Izki, Ad Dakhiliyah Region. One of the oldest falaj - sophisticated water supply system - in Oman. Total length of system is 14.8 km. Falaj supplied the ancient cities of Nazar and Al-Yaman. Age of system in unknown, but it is still working and governed by local people.
  • Tawi petroglyphs - Musandam Governorate. Group of ancient petroglyphs, depicted boats, animals, warriors. Oman contains mutilpe sites with prehistoric petroglyphs.

List of described attractions by regions

Oman is divided into 5 regions and 4 governorates. Here below they are listed in alphabetical order:

Ad Dakhiliyah Region
Ad Dhahirah Region
Al Batinah Region
Al Buraimi Governorate
Al Wusta Region
Ash Sharqiah Region
ArrowMajlis al Jinn - Khoshilat Maqandeli caveSinkholes, Caves
Dhofar Governorate
ArrowTawi Atair sinkholeSinkholes, Caves
ArrowTeiq sinkhole and caveSinkholes, Caves
Musandam Governorate
Muscat Governorate
ArrowBimmah sinkholeSinkholes

Map of Oman