National day for Oman is November 18th and celebrates Oman’s independence from Portugal in 1650. We arrived 2 days before the celebrations to find the entire country draped in patriotism and national pride with Omani flags adorning most public buildings. What a colorful time to visit Oman! After crossing the border from UAE, we visited several mud castles and forts, most of which had been heavily restored. Next on our quest was discovering Oman’s UNESCO world heritage beehive tombs which were found hidden in Oman’s mountainous interior near Bat and Al Ayn. Then we made our way towards Wadi Ghul (Oman’s Grand Canyon), stopping to visit Jibreen Castle en route. The canyon was a spectacular 2 hour hike and well worth the effort for our truck to make the laborious climb up Jebel Shams mountain. The beautiful coastal city of Muscat was up next and we spent 3 nights here, long enough for us to coordinate a SCUBA adventure to the Daymaniyat Islands and check out Muscat’s highlights (Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Mutrah Fort, Mutrah Corniche, Mutrah Souq and Al Alam Palace). After leaving Muscat, we swam in the Bimmah sink hole and then visited Wadi ash Shab. What an unexpected surprise and this gorgeous place ended up being one of our top Oman experiences! Our visit started with a short boat ride to the trailhead of the canyon where we hiked through the narrow gorge. Gorgeous emerald colored water appeared during the next phase of this journey and we swam from one turquoise pool to the next and eventually arrived to a hidden waterfall in a cave. Just magical and the perfect location for two of our fellow truck mates to get engaged (congrats Leanne and Ryan!). From Wadi Shab, we made our way over to Ibra’s old town (a crumbling maze of mud built houses) before visiting the dhow factory of Sur and then camping overnight at the Ras al Jinz turtle reserve. There we were able to join a tour to witness a green sea turtle laying eggs and also got to see dozens of baby sea turtles hatching and making their way to the ocean! On the long drive from Ras al Jinz to Salalah, we stopped at the Duqm rock garden, a pink lagoon (more like a pink puddle), Mirbat Castle and the gorgeous Wadi Darbat. Then Salalah for 2 nights where we were able to rent a car to visit the Maghsail Blowhole, Hidden Beach, Fazayah Beach and Al Haffa Beach for its fresh coconut juice and sunset. Spectacular day exploring Salalah and it was nice to have our own wheels for the day! After departing Salalah, we stopped at Wadi Dawkah, a natural park of Frankincense trees and a UNESCO world heritage site. Then we pushed on to reach the historic town of Nizwa to get PCR tests for onward travel and visit the magnificent fort and souq. After Nizwa, we visited our final two sights in Oman – Al Hoota Cave and Bahla Fort. What a whirlwind tour of Oman which definitely impressed! 2 countries of our Arabia Overland tour complete, 6 more to go. Next up will be Saudi Arabia which everyone on the truck is super excited about.
Oman – Muscat, Salalah & Nizwa
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