OMAN GUIDE

"Oman Land of Contrasts." This is the title of the central hall of the beautiful Natural History Museum "Said Faisal" located in Muscat at the Ministry of Culture. A very appropriate title because in this corner of the world are concentrated the most diverse ecosystems: from the strip of sandy coast of Bathina that overlooks the Gulf of Oman the territory rises rapidly up to reach the 3000 meters of height above sea level of the Jabal Shams; from the rocky coast of the Sharqiyya it arrives to the uncontaminated beaches of the Dhofar passing through the region of fossil dunes of Wahiba, the peninsula of Barr Al Hikman to the center of the east coast and the great desert plain of the Jidat al Harrassis.

 

Oman occupies the southeastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula, its 1,700 kilometers of coastline (not counting bays, islands and peninsulas that double the extension) overlooking the waters of the Arabian Gulf near the Strait of Hormuz, the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea, the northwestern part of the Indian Ocean. The interior is characterized to the north by the main mountain range of the Hajar mountains that runs almost parallel to the edge of the Gulf of Oman ending in the island of Masirah; to the south by the three mountains of Dhofar that delimit the pre-desert plateau of Nejd and enclose the plain of Salalah drawing an eyebrow on the eye that looks towards Antarctica. At the center of the whole Arabian Peninsula lies the great Ru'b al Khali desert.

The Arabian Peninsula is part of the Asian continent, but looking at the map it looks like a continent in its own right between Africa and Asia. The fauna that lives between its waters and its mountains is as varied as its landscapes. Oman, in particular, offers a unique biodiversity in the world. In the Sultanate of Oman grow 1,200 species of plants and 509 species of marine plants (so far documented), also hosts 766 species of marine invertebrates, 988 species of fish, 89 species of amphibians and reptiles, 518 species of birds and 93 species of mammals.

HISTORY OF OMAN

During the third millennium B.C. trade with Egypt and Mesopotamia began in an important resource: the resin of the sacred Boswellia tree - the incense that grew exclusively in the southern province of Dhofar. In order to improve the loading capacity of the caravan, the process of domestication of the dromedary, "camelus dromedarius", began. The enormous advantage came between 1500 BC and 800 BC when the peoples of the Arabian Peninsula developed a method of saddling and the animals became not only a source of meat but an indispensable means of transport that greatly improved trade between the Arabian Peninsula and the Mediterranean.  The frankincense route is at its peak at this time and remains are still visible on the route of caravans. During the early Iron Age (1300 - 300 BC) the extraction of copper ore and the trade in ingots was at its peak and the first fortifications were built throughout the country.  The fort of Salut is a stunning early example of an architecture that still characterize the Omani landscape.

At the end of the early Iron Age there is a lowering of the water table which threatens the vital agriculture of the oasis. In this period there is a drastic reduction of the population for unknown reasons. Perhaps due to the decrease in water resources and the reduction of forests that could not provide enough wood to maintain the activity of melting copper ore. In this period, invading Parthians and later on Sasanians from Iran temporarily dominated, politically and militarily, some cities of Oman. In Dhofar, the southern province of the Sultanate, during the late Iron Age, the largest and best-known site is at Khor Rori where, Sumhurram, a commercial fortress founded by the Hadhramite kingdom, was built in the 3rd century BC. 

Until the end of the 4th millennium B.C., the environmental conditions of the southeastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula offered the population the possibility of basing their livelihood only on the enormous biomass available in the area.

In that period the situation changed: the climate became drier, the lagoons began to retreat, the fauna became poorer and the populations were forced to look for new resources. On the one hand they withdrew into the hinterland along the rivers, on the other they went to the open sea to enter the nascent commercial network that involved the regions bordering the Gulf up to Mesopotamia. Evidence of a search for new resources are scattered all over the country.

In 3500-2300 B.C. we have the first evidence of the seafaring skills of modern Oman. From the cuneiform inscriptions found on tablets in Ur, the Sumerian city in Mesopotamia, scholars have linked the ancient civilization called Magan to Oman.  Magan was the source of copper and diorite for the region between the Tigris and the Euphrates.

During this period trade with Mesopotamia was flourishing and northern Oman saw the flourishing of a culture called Umm Al Nar. The reconstruction of the black boat of Magan carried out by the Joint Hadd Project at Ras al Jinz tells us the story of early navigation in the Gulf. The settlement and the beehive tombs at Bat and al Ayn are most impressive remains of this time.

The discovery of bronze, a metal harder than copper, led to the introduction of the irrigation system based on falaj and allowed the rapid growth of date palms which became the main crop of northern Oman. Falaj system has been listed in the World Heritage sites protected by UNESCO.

In the two centuries between 550 - 350 BC the northern part of Oman with Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates is controlled by the Achaemenian Empire, as part of the satrapies of Maka (province). When Alexander the Great conquered Persia he mentioned a visit to "Serepsis", the island of Masirah.In the 3rd century BC Greek traders learned to use monsoon winds to sail the Indian Ocean from Arabia and Africa to the coasts of India. The anonymous text of the Periplus of the Eritrean Sea describes in detail the ports, the winds to reach them and the times of navigation. The opening of the sea routes caused a spread of ports along the coast and a simultaneous decline of land routes and cities along them. The first to achieve this remarkable result was the Greek navigator Eudoxus of Cyzico, who sailed three times between 117 BC and 109 BC.

 

Control of the spice trade was much sought after by all the ancient powers. The nascent Roman Empire also tried to gain control. In 26-24 BC an army led by Marcus Helios Gallus, governor of Egypt, tried to invade the southern part of Arabia. Gallo's army was led by a Nabataean officer who led them along a tortuous and difficult path. After two years of losses and epidemics, Gallus' army was defeated by the Sabeans and forced to retreat. Oman's strategic position was crucial on the trade route of the Indian Ocean and over the centuries was subject to numerous invasions. The native inhabitants always found alternative solutions to foreign control and went back to the land routes which they only could walk. We can still see the stone landmarks they left as “triliths”.

 

In the millennia the land of modern Oman undergone many challenges but managed to grow stronger and proud. On July 23, 1970 the 30-year-old Sultan Qaboos bin Said, took power and the modern renaissance of the country began. Immediately following the seizure of power, he concentrated on improving infrastructure, developing health facilities and schools. 

 

Sultan Qaboos began a process of "omanisation" in the early 1980s, giving the country the objective of quickly replacing all foreign specialists with Omani personnel. It encouraged the country to differentiate the use of resources by avoiding focusing solely on oil. He has founded numerous universities of international prestige throughout the country. An important point of reference in the democratization of the country came in 2003, when the right to vote was granted to all homeless citizens over the age of 21 years.

 

In 1994, Oman opened the border to tourism, which today has become an important resource for the country and allows a growing number of tourists from all over the world to come and see with their own eyes the history of this ancient culture.

The history of mankind is closely linked to the events that have changed the climate of the wonderful and strange planet on which we are walking. At the end of the last ice age, the large polar deposits melted, flooding the earth and beginning a wet phase that made the Arabian Peninsula a fertile region. Numerous studies propose a greater dispersion of the human population from Africa to Arabia during the late Pleistocene, between 50 and 100 thousand years ago. They left stone artifacts around their hunting places and shelters on the wadi banks in the Nejd region. Until the beginning of the Holocene, subsistence was guaranteed to small nomadic groups by hunting wild animals, fishing and collecting wild growing herbs, berries and fruits.  We can still see through their eyes by admiring the petroglyphs they left on the rocks of their paths. The economy of food production began with the so-called Neolithic (about 8000-4000 BC) with the domestication of wild goats and the first agricultural settlements. Some huts are still visible on the surface of the most remote places untouched by the growing urbanization.

OMAN USEFUL INFORMATION

CAPITAL

Muscat (1,310,826 inhabit. / 2015)

 

TOTAL AREA 

309,501 km²

 

POPULATION 

Total 4,236,057 [1] ab. (31 December 2014) density 14 km2 growth rate 2.07% (2015 estimate)

 

LANGUAGE 

The official language is Arabic. There are some minorities who speak other original languages. In Dhofar some South Arabian languages are spoken, such as the Mahri and Jabali, belonging to a branch of the Semitic languages, but different than Arabic. Swahili and Balochi are widely spoken; it is also a wide knowledge of English, to the point that signs and directions are reproduced in both Arabic and English.

 

FORM OF GOVERNMENT

Absolute monarchy of Islamic character (Sultanate). Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al Said.

 

TIME DIFFERENCE 

UTC +4

 

COORDINATES 

20 ° 14'N 55 ° 58'E

 

CURRENCY 

The currency is the Omani RYAL (about 2.60 US dollars at current exchange rates) divided into thousandths Baiza.

OMAN WEATHER

The climate is tropical dry, in summer from May to September heat wave over 45 degrees in the inner areas. The climate of the southern coast is influenced by the monsoon winds coming from Africa in the summer months (khareef) that bring rains and refresh the air keeping the temperature around 25 ° C. The winter is very mild and the recommended time to visit the country from mid-October to the first week of April.

 

OMAN DOCUMENTS AND VISAS

To enter the country you need the passport with a remaining validity of at least six months and at least two free pages for visa. Tourists are required to always carry your passport (a copy at hand). The visa can be purchased directly at the airport upon arrival. The cost for a visa for 10 days is 5 ryal, for the 30-day visa 20 ryal. You can pay by credit card enabled for international circuits. The holders of a tourist visa can drive with personal driving license.

TO CALL

To call abroad from Oman the prefix to dial is 00 + international prefix + phone number. To call Oman digit 00968 + phone number. It is easy, immediate (and cheap) to buy prepaid calling cards of local operators who often make special rates for international calls. The internet connection is available in most of the country.

 

OMAN HEALTH TIPS

No vaccination is required. Oman health facilities are of good quality. Treatment is not expensive but not free. You would be well advised to have appropriate medical insurance and to bring with you any uncommon medication that you use regularly., Do not forget to bring a high factor sunscreen.

ELECTRICITY

In Oman, the electric current is 220 volts. Electrical outlets are almost all UK style (rectangular pin). If possible, it is preferable to bring an adapter.

CLOTHING

If your holidays are held during the winter period it is recommended to also bring some long-sleeved shirt and a sweater for the evening as the temperatures in the mountains or in the desert nights can drop to 10 ° C. A rain jacket or a light windbreaker in case of rain or for boat trips. You should dress modestly particularly when away from tourist hotels. Avoid tight-fitting clothes and cover shoulders and knees. Visiting holy places you need to dress with long sleeves and long trousers, skirts (the ladies will need a scarf on hand to cover the hair). Please remember that before entering mosques or in private homes you must take off your shoes not to do so will be considered act of great disrespect. A swimsuit is indicated for the beaches away from the hotels. Sandals for everyday and hiking shoes for trips in inaccessible areas and a lightweight hat for sun protection. If you choose a tour with scheduled nights in a tent it is suggested to bring a sleeping bag. Pack light! You will better enjoy your holiday and you will have more space in your suitcase for your souvenirs!

HOLIDAYS

The weekly rest day is Friday and the weekend extends to Saturday. Over the weekend the offices are all closed and even the museums and tourist locations may change the opening hours. Many shops close in the afternoon and reopen around 5. In Oman the holy month of Ramadan is observed during which, if not forbidden, is considered extremely disrespectful drinking, eating and smoking in public. In addition to the other holidays of the Islamic calendar, which vary from year to year, in Oman is celebrating the National Day, November 18, and the renaissance day on July 23.

 

EATING

Traditional Omani cuisine is a fusion of the best middle eastern cuisines, particularly Turkish, Indian and Lebanese, adapted to local traditions. The Omani cuisine is not overly spicy and makes extensive use of vegetables and legumes. Given the high number of Indian immigrants it is easy to find vegetarian and vegan dishes. Our tours take in great consideration the social occasions and will take care to let you taste the best dishes and more Omani features. If you have any special requirement, we advise you to let us know when booking in order to organize it better for special diets.

 

TIPPING

Tipping the guides, the drivers, waiters etc. If you attend a private tour is a good idea to consider a tip for the driver and one for guide (the latter usually higher than for the driver). In restaurants you can leave a tip of around 10% of the total bill and in the hotels, you can leave one ryal to the porter who takes care of your luggage.

POLICE DEPARTMENT  •  AMBULANCE •  FIRE DEPARTMENT

9999

BRITISH EMBASSY

PO Box 185 
Mina Al Fahal, 116 Muscat

Sultanate of Oman
 

Email 

muscat.enquiries@fco.gov.uk

Telephone enquiries

+968 2460 9000

Fax general

+968 2460 9010

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