Luxury and Adventure in Oman

Luxury and Adventure in Oman
Muscat is the capital of Oman and home to nearly fifty percent of its population. Although the city offers a number of luxury properties, I decide to treat Freddy to the Chedi Muscat. My contacts in the Middle East hotel business assure me that what awaits us is nothing less than sublime and we are ready! Our stay is to be a mixture of luxury and adventure. We plan two days and nights at the Chedi, two days camping and a final day to unwind back at the Chedi before returning to Paris.

As we enter the Chedi, we are overwhelmed by a sense of space that stretches upward into the extraordinary blue sky. Everywhere water, that most precious commodity in the desert world, sooths and reflects. We are given freshly squeezed orange juice and cool face towels to banish the effects of travel. After our check in, we are shown to our suite by a concierge. Tension is soon a memory.

We spend two beautiful relaxing days by the beach, drinking wine and visiting Muscat town. English has been adopted by Oman as its second language and many signs are in both Arabic and English. The souk (local market) in Muttrah is a must and an opportunity to mingle with locals. Most Omani men wear a traditional white ankle-length, collarless robe called a dishdasha. Women's robes, by contrast, are a cascade of brilliant colors.

The Chedi offers some of the best cuisine in the region. The menu, although large, is excellent and an extensive wine list complements its offerings. We finish our meal and absorb the surrounding quiet of Chedi's gardens with another glass of wine.

Then it's time to explore. The Muscat Diving and Adventure Centre delivers our car to the hotel equipped with all the camping gear we'll need. We set off immediately for Jebel Shams, Oman's highest peak at nearly 3000 m. It's about a three hour drive (240 km) from Muscat and we decide to stop in Nizwa, on route to pick up food supplies. Nizwa is the center of Oman's date growing region and its Friday market is an event not to be missed. But today we quickly make our purchases and push on. As we begin our ascent, we immediately notice the drop in temperature. Magnificent enough to earn the title the grand canyon, Jebel Shams offers some of the best camping and views on the Arabian Peninsula.

The next morning, the sun breaks around 7am and the warmth on our faces is immediate. It's such a beautiful way to wake! We pack up and head for the coastal town of Sur, stopping along the way at another "not to be missed" destination, the Wahiab Sands. Here you can look out on (or venture into) a huge sand sea where only experienced Bedouin know the secret to survival. Guided tours are available or you can book a night camp. It is also possible to drive a little way in with a 4x4 vehicle -- but not too far!

We head south through the port of Sur to the famous White Beach known primarily to residents and expats. This may not be true much longer as talk of development is in the air. We collect a few shells and potter while the sun sets. From our campsite we watch dolphins playing just off the beach.

Our camping time comes to an end the following morning and we head back via Quariyat - a coastal fishing and farming region worth a stop for coffee then to back to the Chedi.

Our last night takes in a visit to another "meeting place". We eat at a small Pakistani restaurant in Ruwi, the bustling centre of the Asian population. Gold shops, electronics stores and numerous eating places make this place lively and colorful. Such contrast to the serene nature of the Chedi but one that adds to the experience of Oman!

Our experience of Oman is one of serenity. Travel here involves minimal stress and the people are friendly and welcoming. Still, the country is rugged and truly raw. No one controls this desert. We are merely its guests and with true mid-eastern hospitality, it delivers nothing but the best.

Best time to goo: Anytime! But if you like it cooler try from November to March. August can be around 10 degrees cooler than normal as there is a monsoon that clips the southern part of the country. The Dhofar region turns into green fertile hills for the summer months.

4x4 hire: Muscat Diving & Adventure Centre
Tel. 00 968 24485663
Fax. 00 968 24485774
GSM: 00 968 99698023

Places to see: Grand Mosque, Muttrah Souk and fish market, Nizwa, various forts. Above all explore and find Oman, not just the listed sites. It is full of hidden treasures.