The geographical jewel of the Sultanate
Consisting of the governorates of North and South Ash Sharqiyah, this part of Oman is widely considered the geographical jewel of the Sultanate. It is here that stunning coastlines give way to the unique ecosystem that is Sharqiyah Sands, making this region a paradise for adventurers and explorers.
The white sand and pebble beach found between Wadi Shab and Wadi Tiwi are great for water enthusiasts. The city of Sur, famed for its ship building, makes for fantastic camping and fishing locations. It should also come as no surprise that this area offers an amazing range of activities for nature and sea lovers; from turtle watching at Ras Al Hadd, to kite surfing on Masirah Island or visiting the traditional Dhow yard of Sur, where Arabia’s ancient style of boat continue to be crafted by hand.
The Sharqiyah Sands allows visitors to experience the desert first hand, with dunes reaching as far as the horizon and the area teeming with wildlife. Local Bedouins continue to breed livestock, including camels and Arabian horses, and visitors get the chance to see camel racing and other competitions throughout the year.
Places to see in A’Sharqiya
Places to see in A’Sharqiya
Things to do in A’Sharqiyah
Interested in a particular type of holiday experience? there is so much to do in Oman that you will want to keep coming back. Here are just a few of the possibilities to help make your next visit to Oman perfect.
- Nature & Wildlife
A special connection with the sea
Oman looks back on a proud maritime history, renowned for Dhow building and trading across the seas. As such, Omanis are known to have a special connection with the sea, settling where there are natural harbours and great fishing grounds.
It comes as no surprise that the Sultanate with it's rich marine life, has become one of the world’s fastest-growing diving spots. Areas such as Al Khayran, Al Fahil Island, Daymaniyat Islands and Al Makbara Bay are incredibly popular with the discerning diver.
Several tour operators specialise in water sports, such as snorkelling, sailing, jet skiing, and kayaking. For those visitors seeking their own water adventures, yachts and boats are also available for hire.
A growing adventure tourism scene
Paragliding is a newer addition to Oman’s rapidly growing adventure tourism scene, adding to an already impressive suite of outdoor pursuits in the country. Several tour companies offer beginner, intermediate, and pilot courses for anyone interested.
A large number of natural caves
Oman has a large number of natural caves, varying in size and accessibility. Nevertheless, they are popular tourist destinations, sporting impressive formations such stalactites and stalagmites.
At Al Hoota Cave near Al Hamra, visitors can find a very rare species of blind fish that has made the lakes of the cave its home. Down south, the mountains of Dhofar are famous for the sheer number of small and big caves, some of which have ancient cave paintings.
On the Salma Plateau, a small crevice in the mountain top gives no indication that this is the entrance to one of the largest underground chambers in the word – the Majlis Al Jinn.
Heritage & Crafts
Heritage and traditional craftsmanship
Oman has always placed great importance on the preservation of its heritage and traditional craftsmanship. Handed down through generations, craftwork is still practiced according to old traditions and with a modern twist by Omani artisans across the Sultanate.
From intricate silver jewellery to Omani halwa, earthen pottery and the Sultanate’s famous dagger – the Khanjar – artists continue to create unique pieces that can be purchased at one of the many vibrant souqs dotted across the country.
Even the building of traditional Omani ships, known as Dhows in Sur continues to this day and will leave visitors inspired by the sheer hard work and artistry that goes into every build.
Seriously beautiful beaches
With over 3,000 km of pristine coastline, Oman has some seriously beautiful beaches to call its own. Whether it is the rugged coastline of Ras Al Madrakah, the white sands of Fins Beach or the endless expanse of Masirah Island beaches, visitors are welcome to enjoy beach walks, picnics and wild camping.
Hotels such as the Al Bustan Palace and Shangri La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa have their own beaches, linked with popular activities such as kayaking or jet skiing. Public beaches, such as in Shatti Al Qurum in Muscat, draw residents playing beach soccer or hosting family barbecues.
Stunning camping locations for visitors
From the white pebble sand beaches of Fins and Sur, to rocky outcrops above the clouds on Jebel Samham in Dhofar, Oman has hundreds of stunning camping locations for visitors to choose from.
While wild camping is a favourite pastime in the Sultanate, campers must ensure they are not on private land or damaging land or livestock. That includes disposing of rubbish in designated bins only. Those looking for more comfortable camping options, can book one of the available desert camps or join a local tour operator that offers organised camping trips.
Unique geological heritage
Looking back on a geological history spanning across millions of years, Oman is one of the few places that carries its unique geological heritage on the open. Attractions such as Jebel Shams, or the Ophiolite rocks surrounding Muttrah Corniche, were once at the bottom of the ocean.
For geology enthusiasts, Oman is a haven of geo-heritage sites that can be accessed directly by car, boat, trekking, or rock climbing. These range from quartzite at Al Awabi to the marble of Bawshar; to even million-year old Eocene limestone that makes up Al Fahal (Shark) Island. Each of these sites are impressive and awe-inspiring in their own right.
Forts & Other Attractions
Historic structures that welcome guests
In centuries past, Oman’s forts held enemy forces at bay. Today, these historic structures welcome guests with impressive facades that continue to stand proud and have become a living testament to the ingenuity and craftsmanship of the period.
Oman is dotted with these striking attractions, the most famous being Nizwa Fort, Jalali and Mirani Fort in Old Muscat, Nakhal Fort in Al Batinah and the UNESCO listed Bahla Fort. The Sultanate is also home to a number of old and abandoned settlements, such as Manah Village or Samharam in Dhofar and more. Especially impressive are Oman’s ancient aflaj irrigation systems, like the UNESCO listed Falaj Daris that continue to provide water for many fields.
One of the largest sand deserts in the world
The interior of Oman is the gateway to one of the largest sand deserts in the world - the famous Empty Quarter or Rub Al Khali. Covering a large area of the Arabian Peninsula, this unique ecosystem is covered by sand dunes up to 250 metres in heights in certain areas, and salty planes in others.
Leading up to the coast in the A’Sharqiyah region are the A’Sharqiyah Sands, original homeland of the Bedouins and one of the most popular camping destinations in Oman. Away from the hustle and bustle of city or village life, visitors to this unique environment appreciate it for its easy accessibility and golden sands.
Both the Rub Al Khali and A’Sharqiyah Sands have a diverse ecosystem, with anything from small mammals to desert foxes calling it home. Plants such as ghaf trees too have adapted to the arid desert climate and the fact that there is little annual rainfall.
Unesco World Heritage Sites
Five UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Oman currently has five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, all of which deserve to be visited first-hand.
Bahla Fort was inscribed as World Heritage Site in 1987 and has since been beautifully restored. The fort reopened to the public in late 2012.
Credited to the Bronze Age (3rd millennium B.C.), the archaeological sites of Bat, Al Khutm and Al Ayn in Ad Dhahirah make up the world’s most complete collection of beehive tombs.
In Dhofar, the Land of Frankincense encompasses the frankincense trees of Wadi Dawkah Reserve and the remains of caravan and trading settlements such as Ubar, Khawr Ruri and Al Baleed – highlighting the importance of frankincense for the flourishing trade in the region during ancient times.
This ancient watering method is deeply rooted in Oman’s heritage, with over 3000 aflaj - or irrigation systems - still in use today. Using gravity to transport water from springs, the fair management of these waterways plays an important role in communities around the country. Falaj Daris in Nizwa, one of Oman’s longest falaj, is still in use today.
The Ancient city of Qalhat in Sur. This site has an exceptional international value for trading between Oman and the ancient world civilizations. Its considered as a distinctive example of the architecture and planning of active port cities in the middle ages.
Stunning spots for mountaineers
From rock climbing to abseiling, Oman offers plenty of stunning spots for more experienced mountaineers. It is recommended to always keep an eye on the weather, wadis and roads can quickly flood in case of rain.
Experienced climbers will know Jebel Misht as a perfect location for some serious alpine-style rock climbing. Easier options are offered on the Via Ferrata routes managed by the Alila Jebel Akhdar Resort & Spa on Jebel Akhdar, which also includes a 22-metre bridge walk across the mouth of a cave, or the Via Ferrata route on Jebel Shams.
Arts & Entertainment
Traditional and modern arts and entertainment
Oman is a country that remains true to its roots, striking a successful balance between traditional and modern arts and entertainment. This unique blend helps cater to the entertainment needs of visitors whilst still preserving the country’s alluring Arabian charm.
A perfect example is the Royal Opera House Muscat, which is located in the Shatti Al Qurum district of Muscat. It regularly runs world-class performances including ballets, operas, and musicals.
The month-long Muscat Festival, which is held across different locations of the capital, promotes traditional culture, dance, foods, arts, and crafts. In the south, the annual Salalah Festival celebrates local culture and produce, and welcomes those exploring Oman’s most southern region during Khareef (monsoon) season.
Focused on promoting culture, science, and heritage
Oman has a number of museums, primarily in the capital area, that are focused on promoting culture, science, and heritage.
In Muscat, attractions like The National Museum of the Sultanate of Oman, Bait Al Baranda and Bait Al Zubair offer a glimpse into the country’s past with well-preserved artefacts from daily life and works of art. Bait Al Safah is located in Al Hamra, in one of Oman’s best-preserved old towns, and is a living museum. Visitors can experience locals demonstrating traditional ways of making Omani coffee, bread making and more.
The Museum of Frankincense Land in Salalah borders the ruins of Al Baleed Archaeological Park and is dedicated to the trading history of this ancient port. Visitors will find information on how trade with Frankincense and maritime strength ensured the region flourished in the 12th century.
Wildlife encounters while protecting the animals
If you have ever witnessed endangered Green Turtle babies hatch and try to make their way to the water, you will know what a special experience it is. Oman remains dedicated to enabling these kind of wildlife encounters while protecting the animals.
Nature reserves are present throughout the country, on- and off-shore, to keep animals safe in their natural habitat. Examples are the As Saleel Nature Park in the A’Sharqiyah region, which provides a safe haven for the Arabian Gazelle and Omani Wild Cat (Al Senmar), and the Jebel Samhan Nature Reserve, one of the last places of the wild Arabian Leopard.
An equally dedicated level of protection is extended toward marine life, including the turtle reserve at Ras al Jinz and the uninhabited Daymaniyat Islands. Local operators offer regular dolphin and whale watching tours, with several bird watching groups also in existence.
Exhilarating sport enjoyed by many in Oman
A fantastic combination of surfing and paragliding makes for an incredibly challenging, yet exhilarating sport enjoyed by many in Oman. In fact, the Sultanate is known around the world as an up-and-coming kitesurfing destination.
Particularly popular on Masirah Island, kite surfing there is best enjoyed in the summer months, when temperatures are around 25℃ and the island receives some of the monsoon winds that bring rains to Dhofar and turn it into a green wonderland.
Local tour and rental operators provide training and gear hire, with qualified professionals to ensure a safe and exciting experience for all visitors.
The second largest cave chamber in the world
Home to the second largest cave chamber in the world (Majlis Al Jinn on the Salmah Plateau) and numerous others, the Sultanate has plenty of caves to explore.
Some, like Al Hoota Cave near Al Hamra or the Muqal Cave in Wadi Bani Khalid, don't require specialised equipment and can be explored by visitors with average fitness levels.
However, the caves at Majlis Al Jinn are for experienced cavers only and also require additional equipment and permissions.
A large part of Oman’s landscape
Mountains take up a large part of Oman’s landscape, varying greatly in appearance vegetation. Often times they feature stunning wadis, cut into the mountains through time and crossable only by 4x4.
The mountains in Salalah, due to regular rainfall in summer time, remain green nearly all year round. The Al Hajar mountains range, which extends from A’Sharqiyah all the way to Musandam, features Oman’s highest peak – Jebel Shams, home to Oman’s very own Grand Canyon.
Al Jebel Al Akhdar, also known as Green Mountain, is also part of the Al Hajar range. Its top is the Saiq Plateau, which runs across many kilometres and is home to numerous scenic terrace fields and mountain villages.
Wadis are dry riverbeds or small valleys
Some have stunning water pools, fed by natural springs, and a backdrop of rugged mountains. Others are framed by date and fruit plantations that to this day are tended by locals using traditional falaj or waterways.
The most well-known wadis include Wadi Shab and Wadi Bani Khalid, both of which carry water year round and have adjoining caves that add to the adventure. Others, such as Wadi Mayh, Wadi Mistal or Wadi Bani Awf require a 4x4 to explore but are worth the extra effort, thanks to unbelievable settings, scenic villages and views to write home about.
Options to suit all tastes
Whether it is tasty street food or fine dining, visitors to Oman will find a wide range of options to suit all tastes. From contemporary restaurants serving all types of international cuisine in hotels, resorts, malls and commercial areas, to the casual shawarma eateries and coffee shops, the possibilities are endless.
Traditional Omani food can be found at a number of hotels and restaurants and is a combination of Arabian, Indian and African influences which has created a unique cuisine. Al Loomie at the Al Bustan Hotel in Muscat and Bait Al Luban in Muttrah are just some of the restaurants known to serve Omani food with a modern twist.
Souqs & Shopping
Atmospheric shopping experience that is uniquely Omani
From aromatic Frankincense to traditional clothing and silver works, Oman’s souqs provide an atmospheric shopping experience that is uniquely Omani. Most larger settlements in Oman have their own souq, the most famous being Muttrah Souq, situated on the Old Muscat waterfront and selling everything from clothes, to silver, spices, Frankincense and more.
Nizwa Souq lies in the shadow of the Nizwa Fort and is especially worth a visit on Friday mornings, when the weekly livestock market takes place - goats, sheep and cows are sold in very much the same way they have been for centuries.
In A’Sharqiyah, the Ibra Women’s Market is held every Wednesday and provides an opportunity for women to come to town and trade in essentials, from textiles to jewellery and more. Men are not allowed to enter or sell items on this particular day.
Modern shopping is a favourite pastime in Oman, with large shopping centres developed across the Sultanate, including Muscat City Centre, Muscat Grand Mall and Oman Avenues Mall. Here, visitors can find the latest trends and brands from around the world.
Mountain Biking & Cycling
Popular in the Sultanate
Cycling and mountain biking has risen in popularity in the Sultanate, with both amateur and professional cyclists appreciating the country for its stunning diverse landscapes and the new challenge that riding in Oman presents.
The Tour of Oman, a professional road race, has become an annual event since its inaugural race in 2010, drawing many spectators from the region and generally instilling an interest in cycling into the local population. The Haute Route is coming to Oman for the first time in 2019 and is sure to capture the imagination of cyclists from around the world.
Visitors can experience Oman on two wheels by booking any of the road or mountain biking excursions offered by a local tour operator. Alternatively, adventurers can find their own path in areas such as Al Hamra, Al Jebel Al Akhdar, Jebel Shams, Musandam and Yiti.
Stand up Paddle Boarding
Paddle Boarding has gained momentum in Sultanate
Taking off as a new leisure activity in the early 2000s, Stand Up Paddle Boarding has gained momentum in Sultanate, quickly earning itself a reputation as a great SUP location thanks to its over 3,000km long coastline.
Shatti Beach and other beaches in Muscat are some of the best starting points for an unforgettable SUP session, depending on the paddler’s level of fitness and comfort.
Local companies manufacture paddle boards to international standards right here in Oman, while others offer equipment hire and lessons if required.
Comprehensive camel safaris
Historically, camels were used by local Bedouins for transporting goods and people through the desert and around the country. Today, owning camels has become more a sign of prestige, with many Omanis breeding them for racing and beauty contests.
Visitors can still enjoy a taste of the traditional Bedouin lifestyle by setting off on a desert safari in the A’Sharqiyah Sands and Rub Al Khali. Nothing quite beats seeing the sun set while on a camel’s back. Several local tour operators offer comprehensive camel safaris.