Ministry of Commerce and Industry
Directorate General of Tourism
P.O. Box 550
Tel: 799500 - 40 lines
Telex: 3665 WIZARA ON MUSCAT,
WATA - IT INTERTOURISM, SIBIU
WATA - SC GIULEXIM Srl, BIHOR
WATA - ZUBAIR TRAVEL & SERVICE, RUWI
Physical geographyOman is located in the extreme south-east corner of the Arabian Peninsula with a total land area of 300,000 sq. km of moutainous terrain punctuated by wadis and green valleys where the efforts of man have both created and cultivated arable land. Its 1,700km coastline stretches from the Straits of Hormuz in the north to the frontier with South Yemen, along that coast there is a collection of Islands such as Masirah, Al-Hallaniyat and Dimaniat.
A mountain range extends from Ras al Hadd in the north-east to pin other ranges that extend from Ras Musandam. The height of the mountains varies from 1,000 to 3,075 metres at Jebel al Akhdar, the 'Green Mountain', which is covered with vegetation and where many fruit trees grow. To the east of the mountain ranges lies the fertile Batinah coastal plain which extends for 300km between the sea and the mountains all the way from Muscat to the boundary of the Emirates.
In land area, Oman is the second largest country in the Arabian Peninsula.
ClimateThe climate varies from region to region. In the coastal area it is hot and humid in summer; in the interior it is hot and dry with the exception of some higher locations where it is temperate all the year round. In the southern region, the climate is more temperate. The rainfall is low and irregular with the exception of the southern province where heavy rains occur between June and October as a result of the monsoons.
Economic geographyIn 1967, the first quantity of Omani oil was exported and since that time the Sultanate has become one of the major oil exporting countries. The commercial production of oil began in 1967 and remains vital to the economy, accounting for around 46 per cent of gross domestic product and well over 92 per cent of export revenues according to 1986 statistics.
Natural gas is becoming increasingly important to the economy and new industrial projects such as the cement plant and copper smelter will be using gas. Gas, however, has been fuelling the Al Ghubrah desalination and electricity complex in the capital area since 1978 when a pipeline from the Yibal in the interior was completed.
The majority of the people are engaged in agriculture. Modern farming methods and equipment are being introduced and the importance of this sector is fully recognised. Steps have also been taken to revitalise the traditional fishing industry.
The major policies of the Government were focused on modernising the fisheries sector to raise output; providing facilities for marketing of fish; upgrading the socio-economic well- being of fishermen and improving their technical ability and increasing opportunities for new investment.
DemographyOman's population was estimated in 1994 to be 2,096,778 with expatriates. The majority of people are engaged in agriculture, trade and fishery.
A brief historyThe Sultanate of Oman is one of the oldest civilisations in the Arabian Peninsula and the earliest long-distance sea-trader of the ancient world. Sea-trading flourished throughout the ages and together with its boat building industry brought fame and great prosperity. It is believed that an Omani Pilot, Ahmad Ibn Majid, aided the voyages of the Portuguese discoverer, Vasco da Gama, which opened up the sea routes between Europe and the Orient.
Oman is ruled by HM Sultan Qaboos Bin Said. The administrative system of the State comprises the Council of Ministers (Cabinet), specialised councils, the Governorate of the Capital and the ministries. The Consultative Council, set up by Royal Decree in early November 1981, gives the people greater participation in the government.
ReligionsThe official religion is Islam.
Languages spoken by nationalsThe main language is Arabic and English is widely spoken in the area around the capital.
TimeGreenwich mean-time plus four hours.
CurrencyThe unit of currency is the Rial Omani (R.O.) comprising 1,000 Baizas. One Rial Omani is about US$2.58.
Official holidaysAll offices and shops closed
Thursday and Friday are the week days when Government Departments, private business offices and shops are closed. Other distinctive official holidays are Eid-AI Adha (four days) and Eid Al Fiter (three days), the National Day on the 18th November (one day), Prophet's Birthday (one day) and first day of Hijra New Year.
What one should not fail to seeIt is distinctly known that the main Omani archeological features are forts and historical fortifications which are always noticeable in almost every Omani town or village. Their density and diversity reflects the high standard achieved by Omanis in ancient architecture.
For the visitor, there is much to see and do. Muscat maintains a medieval appearance with two old Portuguese forts, Jelali and Merani, guarding the rocky cove around which the town is built.
The Palace of H.M. Sultan Qaboos is a spectacular sight.
Muttrah is a more bustling place and the Souk, with its maze of streets and alley ways, provides much to see and buy.
To gain an insight into Oman's rich ancient heritage and culture, trips to Oman Museum at Qurum and Bait Nadir Museum in Muscat are invaluable.
The many beaches and bays around the capital area coastline are ideal for those wishing to take full advantage of Oman's hot and sunny climate.
The interior of Oman with its ancient forts, rugged desert and the mountainous terrain, makes for exciting travelling and with adequate preparation and the right introductions and permits many interesting towns and villages can be visited. Salalah, Sur, Sohar, Rustaq, Nizwa and Buraimi are the main centres of population outside Muscat.
SalalahSalalah is the capital of the Dhofar Governorate. It is a city set amongst coconut groves and banana plantations, sprawled along the glorious sandy beach that runs the length of its plain. Lush vegetation makes the city seem semi-tropical. Salalah was famous in the past for its frankincense trade.
SurSur is the main town in the Sharqiya province which covers the north-east corner of the Sultanate. Sur is a seafaring town - a fishing village and trading port renowned for its traditional ship-building. Sur's main trade was with the African coast which started as early as the sixth century A.D. The old town today with its labyrinth of narrow streets has many fine old houses with carved doors, arabesque windows and intricate details.
NizwaNizwa is the main town in the interior province. It had been the capital in the sixth and seventh centuries. The town's great palm oasis stretches for eight kilometres along the course of two wadis. Nizwa is famous with its gold and silver handicrafts. It is always the economic and commercial centre of the province.
SoharSohar has always been the main port of Batinah province. In the first few centuries AD the ancient name for the town was Mazun, but the Arabs called it Sohar. Sohar's main attractions for visitors are the souk (market) and the fort. The souk is large and functional with tailors, fruit-sellers and fishermen vying for space. The fort stands apart with its four-storey walls and six towers - five round and one square together with a main bastion, an imposing sight overlooking the bay.
Most favourable seasons for sojourns and touringFrom October to April the whole of Oman. From May to September the southern region is recommended as a special summer resort.
How to dressFor most of the year light, loose-fitting clothes, preferably cotton, are best suited to Oman's climate. To help the observation of Oman traditions, it is preferable not to wear short dresses or swimming costumes in residential areas.
During December, January, February and March a light wrap may be necessary during the evening.
Main holiday resortsThere are many holiday resorts for all the year round. The capital area has a great variety of attractions; monuments, beaches, hotels, museums and clubs. Al Jebel Al Akhdar (the Green Mountain) which is covered with vegetation and many fruit trees. The famous summer resort in Salalah has its lovely beaches.
Main holiday sportsThere are a host of clubs and associations to cover all interests ranging from darts to badminton, cricket, golf, hockey, motor-cross, rugby, yachting and running. Most hotels have excellent swimming, tennis, squash and game facilities.
What to eat and drinkHotels and outside restaurants serve a variety of local, oriental and international food.
What to buyOman's history of trade has left a fine tradition of handicrafts monitored by local craftsmen excelling at domestic art, such as silversmithing and weaving. This art has reached its peak during the last two centuries. One can buy decorated handmade daggers, coffee pots, rosewater sprinklers, incense burners, weaving rugs, saddles, bags, camel straps and frankincense. Women's jewellery is perhaps the finest expression of the silversmith's art, bracelets, heavy anklets, ear-pendants, rings and hair decorations.
Frontier formalities (arrivals)
Main travel routesMuscat-Salalah: 1,040km. Muscat-Nizwa: 174km. Muscat- Sur: 340km. Muscat-Sohar: 231km. Muscat-Buraimi: 340km. Muscat-Rostaq: 153km. Muscat-U.A.E. (Dubai): 450km.
MiscellaneousIt is advisable to make advance reservations for hotel accommodation for the November/March season.
Coming eventsNovember 18,19 - The National Day Celebrations, and the religious festivities: Eid Al Fitr, Eid Al Adha, Prophet's Birthday, Lailat Al Miraj (Ascension of the Prophet), First Day of Hijra New Year.
Markets to visitMuscat: Traditional and modern fabrics in rich designs are sold. There are silver and gold cluster markets, fish and vegetable markets.
Nizwa: On Friday the market is alive with bustle. People laden with purchases of dates, vegetables and dried fish.
Salalah: The gold market offers jewellery of intricate Dhofari designs and occasionally silver, but this is rare. Here incense-burners and frankincense can be bought as well as the beautifully patterned head clothes worn by women. The fish market is open only in the morning. It is famed for its spring lobster locally called crayfish. Other shellfish include abalone, prawns, the large fish caught are hamour, kingfish, yellow fin tuna and skipjack.
Representatives abroadPlease apply to the nearest Omani Diplomatic Mission.
We have been able to publish the present tourist information on The Sultanate of Oman thanks to the co-operation and the participation of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry of the Sultanate of Oman.