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Beauty has an address ~ Oman

A tribute to the land of beauty

The enchanting allure of the Sultanate weaved its magic on visiting Thai journalist, Kittipong Thavevong, who wrote about his recent visit to Oman in a feature article entitled, Oman on the Gulf of Beauty, that was published in Thailand’s The Nation newspaper. “With verdant mountains and fjords among which graceful dhows flit, this Middle Eastern Sultanate is full of surprises”, said Thavevong, adding, the country has, “much natural beauty and a fascinating history and places on offer.”

He notes that although Thailand is frequented and is familiar to many Omanis, Oman remains a mystery to Thais who usually associate this region with oil and gas — especially as Thailand imports huge quantities of oil from the Sultanate, as well as for its desert vistas. However, as the author discovered, Oman “has lush green mountains criss-crossed by canyons and deep fjords lapped by an Arabian Sea coast dotted by historic forts and beaches of white sand.”

Commenting on the country’s southern most region of Dhofar, he noted its striking landscape of wooded hills left green by the annually occurring monsoon (from July to August, known locally as the Khareef season, where the gentle monsoon winds bring drizzling rain and lowers the temperature to around 30 degrees Celsius, whilst the rest of Arabia experiences dry heat with temperatures around the 45-degree Celsius mark).

Known as the ‘Land of Frankincense’, where ancient traders plied their trade of the aromatic resin along the ‘Frankincense Trail’ emanating from region’s major city, Salalah, Thavevong said, “Dhofar is famous for producing frankincense, the aromatic gum resin that, when burned, emits a pleasant scent good for incense and fumigation. It was one of the most sought-after substances in ancient times.” He further notes they are many types of frankincense and various incense burners available in the country’s souks (traditional marketplace).>

The author goes on to describe the capital area of Muscat, in northern Oman, and says, “Muscat has a place you must not miss, just as visitors to Bangkok have to see the Grand Palace. It’s the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. His Majesty Sultan Qaboos had this glorious place of modern Islamic architecture built as a gift to the nation, to mark the 30th year of his reign in 2000.”

Commenting on the reign of His Majesty the Sultan that has ushered in a period of peace and prosperity, known as the ‘Era of Golden Renaissance’, Thavevong said, “His Majesty the Sultan is credited for turning Oman from a sleepy backwater into a thriving nation.” He noted, a good way of viewing the port city of Muscat is from the sea in a traditional Arabian dhow, which in the past was associated with Arab traders.

Further, he adds, a good way to see how the people of Oman live is by visiting a souk. One of the capital area’s most famed souks is the Muttrah Souk, located opposite the harbour area along the impressive Muttrah Corniche. Here a wide variety of items can be bargained for, including incense, perfumes, fabrics, clothes and jewellery. It’s also a good place to buy souvenir items such as the classic Arabian daggers, known as Khanjar, and authentic Omani-style crafted ornaments and jewellery.

In his conversation with a senior official from the Ministry of Tourism, the author noted, the country’s 170 plus hotels are fully booked almost year round and plans are afoot to build more, as well as to expand the international airport in Muscat and Salalah. He further noted, although revenue from tourism is currently negligible, the wheels have been set in motion to expand this sector of the economy, which is seen as an important income earner and a way of reducing dependence on finite fossil fuel reserves. However, as the official explained to Thavevong, Oman “focuses on the quality of visitors rather than the quantity.”