A BLESSED RETURN

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He arrived like a breath of fresh air after more than 8 long months. A wave of joy spread out across the nation which had a moment of relief attached to it. All the 11 governorates had been anticipating His Majesty’s arrival. Every Omani and non Omani was buzzing on social network regarding HM’s arrival. It was more than just happiness. It was just that they couldn’t control the excitement.

People flocked to the streets as soon as they heard about HM’s arrival. Articles, songs, poems and wishes flowed in a jiffy and it turned this occasion into a festival. Rallies were organized, public marches took place, people of all ages joined and prayed for HM’s wellbeing. There is a deep rooted relationship between every citizen and HM and it showed!

His Majesty is the architect of Oman’s modern renaissance. He has led the nation to unimaginable heights during his 44 year reign. His homecoming had to be one of the most joyous occasions in Oman’s modern day history. Everyone is praying for HM’s health and blessed life across the country.

Oman has progressed incredibly under HM’s vibrant and visionary leadership. Development can be seen in every walk of life in Oman and it has been successful only because of HM’s brilliant leadership. Be it health, education, standard of life, transportation, security, infrastructure or any other area, Oman has exceeded every expectation. HM’s vision has made Oman one the most peaceful countries in the world.

To wrap it up, Oman has got its character back. Oman has its voice and vision back. Oman has got its happiness back. There will be a lot of poems and articles on HM’s return, but people will still fall short of words to explain what they feel, such is the euphoria in the country and among its people.
We wish His Majesty the best of health. Long Live His Majesty Sultan Qaboos. Long Live Oman!

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Sultanate of Oman: A Traveler’s Paradise

They say travelling is the best thing that can happen to someone! It opens up a whole new aspect of promises, discoveries, new learning curves and thrill which is always around. One life altering journey can sometime show you a path you never thought of exploring. The Sultanate of Oman is a place that has all the perfect ingredients to give you a much needed get away from your usual life.

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Sultanate of Oman is a country of awe-inspiring natural splendor. It’s eye-catching varied landscapes, lovely beaches, infinite deserts, remarkable mountains and a rich culture makes it a one of a kind place. Sultanate of Oman is beautifully interwoven with history, folklore, serene beauty and exhilarating adventures. There are some places in the world which you have to visit to experience them, Sultanate of Oman is one such place. To top it the gracious and hospitable Omanis make you feel at home. They are modest, knowledgeable and lead a very simple life. Their imperial history has a huge impact on their behaviors & they take life for what it is, simple & soulful. Tourism in Sultanate of Oman has grown by leaps and bound since some years due to various factors. One of the main reasons has been ever pleasant Oman weather. No matter which time of the year it is, tourism has always seen an upward trend here. Oman Air has been a catalyst in this growing trend of tourism, being the national carrier of Sultanate of Oman, Oman Air flies you to Sultanate of Oman from 45 destinations in the world.

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Here is a list of experiences you can have in Oman:
• A wide variety of pristine beaches and islands.
• Spectacular mountains, canyons and wadis.
• World class diving, snorkeling and other water sports.
• Turtle, whale and dolphin watching.
• Wildlife tours in the Sultanate’s nature reserves and biodiversity spots.
• Cultural sites including forts ancient tombs and prehistoric cities.
• Desert safaris and adventures.
• A large variety of market and souqs.
• Museums and art galleries.
• Trekking, rock climbing and caving adventures.
• Horse and camel racing events.
• Golf courses.
• Various festivals including the popular Muscat Festival and Salalah Festival.

Travelling is more than a bunch of beautiful landscapes and adventures, it is a transformation that goes on inside. It leaves a mark of new and eventful ideas that lead you to a place of self actualisation. Travel sometimes help you meet yourself, discover the lost soul. Pick up your bags and just walk away from all the worldly leisure!

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Omani Souvenirs

Omani Halwa

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In Oman, the sweet, slightly spicy, jelly-like sweet called halwa is considered a symbol of generosity, hospitality, and excellence. The craft of halwa making is held in high esteem throughout the Sultanate, and each region tends to have its own, unique flavoured product. Preparation methods are adhered to strictly, and the preferred method of cooking is over a traditional wood fire. Halwa is often served with hot, black kahwa – which is Arabic coffee prepared with cardamom spice. The sweet flavours and chewy texture of the halwa, contrasted with the bitter, earthy flavours of the kahwa, make for a truly memorable tasting experience!

 

Omani Jewellery

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Jewellery has always been an important part of the traditional Omani dress aesthetic. These days, antique as well as new jewellery items – necklaces, bracelets, ear rings, anklets, ear pendants, bangles and hair decorations – can all still be acquired. There are also exquisite collections of traditional silver and gold jewellery on display at the Sultanate of Oman’s various museums. The bold, vivid attractiveness of Omani jewellery is truly unique, but the symbolism, tradition and stories that are incorporated into each piece are also what add even more beauty and allure to them – and what brings this wonderful jewellery to life.

 

Frankincense Braziers

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Frankincense braziers – also called censers – are the small, traditional clay receptacles in which frankincense resin is burned. Along with the Sultanate of Oman’s age-old reputation as a producer of the world’s finest frankincense resin (from the Boswellia species of tree that occurs naturally in the region), the craft of these braziers has also been developed over hundreds of years. Braziers are often ornamented with bright engravings and colours by the craftsmen that make them – and each design differs according to the region in which they are made. The frankincense resin ‘teardrops’ are burned slowly on small, flat coals.

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Photography: Oman in Focus

The high quality natural lighting, spectacular landscapes and fascinating array of people and culture make the Sultanate of Oman a dream destination for professional and amateur photographers. And the Oman in Focus photography experience makes the most of it!

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Under the support and sponsorship of Ministry of Tourism and Oman Air, the Oman in Focus tour aims to open up tourism in Oman to a wider range of traveller– and to continuously promote the spectacular natural and cultural beauty and heritage of Oman not only in the Middle East, but also to the rest of the world.

The Oman in Focus tour experience is the brainchild of Omani photographer Maisa Al Hooti. Besides having a talent for creating photographs herself (she has been recognized for her personal photography work in and outside Oman), Maisa clearly also has a talent for bringing together groups of highly enthusiastic and highly skilled photographers – and giving them the visual adventure of a lifetime.

‘Being a photographer, I wanted to do something for my country that would promote its beauty through photographs. I participated in a photography tour in Rajasthan, India, in 2011 and was deeply moved by being immersed into its culture and witnessing how beautiful the place is. I realised through this experience that I should share the same experience with my fellow photographers. But this time, it would be in my own country – my beloved Oman.’ Basically, over a ten day period, the Oman in Focus tour takes a group of professional (or skilled amateur) photographers around Oman, and gives them the best opportunities to explore and experience the beauty of the countryside – and then the opportunity to take photographs of it according to their individual expertise and creative point of view.

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Very importantly, the tour frees the photographers up from having to worry about the hassles of lanning and scheduling itineraries and logistics, so they can concentrate exactly on what they do best – create spectacular pictures!

On conclusion of the tour, all participants then exhibit the best of their work from the adventure at an official farewell function. (After the last Oman in Focus event, photographers showcased their work at the prestigious Royal Opera House in Muscat – first to the Oman in Focus group participants, and then to the public).

When it comes to photography, what does Oman have that no other country can match? According to Maisa, Oman is a very special visual destination because it has a large variety of landscape features all grouped together in a single country location. ‘And they are majestic and diverse. I had always wanted Oman to be known for its landscapes, architecture, culture and people,’ Maisa explains, and she lists some examples. ‘We have Nizwa where you can experience Rocky Mountains; the Sur region for the beaches; and we also have deserts like Badiya.’

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She also points out that the Omani people are well-known for their hospitality and friendly nature, and that wherever they go, the local people are very welcoming and accommodating to the Oman in Focus photographers and tourists, and are always keen to engage with the group on a social level. Because of this, the photographers are able to get to know and understand the Sultanate of Oman in a deeper and more enriching way.

Of course, Oman in Focus is just as much about the photographers as it is about the photography and pictures being taken. The tour is a perfect opportunity to share personal skills, experiences and knowledge in photography, and learn from others at the same time. ‘Aside from promoting Oman, another goal of the Oman in Focus project is to strengthen the bond that Oman has with every country,’ Maisa explains. During the most recent Oman in Focus tour, the photographers had ample opportunities to talk with one another, and discuss ideas and experiences. ‘These conversations became foundations of new knowledge, experiences and friendships.’ Of course these conversations and the Oman in Focus tour in general, also became the foundations of some truly brilliant images of the Sultanate of Oman!

Here are some beautiful pictures of Oman:

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Omani Souvenirs – II

Incense Production

1Omani incense refers to the mixtures of natural incense resins, woods and herbs which are heated on smoldering coals to release their fragrant smoke and aromas – as opposed to the well-known frankincense ‘teardrops’ that are burned on their own. There is an ancient and proud history of incense making in the Sultanate, and the mixtures and various combinations of incense are held in high esteem by the Omanis that produce them.

 

Mandoos Design

2An Omani mandoos is a type of ornate wooden storage box traditionally crafted from rosewood, walnut, or other special wood. They are prized for their beauty, and are typically inlaid with brass, silver, precious stones, and even gold in geodesic designs that are inspired by Islamic art. They are traditionally used to store valuables, and are made in a variety of sizes – the largest being a meter or more wide, the smallest being jewellery box size.

 

Rug Weaving

3Most Omani rugs are traditionally made with woven sheep’s wool and goat’s wool. Many of them also feature colorful, striped designs, which are created with various selections of natural dyes. The people of the Sharqiyyah Sands region are especially well-known for their rug making ability, and their consistently high quality and very beautiful creations.

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Sleep Well!

In today’s fast-paced world, the idea of a good night’s sleep seems to have fallen down our list of priorities. But adequate rest plays an absolutely essential role in our physical and mental wellbeing. Health experts warn us that we can’t function to the best of our abilities without sleep – and we should be doing everything we can to make sure we ‘get a good night,’ every night!

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Why do we need sleep? Scientists have many theories on why humans need to sleep. (In fact, many health resources explain that reasons for sleep are only partially clear and the subject of ongoing research). What we do know, however, is that humans must sleep and many essential things happen to us while we’re doing it:

  • The brain has a chance to exercise important neuronal connections that might otherwise deteriorate due to lack of activity.
  • Sleep gives the brain an opportunity to re-organize information to help find solutions to problems; process newly learned information; and ‘organize’ memories.
  • Sleeping is a time for genuine rest. While we’re asleep, our metabolic rate and energy consumption is lowered.
  • The cardiovascular system also gets a break during sleep. Researchers have found that people with normal or high blood pressure experience a 20% to 30% reduction in blood pressure and 10% to 20% reduction in heart rate.
  • During sleep, the body has a chance to replace chemicals, and repair muscles and other body tissues and aging cells.
  • Growth hormones are also released during deep sleep. But the most obvious reason why we need sleep is to consider what happens when we don’t get it. We’ve all experienced the moodiness, reduced alertness and concentration, reduced work efficiency, lack of motivation, poor memory etc, associated with a bad night’s sleep. The more serious consequences are accidents as a result of fatigue (falling asleep while driving, for example); depression; an inability to learn and process information at an effective level; health consequences as a result of weight gain; reduced skin health; and forgetfulness. Some studies also show that patients who suffer from a lack of sleep appear to have a significantly higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

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Sleep tips…

  • Stick to the same bedtime and waking times, even on the weekends. This habit regulates your body’s biological clock and helps you fall asleep and stay asleep, every night.
  • Practice a relaxing ‘bedtime ritual’ before sleep time. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that cause excitement, stress or anxiety which make it difficult to fall asleep.
  • Exercise daily. Even light exercise is better than no activity. But avoid exercising at the expense of your sleep, of course!
  • Re-evaluate where you sleep. Experts recommend that the room where you sleep should be coolish (around 20 degrees Celsius); free from any disturbing noises; and free from any light.
  • Sleep on a comfortable, good quality mattress, and use a pillow that is comfortable and supportive.
  • Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine and heavy meals in the evening. Some wellness experts even say we should avoid eating for up to 2 to 3 hours before sleeping.
  • Your body needs time to shift into sleeping mode. Before going to bed, spend some time doing a calming activity like reading, drawing, or some light breathing exercises or meditation.
  • Using an electronic device such as a laptop or Smartphone can make it hard to fall asleep because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is activating to the brain. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid electronics before bed or in the middle of the night.
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Omani Souvenirs – I

Jerz axe making

6The craft of Jerz making is unique to Musandam, and the local men here carry this long-handled axe as part of their traditional costume. In days gone by, the Jerz was used for chopping firewood; as a support stick while walking and climbing over Musandam’s rocky terrain; and occasionally, as a weapon of self-defense against wild animals. Jerz making falls under the metalworking or blacksmithing craft in Oman – something which the Sultanate’s people are famous for. A typical Jerz is just under a meter in length and a few centimeters in diameter. The axe head is about 10 centimeters long.

 

Silversmith crafts

7The silversmith craft and culture in Oman is unique and fascinating. This is due to the fact that over several centuries, the silversmiths and metalworkers of Oman have taken design elements in silverware manufacture from all over the world – especially India, East Africa, China, various Middle Eastern centres and even Europe – and come up with a unique style of their own that is inspired and influenced by the Omani culture and identity. Nizwa is renowned for its high quality silverware, but silver products can be found throughout the Sultanate.

 

Kohl making

8Throughout Oman’s history, women have worn kohl around their eyes. The function of khol is a cosmetic one – and it is said to give a woman’s eyes more expression. Kohl is a paste traditionally made from finely powdered sulphide of antimony mixed with rosewater – and in some cases, wood ash mixed with vegetable oils. These days, kohl is commercially available, but the traditional, hand-made version is held in high esteem, and worn with pride. An Almekhala is a small metal bowl (it is sometimes made of silver) used to contain kohl.

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Balad Sayt Village

Longitude: 23° 11’ 28.2” N Latitude: 57° 23’ 15.6” E

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Balad Sayt is a mountain village located just over 200 kilometers west of Muscat, approximately on the border between the A’Dakhiliyah and A’Batinah Governorates.

The village is an exquisite example of what ‘Old Oman’ was like – a trip here feels like a trip back in time to an era where you might never want to return from!

The village is located on the slopes of the Hajar Mountains near the highest peak in the Sultanate of Oman, Jebel Shams.

The town of Rustaq is located just less than 60 kilometres away (about an hour’s drive) from Balad Sayt, and is a good place to stock up with supplies for the day, or for a camping trip.

Due to the relatively high altitude, Balad Sayt enjoys moderate daytime temperatures – even during the peak summer months.

The village is surrounded by the awe-inspiring peaks and valleys of the Jebel Shams mountain range. A camera is essential!

There are some spectacular natural camping sites next to the few kilometers of road that ascend towards the village. Campers need to bring all amenities and supplies with them – including lots of water.

Many of the village buildings are constructed in the vernacular style – they have been built the same way for hundreds of years using locally sourced clay, mud, stone and date palm fronds.

The village itself is next to the local people’s date palm plantations and agricultural terraces.  The final approach to the village involves a steep climb, followed by an exhilarating descent into the mountain and valley oasis.

Due to its inaccessibility and out-of-the-way location, Balad Sayt’s natural and cultural beauty is unspoiled. Balad Sayt is accessible only via rugged mountainous roads, so a four-wheel drive vehicle is highly recommended.

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Bimmah Sinkhole

There are many sinkholes in Oman, but Bimmah is the most impressive. Since it is only an hour’s drive from Muscat, it is also one of Oman’s most popular tourist sites. It is well worth a visit.

Longitude: 23° 03’ 44.8” N Latitude: 59° 07’ 19.41” E

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Bimmah Sinkhole has been attracting travelers and locals to its crystal clear waters for a long time. A walk down the stairs to the water’s edge – and even a swim in the Bimmah’s refreshing waters –is something too enticing to miss.

Bimmah Sinkhole was formed by the collapse of a large underground cave, due to natural erosion. Remnants of the cave can be seen at the base of the hole. Access to the sinkhole is free, and there are picnic and toilet facilities available.

After a site-seeing trip to Bimmah, travelers often continue their drive through to the coastal town of Sur, which is the traditional home of dhow building in Oman.

Tiny fish can be found in the pool and sometimes, they gently nibble on your toes. The sinkhole is approximately 60 meters by 80 meters wide, and about 25 meters down to the sinkhole is located the water level.

In Hawiyat Najm Park, which is about an hour’s drive south-east of Muscat, and just off the Muscat-Sur road. Bimmah sinkhole is only about 600 meters away from the Sea of Oman shoreline.

A park and viewing platform have been built around the sinkhole – as well as a stairway that leads down to the water’s edge. The natural lighting conditions at the sinkhole and the iridescent blue-green color of the water make for wonderful photographs.

The sinkhole contains salt water that is crystal clear – with underwater visibility up to 20 meters at certain times.

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Diving the Daymaniyats

The Jewel in the crown of undersea Oman

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Oman and its people have a long and rich history with the sea. For thousands of years, Omani merchants and sailors have journeyed into the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean in search of trade and adventure. In modern times, Oman has become well known for its spectacular diving potential. The jewel in the crown of Oman diving is the Daymaniyat and Sawadi Island chain, which is located about 75 kilometers east of Muscat, beginning just off the coastline at Barka. While the Sawadi Islands are always worth seeing, the nine main islands that make up the Daymaniyat Islands Nature Reserve, which are further out to see, are the most impressive. From Nabucco´s Al Sawadi Beach Resort to the uninhabited island group, it is just a 45 minute trip with the Extra Divers Worldwide dive boat. (The Extra Divers Al Sawadi centre forms the closest base from which to dive the Daymaniyats).

The islands begin about 18 kilometers out sea, and are clustered together in three groups – often referred to as the Western, Central and Eastern (including the Southeastern islands) sections. There are between 20 and 30 dive sites scattered around the area – all of which are accessed via boat. However, the nature of the undersea terrain means that at almost any point, there is a fascinating array of marine life to experience, and underwater features like caves, drop-offs, huge boulders and underwater swimthroughs to explore.

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During the trip out to the islands, dolphins are also often encountered.  Coral reefs with dozens of hard and soft coral species cover up to 70% of the dive sites. The marine life is prolific and there are all kinds of colorful reef fish and large pelagic fish in abundance. Various types of sharks and rays, and numerous other large and small marine creatures (including the much-loved seahorses) are all part of the experience.

Whale Sharks are also frequent visitors here during the summer months – from around July to September. ‘There is not much in the world that can compare to an encounter with a whale shark,’ says Gerrit Schneider, from Extra Divers Worldwide. Turtles are common too, with many returning during the summer months to lay their eggs on the island’s white, sandy beaches If you aren’t a qualified scuba diver, you’ll still be able to experience the marine life and sea creatures by snorkeling. Typically, you’ll join a boat of divers heading out to the islands, and while they’re busy underwater, you’ll be able to explore the shallower patches of coral reef in the area. Under the water, or at the surface, the Daymaniyats are not to be missed!

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