Mussanah Race Week
March 10-16, 2013
Free entry, charter, coaching (Paul Goodison & Andy Maloney)
Standard Men's Worlds
November 14-23, 2013
Nov. 28 - Dec. 7, 2013
Dec. 27 - Jan 3, 2014
by Evelyn Robinson
Competing in Mussanah Race Week or in the Laser World Championships also held there later in the year, is an exciting opportunity in itself. However, the chance to travel to Oman and explore this country steeped in history and its rich culture, along with its natural wonders, is an added bonus. If you are unfamiliar with Oman and what it has to offer its visitors, here we provide an overview of what you can look forward to during your visit, along with some practical information.
Rainfall is very low year round. Temperatures vary, but in March and November they can reach as high as 30°C. January is the coldest month, though temperatures never tend to fall below 17°C and typically are around the mid-twenties.
Oman has a long history, with evidence that it was first settled 10,000 years ago. Its location – surrounded by the Arabian Sea, Arabian Gulf and Sea of Oman – has influenced its culture, as this has facilitated travel both to other lands and has allowed others to settle here. Arabic is the main language, but English is widely spoken, making it easier for visitors during their stay. Oman is a Muslim country, but the people are very tolerant of other religions and cultures. It is one of the more liberal Middle Eastern countries, but it is still advisable to be conservative in the way that you dress and it is best practice for women to wear clothing that covers their arms and legs; though you can usually be more relaxed in hotels, bars and restaurants. However, swimwear is acceptable in pools and at beaches. Traditional food consists of lightly spiced chicken, mutton or fish with rice and vegetables, but due to Oman’s cosmopolitan nature International cuisine is widely available. It is illegal to drink alcohol in public places, though this can be easily purchased from licensed bars.
The transfer time from Muscat International Airport to the Millennium resort is only 45 minutes and transport via coach or taxi can be arranged on booking. It’s possible to rent a car directly through the hotel, but you require an international driving license and an induction on local driving. While the road signs can sometimes be difficult to read, the added freedom that having a car allows certainly makes up for this inconvenience. There is currently no mainline railway in Oman and although plans are underway, it is not expected to open till 2017.It is popular for visitors to take taxis, but you need to be prepared to haggle to get a fair price; the hotel staff can advise you on what would be a reasonable fare to pay. If you would rather take public transport buses are available, but you can also join coach tours to popular attractions.
The area and its attractions
Oman is blessed with almost 2000 miles of coastline, which draws sailors and divers from all over the world, not to mention those seeking its pristine sandy beaches. Al-Sawadi beach, 19 miles away from Al-Mussanah, is considered to be one of Oman’s most beautiful beaches. It also features numerous rock islands in close proximity to the shore, which are home to a wealth of birdlife. The beach is as popular with those wishing to soak up the sun, as divers keen to explore the nearby reefs and those who wish to try their hand at kitesurfing. Additionally, boat trips to observe whales, dolphins and turtles can be booked. It is also possible to take one of the mini cruises to the Daymaniyat Islands situated just 10 miles off the coastline. These nine islands with their white sand beaches are an important nature reserve and classed as one of the best places to dive and snorkel off Oman thanks to their crystal clear waters and the array of sea life that they support. Just off shore you can explore the coral reefs, which are awash with colorful fish and clown fish, barracuda and turtles are also commonly seen.
Hiking in the Hajar Mountains offers visitors breathtaking views and while you can undertake this yourself, it is advisable to hire a guide. One of the most rewarding treks is up Jabal Shams - translated as Sun Mountain – which at its summit reaches almost 10,000 ft and is the highest point on the Arabian Peninsula. The An Nakhr Balcony is a deep ravine, which can be viewed from the summit, as can the tumbling waterfalls, which have shaped the valleys below. It is important to remember that the temperatures at altitude are considerably lower and over the winter in particular it can feel cold as you near the summit; if you intend to hike remember to pack adequate clothing.
Not only are the mountainous regions beautiful, but their geological importance has been recognized by the creation of 30 geoheritage sites around Muscat and Al-Mussanah, which allow visitors to learn more about the geology of the area. Smart phone applications are available to help guide you around the sites and provide information on the geological processes. Phenomena that can be seen include mini and major folds, Jurassic bedding, schist bedding, pillow lava and limestone faults.
As you can see, when not participating in events, Oman has a wealth of attractions for you and your family to enjoy. Make the most of your opportunity to visit this enchanting country with its varied landscapes, historical sites and possibilities for leisure activities.