015_G19_Tourism

Global

Global Insight Tourism it’s the perfect environment for high-class tourism to flourish. Oman is calm, chic and safe, Conde Nast Traveller magazine choosing it for its list of ten must-visit places. Clearly a ‘now’ destination, it’s not for slim wallets or indeed lager louts. However, Oman is easy-going. Alcohol is accessible in hotels, some restaurants and bars. Increasingly open-minded Omanis are treating their blossoming nightlife as a real investment in their bid to poach tourists away from their neighbours, and there’s a vibrant eating-out scene, ranging from upmarket restaurants at hotels by the seashore, like The Beach at the achingly elegant Chedi, or the Sultanah at the Shangri-La, to authentic Arab outlets, such as Kargeen or Bin Ateeq. It is possible on a budget to explore the epic scenery, which includes a 2,000 km long coastline of pristine, secluded beaches, which one does not have to share with loads of visitors. Oman is often overlooked as a snorkelling and diving destination in favour of the Red Sea – but what lies beneath the ocean is worth checking out. Turtles emerge to lay eggs in late summer, dolphins swoop and smile. What better way to relax after a long flight than to cruise along the coastline on a wooden dhow at sunset? Oman also offers spectacular mountain ranges and hidden wadis (river valleys), with their crystal-clear streams and pools. Photographers, tourists and residents all marvel at the nation’s dramatic landscapes. Part of Oman’s drive to enlarge its tourism sector is to decrease dependence on oil and natural gas revenues. Construction of luxurious hotels is encouraged, as well as tournament-standard golf courses, marinas and dive centres. However, all new developments are required to maintain Oman’s local building laws, with their height and colour restrictions. Stringent laws against disruption of the environment have also been imposed – the nation boasts the region’s cleanest beaches and it is illegal to drop litter. Speaking earlier this year, Maitha bint Al Mahrouqi, undersecretary at the Ministry of Tourism, said: “The Sultanate of Oman supports the continued development of sustainable tourism Oman is often overlooked as a snorkelling and diving destination in favour of the Red Sea – but what lies beneath the ocean is worth checking out initiatives across the world – initiatives that are firmly grounded in the protection of the natural world and local communities and those which are aligned with Oman’s historical and traditional beliefs.” Nothing much has changed, nor will it, in the narrow alleys of Muttrah’s ancient souk, in which frankincense crystals burn in funky painted clay censers or more urbane chased silver ones. The evocative fragrance of this incense that caused the region to be called Arabia Felix for more than 1,000 years, mingles with spices, sandalwood and pungent essential oils like oud, some of it so valuable it is kept in safes. Donkeys loaded with Indian pashminas edge between women some of whom are dressed in bright East African kangas, a legacy of the time Oman colonised Zanzibar (and which make great beach sarongs). Antique wooden chests from the island, silver khanjars (the traditional curved daggers worn on ceremonial occasions to this day), old amber and silver jewellery are very collectable. I successfully bargained for some fine old lithographs of the superb 18th-century mansions outside the souk on the crescent-shaped sweep of the Above: Antique silver Quran holders and jewellery Below: Dhow building yard at Sur Bedouin boy showing a glimpse of Mum’s wardrobe, Wahiba Sands www.global global four th quar ter 2014 -br ief ing.org l 15


Global
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