Oman: The Greenest Gem in Arabia

head image- wadi tanuf

Tucked in the corner pocket of the Arabian Peninsula lies an enchanting sultanate that most travelers have only recently discovered.  This oasis cannot claim the tallest skyscraper or the largest shopping mall in the world but she possesses a God-made beauty that no manmade luxury can contest.  Visitors from all over the world are increasingly meeting Oman and falling in love.  But there’s a tourist of the green variety who finds, in Oman, an opportunity to experience the lands and lives of Arabia while minimizing environmental impact, supporting conservation efforts, benefiting the local economy, learning about national heritage, and ultimately respecting the land and its people.  The popularity of ecotourism as an alternative to large-scale, commercial tourism is on the rise and Oman has all of the right ingredients for ecotourists:  breathtaking landscapes, wildlife nature reserves, and an authentic taste of Arab culture.

The Sultanate of Oman is a buffet of beauty showcasing the contrasts of mountains and valleys, deserts and beaches, sand dunes and waterfalls.  Nature enthusiasts can feast on the fertile green terraces of Jabal Akhdar (The Green Mountain), watch the sun set over the desert of Wahiba Sands, hike through the magnificent valley of Wadi Shab, and experience the transformative monsoon season in Salalah.  Her picture-perfect beauty is imbued with life and awakens your every sense. Imagine inhaling the fragrant scent of rose water harvested from delicate hand-picked petals, chasing spirals of smoldering frankincense as it wafts through the cool morning air, tasting fresh dates from the generous date palm fields, or hearing elders sing poetry while pounding roasted coffee beans yet to be brewed.  A traditional lifestyle of simplicity and harmony with the land is still a lived reality in Oman and many Omanis open their homes and villages to conscientious visitors who can respect their way of life and the land they love.

Beyond aesthetic value, Oman has scientific significance in the fields of geology, ecology, and biology. Along the geoheritage discovery trail, there are a variety of unique rock formations to examine while  exploring the ancient geological processes that made Oman what she is today.   Nature reserves are designated to protect rare wildlife species like the endangered Arabian Tahr, the vulnerable Sooty Falcon, and the threatened Egyptian vulture.  Underwater you’ll find another world to discover.  The marine biodiversity of Oman’s unique position in the Indian Ocean is home to nearly a quarter of the world’s dolphins and whales, and the majority of the world’s green sea turtles come to her shores to nest.

In traditional souqs (markets), traditional crafts and arts are displayed by the artisans who produce them, just as their ancestors have for centuries long gone.  All mediums of the natural world are employed through metalwork, pottery, weaving, shipbuilding, and the like. Outside of the marketplace, cultural festivals and museums gently remind the present generation of the not-so-distant past that existed prior to Oman’s recent decades of modernized progress.

While Oman has more land devoted to natural conservation than any of her Arab sisters, there is still more work to be done.  Pollution is a major problem to be tackled, and recycling is limited and scarce.  Nonetheless, the Ministry of Tourism continues to promote environmental responsibility and protect their natural and cultural beauty from exploitation and limitless overdevelopment.  So, make your way to this land of embodied peace in the Middle East and find a place to rest your head under a palm-tree roof, a burlap Bedouin tent, or a blanket of stars beneath the desert night sky.

This article was originally published in Got Wudu magazine, Summer 2013 issue.


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