Archive | February 2012

About the Treasure Hunt

Oman Air, with the collaboration of Ministry of Tourism is organising the first ever international media treasure hunt in Oman. Teams of 4 from France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and the UK will compete against each other to discover the history, culture, landscapes, nature and the people of the Sultanate of Oman. The European teams will be traveling to various destinations within Oman to experience first-hand the eclectic cultures and vast beauty of the region. They will start off from the Grand Mosque to the winding souq in Muttrah and finish in the south at Salalah. Their journey will cover jaw-dropping landscapes, unspoiled coastlines, rich cultures and mouth-watering cuisines of this beautiful country.

The teams will be given a series of cryptic clues during their journey across the country. They will visit places like Wadi Shab, Ras al Hadd (Turtle Beach), Wahiba Sands, Sur, the Banana plantation in Salalah, etc. all by road and air. Camels, dhows, taxis and boats will also be their source of transportation in order to accomplish the various tasks given to them. To make sure they do not lose their way, the teams will be each given a handheld GPS unit with coordinates to lead them in the right direction.

The seven-day adventure will run between the 6th and 13th of February and will start and finish with a night’s stay in Muscat’s finest hotels. To make this event even more memorable, they will be filmed along their quest by a professional camera crew specially brought in for this adventurous treasure hunt. This event will be the first international annual treasure hunt of many to follow. It will showcase the wonders of the Sultanate of Oman through the eyes of some of Europe’s leading media personalities.

Five Countries, One Destination

Italy
A city having a profound History ranging from diverse architectural style, literature to timeless music. Italy (Italian: Italia), officially the Italian Republic (Repubblica italian) is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia along the Alps. To the south it consists of the entirety of the Italian Peninsula, Sicily, Sardinia–the two largest islands in the Mediterranean Sea–and many other smaller islands. It is the fifth most populous country in Europe, and the 23rd most populous in the world. Rome, the capital of Italy, was for centuries the political and religious centre of Western civilization as the capital of the Roman Empire and site of the Holy See.

Italy is blessed with its natural beauty. Old cities like Venice, a name which later became synonymous to architectural excellence, Rome and Sicily all add up to its natural splendor. Italy is one of the biggest producers of wine. Traveling a destination like Italy is certain to provide lot of entertainment and pleasure which you will endeavor for all your life.
Coming from the land of Pasta and Pizza we have:

  • Bellantoni Ilaria, Publication – My Self – Condè Nast(Circulation: 440000 Monthly)
  • Porta Francesca, Publication – Style.it; (Circulation:1.8 million per month; 100000 per day)
  • Mr. Ugo De Berti, Publication – Corriere della Sera Viaggi  (Circulation/View: 1.2 million per day Unique users for travel page 1,1 million per month)
  • Tomasini Paolo Dini, Publication – Capital – Class; (Circulation: 94688 Monthly.)

Switzerland
Zurich / Zürich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zurich. It is located in central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich.

The picturesque city of Zurich is the driving force behind Switzerland’s economy. However, that alone is not the only reason why Zurich offers the highest quality of life in the world. It is the biggest Swiss city with a population of some 366,000 in the city centre. At the Parade-Platz, a plaza in the middle of Bahnhofstrasse is the financial heart of the city and the world-headquarters of several Swiss banks.

Zurich is a land of beauty, history and charm nestled between Lake Zurich and the River Limmat, framed by the breathtaking Alps. From the beautiful Swiss land we have, Katia Zimmermann

  • Gérald Baeriswyl , Freelancer working for  SF Television Suisse,  Où Magazine and  Echo Magazine
  • Sonja Huesler, Publication: TELE a TV program guide with an extended travel, lifestyle and society section. (Circulation: weekly / 145025 ex)
  • Manuela Regina Burkhalter, Travel editor – artundreise – a luxurious travel magazine for an upper segment. It treats all aspects of travel and culture. (Circulation: quarterly/25000 ex)
  • Katia Zimmermann

Germany
Germany is a country enjoying abundant natural beauty, and an elegance marked by a unique culture and history.Many German regions enjoy variations of this spectacular natural splendor while owning certain characteristics that sets each apart from the rest. Germany has the most distinctive regions for pristine Alpine beauties and mineral springs.
Germany covers an area of 357,021 km and has a largely temperate seasonal climate. With 81.8 million inhabitants, it is the most populous member state and the largest economy in the European Union. It is one of the major political powers of the European continent and a technological leader in many fields.

From here we welcome…

  • Four member participating team

United Kingdom
The country includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that shares a land border with another sovereign state—the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border the UK is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea, the English Channel and the Irish Sea.

The UK is a developed country and has the world’s sixth-largest economy by nominal GDP and seventh-largest economy by purchasing power parity. It was the world’s first industrialized country and the world’s power during the 19th and early 20th centuries.[18] The UK remains a great power with leading economic, cultural, military, scientific and political influence.

The UK is home to some of the most interesting and beautiful landscapes in the world. Whether you are looking for romantic parks, beaches, wild and rugged wildernesses or an idyllic peaceful backwater, Great Britain seems to have it all.

From the island Kingdom we welcome,

  • Ben West, Freelance
  • Kate Spicer, a star columnist at the Sunday Times (circulation: 993768 weekly) who also writes freelance articles on travel and lifestyle issues for a number of high-end UK and overseas titles. She has also presented a number of shows on national TV and has a commission for Wallpaper* magazine (circulation: 108250 monthly)
  • Iain Scott Mallory, One of the UK’s leading travel bloggers, Mr Mallory has 14,000+ Twitter followers and 7,500 unique visitors to his website (www.malloryontravel.com) every month
  • Dylan Lowe, an up-and-coming star of travel journalism, Dylan has been nominated twice for The Guardian newspaper’s prestigious awards programme and operates his own travel website, http://www.thetravellingeditor.com. He is very active within the social media field, having 4,000 Twitter followers and 15,000 tweets to his name to date. Dylan also writes in a freelance capacity for a range of print and online publications.

France
French Republic, famously known is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. France has been a major power with strong cultural, economic, military and political influence in Europe and around the world.

France has a lot to offer, like the quiet villages, stunning scenery, historical buildings lost in the countryside and so much more. One of the seven wonders of world Eiffel tower at Paris is a great global icon of France. The culture of France and of the French people has been shaped by geography, by profound historical events. France, and in particular Paris, has played an important role as a center of high culture and of decorative arts since the seventeenth century. France has also played an important role in cinema, fashion and cuisine.

From this City of Love we have,

  • Four member participating team

The adventure begins once the travels lay foot on the Arabian Sands and start their exploration with this Country of tales, expanding from high Mountain ranges and terrains, Canyons , Jabels ,Wadis and Dunes. It’s The Sultanate of Oman welcoming all the participants with open arms by uniting all the five countries with different culture and heritage together for an unforgettable yet ebullient adventure. Welcome to “The Treasure Hunt – 2012- Muscat”)!!!

Adventure Sports in Oman

From the gorgeous beaches to the vast rocky terrain, outdoor activities such as water sports, camping, hiking, desert discovery and lots more are available in Oman to get your adrenaline pumping. Some of the popular activities are listed below.

Marine Activities
With the coastline formed by the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman, the marine life is simply breathtaking and stretches to more than 1600 kms. The blue waters of Oman can be experienced throughout the year. Read on discover what Oman has in store for you in terms of marine activities.

Scuba diving
The popular sites for scubadiving are Oman Dive Center, Qantab Reef, Cockleshell Bay, Issah Island, Mermaid Cove, Purple Haze, Coral Garden, Democracy Bay, Al Munnassir, Turtle City and Seahorse Haze. Scuba diving in Oman can be done throughout the year, but diving into the experience of the beautiful marine life is best between September, November and March to May.

Kayaking
Make your holidays an experience of a lifetime by kayaking the lush waters of Oman. One can witness fishes, birds and even turtles, if you gently paddle in a single or double seater kayak, off the coast of Oman. Travellers will come to best experience this at the Sawadi isles.

Water Skiing
If you decide to plan your trip to Oman with your family, then your kids can really enjoy water skiing at the coastal areas. Special learning sets are provided for children between 5-8 and 9-12 years for safety before their first attempt. This makes the first attempt much easier for your kids and there is no need to worry at all.

Jet Skiing
Jet skiing is another water game you can enjoy in Oman. You can cruise through the surging waves feeling the power of the wind and water. This sport is best enjoyed in mid summers with moderate waves.

Game Fishing
With the right equipment and a bit of professional help from an Omani captain who has the best knowledge of the Muscat seas, you can catch Sailfish, Marlins, Yellowfin Tunas and Dorados. Game fishing is normally for 4, 6 or 10 hours.

The other water-sports of Oman include swimming, aqua biking, banana riding, tube riding and surfing, dolphin and whale watching.

Mountain Adventures
Oman is a mysterious land of mountains and deserts. Demand for adventure sports is on the rise in Oman. Various activities can be carried out on the mountains in Oman. Few of which are mentioned below.

Camping
To enjoy stargazing in Oman, the best thing to do is camping, which can be done at many places. You can choose from the stillness of the desert to the tranquility of a wadi in the mountains. The months of October till April are best preferred to enjoy this activity.

Hiking
Climb the rocky terrains and enjoy the highs and lows of the historic mountains of Oman which lead to remote settlements that are still inhabited. Hiking in Oman can be short and easy, leading to spectacular viewpoints or it can be difficult with all-day treks. The trip is full of surprises and if you are lucky enough, you would experience the magnificent bursts of spring waters.

Canyoning
Indulge yourself in the rush of the adventurous Canyoning. Canyoning usually includes some abseiling, scrambling over and around rocks. The Majlis Al Jinn Cave is the place for this challenging activity. You should either wade or swim through the wadis. Best suited for spelunkers and explorers. Another popular place for canyoning is Snake Gorge at Wadi Bimah. A walk through the Snake Gorge involves three kilometers of walking, wading through pools, swimming, and scrambling over boulders in the gorge between two cliffs. Indeed, the whole journey is both adventurous and challenging.

Desert Expedition
An opportunity you cannot miss is trekking in the desert on camels with the local Bedouins on a full moon night and setting up wild desert camps under the stars. A few are listed below.

Desert Safari
Oman has a romantic desert named ‘Wahiba Sands’ which has ever-changing sand dunes, varying from deep red to a rich honey colour. This desert is the traditional home of the Bedouins who know how to survive in these harsh desert conditions. You can experience their traditional lifestyle, an amazing desert sunset from the top of a dune, tranquility of the desert, clear skies, glittering stars and moving sands of time.

Dune Driving
Driving across the sand dunes is a must try if you want to fully explore the deserts in Oman. It is an exciting experience. Your tour can start through the mountains passing through Sumail Gap and across the desert plains through the townships of Bidbid, Al Qabil and Ibra. Enroute, you can also see remains of grand fortified houses and forts and the surrounding hills of Al Mudayrib.

Apart from the recreational sports activities, people in Oman like to play football, volleyball, wrestling, horse riding, squash, tennis and other modern games.

Oman’s Rich Cultural Heritage

The Sultanate of Oman is the easternmost of the Arab countries. The culture of Oman is deeply rooted in Islam. Besides foreign workers the majority of its people are Arabs with sizeable minorities of Baloch and Swahili communities. The Sultanate is a coastal haven of soothing aura, beautiful beaches and islands giving the people of Muscat a chance to relax and unwind in tranquility. Apart from the rich Flora and Fauna, the ‘Culture’ of this place is equally captivating. The Cultural Heritage is one of the most interesting features of Muscat. The traditional foot tapping string synchronised music is a rhythm to look forward to. Oman’s musical tradition is an integral part of its social, political, economic, geographical and religious history. There are over 130 different forms of traditional Omani songs and various dances that come together to create the country’s rich musical heritage.

The Craft Heritage of Oman is foremost a tribute to Oman’s artisans and the rich traditions they symbolise. The ancient Omanis were experts in wood carvings and metal works. Arts and Crafts in Oman also include the traditional process of shipbuilding. There were many incredible, old wooden vessels which have all disappeared but the people of Sur were successful in preserving the ‘Fateh al-Khair’ an ancient dhow on dry land. The young people in Oman are always encouraged to learn the ancient skills so that it can be carried forward to future generations.

Oman is also known for its hospitable people and food. To be invited into someone’s home will mean Kahwa (strong, bitter coffee flavoured with cardamom) and dates, and the rich traditional Omani Halwa. Omani cuisine revolves around rice, tender meat and fish. The festival inspired “Shuwa” which is meat prepared underground usually served with rice should not be missed because you are sure to come back for more. During the Holy month of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, Omanis refrain from eating or drinking between sunrise and sunset. They break their fast with coffee and dates followed shortly thereafter by a ritual meal, often shared with family and close friends.

The national dress of Omani men is called dishdasha, a simple collarless gown to the length of the ankle with long sleeves. Mostly, the color of this costume is white, though one might see other variations too. Furakha is a tassel sewn into the neckline of this dress and dipped in perfume. A plain piece of cloth is worn from waist below the dishdasha covering the body. Omanis also wear different types of headdresses like muzzar. Omanis take great pride in wearing a special form of dagger called Khanjar, which is supported on waistbands or belts. Once worn for self-defense, khanjar has now become a symbol of fashion and prestige. Some men also carry an ornamental stick called assa.

Completely fashionable yet very classic, this is exactly how the women of Muscat carry themselves. There are numerous traditional styles of Omani costumes with vibrant colours, embroidery and decorations varying from region to region accompanied with the gold and silver embellishments. The main component of a woman’s costume is an outfit worn over the trousers called sirwal and the headdress called lihaf. The elaborate embroidery on women’s costumes can take up to two months to complete. Omani women wear elaborate gold and silver jewellery around the head, neck, wrists, ankles, fingers and toes. Most women wear sandals or western type fashion shoes and paint their hands and feet with henna, especially before weddings, holidays and festivals.

Muscat is the 2nd best city to visit in 2012 (Lonely Planet)

With an enormous diversity of natural beauty it is hard not to believe why ‘Lonely Planet’ has named Muscat the second best city in the world for 2012. According to Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2012, the best places to go and things to do around the world for the year ahead, are London in the UK, Muscat in Oman, Bengaluru in India, Cadiz in Spain, Stockholm in Sweden, Guimaraes in Portugal, Santiago in Chile, Hong Kong in China, Orlando in Florida and Darwin in Australia.

The life around Muscat is usually free flowing and mostly at ease. But there are certain parts of the years worth experiencing where the roads are decorated with top notch vehicles embellished with stickers of the national flag, its colors, national emblem and His Majesty’s photo during the auspicious occasion of National Day. The roads of the Sultanate are flooded with crowds coming from all around the world especially to visit a complete month of festivities called the Muscat Festival. This is to create awareness about the traditional and cultural lifestyle of the ancient and modern Oman.

Oman is leaving no stone unturned to attract international visitors by expanding everything from its museums to its resorts. Muscat is the focus for the revamp, with cultural events, luxury accommodation and aquatic activities taking centre stage. This year it’s all about Qurum’s trendy designer outlets, Old Town souks and thrilling water sports enlivening its coastline alongside traditional dhows. Muscatis are genuinely interested to see visitors, so much so that first-timers might have the odd feeling of returning to the house of an old friend. ‘Tomorrow will be a new dawn on Muscat,’ the His Majesty the Sultan pledged upon attaining power in 1970. Today in Muscat, the sun has well and truly risen. To be a part of this intriguing lifestyle, one must take a few days off to really experience this Arab culture at its best during the festive seasons like the Khareef season in Salalah.

10 must visit places in Oman

Muttrah Souq1. Mutrah Souk
Also known as the heart of Muscat, Mutrah Souk is best known for being the most interesting Souk in the Arab Gulf states. It features a perfect blend of the ancient and the modern, offering a choice to shoppers. Feast your eyes on the silverware, antiques, frankincense garments, toys, spices, gold etc. on display. Best of all, you can bargain the cost of these items. Over the years this beautiful dock facing market (souk) has been the major destination of tourist attraction.


Nizwa Fort2. Nizwa Fort

The Nizwa Fort stands as one of the Sultanate’s finest historical edifices. This unique, large earth-filled circular tower of Nizwa is built by Imam Sultan bin Saif al Yaarubi in 1668 AD. It mirrors the military engineering prowess of fort-builders of the olden times. The fort is a reminder of the town’s significance through turbulent periods in Oman’s long history. It is Oman’s most visited national monument.


Nakhal Fort3. Nakhal Fort

Nakhal Fort is a large fort in the Middle East in the Al Batinah Region of the Sultanate of Oman. The 17th Century Nakhal Fort in Oman, is situated on a rocky site in the foothills of the Western Hajar. This fortress commands a fantastic 360-degree view of the surrounding countryside. Nakhal is famous for its mineral-laden hot springs flowing year round from the clefts in the mountain rock right around the fortress.

Ras Al Hadd4. Ras Al Hadd
This area is located in the Wilayat of Sur in the Sharqiya region. It is considered the last point in the East of Oman and is located in the conjunction between Gulf of Oman and Arabian Sea. It is the migration destination of around 6,000-13,000 turtles who make their annual journey here, from the Arabian Gulf, the Red Sea and the East African Coast. This area attracts the largest number of mating turtles in Oman. A visit to Oman will not be complete without a visit to Ras Al Haad’s Turtle Reserve. Known as “Green Turtle Habitat”.

Wadi Shab5. Wadi Shab
The Wadi Shab is a must-see place to visit in Oman. ‘Wadi’ means ‘dry river bed’. This gully remains dry except during the rainy season where water quickly fills it up. If you’re thinking of driving in the wadis (wadi bashing), it is best to check first, for any developing thunderstorms before engaging in this activity. This is a good safety precaution to avoid the dangers of flash floods.

The Wadi Shab is located just between the capital Muscat and the town of Sur and lies exactly in Niyabat, Tiwi, wilayat (province) of Sur. What’s fascinating about this wadi is that, it merges the scenic appeal of the coastal areas with that of the inland wonders. It is interesting to note that you can find at least seven pools of emerald green water surrounded by marvelous boulders, here. Of these pools, one of it is actually found inside a cave where light beautifully streams in from above. Get fascinated with the sound of echoes as you swim in this pool.

Salalah6. Salalah
One of the things that people remember most about Salalah, the second largest town in the Sultanate of Oman, is its temperate climate. While the rest of Arabia experiences sweltering temperatures of up to 50°, Salalah averages 25°C in the locally known Khareef season (from late June to early September). During this season, tourists flock to Salalah to enjoy its outstanding beauty and refreshing climate. Frankincense trees grow and flourish with this climate.

The use of frankincense is prevalent in Oman. It is used not only for its fragrant qualities but also for its therapeutic properties like its calming effect on the nervous system. The resin on the other hand, can be used as a medicine to cure toothaches and indigestion.
The ‘Blow holes’ and the ‘Anti Gravity Point’, are the frequently visited spots in Salalah. It is definitely worth the experience.

Wadi Bani Auf7. Wadi Bani Awf
The Wadi Bani Awf is found in Al Rostaq wilayat, just behind the intimidating façade of the Al Jabal al Akhdar mountains. This ancient wadi offers breathtaking vistas along its 26-kilometer trail. Mountain streams and pools plus green fields also spectacularly beset this valley making it an ideal place for 4WD drives, trekking or canyoning. As you set out to the Wadi Bani Awf, you’ll have the chance to explore side canyons like the famous Snake Canyon/ Snake Gorge with it cool springs, splashing streams and sharp rock faces. A perfect spot for spelunkers ,climbers and divers.

Wahiba Sands8. Wahiba Sands
The Wahiba Sands is a vast desert of rolling sand dunes with colors varying from deep red to rich honey and stretching as far as the eye can see. These dunes are home to traditional Bedouins who can endure the harsh desert conditions. It also plays host to a diverse type of flora and fauna.

Local tour guides for a more fun-filled and safe experience would take you out on a fantastic dune driving and allow you to visit or perhaps enjoy a hearty lunch with a Bedouin family who can give you an insight on their lifestyle… It’s a wild experience to cruise your way into the never ending Arabian Sands.

Jabrin Castle9. Jabrin Castle
Jabrin Castle is truly one remarkable sight. This magnificent palace is located near the mountains of Jabal Akdhar or the Green mountains. The mountain is famous for rose cultivation and production of pure rose water. Situated in such a picturesque landscape, this castle was built in 1675 by Sultan Bila’rab bin Sultan al-Yaarubi as a summer residence. This magnificent castle is known for its artistry and majestic look.Some of the notable attractions of this castle include painted ceilings and inscriptions of The Holy Qur’an verses on the walls and ceilings.Jabrin Castle has been restored to its full glory to keep its historical and artistic values.

Jebel Shams10. Jebel Shams
Jebel Shams, also known as, ‘Mountain of the Sun’ in Arabic is 9000 feet above the sea level. Located 280 km from Muscat, Jebel Shams is the highest mountain of the Al Hajar mountain range. The mercury here dips to zero in winter and sometimes is followed with snowfall. Even the summers are pleasant with an average temperature of 25 degrees.This climatic condition attracts the tourist for camping and trekking. Other than the climatic conditions, the major attraction of this place is the Canyon. The canyon at Jebel Shams is said to be the second biggest after the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

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