For our next trip, we’re going long-haul so Oman Air will mostly likely take you there in one of its Airbus A330s. But who or what is Airbus? Well it’s a division of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space company (EADS) and it’s worth noting that this company is owned by three different countries i.e. it was created in July 2000 by merging Aerospatiale Matra of France, DASA of Germany and CASA of Spain, but for legal reasons it is registered in a fourth country, the Netherlands!
First of all a bit of history. The A330s origin dates back as far as the 1970s as one of several conceived derivatives of Airbus’s first airliner, the A300. It was then developed as the first airliner offered with the choice of three engines.
The A330-300, the first variant took its maiden flight in November 1992 and entered passenger service with Air Inter in January 1994 on the route between Paris’ Orly airport and Marseille in France. The A330-300 has a range of 10,500 kms with 295 passengers in the 3-class cabin configuration. However, Airbus followed this with the slightly shorter A330-200 variant in 1998 which proved more popular. By comparison it has a range of 7,400 to 13,430 kms with 253 passengers in a 3-class cabin.
Then on 2nd April 2007 Oman Air announced it had placed an order for 5 x Airbus A330 aircraft for delivery and at the Dubai Air Show of the same year the order was finalized for three A330-300s and two A330-200s. Meanwhile, in February 2009 it was announced that two A330-200s would be leased from Jet Airways but they would have only Business and Economy-class seats.
And sure enough on 15th September, 2009 the first A330-200 was handed over to Oman Air at the Toulouse Air Show. It had a two-class layout, ie Business and Economy providing space for 216 passengers, i.e 20 in Business-class and 196 in Economy. This configuration does make for comfortable and spacious seating, particularly with its 1:2:1 configuration in Business class, the latter being better than First-class with some airlines! And if you didn’t know already Oman Air has won the award for the Best Business Class seat award 2011!
As of May 2012 the Oman Air fleet consists of the following A330s: 4 x A330-200s and 3 x A330-300s.
The A330 series does seem to have a rosy order book until at least 2015.
If you hanker after an escape from the heat in the north of the Arabian peninsula, and fancy some soft rain, light mist, and clement weather conditions which prevail from approx. the end of June, thro’ July until early-September, why not think of heading to Salalah in the Dhofar region of Oman?
So where exactly do these mild weather conditions occur? The monsoon rains water an eight-kilometre wide plain which runs along 130 kilometres of the country’s 560-kilometre coastline that overlooks the Arabian Sea. Salalah lies on this plain. Along a 75-kilometre stretch its slopes are cloaked in greenery when the south-west monsoon brings rain.
OK, but how do you get to Salalah? Oman Air has frequent flights Muscat-Salalah-Muscat (RO126 Business, and RO64 Economy) taking approx. 90 minutes, or you can take a 12-hour coach journey (RO12), or of course hire a vehicle and drive yourself but this too will take around the same time.
Now, what is there to see and do? Well first of all, the annual Salalah Tourism Festival has lots to offer and this year it is slated to begin on around 2lst June and finish just as the Holy Month of Ramadhan starts on 20th July 2012.
We suggest you head first to the old city which is confined to the area called Haffa. This is where you’ll find the Sultan’s palace, and the souq or market place where frankincense, perfume, oils and brightly-coloured burners are sold. The shops are run by the ladies of the region, each of whom has a secret recipe which has been handed down through the generations.
Next for a bit of history – why not visit the Land of Frankincense Museum which is situated in the Archaeological Park at Al Baleed. It presents a brief history of Oman in two sections: the first – The Frankincense Hall – exhibits history and archaeological findings. The second – the Maritime Hall – contains models of Omani boats and shows the association of the Omani people to the sea.
Salalah and Dhofar are historically famous for the frankincense trade. In fact ‘The Land of Frankincense Sites’ were inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in October 2000. The frankincense trees of Wadi Dawkah and the remains of the caravan oasis of Shisr (Wubar) and the ports of Khor Rori and Al Baleed vividly illustrate the trade in frankincense which flourished in this region for many centuries. All four are on the List.
What else is there to see –
- Prophet Job’s Tomb (Nabi Ayoub)
- Taqah fishing village with its fort, towers, and stone houses
- Khor Rori (close to Taqah) – one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Wadi Darbat – a natural park with scenic views of mountains, caves and birds. A great spot for a picnic especially when waterfalls occur
- Mughsayl beach where ‘blow holes’ (perforations in the limestone rock) through which sea water spouts during high tide.
- Wadi Dawkah valley which lies in the Nejd area, behind the northern slopes of the Dhofar mountains
- Mirbat castle and harbour – some 70 kms from Salalah
- Hasik – 3 hours drive from Salalah. This must be one of the most beautiful coastal roads in the world
And not to be missed – the fruit stalls – why not stop for a fresh coconut juice. Just delicious!
In Salalah there is a choice of hotels from 5*, to guest houses and apartments – so you can select according to your pocket or credit card. Or why not have a look at Oman Air holidays – and arrange a package: www.holidays.omanair.com – they’re great value.
First and foremost Oman is a country of varied terrain so there is something here to appeal to every tourist, whether a beach, culture or adventure enthusiast. And what’s more, the people are especially known for their hospitality and friendliness.
OK, so what is there that’s special to see or do? Well here in Muscat, the capital of Oman, you can visit the traditional Souk of Mutrah selling everything from colourful cloth, to household goods to exotic perfumes. A stroll along the Corniche at night is delightful and there’ll be no hassle from street hawkers. And into Muscat itself there is the Al Alam Palace (home of the ruler) guarded by the 16th century forts of Jelali and Mirani.
Whilst in the capital area why not visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque which welcomes non-Muslims every morning (except Fridays), or book seats at the beautiful Royal Opera House Muscat (a wonderful programme of international concerts entices the visitor from September through to end-April). For a country of approx. 3 million, to have 10 museums of different types in Muscat alone gives you the opportunity to learn something about Oman’s historical past or its nature. Boat trips to watch dolphins and whales or to go fishing are all available. Why not ask a local fisherman to take you down the coast for a few dollars, and maybe catch a fish or two for your barbecue.
The second largest city is Salalah in the Southern Region which can be reached by an Oman Air flight in approx. 1.1/2 hours or by coach taking 10 hours. Or hire a car and drive yourself on Oman’s excellent roads. This is where the 4 sites of UNESCO’s Land of Frankincense lie, and they include the wonderful archaeological sites of Al Baleed Park and Maritime Hall, the Khor Rori site of the Queen of Sheba, and the famous Ubar. Here one can wander the Souk for the best granules of frankincense, or take to the hills and valleys to see hundreds of migrating birds in the season. Be aware that the monsoon season is from approximately mid-June to end-August, but this does turn the landscape a lush green.
The scenic Musandam peninsula with its mountains and fjords -referred to by some as the ‘Norway of Arabia’ – is another ‘must see’ if you have time. It’s great to take a dhow (traditional boat) and see a family of dolphins swimming and spinning alongside, and to go snorkeling or diving. Again easy to reach on Oman Air’s domestic flights which ply the route daily..
What else is special in this land of varied terrain, much more than meets the eye.
Beaches – they are golden and unspoilt from Muscat down the coast to Salalah.
Adventure tourism – for the more intrepid tourist, caving, canyoning, rock climbing and hiking are all on offer as well as numerous water sports.
There is lots to see and do inland in the Nizwa area, for example the traditional goat and cattle Souk which is held early on Friday mornings, a 4×4 drive up the 3000-metre Jebel al Akdhar where roses and sweet pomegranates grow on the terraced gardens, and where there are hiking trails. Bahla is worth a visit for its fort and wall listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, and the nearby 4.5 km Al Hoota cave is spectacular.
For peace and tranquility – a 4×4 drive into the Sharqiyah/Eastern Sands to a tented camp in the desert or perhaps a spot of dune or buggy bashing appeals. The kids will love to toboggan down the dunes too. Here one can also meet the Bedouin and experience their traditional dancing and see their woven handicrafts. If you’re lucky there may be a camel or horse race going on near one of the towns. After a night spent watching the stars why not arrange a picnic and drive down to the Wadi Bani Khalid, famous for its deep pools where one can take a refreshing swim?
Sur would then be on the circular route-it’s interesting to visit for its traditional dhow (ship) building yard and then why not go on to the Ras al Jinz Marine Turtle Reserve where you will see the Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) come ashore at night to lay approximately hundred white eggs in the sand.
The Batinah coast has some interesting towns and forts to explore too – Barka, Bait al Na’man, Nahkl, Rostaq, and Al Hazm immediately spring to mind. Wadis (dried up river beds) can be found in this area too if one heads for the foothills – great fun to drive your 4-wheel drive up and down along the dusty tracks. On the Batinah road one reaches Sohar after approx. a 2-hour drive, and then you’re not so far from the border with the UAE. Sohar was once famous for its copper. If you happen to be visiting the Batinah coast at any time from May to early-October you’re sure to see dates being plucked from the palm trees and then sold at date auctions in the souqs – a great photo opportunity.
The geologist will find something to explore almost everywhere – Oman is one of the few places in the world where one can see ophiolite exposed and if one looks in the right places there is strata showing catastrophic meteorite collision which some say caused the extinction of the dinosaur.
Accommodation? Not a problem in most towns around the country where it is of varying standards from 5-star hotels in Muscat, to guest houses, to tented encampments so where you stay depends on the size of your pocket or credit card. And if you’re hungry you have the choice of a good restaurant with a corked bottle, or if on a budget in a cheap and cheerful café where a biryani might cost you just $2.60.
Need we say more as to why Oman is a special place to visit – there is something for everyone!
We have visitors from down under but don’t be fooled when the pleasantries will be exchanged, they are here for one and only one thing and that is to take revenge. For days there has been a lot of talk, analysis and hype built around the upcoming World Cup Qualifier that will take place at Sultan Qaboos stadium, Muscat. Oman Air is strongly associated with the Oman Football Association and had a contest “Win 1 ticket take 10 friends” competition on facebook for their fans to win 11 tickets to watch the match live on the 8th of June.
The contest took place on our facebook page, fans had to ‘Like’ us and register to win 11 tickets to the most awaited match of the season. Amazingly there were thousands of registrants over a period of 5 days and 180 winners with their friends will be cheering for Oman to create history.
We look forward to the Reds who are looking to beat the Australians to pave way for their first World Cup finals and the Australians to confirm their position as the customary entrants from the Asia/pacific. The last time these two teams met in Nov ‘11, Oman scored a stunning 1-0 win over Australia which enabled the Sultanate to advance to the 4th round of the World Cup. But, it won’t count for nothing when the Reds take on the Socceroos. The Socceroos are firm favourites, but with a strong record at home and the summer heat on their side, Oman will be very hard to beat – and will have the whole country supporting them.
Come and support Oman’s 11 in this vital 4th round match and help the team on its way to Brazil 2014. Go Oman go!