Archive | May 2014

Oman – Golfers Paradise!

A visit to these three new golfing destinations in Muscat will change fans’ views about the great game in Oman forever!
As recent as just a few years back any golf aficionado in Oman would have been caught griping that to play a decent round of golf they have to board a flight to the bordering country. But not anymore! Today, Muscat boasts of some of the most breathtaking golf courses in the entire Middle East – each set in its own unique and It’s Tee Time! Signature landscape – one right by the seaside (Almouj Golf), one deep in a valley (Ghala Valley) and one perched atop a hill (Muscat Hills)! With these 3 amazing golfing options ready and available, Muscat is fast turning out to be the regional golfers’ most preferred destination of choice, besides proving to be a much awaited boon for the burgeoning local golfing population.

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Already hordes of serious golfers from within the GCC are making a beeline to Muscat to enjoy a weekend of matchless golf, stretching their time between these 3 courses – each presenting their own personal versions of challenging greens, alluring fairways and unforgiving bunkers. Join us as we walk you through the key attractions of these 3 new sparkling gems on the regional golfing crown. Almouj Golf: This course is Oman’s only Greg Norman signature designed PGA Standard 18-hole golf course. The entire golf course is a mere stone’s throw away from the shores of the Sea of Oman. Two lakes centered on the course add to the challenge, and a Par 3 Island green on one of the lakes is designed to test the golfer’s short game acumen. While the overall design encourages an interesting and challenging game, the course itself has been specifically designed to accommodate all levels of golfers; each tee has five tee boxes to ensure an exciting game for every skill level. Says St John Kelliher, General Manager, Almouj Golf, “In addition to the above mentioned, Almouj Golf Academy offers Oman’s only floodlit 9-hole Par 3 golf course, a floodlit driving range, private teaching area, a state-of-the-art swing studio, a pro shop, clubhouse and an outdoor lounge area overlooking the scenic course.” In an effort to make the game go even farther the 3 fully qualified Professional Golf Association (PGA) staff in association with the Oman Golf Committee (OGC) has coached well over 100 Omani children and 30 Omani ladies in the joys of this great sport. Since Almouj Golf is not a private club and is open for all guests anyone interested in enjoying this unique experience are most welcome to do so. For details log on to http://www.almoujgolf.com.

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Complementing the championship course is the comfortable club house and excellent practice facilities that feature a spectacular 400-meter floodlit driving range with undercover tee off area from both sides and a pitch and putt practice area. The Golf Academy offers state-of-the-art equipment under the tutorship of qualified PGA professionals who offer a wide range of tuition services using the latest cutting edge technologies of eCoaching with swing video analysis, Flight Scope, Sam Putt Lab. Find out more of Muscat Hills Golf and Country Club at http://www.muscathillsgolf.com Given the current novelty value and the sumptuous spread of varied golfing options that are on offer for a professional golfer, or a novice, or even one considering trying a hand at golf, Muscat golfing has something exciting for everyone. Muscat golfing is certain to gain much greater popularity in the days ahead. Ghala Valley Golf Club: Ghala Valley will be opening as a fully-fledged 18-hole golf course. Currently playing as a 9-hole course, this golf course is set within the natural surroundings of a Wadi (dry river bed), and entices the golfer with some stunning views of the surrounding mountains and down the valley to the ocean. But golfers are cautioned not to be taken in with this beautiful setting as the course can prove to be very challenging even for professionals, while often being unforgiving for the beginners as the players’ course management expertise and skills will be tested and stretched to the maximum. The course offers members and guests the choices of a driving range, chipping green, putting green, pro shop and a full service club house. In a bid to promote the sport in a big way in the country, junior memberships are offered free of charge until a player turns 18! For more information please visit http://www.ghalavalley.com

London – World Capital of Museums?

Natural History Museum

According to a recent survey, London now boasts close to 1,000 museums, 8 000 restaurants, 200 theatres, over 120,000 hotel rooms for all budgets, and five international airports. The ‘Capital City of the World’ really does have a lot to offer. And they’re certainly world leaders when it comes to that first statistic – museums.
In fact, London could be called the World Capital of Museums as well. What sets London’s museums apart from the rest of the world’s offerings is firstly, the truly remarkable items that they contain – it is spectacular to know you’re looking at the actual Rosetta Stone, or an original Leonardo Da Vinci drawing, or a real Egyptian mummy, or the handcuffs used by the famous escape artist Harry Houdini. The second is the way each museum’s contents are cared for and curated and presented in a way that makes them absolutely fascinating and relevant to our lives. And of course, everyone just loves the idea that entrance to most of the museums and galleries is free. People often think that museums are dusty, old, boring places, but London’s are the exact opposite. Four museums – the British Museum, Victoria & Alfred Museum, Natural History Museum and the Science Museum – stand out in particular.
More than once, the British Museum has been called the greatest attraction in London. Its collection, which has been sourced from all over the world, is among the most comprehensive in existence, and illustrates the story of human culture from its early beginnings to the present day. If you only have a short time, make sure you see the Rosetta Stone, Assyrian Lion Hunt reliefs, Parthenon sculptures, Samurai armour and as much of the Egyptian department as you can. The Victoria & Alfred Museum celebrates art and design with 3 000 years’ worth of extraordinary and noteworthy artifacts. Some 150 galleries on seven floors contain furniture, ceramics, sculpture, paintings, posters, jewellery, metalwork, glass, textiles, and much more. And no, these priceless treasures aren’t for sale – as much as you’d love to buy them!

Dinosaur Natural History Museum

As well as the impressive dinosaur exhibit, the Natural History Museum boasts a collection of the most spectacular and rarest animals in the world. Want to see a life-sized blue whale? Or a 40 million year-old spider? Or thousands of plant, animal, fossil and rock specimens? Then this is where you – and especially your kids – want to be. The Science Museum features seven floors of educational and entertaining exhibits – all showcasing developments in contemporary science and technology. The highlights are the famous Apollo 10 space command module and a flight simulator, which are very popular with children. These four London museums are reasons enough to travel to London and an entire lifetime could be dedicated to the study of each museum’s contents. If you are limited in time, each one has an expertly compiled website with suggestions and summaries of what specific items to see, and information on new and upcoming exhibits.
There are other museums, well worth spending a good deal of time at. Among the vehicles on display at the London Transport Museum is the first underground electric train which interestingly, had no windows because there was nothing to see underground. The Imperial War Museum contains examples of the machinery and technology of war – as well as communications and spying equipment, war literature and other artifacts from conflicts of the twentieth century. Military history fanatics will also enjoy the National Maritime Museum, where one of the highlights is the famous Admiral Lord Nelson’s uniform from the Battle of Trafalgar.
The Design Museum features contemporary furniture design, graphics, architecture and industrial design concepts – and altogether tells the story of why good design is so important and relevant to the world right now. The Museum of London is an entertaining education of the city’s history. It is packed with exhibitions that tell the story of prehistoric London, the city under Roman rule, and the grandeur of medieval London and other important stages in its history.
A prominent part of London’s museum culture is its art museums and galleries. The quality of the works permanently on display and on once-off exhibitions is spectacular. London’s National Gallery is filled with works by great masters such as Vincent Van Gogh and Leonardo da Vinci. The gallery was founded in 1824 to display a collection of just 36 paintings, but today it is home to more than 2 000 works. The popular Tate Britain gallery is referred to by the Tate institution as ‘The home of British art from 1500 to the present day’ and is not to be missed by serious art fans. The Tate Modern gallery, another of the Tate institutions, is housed in the former Bankside Power Station on the banks of the River Thames. Here you can see work by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Salvadore Dali, Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol.
Other acclaimed galleries include the Barbican Art Gallery, Hayward Gallery, National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square, The Royal Academy of Arts (founded in 1768), and the small Serpentine Gallery, which sits in a beautiful spot in the middle of Hyde Park. Recently, the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, lovingly exclaimed that his city is the ‘greatest big city on the planet’. Being the mayor, this is could be considered an unashamedly biased claim. But Mr Johnson isn’t the only chap who likes London. At the end of 2013, a survey revealed that a record number of travellers (possibly in the region of 16 million – they’re still counting the final quarter) made their way to London last year – many of them to the city’s brilliant museums. If you do too, you will not be disappointed!

Oman Air flies seven times a week between Muscat – London.

Oman and the Sea

Oman and the Sea was a unique international exhibition that took place at the National Maritime Museum of the Ministry of Defense in Paris. It documented the Sultanate of Oman’s very ancient and fantastically rich maritime history

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The exhibition was honored by the joint patronage of the Sultan of Oman, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, and the French President Francois Hollande. The official opening ceremony took place on 17 October at the famous Trocadero fountains in Paris, which are close to the National Maritime Museum, and directly in front of the iconic Eiffel Tower. It was opened by H.E. Sayyid Badr bin Saud bin Harib al-Busaidi, Minister Responsible for Defense Affairs, and his French counterpart H.E. Jean-Yves Le Drian, the Minister of Defense.
After a spectacular light show, a traditional Omani Badan ship, which was built in Oman around 100 years ago, was unveiled. The ship had been floated and positioned in the flat waters of the fountains, which made for a highly memorable spectacle. On the night, the Royal Navy of Oman band also performed traditional Omani songs under the colourful lights of the Eiffel Tower – and a special light show that was on display in the fountains.
In the context of the diplomatic relations between the Sultanate of Oman and France, which date back to 1660, the opening ceremony was a unique and important historical event. The exhibition was organised by the Ministry of Heritage and Culture. It documented some of the many aspects – including the tools and technology – of Oman’s maritime history and heritage. All of these played a great role in the development of Omani civilization, and helped establish Omani interactions with various cultures and peoples in the East and in the West, from a period of over 5,000 years ago until today.

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The exhibition also illustrated and highlighted the progression of relations between Oman and France since 1660. One of the noteworthy parts of the exhibit in this regard is a collection of manuscripts, plans and sketches of Omani boats drawn by the French Admiral Francois Edmond Paris during his travels through Oman in 1838.
A 144 page book to accompany the Oman and the Sea exhibition was also published. The book is introduced by forewords by His Majesty the Sultan and His Excellency the French President. In his message of support, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos highlighted the values of tolerance, cultural interaction, dialogue, respect and positive cooperation upon which Oman’s foreign relations have been based for many years. He also hailed the historical friendly relations between Oman and France, and their progress since the first informal contacts in the 1660s. His Majesty also stressed the importance of conserving the diversity of our human heritage, the dissemination of knowledge, and the deepening of convergence and understanding between cultures.
President Hollande indicated that the Sultanate of Oman boasts a unique location at the crossroads of maritime routes between Asia, Africa and Europe, and has enjoyed the benefits of this location since the third millennium BC, making it the cradle of the frankincense trail. President Hollande also indicated that Oman is rightly proud of these traditions, which are warmly appreciated in France. He said that the Oman and the Sea exhibition provided an encounter with early contacts between East and West over 5000 years. And it also honoured those generations of sailors and navigators who traded spices and frankincense, and managed, through the epic stories of their travels, to convey their deep knowledge to other generations. He added that the exhibition showed beyond doubt that civilizations flourish and progress through convergence and dialogue.

Under water world of Oman

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underwater2Still largely undiscovered as an underwater tourist destination, Oman has excellent options to rival the world’s best dive spots with whales, dolphins, sharks, barracudas, mantas and many others spotted regularly.
One of the more common ways of getting familiar with this beautiful country of Oman is at a terrestrial level. However, a lesser known but a far more exciting and enthralling way to enjoy the rich treasures of this mesmerising country is underwater! The Sultanate of Oman is the third largest nation in the Arabian Peninsula. Having a 3,165 kilometre long coastline with clean and unpolluted waters, Oman is one of the world’s best kept secrets. The land of the native incense, stretching along the coastal waters of the Gulf and the Arabian Sea, Oman is truly an untouched paradise for divers.
With some stunning beaches stretching from Musandam in the north overlooking the Strait of Hormuz, down to the entire eastern flank of the country, the Omani coast extends its gracious invitation to all dive enthusiasts and beach lovers. Activity for beach visitors include sunning, swimming, diving, snorkeling, boating, surfing, beach combing and shell collecting.

Of all these activities, particularly it is diving that provides the utmost enjoyment and variety with dramatic wall drop-offs and scenic coral lined fjords. Oman enjoys good sea conditions almost round-the-year with average visibility between 20 – 30 meters. Diving in the warm Omani waters is a soothing adventure. During winter months the sea temperature drops to 20 – 25°C and a 5mm wet suit may be required.

In summer, as the sea temperature rises, a 3mm wet suit would more than suffice. For the true adventure junkies, night dives could be just the thrill that they may be looking for. Most night time divers emerge after seeing an amazing array of astonishing phosphorescence objects such as corals and even some varieties of glowing fish that can be found in the Omani waters. Still largely undiscovered as an underwater tourist destination, Oman has excellent options to rival the world’s best dive spots with whales, dolphins, sharks, barracudas, mantas and many others spotted regularly. Divers can also enjoy the dazzling variety of coral gardens.

Around Muscat, the favourite feeding grounds of the Dolphins are usually the stretch between Al Fahal Island (also known as the Shark Island) and Bandar Al Khairan, a beautiful area of unspoilt islands and pristine beaches. In Fahal Island, divers can swim through an exciting ‘L-shaped’ underwater tunnel there. The wreckage of the 84-metre, 3,000 tonne landing craft “Al Munnassir” lies 30 metres below the surface in the turquoise seas off Bandar Al Khairan. This wreck is one of the most spectacular diving sites in Oman. Cat Island is another great place for marine adventurers.
Oman’s undersea bounty can be seen flourishing at the Musandam Peninsula, hailed as the ‘Norway of Arabia’, the main attraction being its breathtaking network of fjords, craggy mountains and vast wilderness where placid waters have been gently carving grooves through the soaring Hajar Mountains for millennia. Masirah Islands – Sultanate’s largest island, along with the waters off Ras Al Hadd and Ras Al Jinz are some of the other locations where several species of marine turtles come to nest and lay their eggs. Species include the Giant Green Turtles, Loggerheads, Hawksbill and Leatherbacks which live for over 100 years. Remarkably, even though these sea creatures swim throughout the Indian Ocean they unfailingly return to these very same nesting places to lay their eggs year-after-year! The most ideal season to watch this miracle of Mother Nature is between June to October.

To declare that the underwater life found in the coastal waters off Oman is copious would be a gross understatement. A wide variety of pristine hard and soft corals, acres of sea grass, some of the most rare and tropical marine life like molluscs and abalones, and a spectacular range of fish like Marlins, Sailfish and Yellow Fin Tuna are found in plenty across the length of Oman’s coastline. Omani waters are blessed with an abundance of sea creatures including an estimated 20 of the 80 known species of whales and dolphins. There are now estimated to be approximately 130 species of coral off the coast of Oman, much more than what was formerly thought to subsist in this region. Scientists believe that there are probably at least twenty more species yet to be discovered, possibly including five unknown varieties. It is discoveries such as these which make the underwater adventures more exciting for the serious divers can never for sure know what they may stumble upon next.

The string of nine uninhabited island archipelago of the Al Damaniyat Islands, protected by the Royal Decree as a ‘Nature Reserve’ and a ‘National Bio-Treasure’ is yet another treasure trove where one can indulge in activities like snorkeling and deep sea diving. Magnificent coral gardens and marine life in resplendent colours make the islands among the best dive sites in Oman. Good visibility and the variety of fishes thrive in these waters making the Damaniyat Islands one of the most sought after dive locations.
Permission from the Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Environment is mandatory before embarking on a trip to these islands. One can explore the waters around the islands but cannot set foot on the outcrops as they are the nesting grounds for the Hawksbill Turtles. Also called Tortoise Shell Turtle, the Hawksbill Turtle is a sea turtle with a hooked upper jaw that resembles a hawk’s beak, and two pairs of large shields on top of the head between the eyes. Long back, demand for tortoise shell had made the Hawksbill an easy target for poachers and hunters, driving the creature to the edge of extinction.
The Omani government, in an effort to safeguard this national treasure has since restricted access to the island’s outcrops. But divers, snorkelers, nature-lovers and tourists are permitted to explore the waters around Daymaniat.

Khasab, located very close to the Strait of Hormuz is famous for its turquoise waters and picturesque beauty offering some exciting snorkeling and diving options. The waters off Salalah, considered the ‘second city’ of the Sultanate usually swarms with dolphins, marlins, sailfishes, sharks and yellow fin tunas quite near the shore itself. Humpback and Orca whales can also be seen here though less frequently than the dolphins.

For the benefit of the less daring or even those who may not be physically ready for a real underwater expedition there is another fantastic opportunity to enjoy the sights below even without getting wet! Yes, sitting comfortably in a semi-submersible ship one can enjoy looking at schools of busy tropical fish, lazily passing sea turtles and the delicate colonies of coral reefs through the large clear glass windows.
‘Al Khayran’, Oman’s semi-submersible ship takes enthusiasts off Marina Bandar Al Rowdha on an ‘underwater tour’ of the coral reefs and its colourful inhabitants around Bandar Al Khayran. Oman’s pristine sub aqua world of coral reefs, home to rare tropical marine life offers enthusiasts a truly unique experience. Come, discover!

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