4WD CAMPING IN OMAN
Muscat > Nizwa > Jebel Shams > Jebel Akhdar > Sur > Wadi Al Arbeieen > Wadi Tiwi > Fins > Raz Al Jinz Beach > Wadi Bani Khalid > Wahiba Sands > Ibra > Muscat
"Oman is different."
That's what everyone told me. How can that be? How can one surrounded by neighbours of such wealth and obstinance manage to act with staunch individuality? During my three weeks in Oman, I sought to find answers to this paradox.
Its visual differences are immediately obvious. The very infrastructure of Oman, though immaculate, is subdued. It could even be considered underwhelming for those partial to skyscrapers and sprawling shopping complexes. The architectural uniformity you are greeted with in Muscat spreads throughout the country as if each house and mosque is made from a mould. Colours blend in with the hazy backdrop. The cloudless grey-blue sky dominates the landscape, as nothing grows tall enough or is built high enough to overtake it. Even in the otherworldly mountainous range, you can block the peaks from your periphery just by glancing upward.
The natural beauty of Oman is breathtaking. Its surprising to see after I looked out from Dubai's Burj Khalifa into the desert and saw nothing but sand. My view clearly did not reach the literal Oasis of Oman, full of microclimates in which all types of ecosystems thrive. You can hear water flowing. Villages buzzing. Trees swaying. Silence at night. And the stars...
Locals are wonderfully friendly and dignified. We shared a few coffees and bonfires with Omani people and our conversations shed light on why Oman is so unique. I concluded that it's the mixture of modern policy, tradition, and culture that make Oman the relatively liberal place that it is today. Or perhaps, liberal is not the word... but one cannot ignore Oman's tolerance and institutionalised secularity. You keep your way of life, we'll keep ours. No one is harmed. That is the simple and beautiful policy that has made Oman what it is today.
What I will always wonder about is how a nation can move from economic obscurity into active development with relatively few social ills. Most locals I spent time with spoke fondly of their Sultan named Qaboos and credited their nation's success to his pragmatism and cautious economic policies. They all loved to tell us how a mere 50 years ago, Oman had 2 schools, 1 hospital, and just 10km of unsealed road. Though donkeys are mostly feral now, there was a time where they were the main form of transport and distances were measured in the time it took to get there by donkey.
To experience the best of Oman, you must drive. Rent a 4WD, bring all the necessities, and safely camp wherever you like. It's a uniquely raw experience that will open your eyes to the Gulf's potential for spectacular beauty.
I made a video to remember our road trip through Oman. Take a look and you'll see exactly what I mean.