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Old Aug 30, 11, 3:28 pm   #1
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Please critique Oman itinerary

We've got 6 full days (7 nights) to spend in Oman. My current thoughts are as follows:
  1. 2 nights in Muscat, so one day for sightseeing and to arrange rental car to take into UAE
  2. Drive along coast to Fujairah across UAE border. Stay at Hilton.
  3. Drive to Al Ain, crossing border into Oman and then out of Oman to Al Ain. (I see no reasonable alternative to the border crossings.) Stay at Hilton Ai Ain.
  4. Drive to Muscat, visiting Nizwa enroute
  5. Final 3 nights in Muscat
  6. Possible day trip from Muscat to Nakhl Fort and Hazm Fort. Worthwhile? Is a 4-wheel drive essential?

Would you add a night in either Fujairah or Al Ain? What is there to see and do if we add a day? How long will the drive take between the two, given the border crossings?

All thoughts would be much appreciated.
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Old Aug 31, 11, 11:27 am   #2
 
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Sorry, can't help with your itinerary, but I will comment on Oman since I spent 3 brief nights there last Sept. and thoroughly enjoyed it and would like to return. Make sure to visit the Corniche and souk in Muscat which is where I bought my frankinscense and there is great people watching. We drove thru the mountains to Nizwa and ended up not seeing much of Nizwa at all but did visit a couple of forts. The ones I saw were spectacular on the outside but not much to see inside. The new mosque in Muscat is beautiful also. I stayed at the Shangri-la in Muscat which is on a gorgeous stretch of coastline but a bit out of the way, however, you may want to go have a look and even take a boat tour.

Enjoy your trip!
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Old Sep 2, 11, 12:14 pm   #3
 
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I can't speak for the UAE portion of your trip, but as for Nizwa and the surrounds, you may want to consider adding the Jebel Shams, a wonderful Grand Canyon-esque panorama relatively near Nizwa and Bahla. You need 4WD to drive to the top yourself, but (and I haven't seen this in a guidebook anywhere, just happened to discover) there are 4WDs and drivers conveniently hanging out at the end of the paved road on the way up the Jebel. Bargain hard, and they'll happily drive you to several vistas at the top. Most don't speak English other than money, so don't expect any good narration unless you speak Arabic.

Bahla fort, about 40k from Nizwa, is also interesting (two UNESCO World heritage sites in the surrounding area -- the fort, and the ancient irrigation system). Perhaps more interesting though is wandering the mud ruins below the fort (you can't enter fort itself as it is chronically under refurbishment) where some poorer families still live in the crumbling remains of an awesome former city. If you look carefully, you will see where vast arcades of the old city were later converted into small homes, and with an eye for architecture you will notice all kinds of interesting mud building methods in the rubble.

Sorry for the wordy reply but these two sites (Jebel Shams and Bahla) are some of my favorite places in the entire Gulf, and I think any visit to the Nizwa area without them would be a loss. (Nizwa fort is cool and one of the few you can see inside, but it can get crowded with tour bus crowds.)

Last edited by chelmkamp; Sep 2, 11 at 12:17 pm.. Reason: iPad autocorrect :-)
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Old Sep 2, 11, 12:22 pm   #4
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Originally Posted by chelmkamp View Post
...these two sites (Jebel Shams and Bahla) are some of my favorite places in the entire Gulf, and I think any visit to the Nizwa area without them would be a loss. (Nizwa fort is cool and one of the few you can see inside, but it can get crowded with tour bus crowds.)
Awesome input. Thank you. You are much better than my Bradt guidebook in giving me a thirst to visit this area.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jac747
Make sure to visit the Corniche and souk in Muscat which is where I bought my frankinscense...
Jac747, serious question. What do you do with frankincense? When I look it up on line, it looks like small translucent pebbles.
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Old Sep 2, 11, 12:50 pm   #5
 
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What do you do with frankincense? When I look it up on line, it looks like small translucent pebbles.
You place the "pebble" (actually dried tree sap) directly on top of a disc of burning charcoal. There are also some less authentic ways of buning it (using an electric burner).

I use my stovetop to get the charcoal disc going, then transfer to an incense burner with tongs. It really only takes one small piece to smell up a large room. You can also get sandalwood, amber, rose and other smoldering delights to mix with the frankincense. It's lovely but an acquired odor (I have some going now in fact).
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Old Sep 3, 11, 4:35 am   #6
 
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Originally Posted by SanDiego1K View Post
We've got 6 full days (7 nights) to spend in Oman. My current thoughts are as follows:
  1. 2 nights in Muscat, so one day for sightseeing and to arrange rental car to take into UAE
  2. Drive along coast to Fujairah across UAE border. Stay at Hilton.
  3. Drive to Al Ain, crossing border into Oman and then out of Oman to Al Ain. (I see no reasonable alternative to the border crossings.) Stay at Hilton Ai Ain.
  4. Drive to Muscat, visiting Nizwa enroute
  5. Final 3 nights in Muscat
  6. Possible day trip from Muscat to Nakhl Fort and Hazm Fort. Worthwhile? Is a 4-wheel drive essential?

Would you add a night in either Fujairah or Al Ain? What is there to see and do if we add a day? How long will the drive take between the two, given the border crossings?

All thoughts would be much appreciated.
Fujairah isn't worth more than a night, it's very similar to Oman. To be honest you're be better driving the extra hour to Mussandam (the northern tip of Oman to the north of Fujairah) and going on a cruise, the scenery is amazing.

Al Ain is also quiet but does have the UAE's one and only mountain (Jebel Hafeet) as a backdrop. One night enough. You can stay half way up the mountain in a rather basic hotel, good excuse to go exploring.

As an addition I would recommend staying in the desert in Oman. There are places you can stay (you can choose camping or little huts which have AC) which are amazing - massive open BBQ, views of the stars like you've never seen and try your hand at desert driving in the morning. I honestly can't remember the name of the place I did it but it was about 4h from Muscat in the Wahabi (?) sands I think. Given the amount of off roading required would take a guided tour, plus the Omanis will give you a proper cultural understanding of all the places you pass.

One other option is there is a famous turtle breeding area about 2-3h south of Muscat, worth a day trip.
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Old Sep 4, 11, 10:21 am   #7
 
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Yes, the frankincense has a lovely, exotic fragrance and my Muscat hotel always had it burning in the entrance so now it brings back some good memories of Oman, and it is a place I'd like to spend more time in.
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Old Oct 1, 11, 4:51 pm   #8
 
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Fujairah isn't worth more than a night, it's very similar to Oman. To be honest you're be better driving the extra hour to Mussandam (the northern tip of Oman to the north of Fujairah) and going on a cruise, the scenery is amazing.

Al Ain is also quiet but does have the UAE's one and only mountain (Jebel Hafeet) as a backdrop. One night enough. You can stay half way up the mountain in a rather basic hotel, good excuse to go exploring.

As an addition I would recommend staying in the desert in Oman. There are places you can stay (you can choose camping or little huts which have AC) which are amazing - massive open BBQ, views of the stars like you've never seen and try your hand at desert driving in the morning. I honestly can't remember the name of the place I did it but it was about 4h from Muscat in the Wahabi (?) sands I think. Given the amount of off roading required would take a guided tour, plus the Omanis will give you a proper cultural understanding of all the places you pass.

One other option is there is a famous turtle breeding area about 2-3h south of Muscat, worth a day trip.
I agree with all of this. The most striking part of Fujairah is the contrast with the rest of the UAE - when you are already in Oman it is less impressive, and there isn't much to do there. The drive from Muscat to Fujairah is about 3 hours if you drive straight through. There aren't many place to stop on the way in terms of sights, although the roundabouts are entertaining.

Al Ain has a couple of museums, but a day is definitely plenty. I think we spent about 4 hours and were over it.

The Musandam peninsula is one of the most beautiful places I've been in terms of the natural geography. There are boat cruises that are lovely (geared towards tourists, but still fantastic), and the snorkeling is decent.

South of Muscat is also beautiful, and if you can find a cheap flight (or are in for a lengthy drive) the area near Salahah is a great place to see. Watching the frankincense harvest is amazing.

Where are you flying in to? Your current itinerary is going to cost you quite a bit in border fees, and there are some other options. There is actually a ferry from Muscat to Khasab, and while I haven't taken it I think that would be a great option.
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Old Oct 2, 11, 2:47 am   #9
 
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Originally Posted by SanDiego1K View Post
We've got 6 full days (7 nights) to spend in Oman. My current thoughts are as follows:
  1. Drive along coast to Fujairah across UAE border. Stay at Hilton.
  2. Drive to Al Ain, crossing border into Oman and then out of Oman to Al Ain. Stay at Hilton Ai Ain.
I think most visitors to Oman only get to see Al Ain (and or Fujairah) if they are entering the region through UAE and pick up a car at DXB or AUH. Al Ain is an attractive well-kept city, but apart from driving up the mountain, I'm stuck thinking of anything you could do to justify the sacrifice of days (and money!) involved in the visit. Both Fuj and Al Ain are perfectly fine places to be if you have to be there, or you are just passing through - but I think only residents escaping Dubai would think of going there for weekends.

You are blessed by starting the trip in Muscat. There's an awful lot to do in and around the city itself. Once you fit in excursions to and around Nizwa there's not a lot of spare time. If you have a couple of free days then Salalah is an hour's flight south and incredibly dramatic Musandam (Khasab) the same in the other direction. The ferry to Khasab might be good one way, but i think it's down to just once or twice a week.
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Old Oct 2, 11, 11:38 am   #10
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Thank you for recent comments. Would I be better served to cancel my Al Ain Hilton booking and spend two nights in Fujairah, using my day there to drive to Musandam?

Most information on the ferry appears to be from 2008 and 2009, including this scathing albeit amusing writeup.
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Old Oct 2, 11, 12:58 pm   #11
 
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Originally Posted by SanDiego1K View Post
Thank you for recent comments. Would I be better served to cancel my Al Ain Hilton booking and spend two nights in Fujairah, using my day there to drive to Musandam?

Most information on the ferry appears to be from 2008 and 2009, including this scathing albeit amusing writeup.
Well, yes, the Ferry has some opportunites ;-)

You *could* add a second night in Fujairah, but unless you are a very late sleeper you'll have oodles of time, and although it's probably the cleanest Hilton I've ever been in it isn't otherwise that impressive of a hotel.

If you want to go to Musandam you could drive from Fujairah in a couple of hours (driving through the UAE, The 89 to the 88 to the 18 to the 11). The roads through Oman in that part of the country are not as good. I might add a night at the Hilton in R.A.K. instead, but it depends on what type of travel you like; how much time you like to spend at the hotels versus driving in a day etc.

Distances are short in that part of the world, but if you don't like spending a lot of time in the car an overnight in Al-Ain is not a bad option. We made several trips to Muscat from Abu Dhabi, and even on the first trip (where we didn't leave until 10, got lost in Al-Ain, had to stop everywhere) we made it to Muscat around 6:30.

You're going to have such a great time - if someone offered me a job there I would move to Oman tomorrow!
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Old Oct 2, 11, 3:05 pm   #12
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Is there any way to drive from Fujairah to Al Ain without having to enter Oman?
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Old Oct 2, 11, 3:21 pm   #13
 
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Originally Posted by SanDiego1K View Post
Thank you for recent comments. Would I be better served to cancel my Al Ain Hilton booking and spend two nights in Fujairah, using my day there to drive to Musandam?

Most information on the ferry appears to be from 2008 and 2009, including this scathing albeit amusing writeup.
Well, you'll be pleased some of the heat can be taken out of the criticism of the ferry company - it's finally able to take cars!! The ferry connection was a loopy idea, topped by the latest grand projet, a railway line between Oman and UAE.

I'd certainly ditch the Al Ain side trip: save it for if you ever have to get from AUH or DXB to the Sultanate. Really, Oman is a delightful place to visit and I think you might want to keep your 7 days firmly within its borders.
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Old Oct 2, 11, 4:06 pm   #14
 
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Is there any way to drive from Fujairah to Al Ain without having to enter Oman?
Yes! It's actually the best way to go. You'll basically drive West towards Dubai and then turn South East. You'll want a map, but you basically take the 89 to 88 to 611 (signs will say to Dubai Marina or Abu Dhabi) and the the 66 to Al-Ain. It's basically a triangle, but the Emirati roads are better, so it doesn't take as long as it looks like it should. 3 hours tops.

A note on highways - locals will not refer to the road names or numbers, they will give you landmarks. The signage is *very* good however, so if you have a map or know where you need to go it is easy to get around.

Also - when you cross back in to Oman from Al-Ain you want to use the southernmost border crossing. The signs will direct you to the crossing in the North, near the Al-Hilli archeological park, but that will put you on the wrong road if you want to see the desert towns in Oman (and you do!). Even if you don't stay the night you'll want to drive through town to the Hilton (well signed). The Hilton is at the intersection of Khaled bin Sultan St and Zayed bin Sultan St, and it's the latter that you'll want to take south to the border (about 15 minutes outside of town).

Edited to add: Mr. tebfunk just chimed in to be aware that very few of the gas stations on the peninsula take credit cards - something that surprised us. If you have other questions about the area feel free to ask - we just got back from living in Abu Dhabi, and spent a great deal of time exploring the region.

Last edited by tebfunk; Oct 2, 11 at 4:18 pm..
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Old Oct 3, 11, 2:37 am   #15
 
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Did you find any good public beaches in Abu Dhabi? I've wasted too many weekends driving to a beach I found on Google Earth only to find the way blocked by a security checkpoint.
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