May 7, 2022
Just Back: A Private Luxury Tour of Oman
We recently returned from an incredible journey through the Sultanate of Oman, where we experienced the best of private cultural and scenic touring combined with some of our favorite luxury resorts throughout the country.
We began in Muscat, the seaside capital of Oman. Situated between the Gulf of Oman and the rugged Al Hajar Mountains, the scenic port city is a great introduction to Omani history and culture.
A highlight of private city touring was the Sultan Qaboos Mosque, Oman’s largest mosque. Completed in 2001, it’s known for its stunning modern Omani-Islamic architecture.
Set within serene, landscaped gardens, the mosque has a simple, marble-clad exterior that contrasts with the spectacularly ornate interior.
The handwoven prayer carpet in the main prayer room, covered with patterns inspired by traditional Oman weaving, is one of the largest Persian carpets in the world.
The enormous chandelier is 45 feet tall and features hundreds of thousands of Swarovski crystals.
Intricate, colorful mosaics, tilework and carvings adorn the interiors.
Another highlight of Muscat was a private tour of the Royal Opera House, a landmark of contemporary Omani architecture.
The complex was constructed between 2007 and 2011 and includes upscale restaurants, shops, gardens and an impressive auditorium.
Artisans of Leisure arranges private, behind-the-scenes tours of the opera house for our travelers interested in learning about the architectural and technological features.
We learned about Omani heritage and traditions at Bait Al Zubair, a privately owned museum and cultural complex in a restored house.
The museum showcases valuable artifacts, including pottery, jewelry, furniture, clothing, musical instruments and handcrafted silver khanjars (Omani daggers).
Muscat is a great place to shop for upscale traditional Omani crafts.
We spent time browsing in the centuries-old Muttrah Souk.
This traditional covered bazaar sells everything from spices…
…to jewelry, metalwork, textiles and antiques.
One afternoon, we had a private tour of the Amouage Perfumery to learn about how the famous luxury perfumes are made.
In Muscat, we stayed at the luxurious Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel.
This magnificent resort just outside Muscat has palatial interiors offset by the natural beauty of the mountains and the sea.
We love the expansive gardens, superb culinary offerings at different restaurants and luxurious suites with ocean views.
Another favorite option in Muscat is The Chedi Muscat, a tranquil oasis on beautiful grounds beside the sea.
The whitewashed, low-rise buildings spread across manicured grounds evoke traditional Omani architecture.
We love the resort’s tranquility, understated sophistication…
…and delicious cuisine.
Next, we traveled into the Al Hajar Mountains, an awe-inspiring mountain range in northeastern Oman. The spectacular scenery includes Jebel Shams (Oman’s highest mountain) and Jebel Akhdar (Green Mountain), where agricultural terraces of damask roses, date palms, apricots and banana plants flourish among the rocky outcrops.
En route to our resort, we stopped in Nizwa, a historic town set amid date palms at the base of the mountains. The capital of Oman in the sixth and seventh centuries A.D., it’s known today for its well-preserved fort and bustling souk.
The impressive fort was primarily constructed in the 17th century, although older sections date to the ninth century. We arrange for our travelers to tour the interior with a local expert guide.
There are great views of the surrounding date plantations.
The Nizwa souk has traditional Omani crafts, including pottery, leather goods and metalwork.
Higher up in the mountains, we stopped at the Saiq Plateau to admire the breathtaking scenery and learn about the fascinating marine fossils embedded in the rocks.
We continued to the Alila Jabal Akhdar, an exclusive resort in a spectacular mountain setting.
Inspired by traditional Omani forts, the architecture blends in with the surrounding landscape.
The resort maximizes the stunning remote location and features jaw-dropping views throughout the property, as at the spa pavilion pictured here.
The resort interiors are understated and feature crafts made by local artisans.
The Omani cuisine is superb.
Sunsets are otherworldly.
Another favorite luxury resort in the Al Hajar Mountains is the Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar, a larger property with views of the mountains and garden terraces.
Favorite features of the Anantara include the dramatic canyon views…
…the elegant interiors…
…and the cliff-edge infinity pool.
One night, we enjoyed stargazing with an astronomer. The remote location in the mountains and little light pollution provide excellent conditions for stargazing.
Artisans of Leisure arranges private scenic and cultural touring in the Al Hajar Mountains, including cooking classes, yoga and wellness programs, and visits to historic villages to see ancient falaj systems (irrigation channels) and mud-brick homes.
The mountains are fantastic for active touring, and we arrange hiking, mountain biking and challenging via ferrata excursions for our interested travelers.
One afternoon, we went for a thrilling off-road drive through the Wadi Nakhr, known as Oman’s Grand Canyon.
We admired the spectacular scenery from the Jebel Shams viewpoint…
…and the turquoise springs in Wadi Bani Khaleed.
The contrasting colors are incredible.
We also privately toured Ibra, one of Oman’s oldest cities.
Once a prosperous trade center, Ibra has a historic quarter with impressive ruins of large houses that once belonged to wealthy merchants.
For travelers interested in learning more about the history and architecture of the region, we arrange private tours of Jabreen Castle, a 17th-century fortified palace.
It’s known for its well-preserved interiors, particularly the elaborate painted ceilings.
The Al Hajar Mountains region is famous for damask roses, which are distilled into rose water. Artisans of Leisure can arrange for our travelers to visit a local artisan to learn more about the rose distillation process and how it reflects the cultural heritage.
We left the mountains for the desert, stopping en route to visit the ancient port city of Sur, a vital part of Arabian trade routes as far back as the sixth century A.D.
Sur has long been famous for its shipbuilding industry, and a highlight of private touring is seeing the dhow shipyard. It is the only remaining dhow shipyard in the country.
The traditional wooden vessels are still made by hand according to centuries-old techniques.
We also stopped at the striking Bimmah Sinkhole.
We continued to Wahiba Sands (Sharqiya Sands), a vast expanse of shifting golden dunes, where we spent the night at a private Bedouin-style tented camp.
The exclusive tents at the remote desert camp are beautifully furnished and come with a majlis (lounge area) and private bathrooms.
Time in Wahiba Sands offers travelers a glimpse into the Bedouin way of life.
One afternoon, we met a Bedouin family for coffee and dates.
We also enjoyed touring the dunes and dune bashing…
…a sunset camel ride…
… stargazing and a candlelit dinner of delicious Omani cuisine in the desert.
We loved seeing the changing colors of the desert at different times of day.
We ended our private Oman tour on the Musandam Peninsula, relaxing at one of our favorite luxury beach resorts, Six Senses Zighy Bay.
Inspired by traditional Omani villages, the low-rise stone villas and suites with private pools are spread out around the property and offer travelers tranquility amid rustic-chic luxury.
The restaurants serve organic produce from the resort’s garden.
Situated between the mountains and a private beach, Six Senses is ideal for scenic and active touring, water sports or just relaxing.
There is also a great spa with facilities such as hammams and an ice cave, and a comprehensive range of treatments that combine technology with local wellness traditions.
Another option for a luxurious beach resort in Oman is the Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara in Salalah.
Set between a private beach and a freshwater lagoon, the resort features Omani fort-inspired buildings with private villas, gardens with water features, a great spa and several excellent restaurants.
The Anantara is an ideal base for exploring subtropical Salalah and its beautiful coastline, UNESCO-listed archaeological sites, fruit plantations and souk, as well as learning about the region’s ancient frankincense trade.