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Oman: Incentive Travel Destination
by Anne Thornley-Brown

 
   
 
   

Of Sheihks, Jins and a Magic Book

It was 9 PM, the night before the rest of our party was to arrive for an incentive trip in Oman. The Sheihk, Kateryna and I sat at a table under a huge tree in the Nizwa Souq sipping coffee. Abdul, who worked at the local hotel where we were staying, had dropped us off 1 1/2 hours earlier to do some shopping. He joined us and we sat talking, relaxing and taking in the night air. The Sheihk and Abdul were speaking Arabic. Even though we couldn’t understand what they were saying, it did look like they were having an interesting discussion. So, I asked, “What are you talking about?” The Sheikh replied “It’s what I was telling you about before…the fact that Nizwa is known historically for black magic”.

Abdul started telling us some fascinating stories. There was a tale about a child traveling from Nizwa to Bahla (another town historically known for black magic) by sliding down a tree, Then there was the book that will tell you all the secrets about magic if you read it at one sitting. “If you don’t read it at one sitting, you’ll go mad.” He told us that nearby there was a street that had been known for black magic historically. “If you walk there you’ll immediately start to feel nervous”. He also told us that Nizwa was of great historical significance and that 2 of the oldest mosques in he country are located there. Abdul continued to tell us tales about Jins and unusual experiences. During one of his stories, he mentioned a falaj. Kateryna and I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about so when he asked “Shall I take you there and show you?” We immediately said “yes”.

We spent the next 2 hours touring the back streets of Nizwa, we climbed up the stairs to the 2 mosques including the So’al Mosque built in the 2nd century and saw the outdoor rooftop area in which people worshipped. Abdul had been raised in that area and shared some of his fond childhood memories with us. He pointed down a lane to the street where one starts to feel nervous. Kateryna and I headed in that direction but stopped when we noticed that the Sheihk and Abdul weren’t joining us. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Abdul said that during the day it would be fine but he would not want to go there at night.

Abdul took us to the Falaj Daris, the largest falaj in Oman and one of Unesco’s World Heritage sites.  We soon learned that the 2000 year old aflaj irrigation system was the main source of water in Oman. It is a system of man-made subterranean channels that taps into underground water. We climbed right down into it and let the cool refreshing, water flow through our fingers. Then we strolled through the beautiful garden park at Shariya.

This unplanned night excursion down the back streets of Nizwa was so special and memorable that it was definitely the highlight of that trip to Oman. It reminded that when you're planning incentive trips always leave time for the unplanned as that is where the magic often happens.

Oman’s Appeal as an Incentive Travel Destination

Oman is an appealing destination for incentive travel for a number of reasons. Our clients from other parts of the Middle East love it because it reminds them of their childhood and some of the traditional sights that they rarely see anymore in their own countries. Such is the price of progress. Sometimes, we lose what is most precious. Due to a decree of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who has ruled the Sultanate of Oman since 1970, there has been a great emphasis on preserving and restoring Oman’s historical and cultural sites. (He has also decreed that commercial establishments can have no more than 7 floors and residences can’t exceed 3 stories in height.)  All new buildings must conform to traditional Middle Eastern architecture.

For North American and European companies, Oman will offer a truly unique experience that sets it apart from other incentive travel destinations. While one has access to modern technology and convenience, Oman feels like it is frozen time.

The terrain in Oman is rich and varied. You’ll see everything from beaches to desert and wadis to towering mountain ranges like Jebel Shams and Jebel Akhtar from which the view is nothing short of incredible.

Places to See in Oman

Muscat

Muscat is Oman’s capital and commercial centre. In Muscat, you’ll find an interesting blend of the modern and the traditional.

These resorts feature 5 star accommodation, large guest rooms, huge bathrooms, spas, a wide variety of function rooms for meetings and conferences, recreational facilities, and lavish buffets with a variety of cuisine that ranges from traditional Middle Eastern to European continental.
There are many attractions that are a must see in Muscat and neighbouring Muttrah. Bait Al Zubair Museum where you can see traditional furniture, clothing, utensils, handicrafts, pottery, and a garden with a barasti (traditional house) and a falaj, and lots more. Other places you won’t want to miss include:

  • The Corniche
  • The Fish Souq
  • The Muttrah Souq
  • The National Mosque - shorts are not permitted and women must wear modest clothing with arms and knees covered.

Nizwa

Nizwa, Oman’s capital from 751-1154, has played an important role in the country’s history. It has a number of attractions that will help you gain a sense of the country’s history.
Nizwa Fort was built in during the 1650s by Imam Sultan bin Saif Al Ya’rubi. At the top of the fort there are 24 openings from which weapons could be fired. Its round structure houses an intricate maze of corridors and staircases, leading to a well, rooms to safely house families, and underground cellars for storing food and weapons.

An interesting feature is the long vertical shafts down which boiling oil could be poured to fight off intruders. Today, the fort houses many treasures and exhibits that give you a sense of how people lived in the past.

Near the fort is the Nizwa Souq, a traditional Middle Eastern souq in which you can browse for treasures, barter and bargain. You can purchase spices, souvenirs, pottery, incense burners, silver jewelry, and handicrafts. On Fridays, the Souq really comes alive during the early morning livestock auction. In Nizwa you’ll also see the book roundabout, another landmark and photo opportunity.

In fact most of the roundabouts that you'll find throughout the country, have adorable decorations and statues. This is a unique feature in a number of Middle Eastern destinations.

See You in Oman

There are many other places that you and your team can explore during your time in Oman. I haven't mentioned Salalah, the home of Frankincense. I haven’t even touched on the dolphin watching, Turtle Island and scuba diving that are available. I hope that I have shared enough to wet your appetite and get you on the right track as you consider Oman as an incentive travel destination.


     
   
     
   

The Author

Anne Thornley-Brown

Anne Thornley-Brown is the President of Executive Oasis International (http://www.executiveoasis.com/incentivetravel.html), a Toronto based firm that regularly organizes incentive travel and executive retreats in the United Arab Emirates (Dubai, Abu Dhabi) and Oman. They provide one stop shopping service with a personalized approach to incentive travel for corporate groups of up to 25. Customized itineraries include travel, transfers, hotel, tours, team activities, and special events.

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Copyright 2008 by Anne Thornley-Brown. All rights reserved.

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