Dubai and Oman are a tale of contrasts. Dubai is a city where the boundaries of possibility are pushed to the extreme. It's a place where the relentless pursuit of innovation and luxury has transformed a once humble desert outpost into a dazzling metropolis. Meanwhile, Oman is all about spectacular natural landscapes. From the towering red-rock Al Hajar mountains to fjords, deserts and lush wadis, Oman has some of the most beautiful scenery in the Middle East. The diving is no less spectacular, boasting some of the fishiest reefs we've come across. If you're seeking to experience the full breath of the Middle East, a Dubai and Oman holiday is just the ticket…
Dubai: A City of Contrasts
Prepare to be captivated by the sheer audacity of Dubai's transformation. In fact, there are so many outlandish wonders in Dubai, it can be hard to know where to start. For those with a few days to explore, visit the colossal aquarium at the Atlantis Hotel and climb the Burj Khalifa tower, the world's tallest skyscraper. The cherry on the indulgent cake: The Palm Islands. An architectural wonder, these artificial archipelagos are shaped like palm trees which stretch like a mirage into the Arabian Gulf.
While glitz and glamour and skyscrapers form a huge part of Dubai's personality, this city is also home to a slew of cultural and historic sights. From the wind towers of Bastakya to spice souqs and the opulent gold souq, Dubai's old town offers a glimpse into yesteryear.
Oman’s Isolated Wilderness: The Musandam Peninsula
If you're after a taste of true wilderness, Oman's Musandam Peninsula delivers. Separated from the rest of Oman by the United Arab Emirates, this isolated peninsula remains one of the least visited areas in the entire Gulf - despite boasting the most spectacular natural landscapes. Often referred to as the 'Norway of Arabia', the peninsula boasts the craggy Al Hajar mountains and fjords, moon crescent beaches and glistening blue waters. And it's these fjords that give rise (or depth) to some of the best diving in Oman. Thanks to its northern location, it is also the easiest part of the country to combine with Dubai.
Diving in The Musandam Peninsula
What really sets the Musandam Peninsula apart is its dramatic underwater topography. Here, the towering cliffs and fjords lining the coastline plunge into the Arabian Gulf, creating a system of underwater fjords teeming with colourful reef fish. Green sea turtles, hawksbill turtles, eagle rays, barracudas, moray eels and reef sharks are also commonly seen. While there are myriad fantastic dives across the peninsula, a few sites stand-out…
1. Lima Rock
Located near Lima village, Lima Rock is famous for its towering pinnacles and dramatic underwater landscapes. Divers can explore coral-covered walls, caves and swim-throughs while encountering a diverse range of pelagics, including tuna, jacks, eagle rays and turtles. Peek into the reefs nooks and crannies and you might also spot nudibranchs and moray eels.
2. Ras Musandam
Ras Musandam, located at the northernmost tip of the Musandam Peninsula, is one of the best areas for drift diving. The underwater topography is characterized by steep drop-offs, underwater caves and strong currents, making it suitable only for experienced divers. Divers who take the plunge can encounter large pelagic species, such as barracudas, jacks and even the occasional whale shark.
3. Zighy Bay
Located off the shores of Six Senses Zighy Bay, this site offers a tapestry of coral gardens, rocky slopes and coral-covered boulders. Calm, warm water makes this site suited to divers of all levels, but for advanced divers, night diving should top the list as this site houses all the best nocturnal critters.
Heading South: Oman’s Top Dive Spots
Oman is far from a one-trick pony. For those with more time, Oman offers incredibly varied diving across its coastline. From the capital city of Muscat, you can explore the Daymaniyat Islands Marine Reserve. This UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its colourful coral reefs, hosts whale sharks, turtles and sharks (to name but a few).
Further south, Salalah could easily be mistaken for the Indian Ocean. Home to white sandy beaches, turquoise water and pristine visibility, Salalah couldn't be more different from its Omani counterparts. Visit between June and September to dive among towering kelp forests, keeping an eye out for dolphins, leatherback turtles, lobsters and octopuses.
Omans Topside Attractions
No Dubai and Oman holiday would be complete without experiencing Oman's topside attractions. Explore the ancient alleys of Nizwa, Oman's oldest city, in search of the 17th Century Nizwa Fort. Embark on a thrilling off-road journey through the dunes of the Wahiba Sands Desert, and camp under the stars in Bedouin-style luxury. Hike the rugged Al Hajar Mountains, where hidden villages like Misfat Al Abriyeen offer a glimpse into traditional Omani life. Witness the grandeur of the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat and get lost in a labyrinth of bustling souqs.
Oman's diverse terrain and rich history offer a startling contrast to Dubai's opulence, giving people a glimpse into two sides of the Middle East, where ancient traditions and natural beauty go-hand-in-hand with modern extravagance.