If the U.A.E. is the Middle East’s futuristic face, Oman is the window into its ancient soul. The latter is a land that straddles the region’s rich heritage, nomadic Bedouin ethics, and frankincense-trading and metalworking history. Landscapes here are as sigh-inducing as they are varied. Jagged mountain ranges, which lead to traditional villages, dominate the interiors. The contrasting northern coast, however, draws visitors to sample a taste of the seafront Muscat. Aashish Chandratreya was no exception to its charms.
The photographer travelled to the country’s port capital with his parents last March, just as the relatively pleasant weather was on the brink of departure. The family’s first international holiday packed in an itinerary rife with the nation’s cultural highlights and architectural landmarks, while peeling back the curtain on Arabia’s strong societal identity. He returns with this precious memorabilia of a digital catalogue.
Photo by: Aashish Chandratreya
The wooden boat sets sail on the Gulf of Oman—the northwestern arm of the Arabian Sea. The tour typically lasts for two hours, allowing guests ample time to sip on kahwa, while soaking in Old Muscat’s harbour-front marvels such as the Al Alam Palace—the official ceremonial palace of the Sultan of Oman.
The imposing Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is a fine blend of Islamic, Middle Eastern and Omani architecture. Its central dome, 165-feet tall, and five minarets—which represent the five pillars of Islam, with the tallest minaret scaling 300 feet—are hard to miss against Muscat’s skyline.
Inaugurated in 2001 by the late Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said to commemorate his 30th year of reign, the Grand Mosque was built over six years and can accommodate up to 20,000 worshippers. The main prayer hall is breathtaking, but the 46,748 square foot, single-piece, hand-loomed carpet and the 45-foot long chandelier are the real showstoppers. Both the artefacts in the mosque once held a world record for being the largest of their kind. The titles have since been overtaken by Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
The historic town of Nizwa—160 kilometres from the capital—is located on an erstwhile key trade route and is now the second-biggest tourist destination in Oman. The area’s eponymous 17th-century fort has been restored in recent times and is filled with artefacts and collectibles that celebrate its past. At its entrance, tourists are welcomed with a ceremonial sword dance and traditional music.
Nizwa is a gateway to the Wahiba Sands Desert. The region is home to Bedouin people, who tend their donkeys, goats, and camels in this arid landscape dusted with rolling dunes.
On weekends, automobile enthusiasts take their cars for a spin down Muttrah Corniche’s Al Bahri Road that runs parallel to the main souk.
Temperatures can soar up to an uncomfortable 40°C during the day. For many, post-sunset hours are preferably the best time to get a feel of the place in a different light.
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is Junior Writer at National Geographic Traveller India. She likes to take long leisurely walks with both hands in her pocket; channeling her inner Gil Pender at Marine Drive since Paris is a continent away.
is a photography student currently based out of New York City. He is an avid traveller with a great love for roaring engines and beautiful landscapes. He likes taking long road trips across broad country roads.
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