A castle that is only accessible with a rope from the second floor. A village carved out from the rocks at the side of the mountain. A sleepy town that bursts to life and colour during the apricot season. An entire kingdom-like complex left to decay as if ravaged by dragons. These descriptions may be incredible but we kid-you-not, several of these seemingly fictional places can actually be found in Oman.
Had the Grimm brothers, yes, the duo that wrote all the popular fairytales we know today, found themselves in Oman, they would have drawn a lot of inspiration from the Sultanate’s astounding villages and they would have created a full book just from Oman’s stories alone.
Here’s a list of the magical places you should start with if you’re new to the Land of the Frankincense.
Bilad Sayt: Hidden deep in the middle of nowhere
With attractions like Snake Canyon and Snake Gorge, Bilad Sayt is already off to a good start. To visit this village, you would have to cross mountains and once you survive the rough roads, you will be welcomed by a wide patch of a green football field misplaced in the middle of a deserted place. Once you reach Bilad Sayt, it will remind you of that mystical village in the movie Big Fish where to enter, you would have to throw your shoes. This farming community has been untouched for generations but only recently had seen the rise of schools, libraries and even cosy inns. If you wanted to disconnect and wanted to hike, do canyoneering or rappelling, this is definitely the place to be.
Al Suwjara: Carved on the side of the mountain
There’s no other way to describe this village but ‘strategically carved on the side of the mountain.’ Using the available resources, this village in Jabal Akdhar belonged to the Al Shureikis who’ve now transformed the village into an inn and a must-visit attraction. What makes it fairytale-like? How about crossing a wooden bridge that dances with the water when it floods. If that’s not enough, how about a scarlet door that needs to be opened from the inside? To top it all up, a stay here means having your food delivered through a pulley. Nearby attractions include a cave where the mountain people of Jabal Akdhar used to live for decades.
Wakan: Hugged by colourful blossoms
No matter the time of the year, Wakan is the best place to watch Oman’s season change. Like any fairytale land, it changes dress in a cycle — from the deathly caramel monotony of summer, the sepia-dominated curse of autumn, the garden bursting with life in winter and the lush green of the season in between. The best time to see Wakan is between the end of February to the early days of April when the apricot blossoms transform the village into a Japanese paradise. Here, time pass by so slowly and you would learn the value of time and life while you sip a cup of karak while looking at the surrounding mountains.
Harat al Bilad: The reconstructed ancient city
It is one of the oldest residential complexes in Oman and is the perfect setting for Aladdin if you’re going to ask us. The ancient pathways of this complex create a maze that leads to some of the most interesting corners in Omani ancient town. Fully reconstructed, you will see the full expanse of the complex climbing one of the towers located by the entrance. Remember that castle that can only be accessed from the second floor, it’s a stone’s throw away from this complex. We were even speculating that Rapunzel’s story originated here (give us the creative freedom to claim this.) These mudhouses have seen countless generations and soon, from the ruins of this complex will rise one of the country’s most comprehensive museums housing some of Oman’s most important documents and cultural icons comparable to the Louvre in Abu Dhabi.
Wadi al Abriyeen: An award-winning Unesco smasher
A list of Oman’s villages will not be complete without Wadi al Abriyeen. Is there anything that we will compare Wadi Al Abriyeen to? Nothing really as this village is its own fairytale. First, it has a castle right in the middle of its maze-like gardens. The castle however is unlike the European ones we see in books but rather, layered stones and mud houses that towers above the village allowing you to see the entire expanse of the surrounding landscape. Move around and you will be treated to a diving pool which primarily function is to collect water for the gardens through its century-old falaj. Whether you want a tower, gardens filled with fruit trees, or a road that becomes part of a waterfall when it rains, Wadi al Abriyeen will take your breath away.
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