A tale of two nations – UAE and Oman

My family and I went to UAE and Oman during the last Christmas holidays. Actually, they wanted to go to Dubai, but I insisted in including Oman, as I have heard a lot about it from my well-traveled friends. What we realized is while both countries are so different, it is worth your while to visit both. Because it will give you the contrasts that make up an interesting vacation. At the end of this post I will share a suggested itinerary.

So what are the dichotomies between the two countries?

Gentle vs. aggressive personality

UAE, especially Dubai, is not known for its hospitality. Having lived in Dubai for 3 months, and going back several times for work, I have to say I have yet to be wowed by the locals’ personality. Omanis on the other hand, are gentle and helpful.

Conservative vs. (relatively) liberal values

UAE, especially Dubai and Abu Dhabi, are mostly composed of foreigners (at most 20% locals!) Hence they are used to the Western culture. While they continue to embrace the local traditions, they are okay when Westerners parade in their bikinis at the beach, or wear miniskirts at the mall. Omanis, on the other hand, are not comfortable with that. So I wear sleeves outside Western resorts, and make sure my hem length is at least just above the knee.

Many choices vs. a few for accommodations

Dubai has countless options for accommodations, from the modest 4 star Western hotels like Four Points (there are three of them in Dubai alone!), to the beautiful Burj al Arab and Atlantis (from the famed hotel in Bahamas). Even for business hotels there are so many choices. My favorite is Emirates Towers.

Burj al Arab from the beach

Burj al Arab from the beach

Atlantis hotel

Atlantis hotel

Emirates Towers - I used to stay in this luxury business hotel in 2005.

Emirates Towers – I used to stay in this luxury business hotel in 2005.

Abu Dhabi is not far behind. My family’s favorite is Qasr Al Sarab in the Liwa Desert. Bar None, the best resort in Abu Dhabi, and perhaps the whole UAE, and the tripadvisor ratings prove it. I love its arabic theme, unparalleled service, and delicious food. Shangri-la has a good view and infinity pool. We spent one night here over Christmas eve.

Qasr al Sarab

Qasr al Sarab

Qasr al Sarab resort

Qasr al Sarab resort

Beautiful room in Qasr al Sarab

Beautiful room in Qasr al Sarab

The mosque and Abu Dhabi's skyline, as seen from Shangri-la's infinity pool

The mosque and Abu Dhabi’s skyline, as seen from Shangri-la’s infinity pool

Oman, on the other hand, lacks options. Either you pay the overpriced Shangri-la at USD 500 per room per night for the CHEAPEST room, and a similar price range for the Chedi, or stay in almost run down hotels like the Tulip Inn for USD 150 per night (still expensive for the quality that you get.) And options are far in between. But hey, the sights more than compensate for the accommodations. Not even looking beyond Shangri-la, check out the views in the resort itself!

Chedi's pool

Chedi’s pool

Inside the Chedi, Oman

Inside the Chedi, Oman

The relatively "spartan" room in Shangri-la, Oman

The relatively “spartan” room in Shangri-la, Oman

View in Shangri-la Oman

View in Shangri-la Oman

View in Shangri-la Oman - Al Jissah

View in Shangri-la Oman – Al Jissah

Private beach in the exclusive Al Husn resort in Shangri-la

Private beach in the exclusive Al Husn resort in Shangri-la

Nature vs. man’s creativity

Beyond accommodations, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are about building the most unimaginable, most creative, and architecturally challenging buildings. From the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa, to the Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi, the buildings are just beautiful. Dubai has a themed mall, Ibn Batuta, which has a Moorish Spanish version. Check out their copy of the Alhambra fountain!

The towering Burj Khalifa - tallest building in the world - for now

The towering Burj Khalifa – tallest building in the world – for now

Ibn Batuta Mall, Dubai. See the semblance to Alhambra?

Etihad Towers skyline in Abu Dhabi

Etihad Towers skyline in Abu Dhabi

Hyatt Capital Gate - Abu Dhabi

Hyatt Capital Gate – Abu Dhabi

UAE does have its share of nature – an example is Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Wait until you see what Oman has to offer. It’s good that we went to this first before visiting Oman!

Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain - pretty. Again, wait til you see Oman!

Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain – pretty. Again, wait til you see Oman!

Oman’s natural sights – well, a whole post can be dedicated about it. I won’t describe them more than a short caption for each picture, as the pictures will speak for themselves.

Outside Nizwa souk - with Omanis in traditional attire

Outside Nizwa souk – with Omanis in traditional attire

View from Nizwa fort

Village near Jebel shams. Lots of date trees.

Village near Jebel shams. Lots of date trees.

Jebel Shams

Jebel Shams

Goat in Jebel Shams. They're so cute we ended up feeding one!

Goat in Jebel Shams. They’re so cute we ended up feeding one!

A well-fed goat :)

A well-fed goat 🙂

Wadi Nakher

Wadi Nakher

Wadi Nakher

Wadi Nakher

 

Nakhl Fort - beautiful fort, but wait til you see the view! Even better than the view from Nizwa fort!

Nakhl Fort – beautiful fort, but wait til you see the view! Even better than the view from Nizwa fort!

View from Nakhl Fort

View from Nakhl Fort

View from Nakhl Fort

View from Nakhl Fort

View from Nakhl Fort

View from Nakhl Fort

Wadi Ghul

Wadi Ghul

Wadi Ghul

Wadi Ghul

Mountains near Wadi Bani Auf

Mountains near Wadi Bani Auf

Mountains near Wadi Bani Auf

Mountains near Wadi Bani Auf

Mountains near Wadi Bani Auf

Mountains near Wadi Bani Auf

Mountains near Wadi Bani Auf

Mountains near Wadi Bani Auf

Bilad Sayt village

Bilad Sayt village

Look! Multi-colored mountain!

Look! Multi-colored mountain!

Wadi Shab

Wadi Shab

Bimah sinkhole

Bimah sinkhole

Wadi Shab

Wadi Shab

Wadi Shab

Wadi Shab

Wadi Tiwi

Wadi Tiwi

Wadi Tiwi

Wadi Tiwi

Wadi Tiwi

Wadi Tiwi

Wadi Bani Khalid

Wadi Bani Khalid

Wadi Bani Khalid

Wadi Bani Khalid

Wadi Bani Khalid

Camel hug in Wahiba Sands

Camel hug in Wahiba Sands

Wahiba sands

Wahiba sands

Wadi Arbayeen. See the reflection of colors!

Wadi Arbayeen. See the reflection of colors!

Extravagance vs. simplicity

Beyond the buildings, hotels, and the malls, while the UAE is used to showing off what money can buy, very little has been shown about Oman. My family’s reaction when I insisted on going, they asked, “What is there to see?” And this simplicity and low-keyness extends to its ruler, Sultan Qaboos. He lives a (relatively) simple life, and a very anonymous and quiet one at that. He is single, and no one knows if he has girlfriends or mistresses, and avoids the press.

So which one of the two countries? You pick. Your preference will dictate the number of days you will spend in each, but each country is worth at least one visit in a lifetime 🙂

My itinerary

This was our itinerary. It was very busy, so add a few more days if you want to relax. (Spend more time in Qasr al Sarab!) Also add/subtract the number of days depending whether you prefer the glitzy resorts of UAE or the nature sights of Oman.

Day 1 and 2: Dubai

Burj al Arab for breakfast – See it from Jumeirah beach – Atlantis – Dubai Mall / Burj Khalifa

Day 3: Qasr al Sarab in Liwa Desert, Abu Dhabi

Day 4: Abu Dhabi city tour: Sheikh Zayed Mosque, then enjoy the Shangri-la (with the view of the  mosque!)

Day 5-10: Oman

Day 5-6: Just lounge in Shangri-la

Day 7: Mountain tour – Nizwa fort and market, Wadi Nakher, Wadi Ghul, Jebel Shams

Day 8: Canyon tour: Wadi Bani Auf (make sure it’s a really sunny day, it would be dangerous in cloudy weather), Bilad Sayt village, Nakhl Fort

Day 9: Waterful wadi tour: Wadi Arbayeen, Wadi Shab, Wadi Tiwi, Bimah sinkhole

Day 10: Wahiba Sands desert and Wadi Bani Khalid

I feel so nostalgic now, I know I’ll be back in that part of the world one day 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

Explore posts in the same categories: Middle East, Oman, UAE

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3 Comments on “A tale of two nations – UAE and Oman”

  1. segmation Says:

    Did you know that A Branch of the Louvre Museum to be Built in Abu Dhabi ?


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