Desert Green: Oman’s Astounding Parks
Oman has taken great care to bring year-round verdant beauty to many of its manicured recreational areas. These retreats can give solace and refreshment of the spirit to residents and visitors alike. But there is so much more to the country’s parks than merely maintaining greenways. Design is also a factor in creating spaces that draw visitors wishing to connect with nature. And beyond the man-made attractions are the fantastic natural reserves. Discover what the parks of Oman have in store for you.
A Place for Family Time
Sometimes, the most basic things can bring smiles to the faces of everyone, from parents and grandparents to kids of all ages. Situated about 30 km from the Muscat Airport, Al Naseem Park is a simpler sort of park, perfect for our first stop on the tour. One of the area’s earliest park projects, this is a place lined with tall trees featuring an Arabic garden and also a Japanese garden, attesting to the warm relations between the two nations. A fajal – a type of irrigation system feeding the verdant grounds – flows through. It’s a very pleasant place to be.
But there’s more! A picnic area offers an inviting place to relax for a while. A children’s playground brings joy to the tykes in tow. Food vendors and shopping kiosks provide additional repast and the opportunity to buy local products. And it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the calendar. If you’re in town at the right time of the year, you might catch a festival that transforms Al Naseem Park into a neon wonderland with rides, games and fun.
Muscat’s Own Oasis
In the heart of Oman’s capital city lies the nation’s largest designed park – and by far. The Al Qurum Natural Park is massive, measuring in at over 400 acres of verdant beauty. Expect to encounter giant old trees at every turn providing much-needed shade on the many hot days that pass. Manicured shrubbery and stretches of green lawn are maintained year-round. A huge artificial lake allows for reflection and also boating. Water also plays in the many dancing fountains here. The rose garden blossoms with tantalizing colour. It’s probably the most important retreat in the city.
There are also activities to divert those who flock here. Picnic grounds invite people to stake out some space and enjoy a simple meal in the grass. Playgrounds provide fun times for children, giving adults a chance to relax as they watch the kids enjoy themselves. There are also cafés and restaurants in case you want to be served a meal or refreshment. Adjacent to the grounds is an amusement park, upping the level of diversions available here. And the fun really starts after the sun goes down and the temperatures cool off, with the fountains lighting up for night-time enjoyment.
Incense for the Senses
If there is one truly iconic park in Oman, then surely it must be Al Riyam Park, built right on the shores of a natural harbour. Meticulously planned, the design sense one experiences is palpable every step of the way. Leafy paths meander past fascinating sculptures and dancing fountains. Rows of flowers edge walkways, offering a kaleidoscope of colour. There are playgrounds for kids and even a small amusement park. And yet none of this is the main attraction!
Perched on top of one of the park’s hills is a white watchtower in the shape of an incense burner – which happens to be a national symbol of Oman. The stunning white construction requires a bit of a hike to get to, but once there, the rewards become immediately evident. Panoramic vistas offer a unique look at the surrounding areas. The sea spreads out before the tiny peninsula upon which the park is built. Turn your gaze inland and treat your eyes to scenes of the Old City below, ancient and lovely. This one is a visual feast everyone will appreciate.
If you’re ready to venture outside the city limits of Oman’s capital city, you’ll find some amazing natural reserves. Want to go bird watching? Try Al Ansab, a swamp preserve known for its great variety of flora, making it a perfect place for nature hiking. Rock climbing enthusiasts might want to head over to Wadi Bani Khalid. The area also features waterfalls and swimming holes.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, try some of the reserves where wildlife really thrives. Al Saleel National Park has gazelles, red foxes and Egyptian eagles. Many of the animals are used to humans, so you may even get the chance for a close look. And then, of course, is the desert. The Rub’ al Khali is the largest contiguous sand desert on Earth. Travel here to feel the heat, experience the quiet and see camel caravans pass by as they make their journeys.
And don’t forget that Oman is on the ocean! The beaches of Oman are a haven for sea turtles; during their birthing season, tens of thousands of hatchlings will break into the world and scurry out to the sea. There is even great whale watching here. Humpback whales in the region are known for their antics. Tours are easy enough to embark upon so you can meet up with our cetacean friends.