x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Travelling with kids: Why Oman is ideal for families

Helen McClure and her family visit Oman.

‘Mammy, why are there fish stuck in a rock on the top of a mountain?” My six-year-old-daughter is full of questions, many of which I can’t answer.

The children were happily exploring the fossils on Oman’s Saiq Plateau. We had planned a five-day whirlwind tour exploring the Hajar Mountains, desert, coastal towns and Muscat.

The peaks are peppered with tumbling villages and groves of pomegranate trees, linked by snaking files (traditional water courses). This not only makes the steep terraces accessible, but also creates short walks full of intrigue, suitable for young children with limited stamina.

From the rocky slopes, we crossed the wide, flat plain to the Wahiba Sands; a huge orange sandpit. There’s something wondrous about watching the evening sun sink; the colours, peacefulness and drama of something that naturally happens every day and still brings with it a sense of awe. It wasn’t lost on the children either, who stood open-mouthed. And if camping isn’t your thing, there are plenty of luxury desert camps to choose from.

A little tired of camel spotting, the girls were delighted by new friends that they met at Ras Al Hadd: turtles. It’s a rather breathtaking sight, especially when you compare the metre-long adults to their six-centimetre babies. Madeleine, our eldest, was excited to save a baby from being trampled, and after much persuading that “Goldie” the baby turtle was better off with her mother than as a pet, it was gently released into the sea.

Heading back along the beautiful coastline, we stopped at Wadi Ash Shab, billed as one of the greatest walks in Oman. We crossed the wadi by boat and followed an easy path that gradually got steeper until we gingerly shuffled along a rock ledge, difficult but not impossible with children. The finale is, however, not suitable for weak swimmers; at the last rock pool, swim 50 metres to a narrow gap in the rock face, where you’ll discover a small cave with a secret waterfall.

We ended our trip at Muscat, a shy, respectful grand dame that shows a different side of her character with each visit. The city is all about the sights, sounds and smells, whether it’s the hustle and bustle of the fish market or the rambling streets of the Mutrah Souq. At every turn, your senses are stimulated.

There aren’t many places on the planet where you can hike through mountains and watch the sun set over a sand dune on the same day. The variety means there’s something for everyone, especially children.

Be aware that a four-wheel drive is required to enter the Hajar Mountains – you’ll need to stop at a police checkpoint. Dress conservatively in shorts and T-shirt if you swim in the wadis. A short drive away from Wahiba Sands is Wadi Bani Khalid, a great spot for swimming and a picnic.

Helen McClure is the journalist behind ­www.expatexplorers.org, a travel and expat website.

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