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#68 Oman – Wadi Shab & Wahiba Sands

With many parts of the Middle East suffering a downtown in tourists due to political upheaval, one Gulf state has deservedly been boosted up the list of must-go destinations due to its reputation of being consistently calm, safe and peaceful. Dubbed the Switzerland of the Gulf, Oman, in the far southeast of the Arabian Peninsula, has kept its natural and historical gems quiet.

While it boats the oldest ruined towns in the world at multiple UNESCO World Heritage sites, its perhaps two of its natural wonders that most inspired me. Along the country’s northeast coast lay multiple wadis, the local equivalent of a fjord. Exploring Wadi Shab begins where it hits the sea, its widest point. From there, hiking gets increasingly challenging (though never too difficult) the further one heads inwards and upwards between the cliff sides. But as adventurers cross old waterways and swim through pools to make it further, the beauty of the white rocks, green waters and red cliff walls only dazzles more, the farther you go.

Much of Oman requires an off-road vehicle, but nowhere more so than Wahiba Sands, a desert known for its deep red color at sunset, that covers 12,500 square kilometers of the country. While at first the rolling sands with their wave formations appear eye catching, only a short drive into the area can become intimidating when any wind kicks up to remove any trace of car tracks, and the only thing in site tends to roaming camels.

A 60 kilometer drive though is well worth it with just a little basic navigation, in order to find 1000 Nights Camp. A series of tents under Cineraria trees in the middle of Wahiba Sands, the camp offers a spiritual and cultural experience not soon forgotten, as well as total silence and the feeling of a welcome disconnect from modern world trappings.