Oman is a land of contradictions. This desert country with a 1,100-mile rocky coastline is ruled by an absolute hereditary monarch, Sultan Qaboos, one of the most revered rulers of the Middle East.
It is the oldest state in the Arab world, with a civilisation dating back thousands of years — yet it was the first to offer freehold title to foreign property hunters in search of winter sun.
The location of Oman at the mouth of the Persian Gulf has made it a vital trading post for centuries. The Portuguese occupied it in the 16th century, building mighty fortresses.
It borders the United Arab Emirates but while Dubai is the region’s touristic showstopper with clubs, restaurants and designer labels, Oman is the low-key, low-rise alternative.
NATURE V DUBAI GLITZ
“Europeans know that Oman is a beautiful country of mountains and wildlife and they know it is next to Dubai but many don’t know much more,” says Firas Matraji, chief executive of hotel and residential resort Barr Al Jissah.
“The ministry of tourism is actively trying to raise Oman’s profile and tourism figures have risen seven per cent for each of the last 10 years. Unlike Dubai, which attracts the mass market, Oman Tourism is aiming for those who want adventure and natural beauty.”
Oman is the same size as Italy, with a 3.5 million population. International hotel brands established or opening soon include Marriott, Jumeirah, InterContinental, Kempinski and Fairmont. A handful of these resorts are approved Integrated Tourism Complexes, or ITCs, where foreigners are allowed to buy freehold properties and gain automatic visa and residency rights.
Barr Al Jissah, 20 minutes from the capital Muscat on a dramatic cliff-top and beachfront site, was the first ITC. Owned by an Omani family, it includes three hotels operated by Shangri-La, with 22 restaurants, a marina, extensive sports facilities, a gym and spa.
SECLUDED BEACHFRONT HOMES WHERE THE TURTLES NEST
The resort faces the calm, clean Gulf of Oman and backs on to the Al Hajar mountains. Turtles nest on part of the beach and a short boat ride away Bander Kharja is a nature reserve with deserted beaches, coves and coral reefs teeming with exotic sea life.
Property for sale includes cliff-top villas of over 7,430sq ft with pools for £2.5 million, and Limited Edition four-bedroom townhouses of 4,090sq ft for £1.15 million. These generous, comfortable, contemporary homes sit high above the sea in a peaceful spot behind the hotels, and all have views to the sculptural mountains.
Next year there are plans to add 43 one- to three-bedroom marina apartments
- London-Muscat: BA flies daily and Oman Air flies twice daily
- Barr Al Jissah owners get a year’s free membership of Quintessentially Lifestyle concierge/lifestyle services
- Buying costs in Oman: allow 3.5 per cent