Planners looking to create a truly exceptional experience for business meetings, conferences or corporate events should consider Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman. When groups step off the plane in the Sultanate of Oman, it's as if they've traveled back in time to a place of imposing mountain ranges like the Al Hajar Mountains (Stone Mountains), Jabal Shams (the Mountain of the Sun), and Al Jabal al Akhdar (Green Mountains); sweeping deserts, including Wahiba Sands and the Empty Quarter, the largest desert in the Arabian Peninsula; extensive cave networks like Al Hotta Cave and Majlis Al Jinn (the world's second-largest underground chamber); ancient intricate irrigation networks (falajes), marketplaces (souks) and forts. Add to this the variety of hotels, mountain inns, beach resorts, special event and dining venues in Muscat, and it is easy to understand the appeal of this captivating Middle East destination.
Seeb International Airport is in the heart of Muscat's downtown business and commercial district. It's close to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, the Corniche, the Fish and the Muttrah souks, as well as Muscat meeting venues like The Chedi, a luxury beach resort, the Al Bustan Palace InterContinental, the Grand Hyatt Muscat and the Muscat InterContinental Hotel. While technically, taxi fare from the airport to downtown is 0 Omani Rial, budget 2 to 5 Omani Rial for one-way trips around the area.
In contrast to the runaway development in neighboring Dubai, no new buildings in Muscat can be higher than the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. However, despite a seemingly timeless ambience, Muscat's infrastructure is advanced. In a unique blend of the modern with the traditional; there are well-maintained roads, along with vast telecommunications and Internet networks. Muscat venues in the pipeline include a $1-billion convention center, scheduled to open in 2014. In 2012, Fairmont Hotel Group will be opening a new 300-room luxury hotel with dining and meeting venues. Kempinski's 350-room beach resort will also be completed.
Although Oman is unfamiliar to most North American business travelers, it's a popular destination for European and Middle Eastern companies. These know the rules, which are: don't leave your travel arrangements until the last minute; obtain your visas in advance to avoid long arrival immigration queues. Respect local values and dress norms: Shorts are permissible on the beach and during desert safaris but frowned upon in shopping centers and on city and village streets. Men and women should avoid sleeveless tops; for women, at minimum, sleeves should come to just above the elbows, and dresses and skirts should be at least knee length. Modest bathing suits are appropriate.
Plan at least one trip to Salalah during Al-Khareef season (June to September). Schedule trips to other parts of Oman between mid October late April to avoid the soaring temperatures of summer and access the broad range of activities available in Oman. Be sure to build a visit to a museum, a souk and the mountains into the agenda.