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Destination of the Week

Welcome to Relax, our new DOTW series. The northern hemisphere is in holiday mood until the end of August, and Platinum Airways is only willing to serve. However, usuals of Destination of the Week know that we usually do the unusual. So in order to stick with our tradition, we have selected six holiday destinations that most people wouldn't visit.

Our first Relax destination is Oman. And there is a reason why we're flying to the sultanate. We take our advice from reputable tourism specialists, and this week is no exception. This is how Lonely Planet recommends Oman: "A lesser-known neighbour of the United Arab Emirates, Oman is the perfect place for an unusual family getaway, with its clear coastal waters, sprawling child-friendly resorts, enticing desert dunes and subtropical northern climes."

Indeed, there is much to do in Oman. For instance, Oman has a varied coastline over 1,600 km (1,000 mi) long. There is a wealth of underwater flora,marine life and diving thrills awaiting the underwater explorer. Rugged mountains, rising to 3,000 m (10,000 ft), amongst a maze of spurs and wadis, deep canyons and towering cliffs. Getting onto the mountain in a four-wheel drive is easy. For the rock climber, every mountain face presents an enigmatic challenge. Oman is an amazing place for exploration and discovery, especially by foot in its spectacular mountain scenery. The country is the best kept tourism secret of the Gulf region, if not the entire Middle East, having striking scenery, friendly people and year-round sunshine. Game fishing is now becoming very popular in Oman as would be anglers try their hand at bagging the big one. Species such as marlin and tuna are highly sought. The sport is affordable and Omani waters are abundant in the bait fish that attracts larger predators. The coasts off Sur and Masirah are especially suited for this unique sport.

Muscat, the capital city of Oman lies sparkling white, topped with golden minarets in the middle of a maze of brown pleated mountains reaching down to the Arabian Sea. Described as "Arabia's jewel”, this city is a blend of the old and the new. Muscat is green as green can be, and defies being classified as part of a desert country. The roads are lined with well-manicured green lawns and trees. During winter this is interspersed with a profusion of multicoloured flowers. The city has steadfastly retained its old-world character. Old Muscat has a quaint charm about it with many forts, castles, mosques and towers dotting the landscape. Of particular note are Jalali and Mirani forts flanking Al Alam Palace. The Corniche, with its promenade and souqs (markets) is one of the highlights of the city. The old souq of Muttrah is an ideal spot for tourists to buy keepsakes and treasures. Greater Muscat boasts high-rise business properties (but not too high), world-class highways, upscale suburbs rooted in traditional Islamic architecture, elegant mosques, large green parks, archaeological sites, museums and world-class hotels.

Sur, a placid sea coast town with its striking traditional dwellings, can be reached from Muscat via the interior cuts through wadis (river beds) and passes through the Hajar Mountains. An alternate route down the coast through the village of Quriyat is adventurous and offers fabulous views of sparkling white beaches covered with multi coloured shells, deep ravines, cliffs that fall dangerously into azure seas, rocks sculpted by wind and waves and lush green wadis.

Nizwa, the verdant oasis city with its blend of the modern and the ancient, was the capital of Oman during the 6th and 7th century. One of the oldest cities of the sultanate, this was once a centre of education and art. The Falaj Daris of Nizwa is the largest single falaj in Oman and provides the surrounding country side with much needed water for the plantations. The city, famous for its historical monuments, handicrafts and agricultural products, has an expansive souq showcasing a wonderful array of coffee pots, swords, leather goods, silverware, antiques and household utensils.

Beyond Nizwa, the southern flanks of the Western Hajar Mountains can be readily seen rising over 2000 metres above the surrounding countryside. Within these mountains, rugged networks of wadi channels have carved networks of dramatic canyons and caves. The most fertile of these have been cultivated by the hardy shuwawis, mountain people, who have adapted to this harsh lifestyle under the tropic sun.

Muscat International Airport (OOMS), also called Seeb International Airport, is the largest airport in Oman and the main hub of the national carrier Oman Air. Situated 32 km (20 mi) from Muscat, the capital of Oman, the airport currently has one terminal with another due to be completed in 2014. The new terminal will have capacity of 12 m passengers a year.

Oman's first airport was Bait Al Falaj Airport. Dating back to 1929, it was nothing but a dirt track landing strip, mainly put to use for military purposes. It was additionally being utilized by the Petroleum Development Oman Company for its aircraft, flying between Muscat and oil exploration fields in Fahud, Qarn Al Alam and other locations.

In the sixties Gulf Air started using the airport for its DC3 aircraft; with the advent of the seventies Pakistan and British Airlines commenced operation in Oman with semi regular passenger flights. Although Bait Al Falaj Airport was used mainly for military purposes in addition to a few civilian flights, takeoffs and landings were fraught with dangers due to the narrow landing strip and high mountains and hills around the airport area. Bait Al Falaj Airport is now just a memory, the site of the airfield is now the centre of modern commercial and residential buildings.

Recognising the need for a new airport to support the anticipated growth in passenger and cargo movements, a contract was placed by the government in September 1970 for the construction of Seeb Airport, now Muscat International Airport. It was officially inaugurated in December 1973. By the end of the first year, approximately 87,200 passengers had passed through the airport; the airport handled 4.7 million passengers in 2006, an amazing growth the primary reasons for growth are the expansion of Oman`s tourism and business sectors.

In 1983, the airport saw major expansions in the arrival and departure terminals and a new transit hall that included several duty free shops. The current cargo terminal was completed in 1991 with modern facilities on par with other international airports.

The name Seeb International Airport was changed to Muscat International Airport in 2008. In response to significant increases in passenger numbers and to allow the airport to maintain appropriate levels of service to its customers, a number of improvement projects have been initiated to deliver additional capacity and meet the expected future increase in passenger traffic until the new terminal building is operational.

The expansion projects are designed to improve the existing passenger terminal building, focusing primarily on key passenger processing areas to relieve congestion at peak times and to ensure that passengers using the airport can still enjoy a comfortable and convenient experience as they arrive, depart or transfer through the airport.

OOMS has a single runway - a second runway is under construction:
08/26, 11,759 ft, 3,584 m. This runway is to be extended to 13,123 ft (4,000 m).

Live flight tracking is available here.

We can guide you to charts and scenery files.

Charts FS9 + FSX FSX X-Plane

And now our video selection. First, an Oman Airways B738 approaching RWY08 as filmed from the cockpit.

Next, we have an A330 about to land on RWY26.

And we end with more flightdeck action: a B738 taking off from RWY08.

That's all for our first Relax DOTW. Next week, we'll be visiting Mahé in the Seychelles.

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1 Destination of the Week#207 Sunday, 20 July 2014 12
2 Destination of the Week#206 Saturday, 12 July 2014 46
3 Destination of the Week#205 Sunday, 06 July 2014 53
4 Destination of the Week#204 Sunday, 29 June 2014 54
5 Destination of the Week#203 Sunday, 22 June 2014 69
6 Destination of the Week#202 Sunday, 15 June 2014 107
7 Destination of the Week#201 Sunday, 08 June 2014 85
8 Destination of the Week#200 Sunday, 01 June 2014 137
9 Destination of the Week#199 Sunday, 25 May 2014 112
10 Destination of the Week#198 Sunday, 18 May 2014 123
11 Destination of the Week#197 Sunday, 11 May 2014 159
12 Destination of the Week Archive Monday, 20 June 2011 4223