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friday 4 january 2019, get away from it all…

I've been in oman some months now, so having tried it out on the family, here's my make-the-most-of-it, 7-day, modest traveller itinerary. You can of course embellish, depending on budget & time available. My oman air tip is sign up to the emails & book immediately when they announce a sale (other airlines are available). Best time to come is november to april. Start with a highlight: get yourself down to ras al jinz to see the turtles. Don't book a "nearby" hotel, take the eco-tent on the beach. This is a genuinely magical experience, late at night then 5am in the morning. You'll see massive green turtles, who have swum 3000km to india then come back to lay eggs (which you watch a metre away) on the same beach they were born. If you're lucky (we were) you see tiny ones pop out the sand and scurry down to the sea, avoiding the crabs, birds & foxes that get 97% of them. On the way there or back, stop off at qantab beach, the bimmah sinkhole & wadi dayqah dam, walk wadi shabs and take a gazebo & barbecue to the gorgeous, pristine and empty white sands you'll pass for about 50 miles. Once that's organized, book yourself a boat to the dimanyat islands. Splash out & go for the all-day option: fish, barbecue and of course scuba-dive, or (like us) snorkel. Amazing. For another day, many exciting watersports are available, such as jet skis, or we went flyboarding. Just as exciting, turn right out the wave roundabout (you'll know it when you're here), follow the road right at the next roundabout and there's hundreds of quad bikes of all shapes and sizes waiting for you to rip across the sand dunes. If you've time for a second trip out of muscat, head off thursday night to nizwa. The thing to do is the 6am friday morning genuinely-authentic animal market; its worth it. After thousands of years, it probably won't be the same in a few more, so go. As you're in the city, there's a great market, fab fort (you can't come to oman without doing one) and then drive 30 mins to the al hoota cave for the country's only train and a pretty good cavern too. Book in advance, the 2pm tour being best, and eat in nizwa before you leave. Once out the cave, drive another 30 mins to the gorgeous and again-authentic village of misfah al abryeen. Wear respectful clothes and just wander around to your heart's content; it's beautiful. Take the mountain road to muscat (spectacular view) and you'll be back by evening. You don't need a 4x4 for any of this apart from the white sand beach, but roads (or more precisely, drivers) can be dicey, so its probably worth trading up. For traditional food in muscat, go to kargeen or bin atiq. If you want posh hotels, best are kempinski (in the wave) and the al bustan palace, right at the other end of town. Probably the most spectacular lobby in the world and gorgeous pools and palms at the back, which you'll pass if you eat at the beach bar (book ahead, take a cabana if you're feeling generous). You must go to the port and souq (market). If you're a cultural soul and there's something good on, get to the royal opera house. For retail therapy, best mall is city centre. Drink & carry lots of water. Too much for a week ? Probably, but then you'll just have to go back...