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Opportunity For Niche Tourism

The magnificent geology of Oman

Aftab H. Kola, eTN  May 16, 2010

Oman is replete with nature’s unique geological features. Here, you can find nature as a great artist. The country offers a unique experience with geological wonders, which are natural works of art. Taking advantage of these amazing natural sculptures, the government of Oman is toying with an idea of making these wonderful sites a place for tourists where they can marvel at the geology of Oman. Geology is the study of the Earth, the materials of which it is made, the structure of those materials, and the processes acting upon them. The rock formations here, eerily taking weird shapes, have a history hidden beneath their surface. Oman is a land with a history that can be traced back more than 800 million years.

Oman already has a small yet fascinating geotourism niche industry that caters mainly to special interest groups. Now, a Task Force from various government ministries, SQU, and the Geological Society of Oman are working on a plan to set up geoparks in Oman. Over the past 800 million years, nature has shaped plenty of natural wonders in Oman. Crystalline rocks, the high peaks, geodes, sedimentary rocks, fossils, enchanted gorges, adventurous caves, and grave yards all amaze the tourists.

According to sources, the geotourism plan includes taking limited numbers of tourists around to the areas where geological features can be seen, as well as publishing material that highlights the natural landforms and geological heritage.

Geotourism is fast catching on in many countries. Said Dr. Mahmood Al Mahrooqi, president of the Geological Society of Oman: "The geology of Oman is unique. Nowadays the rocks in Oman show a fascinating beauty, because they were formed over many millions of years, when the Sultanate was covered by the sea, salt lakes, scraped by glaciers, crushed by moving continents, and carved by rivers and winds."

He added: "People are interested in rocks. We regularly conduct field trips for people to see the geology of Oman. Even people from abroad come to see the geological heritage of Oman, which is exposed on [the] surface, unlike in other countries where usually it is found underneath."

Geotourism describes the resources, activities, and management of visitor activity centered on rock exposures, landforms, and fossils in a wide variety of natural landscapes.

People will be able to know how Oman geolocially evolved throughout time. Be it the outcrops of crystalline rocks at Jabal Qahwan, north of Bilad Bani Bu Ali; the brown crystalline rocks of the samail ophiolites; huge piles of pillow lava in wadi Al-Jizzi; target="_blank">Stone Park at Duqm featuring naturally sculptured sandstone and limestone; or the beautiful layering of sedimentary beds at Jabal Samhan in Dhofar; the stories of Oman’s geological history is narrated by its natural structures. Artistic sculptures can be found in central Oman or one can feast on a fantasy world of rock formations. Some of the interesting ones include a pillar of sandstone in the Ramal Al Sharqyia sands, the totemic images sculpted at Fuhud, hand-shaped rock at Ad Duqm, mushroom-shaped rock at Ad Duqm, and a flying saucer at the Ramlat Al Sharqyia coast.

The responsible use of these geological sources to promote economic diversity and benefit to local communities is a key current and long-term strategy.

Mahmood Mahrooqi added: "Geotourism has a strong educative component in which geoscientific knowledge is communicated to the public. It fosters a connection with the Earth so that people begin to feel part of the Earth’s abiotic landscape, in much the same way as they are attracted to its biotic components. It seeks to conserve significant geological features and explore and demonstrate methods for excellence in conservation. And there is no better place than Oman to learn [about] and love geology."

For tourists, all the elements of geographical character must act in harmony to deliver an experience richer than the sum of its parts.

The magnificent geology of Oman
Photo from Aftab H. Kola

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