Innovative education and sustainable tourism, Oman
The Muscat Geotourism Guide, 2012
A wealth of unique geological attractions in and around Oman’s capital Muscat is waiting to be discovered with support of the Muscat Geotourism Guide. The project, which has been introduced by the Ministry of Tourism, is offering a range of Geotourism activities on different carefully selected tracks, with support of comprehensive media and information, including maps, signboards as well as smart phone applications.
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Oman is located on the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula. It has great geological diversity with mountain ranges reaching 3,000 meters high in the north, green oases in the south, and a desert plain in between.
A geologist once said that Oman is one big wonderful outdoor geological Museum with unique geological values. It is the only country in the world composed mostly of oceanic crust and rocks that originated from the mantle – deep below the earth’s surface. In addition, evidence can be seen of continental drift and geological processes that have dominated the earth’s surface for many millions of years.
Therefore Oman is a well known hot spot for Geotourism activities. Geotourism has been described as a form of natural area tourism that specifically focuses on geology and landscape. It is based on the magic of discovery and the power of authenticity experienced through contact with the natural heritage of the land.
In Oman, geological stories can be found everywhere. Some of these are presented on a dramatic scale such as in the massive folding and faulting that can be seen on parts of Oman’s 700 km long mountain range, or the huge piles of pillow lava in Wadi AI-Jizzi which are evidence of underwater volcanoes releasing magma to be rapidly cooled deep on the ocean floor. Others stories are found in smaller detail, such as how the fossils of sea creatures can be found deep inland or the story of once mighty forests in areas that are now barren deserts.
These stories can even be found in the hustle and bustle of urban areas. For example visitors to Muscat Corniche need only to stand and face the ocean in order to imagine the scene back in time around 90 million years ago, when a several kilometer thick slab of the oceanic crust started to push its way over the top of the northern coastline of Oman. This unusual over thrusting continued for around 20 Million years, pushing rocks originating from deep within the ocean hundreds of kilometers inland.
In order to provide tourist information and to create awareness about the rich geology in the Muscat Governorate, 6 theme routes, featuring 30 geological attractions, have been developed for a unique Geotourism experience. These theme routes can be experienced on half-day tours or can be combined to joyful day trips. The tours also offer opportunities for different kinds of activities, ranging from a comfortable tour in an air conditioned 4W drive, hiking and trekking tours, mountain bike tours, as well as boat trips including swimming and snorkeling activities.
The Muscat Geotourism Guide is the starting point to explore Oman’s geological wonders with support of latest technologies, which will also enhance visitor’s learning experience and at the same time boost enthusiasm for understanding the surroundings in a way that is both fun and instructive. Because of the important contribution towards education and awareness, the project has been awarded twice by UNESCO as an official project of the UN Decade “Education for Sustainable Development”.
A map is featuring an overview of the Muscat region, detailed maps of the different theme routes and is providing information about the geological features. The map is available for free in English and Arabic at the Ministry of Tourism, in information centers and at various hotels in Muscat.
Next to the map, smartphone applications for all major operating systems provide GPS guidance on the theme routes and lead visitors safely towards the points of interest. At each attraction the app is providing multimedia information, including sound files. This comprehensive interactive and digital guide is available for free in English, Arabic, German and French from the application stores.
Finally, wherever the environment allows, one will find signboards close to the geological attractions. The signboards include maps, graphics, and text information. With support of QR-Codes it is also possible to access the multimedia information.