Oman more than meets the eye
A spontaneous decision and circumstances brought me to Oman, on a dead and very hot season. Taking a bus from Dubai was the best idea I could have! Fortunately as a Lebanese I did not need to apply for visa previously to enter the country, one of the very few that allows Lebanese to get a visa on arrival. (the visa fees where 20 Omani Rial equal to 52$ approx.)
5 facts made me fall in love with Oman
- Nature diversity
For the ones who might think Oman is only about desert and Camels, rethink twice! The elevations of the highest mountain peak “Jabal Shams” can get up to 3000 m high. From endless clear water coasts to marvelous mountain morphology, enormous desert dunes and tropical lands like Salalah, You will be overwhelmed by the variety of road trips and activities you can program. Among them canyoning in Wadis such as Wadi el Arabiyyin, Wadi Tiwi, Wadi Shab, Wadi bani Khaled…., off-roading and camping in the mountains of Jabal Shams or Jabal Akhdar, snorkeling in the unspoilt crystal Indian ocean shores and swimming with sea turtles or dauphin watching.
- The people & their lifestyle
I’m certain that my trip to Oman was really successful thanks to the locals whom I have met there. In addition to a unique couchsurfing experience that I will be mentioning later on, Omani people were genuinely beyond kind and generous! I was randomly offered a ride by many who also became friends. They helped me roam in Muscat and showed me around (noting that the different parts of Muscat are not easily accessible by public transportations and the capital is very spread up).
Omanis take a 3h midday break from work! They start at 7 am, stop at 1 pm then continue from 4 pm till 7 pm. All shops and commerce are closed during this time of day in Mutrah the center of Muscat and other popular locations. Almost every Omani has an off-roading car and often goes on road trips and camping with family or friends on weekends (Friday and Saturday).
- Safety and respect
Despite the fact that their government is basically built around a dictatorship, everyone highly respects and is completely devoted to “Sultan Qaboos” who has managed to treat the Omani citizens equally and give them all the comfort and security they need in a country surrounded by failed governments and war. Sultan Qaboos has been investing in all sectors recently from health to culture, tourism and infrastructure. In Oman, regardless of your social status or religion, everyone is respected the same. It is one of the safest and most peaceful countries in the world!
- Culture and authenticity
Opposite to the Emirati big cities, where skyscrapers and modern infrastructure have replaced all trace of traditional construction and characteristics, In Oman you won’t find a residential building higher than three floors. Muscat is a city distinguished with its white and bright colored monuments and houses, where every single edifice follows the typical Omani architecture ethics. Even the water supply galons on top of the houses are ornamented the typical way!
I was particularly fascinated by the traditional clothing of men which did not only include the typical Arab “Dishdasha”, but also a very uniquely designed, colorful “Kumma” worn as a hat.
Did you know that prior to the formation of the nation of Sultanat Oman, the island of Zanzibar which belongs to Tanzania in present days was the capital of this territory? This explains the fact that Omani food is a spicy mash up between Arab, Indian and African food. Moreover, traditional meals are still eaten with the hands when not in a fancy restaurant. Restaurants are quite crowded especially in the night, but when it comes to clubs the choice is very limited and not the best to be recommended.
- My couchsurfing experience
Couchsurfing in Oman was the best opportunity I could get to discover the hidden gems and secrets of the country as a solo traveler. If I was to stay in a hotel in Muscat I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to live the genuine moments I experienced during my stay or go around so much places in so little time. I met some really kind omani people and lots of expats. In fact my host Hermant was an Indian expat who also helped making the best of my time by going camping and visiting Jabal Akhdar, barbecuing and sleeping on the beach of Fins in south eastern Oman, participating in a yearly musical event “Jabalstock” that took place in Jabal Shams gathering local bands and outdoor lovers. I can still picture some memorable moments of get-together around campfires sharing stories or dancing and singing with laughter and lots of cultural exchanges.
Best season to visit: October/November – March/April
Where to eat:
$$$$ Al Angham – Opera house Muscat – Omani fine dining
$$ Kargeen Café – Traditional Omani food
$$ Turkish House restaurant – Turkish and Seafood