Oman, as a country has always fascinated me—the stunning landscape dotted with mountains, golden deserts, medieval cities and breathtaking thousand-odd miles of beaches have everything that it takes to mesmerize a traveler. Located in southwest Asia on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula, the country lies in a strategically important position at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. I have always wanted to visit there (also because, a good friend of mine lives in Muscat and she keeps asking me to visit her), but never got the time to do so. So when I saw this contest, I definitely did not want to give up on the opportunity.
When I started to write this post, I thought what are those things that has already not been done after visiting Oman? How can I see the unconventional, the unseen and travel the less trodden paths in this country? So, I started reading up about Oman, and the more I researched, more fascinated I got with its history, landscapes, people, food—in short, almost everything. The Sultan, Qaboos bin Said, has taken great care to turn Oman into a luxurious travel destination—combining the traditional values of an ancient civilization with modern, spectacular hotels and hospitality.
Oman Air is the national carrier of the Sultanate of Oman, and I checked out their website www.omanair.com for current ticket prices from Mumbai to Muscat. I decided to travel for 10 days—from Wednesday, October 22 to Saturday, November 1, and that is majorly because October 23 is a holiday because of Diwali! The departure price currently showed INR 9,718 and the return price was INR 9,063—which is cheap and totally fits my budget. Now that the traveling part was sorted, I moved on to the next step.
Places to see..
In Muscat, I would like to visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque which is one of the most talked about beautiful tourist attractions in the city. The two buildings have amazing decor—and people irrespective of religion, cast, creed flock this peaceful religious place in great numbers.
The next thing I want to visit in Muscat is the Royal Opera House – which is Oman’s premier venue for musical arts and culture. It is a beautiful piece of art that offers various shows and concerts. The yearly calendar of those shows can be accessed through their website. I want to make prior bookings so that I do not miss out on this marvel.
Since I really love art, I would also like to visit Bayt Al Zubair in Muscat – which is an excellent museum and art gallery. Located in the ancestral home of an important local family it showcases many things that talk about the country’s history. The main building, Bait Al Bagh, features exhibits of the Al Busaidi dynasty—stuff like traditional swords and firearms, khanjar (Omani dagger), traditional dress and jewelry, as well as household items such as serving utensils and incense burners. The second building is a Performance and Exhibition Hall that houses an art gallery, whereas the third building, Al Bait Al Oud showcases contemporary art, old maps, furnitures, early lithographs and photographs. Definitely going here!
Also, I am a beach person—so, my next stop will be the Qurum Beach, which I would like to visit right before sunset. I would love to take a long walk, watch the beautiful sun go down and collect a few sea shells. It gives me so much peace and calm.
Well, but Muscat is not the only place to visit in Oman—there are many more. My next stop will be Salalah, where I would like to go to the Museum of the Frankincense Land. One of the best things about this museum is that it allows internal vehicles to move around, so I would not really have to walk long distances. It’s divided in two exhibition halls – Maritime Hall and Historical Hall, and linked to the museum is also the UNESCO site of Al Baleed old trade port. In the ancient site of Al-Baleed, the comprehensive set of ruins are well labelled and atmospherically lit at night. Like I mentioned earlier, I am quite a sucker for museums, history and art, so I would love to explore this place.
Salalah also has the Sumahram Old City which has an interesting museum that tells us all about the frankincense trail and the early trade routes. This place used to be an old trade station and has a natural port, but this has in time been sanded in and the Omanis do not use it—so basically one can spend hours in this natural beach! How cool is that?
Apart from all these touristy places, the scenery of Oman itself is so dramatic—with yellow orange deserts, barren mountains, sparkling blue sea and camel colored stretch of plain land. It seems like God himself created Oman with great care.
I must also mention here that Salalah is a haven for wildlife and nature tourism—it is home to over 56 types of mammals including the Arabian leopard, hyena, ibex, gazelle and hundreds of cows, camels and goats. Bird watchers can check out flamingo, storks, stilts, sandpipers, herons, egrets, sunbirds, green pigeons, eagles and kites. Plus, there are four species of turtle that nest in Salalah including the highly endangered Hawksbill. I can’t wait to capture them all with my Canon 1000D DSLR camera!
Culture of Oman..
The people of Oman dress wonderfully in their traditional attire and look so beautiful. The national dress for men is called a dishdasha, which is an ankle-length, collarless gown with long sleeves. They can accessorize it with muzzar (a type of turban), the assa (a cane or stick) and the khanjar.
The women on the other hand wears a dress over sirwal (trousers) and a lihaf (headdress). The material used are extremely colorful and vibrant and they team it up with pretty jewelries. I would definitely want to try that out, once I am there—and it may sound juvenile but I really want to click a lot of pictures wearing that! I am sure I will look different and what best way to learn about a country and its people than trying out their outfit and cuisine?
Talking about cuisine, Omanis any use many spices and marinades to complete a dish, which usually consists of chicken, fish, and mutton. Being a hardcore non-vegetarian Bengali, I can’t wait to check out the wonderful restaurants in Oman. I will try out the Pakistani Porotta, which are double the size of Indian Porottas but are much thinner and delicious. Also, they serve a different kind of dessert known as Omani halwa—which is served before the consumption of kahwa—a preparation of coffee and cardamom. This is extremely popular and remains a symbol of hospitality.
Also, I have picked up a few useful Arabic phrases that will help me while talking to the locals in Oman. Some of them are: As-salaam alaykum (Peace be with you), Kayf halek? (How are you? to a man), Kayf halesh? (How are you? to a woman) and Al hamdu lillah, bikhair (Fine, thanks be to God). Learning a new language is always so exciting!
Oman has a long coastline over 1600 km long and one can explore a beautiful marine life underwater. Several companies specializing in diving services offer a complete range of diving courses, diving equipment and activities. I am so definitely trying out scuba diving—this is something that has been there in my bucket list for a long time now!
Apart from that, I think I will definitely opt for trekking and horse back riding. I have just begun reading this book called “Adventure Trekking in Oman” by Anne Dale & Jerry Hadwind and the explorer in me already is bursting with excitement and joy with each page. And when I am in the land of Arabs, how can I not ride the beautiful stallion? The Royal Stables in Seeb is a good spot to observe equestrian events staged for public and private gatherings, whereas in Al Kamil/Al Wafi, one can find the best breeders and trainers the country has to offer.
The magic word for any woman – how can I be any different? Ah, shopping! The Omani national symbol is the silver-sheathed khanjar, which is stocked at almost all shops. I am definitely picking one of those up to display in my drawing room back in Mumbai. Omani silver is also an extremely popular souvenir—especially stuff like silver “message holders” known as hurz and beautiful silver jewelry. Many silver products are stamped with “Oman” on them, which is a guarantee of authenticity. I am going to pick up various silver items for friends, family and myself from here.
For my supercool daddy I am going to pick up one of those distinctive hats called kuma, that are worn by Omani men. For those who are wondering why, I must mention here that religion doesn’t matter in my family—I have been brought up with the knowledge that the only religion we should follow is that of humanity.
Also, I love perfumes and I have a huge collection of several brands and types of perfumes in my closet. Oman is famous for selling many perfumes made from a number of traditional ingredients, and guess what? The most expensive perfume in the world (Amouage) is made in Oman from frankincense and other ingredients! If I can’t afford that, I will opt for some sandalwood myrrh and jasmine perfumes. Yay!
All in all, Oman seems like my kind of country – by which I mean, it is full of history, beaches, art, beautiful landscape and warm people. Just counting months and weeks and days now, because it is just three odd months, post which—beautiful Oman, here I come!
This blog post has been written for the “Beauty has an address!” contest, organized by IndiBlogger and Ministry of Tourism of the Sultanate of Oman. The topic was – Everyone experiences a country differently. If you could visit the beautiful country of Oman, where would you go, what would you do and why?