Oman surprised us in so many ways.
We went expecting the deserts, but it served us turquoise watering holes too. We went expecting lively villages, but it obliged us with peaceful mountain towns too. We went expecting historical sites, but it served up natural wonders too. We went expecting sand dunes, but it gave us panoramas too. We went expecting bustling souks, but it presented us with a languorous evening at the Opera too.
That’s the thing about travelling – it’s only when you explore the nooks and crannies of a place that you understand it in all its glory. That is why we thought we would give you 6 reasons you should visit Oman and witness its resplendence for yourself.
I) The Coastal Route
It is natural to associate the Middle East with a desert getaway. But not with beaches or natural pools. That’s why Oman’s coastal road tops our list of things that should be on your itinerary. An easy day trip from Muscat, the road is dotted with gems that range from turquoise watering holes to white beaches. Check out the iconic Bimah Sinkhole, make a pit stop at Fin’s Beach for some photos, and go looking for dolphins – if you’re lucky, you’ll spot hundreds of them just a short speed-boat ride into the ocean.
II) Markets And The Street Food
Oman is home to some of the most charming souks and bustling markets you will see. While shopping there is always fun, you know what’s more fun? Eating! You will be hard-pressed to spot street food in Muscat anywhere except Muttrah. But start driving in any direction and little eateries and markets will start popping up along the road. Try the traditional mishkak (bar-be-cued skewers of meat) or khubz regag (crépes stuffed with cheese and eggs) for a snack on the go. Don’t forget to wash it all down with the expansive variety of teas available at the kadak chai stalls (we loved the Omani ginger tea) or sample Omani coffee (a unique mix of coffee, cardamom, saffron, and rose water).
III) THE Dates
Now it would be a sacrilege to include dates under ‘Street Food’ because dates aren’t just a snack in Oman, they’re a religion! They are used to welcome guests, to break the ice, to gossip over a cup of tea, and for countless other activities. Entire conversations spanning hours revolve around the virtues of Omani dates – they’re even said to lead to increased virility. Nature’s own viagra, if you may! 😉 Needless to say, they are every bit worth the hype. To call Omani dates luscious seems unfair – because they taste like the gift of the Gods. Make sure you pick at least a couple of kilos for friends and family back home.
IV) The people
Contrary to popular perception, Oman is one of the safest countries in the world. And your first skirmish with the country is bound to drive that fact home. Omanis welcome guests with huge smiles on their faces and go out of their way to make guests feel at home. Go with an open mind and you’ll leave feeling warm and fuzzy. We loved our time in the country and made so many new friends.
V) The desert
No Middle Eastern rendezvous would ever be complete without a skirmish with the desert. Oman’s quiet mountain towns and coastal gems are seductive but you cannot leave without spending a night or two in the desert. The expansive sand-dunes at Wahiba Sands make for a perfect desert getaway. Spend the night camping under the stars and go for a bout of adventurous dune bashing during the day!
VI) The valleys and mountains
We did not expect to fall in love with Oman’s valleys and mountains when we visited the country but it convinced us otherwise. The mountains and canyons at Jebel Akhdar offer dramatic views and rock climbing opportunities. The villages nestled in the Al Hajar mountains offer visitors a rare insight into village life in Oman. They are also home to farms full of roses, so it’s possible to see the production of rose water from scratch. The glorious waters at Wadi Bani Khalid, where a valley is peppered with azure pools of waters, offers a chance to take a memorable dip in sparkling waters and picnic amidst gorgeous panoramas. How could we say no?!
We hope we’ve convinced you to read more about visiting Oman and everything the country has to offer. Don’t leave without reading An Ideal Itinerary for Oman 🙂