Sultanate of Oman
Oman is one of those Countries that can tingle all your 5 senses and yet few have heard about this incredible destination. On our travels around Australia when people asked me where I was from, I had to explain each time where Oman (not to be confused with Amman – Jordan) is. “It’s right next to Dubai” I would say to make people understand thanks to the commercialisation of Dubai. Throw in the conversation ” but I was born in Pakistan” and bam! you have confused and rather scared folks trying to avoid the Saad family.
Oman is a relatively small country and for Aussies all around its about the size of a Suburb. Okay its slightly bigger than a Suburb, its a cattle station in WA but all good things come in small packages as Mrs reminds me on a regular basis. Oman is bordered by UAE (Dubai) in the north west, Saudi Arabia to the west, Yemen to the southwest and the Arabian Sea to the east. Rich in culture and history we are all familiar with Oman through its stories whether we realise it or not. From Sinbad the sailor to the Queen of Sheba, biblical prophets tombs and the Frankincense trail, historical evidence of all can be found in Oman.
The environment is hot, challenging but one of stark and rugged beauty. From sun scorched mountains, to azure blue seas, monsoonal lushness to never-ending dunes of sand, Oman is a country of surprises.
Ruled by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said for the last 45 years, Oman has come from relative obscurity to a country with a rich future. Unlike its oil rich neighbours, where trouble abounds, Oman is a peaceful haven in a otherwise turbulent region. We were and are asked when we travel there “is it safe?”. Our answer, “yes”. Even on this trip, with a civil war currently raging in Yemen, there was no evidence of it in Oman. Ranked as the worlds 59th Most Peaceful country (source Wikipedia Oman) it is credited to the Sultan and his people. When there I promise this – You will wonder what No:1 peaceful country looks like if Oman is 59th. Just laws, religious and cultural tolerance and a genuine care for each other, along with a firm stand against extreme commercialisation as seen in its neighbours, has kept Oman level headed, something which the rest of the region needs to learn from.
For us there are 4 things that make this place unreal. Family, food, scenery & of course cheap shopping.
My immediate family has lived in Oman for the past 40+ years so they know a thing or two about Oman. Extended family live all over the world, some still in Pakistan, others in US & Europe. This trip was particularly special because a lot of them came home for my sisters wedding. My family home swelled in size from 5 to around 30, adults and kids alike, then there are friends and friends of friends. Everyone is your Aunty or Uncle. Its chaos! Meal times are madness, and don’t get me started on how to coordinate a house full of women getting ready for functions! Needless to say we love it, and always have a ball.
The food in Oman reflects the different cultures residing there. In my home, Pakstani food still rules. The food is spicy and full of flavour, maybe not exactly “heart smart” ;), but then most Paki/Indian dishes aren’t. If spicy is not your thing, then Omani food would be more your style. Influenced by Zanzibar, Portugese & Persian cultures of the past, the food is mainly meat. From meat skewers cooked by the road side/beaches called “Mishkak” to “Shuwa” which is meat cooked under ground for about 2 days and then served with rice. To western style restaurants, where American burgers and fries drizzled with melted cheese are on the menu, there is definitely something to suit anyone’s and every ones taste. My mouth waters even as I sit here and write about the food.
Now for the most incredible part of Oman, the scenery. There are serene beaches thanks to the Indian Ocean, water holes, waterfalls, green lush and burnt black mountains all at the same time and historical sites that date back to thousands of years. There is not much that can be said to explain how awe inspiring Oman is so I will just let the photos hopefully do it justice.
Last but not the least, shopping. This is not necessarily my thing but for Nette its a different story. There are standard shopping malls of course as big as Westfields selling everything from Chanel to Chinese food containers and whilst even they are cheap by comparison to Australia, I am more talking about the traditional markets called “Souk” that are setup in small areas and sell everything from Pashmina to Antiques. You can pick up bargains for almost everything in Oman including electronics and rugs. And of course there are “Gold Souks”, shops that shine so brightly with 22-24ct Gold that after looking at a few, you will probably develop a headache LOL 😉 But with Gold prices at record low, perhaps now is a good time to invest and by doing so, visit Oman.
So for all those that we’ve met along our journey and family and friends who have told us how exotic Oman sounds, and that they’d like to visit ‘one day’, here’s your chance. I would love to take 5-6 people to Oman and show them around for 2 weeks. Of course you can organize your own trip but you will only get to see Tourist-y stuff and will end up paying twice as much. I want to show you Oman through my eyes, eyes that have nothing but love for the country and along the way get you the best shopping bargains available. The trip will only cost you approx. $2500 + airfares. This includes accommodation for 12 days, food, transport, transfers in Muscat and sight-seeing in Muscat and surrounding towns. The only thing you need more money for is shopping 🙂 Just to be clear, I make no money doing this. I just want to show others what Oman truly is and in the process enjoy some quality time with friends or perhaps new friends.
If you are interested, please let me know by leaving a comment and writing which month you would like to travel in. If I get enough friends to take along, I will organise a trip shortly.