What to know about Oman

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The Sultanate of Oman is one of the most amazing countries we have ever visited. There are many friendly people, stunning sceneries, sunny days, interesting culture, etc. I could go on, but you must see it for yourself to believe it. So why not visit Oman?

There is much to know about this country. That’s why in this blog I wrote about the following:

Beauty has an address – Oman

Emergency number: 9999

Tip: in Oman wild camping is allowed and safe. There are many amazing camping spots so bring your tent and find some nice camping spots. You can even camp in the desert, if you do this during the weekend you will meet a lot of Omani.

Information that you must know about Oman

Oman is a safe country to travel, and you will be impressed while visiting Oman. There are many forts and castles to visit. Besides that the nature is just incredible. A lot of the time you will have some places all to yourself because there isn’t that much tourism yet.

Some general information that you need to know:

  • Capital: Muscat
  • Currency: Omani Rial (OMR)
  • Official language: Arabic
  • Largest religion: Islam
  • Surface: 309,501 km2
  • Inhabitants: 4,520,000 (2021)
  • Neighboring countries: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen
  • National day: 18th November

Besides the general information there are some important things you should know before you go:

  • Most of the main attractions in Oman are outdoors. It’s smart to bring a lot of sun protection like sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat.  
  • Make sure you always have cash with you. In many markets you can’t pay by card.
  • On Friday a lot of places are closed because it’s a rest day. Also try to avoid traveling during Ramadan because during the day most restaurants and bars are closed. Weekend is from Friday to Saturday.
  • Dress appropriate while travelling in Oman. Some will say it’s okay to wear what you want but you should respect their culture. Make sure you cover your knees and shoulders.
  • When you visit a mosque, women need to cover their shoulders, arms, legs, ankles, and hair. So, don’t forget to bring a scarf. Men need to wear long trousers.
  • Hospitable people, it is very common to welcome strangers into their homes. This tradition comes from desert life: without water, food and shelter, most desert travelers do not survive!
  • Sometimes they will ask to sit with them to drink Arabic coffee (Qahwa) and eat some dates. Go with it because it will make your travel richer. Take dates with your right hand and if there is a bowl of water on the table you should first wash the fingers with the water before taking a date.
  • Make sure you have a socket adaptor because it’s type G (UK plug) 200V to 240V. You can also find them in the markets or a cheap store for around 1 OMR.
  • The people are friendly but always ask if you want to take a picture, most people won’t mind but it’s important you ask first.
  • It is illegal to drink in public and in most places you will not even find alcohol.
  • When you greet an Omani of the opposite sex wait for them to offer a hand. Men will shake hands with each other, but a lot of the time men don’t shake the hand of a woman. When you shake a hand make sure it’s always with the right hand only.
  • Always take your shoes off when you enter a home.
  • Don’t talk about the government or criticize the sultan, it will not be accepted. Watch out with the things you are saying and respect their culture.

There is a good local blogger that has a lot of adventurous tips about Oman. We read some blogs and they are amazing, so take a look if you want on Oman tripper.

Tip: download the app ‘maps.me’ and download the map of the country so you can use it offline. You can also download the country with Google Maps so you can use the map offline.

It’s always good to know some basic words in the language. Some basic Arabic:

  • Hello or welcome = Márhaba, ahlan
  • Peace be upon you (greetings) = As salam alaykum
  • Thank you = Shukran
  • Goodbye = Ma’a salama
  • Yes = Náam or áiwa; no = La

Tip: wear appropriate clothing. It is a Muslim country, and you should respect their culture by wearing appropriate clothing. Even for swimming I suggest you wear appropriate swimming clothing. You can buy swim clothing at Lulu hypermarket.

Weather and landscape in Oman

When you visit Oman, it’s best to look during which season you are going. Besides the season you also need to keep in mind that it’s a Muslim country which means there are different religious holidays like Ramadan. During Ramadan you can not drink, eat, smoke, etc. in public places. It will also be hard to find restaurants and bars that are open during daytime.

There are four seasons, so spring is from March to May, summer is June to August, autumn is September to November and the winter is from December to February.

During the summer months it can get extremely hot and it’s almost impossible to visit the desert. The weather in the mountain on the other hand is then better, around 25 degrees. During the summer months most people visit Salalah because then it’s monsoon (khareef) season. The monsoon lasts from July until the end of September. Salalah is known for the khareef festival because the whole city turns green, and we heard it’s unbelievably beautiful.

Autumn and winter are the best periods to visit Oman. It’s still hot during autumn but you can go to the desert and go hiking in the mountains. The skies are also most of the time blue with much sunshine. The winter is colder which makes it perfect to go on hikes.

Transport in Oman

The best way to discover Oman is by car. They drive on the right side of the road. It is easy to drive around in Oman because the infrastructure is good. We were on a budget so first we rented a normal car to do all the places that are easy to reach and the last days we rented a 4×4 car. If you have the budget you should immediately rent a 4×4 car. You need a 4×4 car to drive in the desert and to drive in the Jabal Akhdar mountains.

Tip: while you are driving around in Oman you will spot many camels and goats on the road which is amazing. On the highway there are many speed cameras so don’t drive too fast.

Most hotels have free parking, and you will find parking everywhere. If you don’t want to drive yourself then you can hire a driver that takes you to all the places.

Tip: when visiting a Wadi (Valley) you need to immediately leave when there is a sign of rain because the water can quickly start flowing.

If you want to know all the important things you need to know to drive in the desert read the blog driving in the desert. To read more about how to get around in Oman, read the blog on the Rough Guides.

Food in Oman

Every morning, men are sitting together drinking coffee and eating dates. Some of them will offer to sit with them and they give you coffee and dates. Be prepared to be on camera. They will not always ask it but it’s important that you ask before you take a picture.

Omani food is a fusion of marinades, spices, and herbs. There are a lot of food influences in Oman like Indian, Mediterranean, North African, and Persian. The types of meat they eat the most are chicken, lamb, and camel. Some herbs they use a lot in the kitchen are nutmeg, saffron, and ginger. 

The most important drinks in Oman are coffee (kahwa) and tea. The Omani love to offer coffee, tea, and dates. Most Muslims don’t drink alcohol. Oman is an Islamic country which means you can’t find alcohol in the supermarket. It is possible to buy alcohol in big resorts but it’s expensive.

If you want to do take away in Oman, you stop with your car at the restaurant and do a sign to the guy outside. He then shows up with a menu at your car. You order then what you like and he will bring it to your car. It is really easy and funny because you wait in your car and you can order from different places that are for example next to each other.

You can buy food in a café which is way cheaper than in a restaurant, for example Zaki café. You can also buy food or clothes at Lulu hypermarket you will find everything here.

Some dishes you can try out in Oman are:

  • The Omani bread also called Khubz Ragag.
  • Shuwa is grilled meat in Arabic, which they eat a lot in Oman to celebrate Eid (holiday).
  • Majboos is a dish made with rice and saffron cooked with meat.
  • Mashuai is a fish dish with lemon rice.
  • There is a flatbread stuffed with meat, honey, cheese, and spinach which is called Mushaltat.
  • Sandwich made with meat that is called shawarmas.
  • Mishkak is grilled meat on a wooden stick, mostly chicken, beef or mutton.
  • A sweet snack (dessert) is called Halwa.
  • Laban is a mix of buttermilk and yoghurt. Most of the time you will also find cardamon and pistachios.

There are much more dishes you can try out; this is just a selection. If you are planning to do a road trip then check out the blog The ultimate road trip in Oman.

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