Oman is a nation of seafarers and desert dwellers where influences from far away countries mix to the Bedouin hospitality, and the land and the sea prepared with the best spices brought back from centuries of trading are the signature of the local cuisine. Today, with many influences from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, it can be tough to identify the authentic Omani cuisine: here is a short guide to help you make the most of your culinary discoveries in the sultanate.
Strolling the legendary souk
If Friday is the busiest day because of the goat market and auction, a centennial old tradition in Nizwa, it is also when tour guides followed by their flocks of tourists outnumber locals. Keep travelling!
The Nizwa Fort nested among mountains and oasis with the souk spreading at the foot of its recognisable tower is a must-see.
When Oman converted to Islam peacefully and by faith in the 8th century, the idea to create a true Muslim state was paramount, and prior to today’s sultanate, the Imamate was ruling the country. Religious and political powers were consolidated in the hands of the elected Imam in the capital Nizwa (until the coastal Muscat became the capital in 1793). As such, Nizwa has been the centre of religion and also of politics for many centuries, calling for new standards for fortified buildings in a land divided among many tribes. keep reading
“Al Hamra” it says on the dusty road sign along the way towards the majestic Jebel Shams in the Western Hajar Mountains of Oman. In a last-minute decision I turn the wheel of our rental car and notice a large date plantation irrigated by a traditional falaj. I park the car and we cautiously venture in the desolated streets lined by ruined mud houses to explore the old village. Keep travelling!
With both of my feet firmly set on two stainless steel pins, and one of my hands sliding up along the metal cable, I pull myself up to grab a cavity in the warm rock. As I carefully clip both carabiners connected to my harness onto the next section of the cable, I look over my shoulder to briefly take in the view: the majestic Jebel Shams canyon seems to be bottomless under my feet. I push on my leg muscles a little bit more until I reach a ledge where I can rest safely contemplating this overwhelming barren and rugged mineral landscape.
Dating back to the 1st century, Muscat gained prominence in the 14th century when traders used it as a maritime hub on their way to or from India, the far East, Zanzibar and Europe. Indeed, the capital of Oman is located in a natural harbour ideally suited for the safe mooring of vessels that has made the Sultanate a nation of seafarers. Today, Muscat is a vibrant city open on the world that is worth spending a few days exploring. Keep travelling!