Beautiful, Magical, Mystical & Modern Oman
Let us take some rugged mountains that are older than time, climb forts that have seen history changing battles, watch soothing greenery emerging from a deep Wadi, (valley) get surprised by a spring of fresh water coming out of rocks, transforming the color of landscape from sandy to green, and hiding in the deep ravines wildlife that knows how to thrive, watch the merging of blue sky in deep blue ocean, and now add a liberal dose of mystical stories you read in Arabian Nights and you get the country I so wish to visit.
I am talking about the Sultanate of Oman a country like none other in the world, inhabited by the proud Omani people who are known for their legendary hospitality.
Oman is a land that has one of the longest coastlines in Arabian Peninsula; they have long history of trade with both Europe and India with caravans going on the silk route as far as central Asia and China. Strategically located the Omanis have traded for centuries with references to products like frankincense sourced from Oman going back to times of Roman Empire and even before that. Even today the best frankincense comes from Oman and is used in not just in homes but in center of religious importance as diverse as Vatican in Rome to temples and dargahs in India. But there is a lot more to Oman a country that is firmly rooted in traditions and selectively adapting the good things from the modern world. This prudent use of technology to build great roads, telecom network, dams etc gives Oman a very special place and makes the beautiful country must visit for anybody who loves to visit magical mystical lands without missing on modern comforts of life.
The more I studied about Oman the stronger the urge to pack my bags and board a flight became. But as I like to plan before I travel from the hundreds of things that Oman offers I zeroed down on 7 things that as a traveler I would love to discover and share with readers of desi Traveler.
- Forts and Castles: As Oman is at very important trade route both for maritime trade as well as land, it was attacked by various vested interests in past. The brave and ingenious Omani people built forts in various parts of country to keep the invaders out. Some of these forts are not in use and some like Jabreen Castle built-in 1670 are very well maintained. But whether in ruins or in great shape all these forts and palaces are a witness of the history and bravery of Omani people and I am looking forward to capture some of them and bring home. (Capture In my camera 🙂 )
- Magical Wadis and Irrigation system: A large part of Oman is rugged mountains and desert but even then almighty has been kind to the land. As if totally by magic perennial fresh water springs emerge from rocks that convert the Wadis (valleys) into lush green and give enough water to grow some of the most delicious fruits like melons, oranges, dates in the middle of desert. This also makes Oman one of the best countries in Middle East even for vegetarians as you can try all kind of fruits and breads. The Omani people understand the importance of water in the desert and centuries ago they built channels to take this water to their fields for irrigation, some of these channel systems called Falaj Irrigation system are miles long and are lifeline of people living in desert. There is so much one can learn from the engineering skills that was used to build these channels hundreds of years ago that has sustained the people and provided them bounties of nature in a dry land. Today the world understands the importance of this traditional technology and some of them are listed as World heritage.
- Visit Mosques: A trip to Oman is incomplete without visiting some of the most magnificent mosques in Middle East. Oman has some of the most important mosques in the history of Islam like the Al Midhmar Mosque ( first mosque in Oman) and some like the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque built-in modern times that carry the tradition forward to the future. Mosques in Oman have their own style that and the design represent the era they were built. The good thing is that even non-Muslims are allowed in mosques including Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, except on Friday from 8:30 until 11:00 am.
- Omani Coffee or Qahwa: This is one experience that I want to cherish and enjoy like the native Bedouins do.In Oman Coffee or Qahwa (also spelled-Kahwa ) is not a hurried flavorless cup that you pick up before you go for boring meetings in office. In Oman a cup of Qahwa is a way of life, if a Omani invites you in his tent it means he considers you a dear friend almost family and you sit with him on a carpet, cherish some fruits and sip the Qahwa poured from the long sprouted dallah to the dainty cups, filled again and again because even if you don’t say so your host knows you want more of the invigorating elixir. The Qahwa is flavored with cardamom, cinnamon, saffron and sometimes other spices too added in liberal doses.
When you are given Qahwa in a Bedouin tent it is not a cup of coffee it is accepting you as friend and you reciprocate the same. Did I not tell you Oman is a mystical land with a modern touch?
- Watch some Wildlife: When one thinks of a dry desert country like Oman one thinks of only dry barren land, well nothing could be far from truth. The desert, the Wadis, the mountains and the sea around Oman all are buzzing with wildlife that is adapted to the harsh climate. From rare desert leopard to the graceful and almost mythical Arabian Oryx and various other small mammals that call the desert home.
For the birding enthusiast like me Oman is nothing less than a boy in toy store from the beautiful Flamingos to Raptors both resident as well as migratory, the Omani landscape is home to 100s of species of birds that offer wonderful photographic opportunity.
Once you reach the long Oman coastline your bounties actually increase with rare sea turtles coming to nest and lay eggs, dolphins and whales jumping up in the air. (Oh when will I click my first Dolphin jumping in air picture? May be in Oman 🙂 )
- Adventure and Sports: Oman may be a mystical land but it has adapted some of the most modern sports invented by humanity. From Dune bashing in 4*4 SUVs to going Scuba diving and other water sports in the azure waters to watching dolphins and whales from your boat, you are spoilt for choice if you are an adrenaline junkie.
For the less adventurous types you can visit some of the best Golf courses or ride on camels to camps in the desert to count the stars in the clear night sky till the gentle cool breeze makes you fall asleep like you last slept when you were a baby.
- Shopping in the Souqs: How can anybody resist shopping in the Souqs of Oman, some of them going back hundreds of year when traders and farmers came from deep inside the desert on their camels to sell their produce and buy products brought by merchants from distant lands. Even today in almost every major city you have these Souks doing brisk business, alongside air-conditioned modern malls.
Take your pick, as for me I will go to one of the traditional Souq, where high on my list to buy is the traditional Omani Khanjar, once a privilege only for the Royalty, thankfully now even commoners like me can buy one. Also high on the wish list are some Arabian Perfumes, frankincense , and some Omani Halwa that is so similar in name to our desi Indian Halwa but I am sure will have its own distinct taste and flavor.
Once I am in Oman a beautiful country that has something for every traveler be if family, solo, wildlife or adventure seeker I hope to captures some beautiful pictures to share with my readers here on desi Traveler. So dear reader, wish me luck to win the Indiblogger contest to visit Beautiful, magical, mystical and modern Oman in collaboration with Oman Tourism.
Pictures: All pictures on this post are from the Facebook Page of Oman Ministry of Tourism I hope to add by clicking my own pictures, once I visit Beautiful Oman.
🙂 Shukran 🙂