Oman: Travel off the path

I had the opportunity to enjoy some leisure time this afternoon and all I could think of was surf through the photos on my computer. Halfway through the clutter, I found some amazing photos taken during my time in Oman a couple of years ago. So, here I have some photos to share and a story to tell.

To tell the truth, I had never really thought of Oman as a travel destination until my visit. Even with the golden sand, and rocky mountains, the place looked immensely beautiful. The capital city, Muscat, was full to the brim with palatial malls, tiny shops, souks (marketplace), and glorious mosques with a faint smell of frankincense lingering in the air.

My first stop was at the Muttrah Corniche, which was sandwiched between a vast stretch of azure sea and the Muttrah Souk. Muttrah Souk was a place that truly left me gaping due to its portrayal of a typically chaotic Arab market despite being put together under modern timber roofing. The place sells almost every Omani and Indian artifact from traditional jewellery and clothing, to antiques.

I found the traditional coffeehouse at the entrance to be the meeting point of local elderly men who sat sipping on a glass of qahwa (Arabic coffee). Getting lost in the souk was something that I found to be funny and equally thrilling. After finding my way out of the souk, I headed over to see dhows (traditional sailing vessels) being built by hand at Sur—a town nestled along the Gulf of Oman. Dhow building wasn’t just a job here, rather a way of life, culture, and tradition.

When in Oman, I had the privilege to meet and greet some Omanis whom I found to be friendly. The evenings were spent in one of my Omani friend’s house where they served qahwa, dates, and various other sweet confections.

Every city in Oman has a fort for visitors to explore, but the one that I found most interesting  is the Bahla Fort, which is also the oldest fort. Oman’s regional dishes are less spicy and equally delicious. Being a picky eater, I found kabsa (rice dish), Omani halwa (sweet confections), and kebabs to be worthy enough to enter my list of favourite dishes.

My last stop in the country was at Salalah, the southernmost city. Exploring Salalah was a completely different experience as it looked nothing like the other cities in Oman. The landscape transformed from brown deserts into emerald green valleys and fields. There is plenty of vegetation here even during the peak of summer. The long narrow ranges of streets and bazaars are home to shops that sell spices, traditional garments, and incense. Bargaining was my favourite activity here.

The eastern part of the city took half my day as I sauntered through the Taqah Castle, Khor Rori archaeological site, and the beautiful blue lagoon named Mughsayl with a pile of birds including flamingos scattered on its banks. I boarded my flight back to India the next day with a camera full of memories by my side.