Poised on the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula, Oman shares borders with the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, but it’s distinctively in a world of its own. The country is rich in nature and traditions and arguably the friendliest in the Middle East.
Oman’s economy has developed at lightning speed thanks to its oil wealth and has successfully retained its Bedouin traditions, strong sense of identity and pride. Its robust infrastructure makes exploring its treasure trove of desert, lush green oases and long coastlines very easy and pleasant.
As such, traveling Oman gives a rare chance to experience the Arab kingdom without the distorting lens of excessive wealth and modernisation. In the face of modernity, Oman’s sleepy fishing towns, spectacular mountains and wind-blown deserts remain at the heart of the Omani spirit.
Scenically wedged between mountains and ocean, with old forts and excellent museums, an opera house and flower-filled parks, the gentle city of Muscat is a delight to visit. Its name means ‘safe anchorage’, and the sea plays an important role in city life to this day, sustaining the fishing industry and providing opportunities for visitors to swim from sandy beaches or dive with turtles in nearby lagoons.
The city has a character quite distinct from neighbouring capitals. There are few high-rise blocks and even functional buildings are required to reflect tradition with a dome or an arabesque window. The result is an attractive, whimsically uniform city that retains the elegance observed by early travellers. The city is quite conservative in nature, asking of visitors decorum in dress and manner, but in return it offers a warm sense of Omani hospitality and an opportunity to connect with the country's rich heritage.
Oman is typically cooler all year round than its neighbours. The best time to travel Oman is in winter (October to February), when temperatures are around 25°C in the day and 20°C at night. However, these are also the wettest months. It can be dangerous in the mountains as rain can cause flash floods.
If travelling in the summer months (April to September) you will find temperatures rising into the 30s and sometimes 40s.
The Omani culture is very welcoming and hospitable. People embrace visitors and often open their homes to you. They’re kind and generous, and are more than helpful to foreigners.
Arabic is recognised as Oman’s national and official language. The Baluchi language is also widely spoken in Oman. But English is also commonly spoken, especially in Muscat. The Omanis are generally educated and speak more than one language. There is no need to worry about language barrier in Oman.
Oman is a tribal society, although tribal influence is gradually declining. Its predominantly Ibāḍī Muslim population observes social customs that though still conservative by Western standards are markedly less strict than those of neighbouring Saudi Arabia. (The consumption of alcoholic beverages, for instance, is illegal for Omani citizens but is permissible for visitors in licensed dining establishments.) Women in particular have enjoyed relatively more freedom in Oman than elsewhere on the Arabian Peninsula. Traditional attire for women, although varying slightly from region to region, is characterized by brightly coloured fabrics and jewelled adornments and consists of a dress (thawb) over loose-fitting slacks (sirwāl). A long, flowing scarf known as a liḥāf (or generically as ḥijāb) covers the head. Similarly, most Omani men wear the dishdashah, or thawb, a traditional woven cotton robe, and male headgear consists of a light turban of cotton or wool, known as a muzzar. Many men continue to carry a short, broad, curved and often highly ornate dagger known as a khanjar (sometimes called a janbiyyah or jambiya), which is worn tucked in the front waistband.
Mealtime serves as the centre of most social gatherings. The typical Omani meal consists of rice, spiced lamb or fish, dates, and coffee or tea. Incense notably frankincense, which is native to Oman, is burned at the end of the meal.
Omanis observe the standard Islamic holidays, including the two Eid festivals, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, as well as several secular holidays, such as National Day (celebrating the expulsion of the Portuguese in the 17th century) and the ruling sultan’s birthday.
The official currency is the Omani rial (OR but widely abbreviated RO). One rial is divided into 1000 baisa (also spelt baiza and shortened to bz). There are coins of 5, 10, 25 and 50 baisa, and notes of 100 and 200 baisa. There are notes of a half, one, five, 10, 20 and 50 rials.
£1 gets you 0.49OMR (As of Feb 2020)
Travel To Oman
Traveling to Oman is easy, but most nationalities including Europeans, Canadians, Americans, and Australians, need to get an evisa before arrival at the airport. Certain nationalities are eligible to obtain a visa on arrival. Check your visa requirements before you travel.
A tourist visa for 10 days costs five rials or £10 (US$12) or a month for 20 rials ($52). A multiple-entry visa costs 50 rials (US$130) and it’s valid for one year.
If you’re arriving from the Emirate of Dubai or from Qatar to Oman, bearing a tourist entrance visa or a stamp from either country, you’re not required to obtain a separate visa for Oman provided you travel directly from Dubai or Doha to Oman.
For further information go to; omantourism.gov.om
For health information in Oman, please visit the following NHS website link: fitfortravel.nhs.uk