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Where to Eat Lunch During Ramadan in Muscat & Salalah

In the Islamic month of Ramadan (link in bolded text to Ramadan blog) daylight abstinence from food and drink is strictly observed in Muslim-majority countries. During this time, non-Muslim expats in Oman or visiting tourists might find it a challenge to locate options for daytime meals. The following is a list of reliable locations we’ve discovered while hosting a few of our guests in Muscat and Salalah. Just remember that if you choose partake, please do so respectfully, and out of the public eye.

MUSCAT

1. $ Lulu Hypermarket – Hot Pre-Prepared food available

2. $ Carrefour Supermarket – Hot Pre-Prepared food available

3. $-$$ Fast food options: McDonalds, KFC, Burger King, Subway – open for take away – various locations, and timings.

4. $$ Mackenzies Deli (Scottish)- PDO – Open for dine-in from 9am-5pm, Menu available here: http://www.mackenzies.me/menus/


3 Tips to Mastering the Omani Souq

When traveling to any new country, one of the best experiences is simply getting out and about amongst the local people and seeing what daily life is like. Well, in Oman, nothing encompasses this better than visiting the local souq, or open-air marketplace.

Arab souqs (pronounced “suːk”) have been a longheld practice for hundreds of years, originating from caravans that would travel through the desert and set up camp outside of cities to sell their goods. These caravans often brought luxury items, anything from silks to spices to jewelery and even exotic fruits and vegetables. This tradition has continued into present-day Oman, so whether your in Muscat or Nizwa, Salalah or Sohar, here are a few tips to make the most out of your time in an Omani souq.

1. Try something new.

Souqs are fantastic for finding all sorts of new and interesting items, and the best way to experience it is to put yourself out and try something new! Whether it’s trying on a traditional hat or shawl, tasting an unknown spice, smelling the foreign perfumes, or even chewing on a piece of frankincense resin (for renowned health benefits!), many shop owners are excited to share their goods with you. Some may even offer you a cup of tea or coffee wanting simply to share some of the their famous Omani hospitality.


5 Places To Visit In Salalah

An exploration of Oman wouldn’t be complete without a visit to its second-largest city, Salalah. Located in southern Oman, Salalah is an hour and forty-five minutes away from Muscat by plane. It is a unique city, boasting an incredible monsoon season in July and August (called Khareef) and beautiful places to wander year-round.

Here are our recommendations for five must-see things in this special place (although there are certainly more than just these)!

1. Khor Rori Beach

It takes about half an hour to drive to this spot east of Salalah. The beach is rarely busy the sand is clean, and you can climb a little ways up the cliffs that guard the sides of the beach and jump into the water below. A short hike will take you to the top of a plateau that overlooks a spectacular expanse of ocean scenery. There you can explore the ancient ruins that date back to 100BC. For a more relaxing activity, check out the small museum with local artifacts. The museum also has restroom facilities available for use. A marshy inlet holds great spots for birdwatching and exploring. There is an entrance fee per vehicle ( 2 OMR) which is included in the cost of your tour. Don’t forget sun protection for this beach as there is little shade available.

2. Mughsayl’s Blowholes

On the other side of Salalah about half an hour away is a spot called Al Mughsayl. This is another beautiful beach to explore, with plenty of room for people to spread out. There are well-spaced gazebos for a private picnic, or you can set up mats and umbrellas on the sand. A parking spot past the beach area hosts some vendors selling food and souvenirs, as well as a public restroom. From the parking area, it’s a short walk over stone-paved paths to Marneef Cave. This cave is more of a rocky overhang with benches set up in the shade and a wonderful view. Walk down a series of steps (with handrails) to see the grated tops of the well-known blowholes. The height of the spurts of water will depend on the time of year you visit—the fountains can shoot water over 90 feet (30 metres) high during Khareef!


Finding the Perfect Date in Oman

If you’re imagining a romantic stroll along the beach at sunset or a candlelit dinner for two, stop right there! The dates we’re talking about today are the kind that are green or brown, slightly wrinkled, and grow on palm trees. These happen to be one of the staples of an Omani diet and are a popular souvenir to take home after a visit to Oman. Read on to learn more about these deliciously sweet fruits!

Cultural Significance

People have been eating dates for thousands of years in the Arabian Peninsula. These fruits can be eaten dried or fresh, and are a healthy source of carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. Many people in Oman enjoy dates on a daily basis; they don’t view dates as simply a tasty, healthy food, but as part of their religious culture as well.

Dates are typically enjoyed in Omani households with qahwa (strong Arabic coffee) to create a balance of sweet and bitter flavors. During the month of Ramadan, dates will be eaten with a glass of cold milk to provide the energy for a day of fasting.

Dates or date honey are important ingredients in many Omani sweets. One of the most well-known in Salalah is qatmeem. It’s a mixture of dates, nuts, and local butter cooked together and spread into a pan. This sticky confection is then eaten with a spoon as a special Ramadan treat.


Tips for a Single Woman Traveling to Oman

It takes courage and a sense of adventure to strike out alone as a woman and travel to new places. There will certainly be many people who do not understand this desire and will share their concerns for your safety. Perhaps you will start to wonder if you are making a wise decision in traveling alone after all, or if it would be better to simply stay home.

In his book The Art of Travel, author Alain de Botton says, “It seemed an advantage to be traveling alone. Our responses to the world are crucially moulded by the company we keep, for we temper our curiosity to fit in with the expectations of others…Being closely observed by a companion can also inhibit our observation of others; then, too, we may become caught up in adjusting ourselves to the companion’s questions and remarks, or feel the need to make ourselves seem more normal than is good for our curiosity.”

Don’t let your relationship status or the unavailability of your friends and family keep you from exploring the world! You may discover the wonder and richness that only come from engaging new cultures on your own.

If you’re a seasoned world traveler looking for an exciting new destination or someone embarking on your first experience traveling solo, here are some tips to make your time in Oman as enjoyable (and safe) as possible.


Visiting Oman During Ramadan

What Is Ramadan?

Ramadan is considered the most holy month by Muslims worldwide. It takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. This calendar follows the lunar system, so the dates of Ramadan vary each year, usually moving back a week or so each year on the western calendar.

In order to observe Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunup until sundown. During daylight hours, they do not eat or drink anything. This is a very special, spiritual time for most Muslims. In addition to fasting, they spend time reading the Qur’an (Islam’s holy book), praying, and helping those less fortunate in their communities.

Ramadan is a time to cleanse oneself from worldly things and focus completely on one’s faith. Muslims refrain from listening to music, using bad language, and smoking. In many public places in Oman, recordings of the Qur’an take the place of background music, which can make something as simple as buying snacks at the supermarket a cultural experience.

What Is Ramadan Like For Muslims?

Imagine having Christmas every day for an entire month. That’s the way Muslims anticipate the month of Ramadan. It is a joyful time of spiritual devotion and family connection. Many Muslims consider Ramadan to be their favorite time of year.

Ramadan is one of the five pillars of the Muslim faith. The other four are: taking a pilgrimage to Mecca, giving money to the poor, saying the Shahadah (the Muslim profession of faith), and praying five times a day. Because Ramadan holds such an important place in the Muslim religion, it is also an important month in Oman.

All Muslims in Oman observe Ramadan except young children, pregnant or nursing mothers, soldiers on duty, those traveling, and those with medical conditions that prevent them from fasting. Those who cannot fast during Ramadan will usually try to make up the days later in the year, as they are able.

Children start fasting at different ages. Some families will allow children to fast a few hours a day to get used to the practice before committing to a full day. Usually the child decides when he/she wants to begin fasting. By adolescence, children will be required to fast like the adults.

A Different Daily Schedule

A Muslim’s daily schedule changes greatly during Ramadan. Although they may still go to work in the morning, many businesses take the whole month of Ramadan off, or change their hours so they are open in the evenings only. If they don’t have to work, many Omanis will sleep until late in the day during Ramadan.

The women will get up and start cooking in the afternoon. They make a variety of special food that is only enjoyed during Ramadan. By the time the sun is reaching the horizon, the air smells delicious and the streets are empty as everyone is home, waiting to break their fasts.

The minute the sun sets, mosques all around the city start sounding the call to prayer. Muslims will break their fast with water and dates, stop to pray their evening prayers, and then return to start feasting with their families.

This evening meal, called iftar, is a special experience unique to Ramadan. If you are invited into an Omani’s home for this meal, don’t pass up the opportunity! It will be a party to remember.

After breaking the fast, cities in Oman come to life! Streets that were quiet and empty all day will be filled with cars of people traveling to visit each other, go shopping, or walk along beaches and through parks. There is an energy in the air during Ramadan that feels truly festive.

What Is Ramadan Like For Visitors?

During the days of Ramadan, Oman is very quiet. Life is much slower this time of year, which brings peaceful relaxation to visitors. It can be the perfect time to explore Oman’s beaches and natural attractions in solitude.

Eating and drinking in public is illegal in Oman during Ramadan. Non-Muslim guests can enjoy meals in their hotels or out in nature away from the view of local people. It may be difficult to find restaurants open during the day. Keeping some snacks hidden in a day pack will help if you don’t find food for sale along the way.

Omanis know that visitors will not be fasting and sometimes they may offer you food or tell you it’s okay to eat or drink in front of them. It’s best to wait for that invitation before eating, drinking, or chewing gum in Oman during daylight in Ramadan.

You will find most Omanis to be their usual, friendly selves during Ramadan, but sometimes local people can be tired after long nights of feasting and being with family. Don’t be offended if an Omani seems a bit grumpy with you during the day. You would be, too, in their shoes!

Most restaurants and hotels offer iftar buffets during Ramadan which are an excellent way to sample the special foods of this holiday. Some supermarkets will give dates and yogurt drinks or water to shoppers at the time of sunset.

If you don’t mind staying up later than usual, Oman is an exciting place to explore after dark during Ramadan. Stores and streets are decorated, public places are teeming with life, and everyone is wishing each other a happy Ramadan.

The End of Ramadan

The month of Ramadan ends with a four-day celebration called Eid Al Fitr. Many businesses will be closed a few days prior and during this holiday and most locals will be traveling. It is important to have your own local travel plans made well in advance because of this.

Life in Oman goes back to normal relatively quickly after the end of Ramadan, but if you choose to come during this month, your memories of the season will likely stay with you for a lifetime.


By Shanae Eddy

Shanae is a freelance writer from the USA. She has lived in Salalah, Oman since 2015. When not writing content for Experience It Oman, Shanae enjoys learning Arabic from local friends, exploring the Dhofar mountains during Khareef (monsoon season), and drinking tea.


The Best Time to Visit Oman

Oman is a diverse country with very different weather patterns depending on where you visit—the weather in northern Oman varies greatly from the weather in the south. We want to take the confusion out of the planning process for you by outlining the four seasons of the year, and what you can expect from the weather in each season/region of Oman. Here is our guide to help you decide what time of year will be the best for your next Oman tour.

Spring – March through June

Springtime in northern Oman starts off nice with high temperatures in Muscat staying in the 70s F and evenings cooling off to the 50s. This balmy weather doesn’t last long, however, as the summer heat begins to encroach in April.

June is the warmest month in the north, with temperatures often soaring well-above 100 degrees F and evenings staying in the upper-70s. If you choose to visit the north during these months, bring plenty of light clothing and sun protection, and plan regular evenings at the beach to help you stay cool!


Packing Tips for Oman

You’ve received your trip itinerary from your travel expert, your flights are booked, and you’re eagerly awaiting your departure date to visit Oman! All that’s left to do is pack. But, trying to decide what to bring to a place you’ve never been before can be challenging. Here are our tips to help you pack for your trip with confidence. (You will receive more detailed packing information with your trip itinerary, so consult those lists as well for extra guidance.)

Clothing

1. For men: bring basic lightweight, long pants and comfortable, button-down shirts (short- or long-sleeved). For women: lightweight, loose clothing will be the most comfortable. Try to cover your elbows and legs with 3/4-length shirts and long skirts or pants.
2. If you enter a mosque or local home, you will remove your shoes at the door. Comfortable walking shoes that are easy to get on and off are a good idea in Oman!
3. Bring some sort of sun protectant. Sunblock, sunglasses, a hat with a brim, or a light scarf for women will all help alleviate the desert heat you may experience in parts of Oman.
4. Bring a light jacket if you are visiting the north of Oman during October-March. Bring a light waterproof jacket if you are visiting Salalah during Khareef (monsoon) season in July and August.

Toiletries

1. Bug spray, aloe vera gel, shampoo/conditioner. Most toiletries can be found here in Oman, but if you prefer to use certain brands that you are familiar with, it’s a good idea to bring them with you. Some products, like bug spray, can be difficult to find (we generally use bug repellant lotion in Oman).
2. Travel medications. It’s not a bad idea to carry melatonin or other sleep-aid products to help adjust to a new time zone. Over-the-counter pills and antibiotics can help if you experience digestion problems while traveling. Ask your doctor what he/she recommends before your trip.

Necessities

1. Passport and travel documents. You’ll want to make sure that your passport will not expire within six months of your trip to Oman. It’s good to have your itinerary and trip information printed out and carried with you or saved on your mobile phone.
2. Plug adaptor. All of Oman uses the UK 3-pin electrical sockets, so buy a plug adaptor for your phone, camera, laptop, or other electronic items. Most international flights and airports will have USB charging sockets, so make sure you bring a phone charger that ends in a USB plug.
3. Money. The simplest way to get cash in Oman in to use a bank card at an ATM. Check ahead of time so you know what your bank will charge for foreign transaction fees and to let them know of your travel plans. You can also bring US dollars or euros with you to exchange for cash at currency exchange locations throughout Oman.

For specific packing questions, contact your Oman travel expert. Happy packing!


By Shanae Eddy

Shanae is a freelance writer from the USA. She has lived in Salalah, Oman since 2015. When not writing content for Experience It Oman, Shanae enjoys learning Arabic from local friends, exploring the Dhofar mountains during Khareef (monsoon season), and drinking tea.


How To Mind Your Manners in Oman

What is considered polite in one culture can be quite offensive in another. Navigating cultural differences can be tricky—especially when you’re not aware of them to begin with! Of course you want to be respectful and polite while exploring everything Oman has to offer.

Read on for some tips on how to respond appropriately in common situations.

At A Meal

Omanis are gracious and hospitable people; it is likely that at some point during your tour, you will be offered more food than you can eat. Don’t make yourself uncomfortably full by trying to eat everything that is put in front of you. It is considered polite in Oman to leave a small portion on your plate at the end of a meal. This communicates to your host that he served you a sufficient amount of food.

“Alhamdulilah shabbat.” This simple phrase comes in handy when you are offered a second (or third, or fourth!) helping of something to eat. To politely refuse, simply say this phrase, which is the Arabic way to say, “I’m full”.

It is helpful to know that in Oman it’s considered polite to offer something several times, even if the person declines the first time. If you really do not want what is being offered, just keep declining it politely. Also be aware that when you offer an Omani something, their first response will probably be “no”, as well.

When Shopping

If you are approached in a souq (traditional market) by someone who is trying to sell you something, it is easy to decline. Simply hold your right hand up in a “stop” motion and say, “la shukran”, which means “no, thank you”. If they persist with their sales pitch, repeat the phrase and walk away. This is how Omanis refuse services or attempts to sell them things.

Holding doors open for others is not as common in Oman as in America. Do not be offended if someone lets a door shut on you. They are not being rude! If a door is held, it is polite to say “shukran” (thank you) as you walk through.

Omanis typically do not show strong emotion in public. Loud laughter, yelling, and other outbursts are not considered polite, and will probably draw stares. Mimic the local culture by lowering your voice in public and if you want to go the extra mile, have a shot at covering your mouth with your hand when you laugh.

Meeting Local People

Omanis are friendly people, but it is considered polite to interact primarily with those of your same gender in public. If approaching an Omani family, men speak with the men and women with the women. Typically, men and women will not shake hands, although they may greet each other when being introduced. Women visiting Oman should simply wait to see what an Omani does first. If he offers his hand, it is polite to accept the handshake, but it’s not usually appropriate to initiate it.

One should ask permission before taking an Omani’s picture. Especially avoid taking pictures of local women without consent. This is considered rude and even threatening in Oman. Omanis love taking pictures of their food and drinks to share on Snapchat, so feel free to bring your camera out to photograph the delicious meals you will enjoy here.

Even if you make a mistake and do something that is typically considered rude in Oman, don’t worry. Omanis understand that you are unfamiliar with their culture, and they will give you grace. Watch how local people are interacting to get your cues for how to act. Ask your driver how to appropriately handle a situation if you get stuck. Most importantly, smile, be teachable, and laugh at your mistakes. Even though the culture may vary from what’s normal for you, Oman is a warm and welcoming place – so have fun!


By Shanae Eddy

Shanae is a freelance writer from the USA. She has lived in Salalah, Oman since 2015. When not writing content for Experience It Oman, Shanae enjoys learning Arabic from local friends, exploring the Dhofar mountains during Khareef (monsoon season), and drinking tea.


5 Reasons Oman Should Be Your Next Destination

Many people in the United States don’t even know Oman exists. When my friend tried to mail me a package recently, the US postal worker was convinced that my friend mistakenly wrote a city’s name on the line for country. Oman seems to be a well-kept secret—tucked into its corner of the Arabian Peninsula, largely staying out of the world’s news updates.

So, why would you want to spend your time and money to visit a place so few have heard of? What is there to see in Oman anyway?

Here are five amazing things about this hidden country that will have you contacting your travel expert and scheduling your trip dates as soon as possible.

#1: Oman is a land that is truly unique.

The majority of Omanis are Ibadi Muslims, which is a sect of the religion separate from the more well-known Sunni and Shia groups. This unique religious background makes Omanis devoted to their conservative faith, while at the same time being open and friendly towards visitors from other backgrounds. Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, Oman’s leader since 1970, has developed the country incredibly. He is the longest-reigning leader in the Arab world to date, and his influence has made Oman the special, peaceful place it is. Case in point: Oman has no terrorism records – it’s just never happened here.


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