Lying in the south eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula – next to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen – Oman has plenty to offer. From its coastal mountain regions to its flatter desert areas, it’s the diversity of Oman that make it truly unique.
With its coastal regions exposed to the Arabian Sea, the country’s maritime practices and shipping villages have always remained an inherent part of Omani culture. Because Oman has expanded its influence to South Africa as well as the countries in the Indian Ocean, its culture is often seen as more diverse than many other southern Arabian countries currently are.
Whether you want to explore the metropolitan area of Muscat, camp under the stars in the Wahiba Sands, or relax on the secluded island of Masirah, there are many different elements of Oman that have made it so accessible for tourists to travel to.
main image: courtesy of Panoramas, Flickr creative commons
The currency of Oman is the rial, and it exists in different baisa notes and coins.
While the currency was initially the Indian rupee, in 1970 the rial Saidi became the main currency for Oman, although baisa coins were widely used when introduced in 1940.
When comparing, one rial note is equal to 2 dollars and 60 cents in America, as well as 1 pound and 97 pence in Great Britain.
The currency exists in 1⁄2, 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 rial notes as well as 5, 10, 25, 50, 100 baisa coins.
While different amenities such as transportation, alcohol, and some higher end hotels can be quite expensive, the local life of Oman is usually quite inexpensive. Meals can range anywhere from 1 to 6 rial.
Oman has one of the hottest climates in the Middle Eastern region, with average temperatures ranging from around 30-40 degrees Celsius (86-104 degrees Fahrenheit).
The island off of its coast, Masirah, even averages temperatures around 50 degrees Celsius!
Although regions such as Muscat in the centre of Oman experience only annual rainfall, mountain regions like Salalah on the coast get more seasonal rainfall and even a little bit of cooler weather.
When using taxis it is typically advised to agree on a set price before starting your trip, since prices (especially in Muscat) have gotten considerably high. When discussing prices, you will usually have the option to choose between a meter price or a fixed price. The meter price is the price given per square metre, while the fixed price is a price discussed before the car has reached your destination. Prices between these two choices can vary greatly. Locals usually tend to either drive themselves or take the baiza buses (small buses) or shared taxes. The larger buses tend to have air conditioning and more comfortable seats, however, they are higher in price.
Muscat International Airport (MCT) is the main airport of Oman. However, the Salalah International Airport (SLL) and Khasab Airport (KHS) are considered main airports as well.
Since there is no railway network yet in Oman and the distances tbetween destinations quite long, most people tend to prefer travelling by taxi or their own car.
There is what is considered national wear for both Omani men and women.
Omani men typically wear a dishdasha, which is an ankle-length, long sleeve, collarless dress. A noticeable touch with the dishdashas is its embroidery, as it differs across different regions. Accompanying the dishdasha, is the muzzar (turban), the assa (stick used for special occasions), as well as the khanjar (a curved dagger only used on special occasions).
Omani women tend to wear different everyday dress when it is not a special occasion. On special occasions, the national dress for Omani women is also a dishdasha that is worn over loose fitting trousers called sirwal. A lihaf, or head shawl, is often worn. When it is not a formal occasion, women tend to wear either an abaya or a burqa with a hijab.
Both Omani men and women tend to wear sandals with their usual dress.
Oman has a population of over 4 million.
A staggering half of the population resides in the major city of Muscat and the Bhatinah coastal plan, about 200,000 live in the southern Dhofar region, and about 30,000 people live in Musandam.
Half of the Omani population consists of individuals under the age of 15. Oman’s different ethnicity demographics span from Arab, to Baluchi, to South Asian and African.
Because of Oman’s location and large Arab population, the national religion is Islam at around 85.9%. While Islam is the most widely practiced, Hinduism and Christianity are practiced as well. Oman is unique in that it is a tribal society where there are three distinct identities that Omani people tend to distinguish themselves in Ibadi School of Faith. The first two groups are Tribalism and Ibadism, which are tied closely to tradition because of the longer periods they spent in isolation. The third group is ‘Maritime Trade’ which is considered more tolerant and open towards others. The third group mostly resides in Muscat and the coastal regions of Oman and is linked to more economic factors of life.
Although water sanitation has improved, not all areas of Oman have the same sanitation, so it is advised to be conscious of drinking water. While tap water is generally deemed safe, Omani people tend to drink bottled water, and it is advised that tourists should as well, just to be safe.
As always, travellers should have all needed vaccinations before travelling.
The meals in Oman usually comprise of two standard meals: one larger main meal during the day and one lighter meal served in the evening. It is known for a variety of different foods such as Arsia and Showa, which are both festival foods. Arsia consists of mashed rice and meat while Showa is really tender, slow-cooked meat that is infused with different herbs and spices. Fish is also common in many meals, and kingfish is one of the most popular. The dish Mashuai consists of whole spit fire roasted kingfish with lemon rice. Ruulchal, a thin round bread, is also common in many different kinds of meals. Halwa, raw sugar considered the symbol of hospitality in Oman, is often prepared with nuts in sweet dishes. Alcohol, while available in most hotels and some restaurants, is only available over the counter to non Muslims.
Both passports and visas are required if you are a national of the EU, UK, USA, Canada, or Australia. Your passport must also be valid for at least 6 months before arrival.
The main language spoken in Oman is Arabic. However, English is spoken widely and usually taught in schools from a young age.
Due to the rise in its tourism industry, Oman includes both Arabic and English in its signs.
Other languages such as Baluchi, Urdu and a variety of Indian languages are also spoken throughout the country.
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