Oman is an Arab country located on the southeastern coast of Arabian Peninsula. Though there is no diversity in religion here, you will find a variety of tranquil landscapes and sceneries. The beauty of beaches, the history and intricate designs of forts, the lush green mountains, unique wildlife and endless deserts will give you a shot in the arm. You will find local bazaars or souks thrust with handicrafts and the most famous item of Oman-frankincense. Cleanliness along with strict laws will blow away your mind. Kind-hearted, helpful and law-abiding people adds up to make this country a must-visit place.
After 2011, Oman was divided into eleven governorates or muhafazah. Most of the major cities of Oman like Muscat, Nizwa, Ibri and many others are located closely in the northern part of Oman. Witness the sprawling modern city of Muscat with its vibrant beauty, mountains, and beaches. While Nizwa is famous for heritage sites and forts, Ibri is the land of wadis and souks (Arab markets). Musandam Governorate on the northern border will leave you spellbound with the beauty of high mountains around a sea. In the southern region of Oman lies Dhofar region around Salalah where you will find vast stretches of desert and mountains turning lush green in monsoons.
October-March is the best time to visit Oman
Summers in Oman are hot and humid. The temerature keeps soaring for almost six months. Winters are the most suitable time to explore Oman. You will witness balmy weather during this time. Oman is extremely arid and rainfall is rare. However, Salalah observes monsoon season from June to September. In Salalah, this is the best time since mountains are all green and weather is extremely thrilling. But, the place is too crowded and prices are high.
Clean roads. Hygienic and peaceful country. Safe place. Rich in historical monuments. Scenic beauty. Kind and altruistic people. A variety of tourists spots. Perfect for a family holiday.
Frequent flash floods. Scorching heat. Reckless driving. Irresistible traffic. Too many restrictions. No cultural diversity.
Architecture lovers. Nature fanatics. Wildlife enthusiasts. Nice place for couples. Perfect for water sports lovers.
Oman offers many luxurious hotels which are comfortable and easy on your pocket too especially in Muscat. The other major cities like Sur, Nizwa, and Sohar also have accommodation facilities, but there are not many options. In smaller places, there are guesthouses which are simple and spartan. The most famous of all is Misfah Old House. AirBnbs are not much developed in Oman yet, but they will be very soon. In deserts, you can book various camps having all facilities. In the Wahiba Sands, Desert Nights Camp is famous. Alternatively, in Oman, wild camping is allowed almost everywhere.
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Oman is an Arab country, and therefore you will not find great diversity in religion. Omani people follow Ibadhism which is a form of Islam. However, people belonging to different castes also reside here but are few. People are strict about following rules and regulations and take pride in their country. Arabic is spoken in most parts of the country. Dialects of Arabic like Balochi and Jibbali are also used. However, in certain areas, you will find people speaking Urdu, French or Swahili. English is the second language of Oman so, tourists don't face any problem in communication. All signboards are written in both Arabic and Engish.
Rice, vegetables, fish and chicken are the staple Omani food. Soups and curries are also very popular. Various spices are commonly used in all dishes. Omanis prefer to keep their dishes less spicy. Due to the proximity the Arabian Sea, Muscat is quite known for its lip smacking sea food. People generally prefer to have a heavy meal during the daytime, and the dinner is usually lighter. The most common dishes and beverages are laban(salty butter milk drink), kahwa(Omani coffee), biryani, kabouli, mishkak, shuwa and lokhemat.
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Tipping in restaurants is not common. Be careful while driving as reckless drivers are abundant in Oman. Check the weather before visiting Oman. Heavy rainfall can cause a sudden flood as flash floods are very frequent. Carry a lot of water with you especially while exploring deserts. Do not disobey the laws since it can lead to severe legal consequences.
Omani Rial (OMR)
The only currency accepted in Oman is Omani Rial. The notes have denominations of 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1 while coins are in denominations of 50, 25, 10 and 5. It is advisable to carry enough money with you since local vendors and taxi drivers accept cash only. However, Oman is quite developed and various grand establishments accept plastic money.
Oman has plenty of ATMs throughout the country including the airport and opulent hotels. There are various banks including Central Bank of Oman and HSBC Bank where you can exchange your currency. Banks are the safest option for such transactions since they offer a better exchange rate. It is advisable not to exchange currency at airport or hotels since they offer terrible exchange rates.
Nightlife in Oman is not extravagant since people there are strict about drinking and clubbing. There are various bars and restaurants, and some have live music also, but, you need to have a license to enter bars or pubs particularly in Muscat. Also, drinking may cost you an arm and a leg in Oman. Therefore, people prefer to hang out with friends over coffee or fruit juice in local cafes which are comparatively cheaper. Long drives or shopping are also common during late hours.
Markets in Oman offer a wide range of handicrafts as well as natural products. Bargaining is also common here. Oman boasts of highly priced frankincense, a natural product which is widely available but, the best market to shop for this is Muttrah Souk in Muscat. Bukhoor and Myrrh are popular local aromatic which is worth buying. The most alluring souvenir is the khanjar, traditional curved dagger. Other items which entice tourists are perfumes, Bedu jewellery, Omani pottery and Indian handicrafts too. Some popular markets where you can head out are Nizwa Souk, Muttrah Souk, Salalah, Muscat City Centre and Muscat Grand Mall.
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There are various festivals celebrated in Oman with vim and vigour. Since Oman is an Arabic country, most of the festivals belong to Muslims. The excitement, togetherness, energy and ecstasy reach to another level in the country. You will also learn about history, culture and tradition of the Islamic world. While the Grand Muscat Festival is celebrated in the capital city of Muscat, the other main events like Eid al Fitr, Eid al Adha, Ramadan and National Day are observed throughout the country.
Oman has a fascinating history which dates back to beyond 5000 BC when southern Oman was identified as the rich source of copper and frankincense. The country traded these commodities in several countries and thus, emerged powerfully. Then, in the seventh century, Oman adopted Islam. Bani Nabhan dynasty ruled the country for the next 500 years. This was followed by the invasion of Portuguese in 1507 and the country's struggle to expel them out. After this, Oman and Muscat (later called as Oman) was controlled by Persians for a short period. In the nineteenth century, under Sultan Said, Oman's most powerful ruler, the country extended its influence and had prominent empire until Said's son, Qaboos bin Said seized the throne and went on to modernise the country as we see today.
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When it comes to hygiene, Oman is quite safe and less polluted. Tap water is drinkable everywhere. However, stay away from stray and feral animals as they might be suffering from rabies. It is hot in Oman throughout the year. Excessive heat and lack of water may cause dehydration. There are no prescribed vaccinations for visiting Oman but, contaminated water may cause diseases. Therefore, it is advisable to carry hepatitis or typhoid shots. Also, carry basic medicines in a kit.
Do not offer alcohol to a local unless you are sure that he drinks. Avoid drinking and smoking during the festive season. While entering a mosque, you are expected to remove your shoes and also to cover your head with a handkerchief or any cloth. Arabic countries are extremely conservative about the dress. Women should avoid wearing short dresses because in Arab regions, local women have to cover their whole body from head to toe while stepping out. Also, women are not allowed to sit in the front seat of the car with their husbands. Maintain your composure when in public. Avoid shouting or raising your voice as it is considered offensive.