“Hold on, here we go! Next stop, knowledge!” – Finding Nemo
I’m constantly reminded that my experience in the Middle East contrasts greatly with my previous misconceptions about the region. Before I visited, news reports framed it as a volatile desert environment with limited diversity. As I sit in a cafe at Dubai Garden Center, and reflect back on the previous weekend in Oman, I’m reminded of the diversity in the Middle East. Although not a part of the United Arab Emirates, Oman is a great weekend destination for many as it is only a few hours away from Dubai.
I have always heard great things about Oman: it’s beautiful, the food is good, and Omanis are known for hospitality. When Rocket suggested I travel with him to Oman for a work trip, I didn’t pass up the opportunity, and I must say, all the things I heard about Oman are true!
Even though we were only there for 3 days and the first day dedicated to work activities, we managed to have a very interesting Muscat experience.
Omani food is unique in that it has strong Indian influences. Being that the Arabian Gulf borders Oman on the East, seafood is plentiful and a well known staple of Omani cuisine.
UBHAR – When Rocket asked locals where the best place to eat traditional cuisine was, many people mentioned Ubhar, known for its friendly atmosphere and Omani fusion and traditional menu. It’s so popular that Rocket and I ran into a random couple we saw previously in the Emirates lounge in Dubai, on our plane, and again in the immigration line, and decided to introduce ourselves! While dining at Ubhar, we had muttrah paplou (seafood soup), beef shuwa (slow-cooked beef)), and yes dare I say: camel biriyani. Although I wouldn’t order the dish on my own, I have to admit camel wasn’t that bad.
THE CAVE – Have you ever wondered what it is like to have lunch in a cave? Well, The Cave in Muscat offers that chance. Although The Cave is man-made, it could easily fool you as it blends in with the natural landscape. Home to 7 different restaurants both inside and on the roof, it offers plenty of variety. We chose to eat at the Egyptian restaurant, Tableya Masrya that offered a nice view and good food. Unfortunately, we arrived after the lunch hour rush and most of the staff was on break, so the service was slow, but overall it was a good experience.
BAIT AL LUBAN (House of Frankincense) – This well known restaurant is located past the city gates in “Old Muscat.” Spend a few hours shopping in Muttrah Souq before heading over to enjoy local cuisine at Bait Al Luban. The view was amazing and the service was great. Rocket and I really enjoyed our time here before rushing to the airport. We had water with frankincense, which was quite refreshing. I ordered an amazing date milkshake and we were offered traditional Omani coffee and dates at the end of our meal. I can’t wait to host a tea party with friends with some of the good food I’ve tried here.
NIGERIAN INDEPENDENCE DAY CELEBRATION: Yes you read that correctly. While Rocket and I were there we met up with extended family and attended a Nigerian independence day celebration. The diversity in the Middle East still amazes me. I would have never guessed that we would enjoy joloff rice, plantains, and puff puffs with almost 200 Nigerians in Oman.
ROYAL OPERA HOUSE MUSCAT – The opera house in Muscat is the leading art center in the Sultanate of Oman. They offer shows, concerts, numerous artistical displays and educational programs such as Tango classes. Many of the wood panels were carved by Omani and Burmese craftsmen, and the amount of detail in the building was spectacular. At 3 Omani riyals a piece (about 10 US dollars), the tour price was slightly expensive for such a short tour, but it was worth it if you aren’t planning on attending a show during your stay.
MUTRAH SOUQ – Visit a traditional Arab market that still has a few gates and remnants of old Oman. Hidden down the chaotic marketplace halls, you can find local Omani treasures, sweets, and clothing to take back home with you.
Since Rocket and I were only in Muscat for a few days and had various events to attend, we didn’t have much time to explore the surrounding areas. In our future visits to Oman, we plan on exploring these places:
- Jebel Akhdar
- Nizwa Fort
- Wadis (there are many)
- Jebel Shams