Oman

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The Middle East Sultanate of Oman is on the eastern side of the Arabian Peninsula. It borders the United Arab Emirates in the northwest, Saudi Arabia in the west, and Yemen in the southwest. Oman has two exclaves separated from it by the United Arab Emirates, the Musandam Peninsula and Madha.

Population: 3,154,134 people
Area: 309,500 km2
Highest point: 2,980 m
Coastline: 2,092 km
Life expectancy: 74.72 years
GDP per capita: $29,600
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  • Casino Casino
  • Civic property Civic property
  • Education Education
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  • Golf course Golf course
  • Green space Green space
  • Harbor Harbor
  • Historic site Historic site
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  • Medical Medical
  • Monument Monument
  • Museum Museum
  • Shopping Shopping
  • Skiing Skiing
  • Sports facility Sports facility
  • Theater Theater
  • Winery Winery

About Oman

History

Before Islam

The oldest known human settlement in Oman dates to the Stone Age.

Sumerian tablets refer to a country called Magan, a name thought to refer to Oman’s ancient copper mines. The present-day name of the country is believed to originate from the Arab tribes who migrated to its territory from the Uman region of Yemen. Many tribes settled in Oman making a living by fishing, herding or stock breeding and some present day Omani families are able to trace their ancestral roots to other parts of Arabia.

From the 6th century BC to the arrival of Islam in the 7th century AD, Oman was controlled and/or influenced by three Persian dynasties, the Achaemenids, Parthians and Sassanids. By about 250 B.C. the Parthian dynasty brought the Persian Gulf under their control and extended their influence as far as Oman and established garrisons in Oman. In the third century A.D. the Sasanids succeeded the Parthians and held the area until the rise of Islam four centuries later.

Climate

The climate generally is very hot, with temperatures reaching 54°C (129°F) in the hot season, from May to September.

Annual rainfall in Muscat averages 100 mm (3.9 in), falling mostly in January. Dhofar is subject to the southwest monsoon, and rainfall up to 640 mm (25.2 in) has been recorded in the rainy season from late June to October.

While the mountain areas receive more plentiful rainfall, some parts of the coast, particularly near the island of Masirah, sometimes receive no rain at all within the course of a year.

Food

The food is mainly Arabic, Lebanese, Turkish, and Indian. Many Omanis make a distinction between "Arabic" food and "Omani" food, with the former being the description of the standard dishes found throughout the Arabian Peninsula.

Omani food tends to be less spicy and served in quite large portions - whole fish are not uncommon at lunch in some local restaurants (sticking to local food, it is quite easy to eat a substantial meal for less than OR2). As benefits of a country with a long coastline, seafood is quite a common dish, particularly shark, which is surprisingly tasty. True traditional Omani food is hard to find in restaurants.

Omani sweets are well-known throughout the region, with the most popular being "halwa". This is a hot, semi-solid substance which behaves a little like honey and is eaten with a spoon. The taste is similar to Turkish Delight. Omani dates are among the best in the world and can be found at every social place and at offices.

American fast food chains, especially KFC, McDonalds, and Burger King, are not hard to find in the bigger cities, especially Muscat and Salalah.

In Khaboora you can get Pakistani Porotta. They are double the size of Indian Porottas and look like pappadams. But they taste like porottas and are much thinner and delicious. Three porottas are available for the equivalent of Rs11. Traditional Omani Khubz (bread) is hard to find outside of an Omani home, but for an experience one should try hard not to miss. This traditional bread is made of flour, salt and water cooked over a fire (or gas stove) on a large metal plate. The bread is paper-thin and crispy. It is eaten with almost any Omani food, including hot milk or chai (tea) for breakfast-- "Omani cornflakes".

In Sohar you may get an excellent lunch with Ayla curry, Ayla fry and Payarupperi. Expect to pay only OMR0.4 (Rs 44) which is considered very low lunch price here.

Drinks

Bottled drinking (mineral) water is easily available at most stores. Tap water is generally safe; however, most Omanis drink bottled water and to be safe, you should too.

Alcohol is available only in select restaurants and large hotels and is usually very expensive (ranging from OMR1.5 for a 500 mL Carlsberg to OMR4). Drinking alcohol in public is prohibited, but you can get your own drinks and enjoy at public areas but in privacy such as camping by beaches, sands, mountains, or actually in any remote areas. Only foreign residents can buy alcohol from alcohol shops and with certain limits. But an alcohol black market is widely spread around the cities and alcohol can be found easily.

Foreigner travellers are allowed 2 litres of spirits as duty free baggage allowance. Travellers can pick up spirits at the duty free shop in the arrival lounge.

During Ramadan, drinking anything in public is prohibited, even for foreigners. Take care to drink in the privacy of your room.

Shopping

Currency

The currency in Muscat is the Omani rial (Arabic: ريال‎, international currency code OMR). One rial is made up of one thousand baisa (also written baiza, Arabic: بيسة). The Omani rial is officially tied to the US dollar at OMR1 = USD2.6008 making it one of the largest units of currency in the whole world; exchange rates on the streets are a percentage point or two lower.

Banknotes that currently circulate are in OMR0.100 (physically a rather small, green banknote and not to be confused with the OMR20 note), OMR0.500, 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 rial denominations.

There are ATMs at the airport and plenty of them in Muscat and every main town, although not all of them take foreign cards. You can change foreign currency at the counters inside the airport and at money exchanges throughout Oman.

Shopping

The Omani national symbol is the silver-sheathed dagger known as the khanjar. These vary widely in quality and cost, but almost every shop will stock several different models. Most of the modern ones are made by Indian or Pakistani craftsmen under Omani direction, while many are actually made in India or Pakistan. There is a large variety in quality, from the handles to the sheath. The best handles are made of silver-adorned sandalwood, while the lesser quality handles are made of resin. Look carefully at the sheath to determine the quality of the sliver work. A good quality khanjar can cost upwards of OMR700. Typically, those will come in a presentation box, and include a belt.

Another reminder of the country's tribal past is the walking stick known as arsaa. This is a cane with a concealed sword in it, which can prove quite a talking point at home. Unfortunately, in many countries, it will prove a talking point with customs officials rather than friends and family. In Musandam, the khanjar is frequently replaced by the Jerz as formal wear, a walking stick with a small axe head as the handle.

Omani silver is also a popular souvenir, often made into rosewater shakers and small "Nizwa boxes" (named for the town from which they first came). Silver "message holders" (known as hurz, or herz), often referred to in souks as "old time fax machines" are often for sale as well. Many silver products will be stamped with "Oman" on them, which is a guarantee of authenticity. Only new silver items may be so stamped. There is a large quantity of 'old' silver available which will not be stamped. Although it may be authentic, stamping it would destroy its antique value. Caveat Emptor are the watch words. Stick to reputable shops if you are contemplating buying antique Omani silver of any sort.

There is a wonderful selection of Omani silver available as jewellery as well. Items for sale in the Muttrah souk may not be genuine Omani items. Instead visit Shatti Al Qurm just outside of Muscat or the Nizwa Fort.

The distinctive hats worn by Omani men, called "kuma", are also commonly sold, particularly in the Muttrah Souk in Muscat. Genuine kumas cost from OMR80.

Frankincense is a popular purchase in the Dhofar region as the region has historically been a centre for production of this item. Myrrh can also be purchased quite cheaply in Oman.

As one might expect, Oman also sells many perfumes made from a great number of traditional ingredients. Indeed, the most expensive perfume in the world (Amouage) is made in Oman from frankincense and other ingredients, and costs around OMR50. You can also find sandalwood myrrh and jasmine perfumes.

Opening hours during the holy month of Ramadan are very restricted. Supermarkets are less strict, but don't rely on being able to buy anything after iftar. At noon, most shops are closed anyway but this is not specific to Ramadan.

Using credit cards in shops is hit or miss. It is better to get cash at an ATM. Small denomination notes are hard to come by but necessary for bargaining. Unless you are in a supermarket, restaurant or mall bargaining is recommended, and this should be conducted politely.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Oman on Wikivoyage.

Cities in Oman

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Muscat is the most populous city and the capital of the Sultanate of Oman.

Interesting places:

  • Muttrah Souq
  • Qasr Al Alam Royal Palace
  • Port Sultan Qaboos
  • Al Jalali Fort
  • Sultan Armed Forces Museum
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Salalah is the capital city of Oman's southern Dhofar region. It is often considered to be the second city of the Sultanate, although some of this designation is probably due to its distinction as Sultan Qaboos' birthplace.

Interesting places:

  • Al Baleed Archaeological Site
  • Al-Saada Stadium
  • Salalah Gardens Mall
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Nizwa is a historic city in Northern Oman.

Interesting places:

  • Nizwa Fort
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Duqm is a city in Central Coastal Oman.

Interesting places:

  • Ras Madrakah Beach
  • Karmah Pass Cliffs
  • Duqm Ancient Ruins
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Sohar is a city in Northern Oman, 100 km north of Muscat.

Interesting places:

  • Sohar Fort
  • Silver Jubilee Park
  • Sohar Park
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Khasab is a city in Musandam Peninsula, Oman and home to about 18,000 inhabitants.

Interesting places:

  • Khasab Beach
  • Al Halla Park
  • Public Garden
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Interesting places:

  • Barka Souq
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Once the capital of Dhofar, the town of Mirbat is now known primarily for fishing.

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Sur

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Sur is a city in Central Coastal Oman, best known for its dhow shipyards.

Interesting places:

  • Al-Ayjah Lighthouse
  • Sunaysilah Fort
  • Sur Marine Museum
  • Sur College of Applied Sciences
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Dibba Al-Baya is a small border town in the southeastern corner of Oman's Musandam Peninsula exclave. It faces the Emirati conurbation that is also called Dibba, which lies both in an exclave of the Sharjah Emirate and in the Fujairah emirate. About 5,000 people live in this Omani town.

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Dibba Al-Baya is a small border town in the southeastern corner of Oman's Musandam Peninsula exclave. It faces the Emirati conurbation that is also called Dibba, which lies both in an exclave of the Sharjah Emirate and in the Fujairah emirate. About 5,000 people live in this Omani town.

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Interesting places:

  • Wahiba Sands
  • Al Muntarib Fort
  • Bidiya Marketplace
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Interesting places:

  • Fort Ras Al Hadd
  • Ras Al Hadd Mosque
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Interesting places:

  • Baron Innerdale Memorial
  • Masirah Mosque
  • Hilf Old Port
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Buraimi is a town in Northern Oman and the capital of the Al Buraymi governate.

panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners

Points of Interest in Oman

Oman is famous for its historic forts which are the country's most striking cultural landmarks. There are over 500 forts and towers which were the traditional defence and lookout points to deter potential invaders. Some of the best examples are conveniently located in the capital, Muscat. Jalali and Mirani forts stand at the entrance to Muscat Bay and date from the early 16th century.

Bahla Fort at the base of the Djebel Akhdar highlands is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has 7 miles of walls. It was built in the 13th and 14th centuries when Bahla was a thriving oasis town.

Oman's rugged mountains offer some stunning scenery and probably the best opportunities for driving in dry wadis anywhere in the world. Many of the wadis have made roads (often unsurfaced but decent enough) while others require serious off-roading. You can easily get well off the beaten path into remote areas.

Huge desert dunes roll for as far as the eye can see at Wahiba Sands.

Oman's beaches are major breeding locations for various species of sea turtle. Masirah Island is the perhaps best bet where four species breed, including the largest number of leatherbacks anywhere in the world.

The country can boast not only vast expanses of desert, and hundreds of miles of uninhabited coastline, but also mountains of over 9000 feet.

Muttrah Souq - Muscat

Nizwa Fort - Nizwá

Bahla Fort - Bahla

Nakhal Fort - Nakhal

Fort Ras Al Hadd - Al Hadd

Sohar Fort - Sohar

Ras Madrakah Beach - Duqm

Qasr Al Alam Royal Palace - Muscat

Port Sultan Qaboos - Muscat

Al Jalali Fort - Muscat

Sultan Armed Forces Museum - Muscat

Ras Al Hadd Mosque - Al Hadd

Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex - Muscat

Muscat City Centre Shopping Mall - Muscat

Sultan Qaboos University - Muscat

Knowledge Oasis - Muscat

Silver Jubilee Park - Sohar

Karmah Pass Cliffs - Duqm

panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners
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