I’m about halfway through my visit to Oman and I feel pretty comfortable with the outfits I have packed. A couple of large scarves, loose harem pants, knee length skirts, t-shirts that cover my shoulders and a pair of pumps. I have only needed to wear a headscarf once on the trip so far and that was for a visit to the Grand Mosque in Muscat.
The Omani people I have met seem incredibly relaxed and respectful. I don’t feel pressured to cover myself from head to toe. That’s not to say that I haven’t been mindful of what I’m wearing, the last thing I want to do is offend. During my visit I’m staying in the Chedi and Shangri La resorts where dress isn’t an issue – as long as I have a swimming costume and something pretty to wear in the evening I have nothing to worry about.
My trips into the desert and swimming in the wadis (water bodies) haven’t posed a problem either. Wadi Bani Khalid is well equipped with toilets to change in and a cafe for those that don’t want to swim. My driver/ guide Haithan, stayed in the cafe area and looked after my bags. I managed to jump into the water before anyone else arrived and I had the whole wadi to myself, which was magical. It gets really busy in the afternoon so my top tip is to get there early before the families and self-drivers arrive.
I’ve met lots of people that are driving themselves, in fact if I was travelling with someone that could have shared the driving, I might have opted for a hire car too. Having said that I can’t imagine how I would have discovered all the treats Haithan and I have shared en route. We’ve enjoyed gallons of Karak tea (syrupy milk tea) smothered in bright saffron and snacked on thin crispy pancake rolls with honey and egg. I’m sure these are the staple diet of all the drivers so if I was on my own I might not have tried them.
It’s reassuring that motorway toilets are clean too, food is cooked properly and roads are free of potholes. There seems to be a really good quality of life here. I think this stems from a strong faith in Sultans Qaboo’s decisions. The history is complicated but in short before he came to the throne few Omani people had electricity and there were no roads or proper schools.
Retaining culture is also important for the Sultan. During my visit to the Opera House in Muscat it was obvious to see that local craftsmanship is being nurtured. The attention to detail, stone/ wood carving and use of technology is awe-inspiring. With this level of investment in culture, I’m excited to see what might be built next. I hear that the new Grand Mosque in Salalah rivals Muscat’s – I’m not sure how that could be possible, so I’m already planning return trip to discover if it’s true.