Omani Food and Drink: Sensory Delights Await

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I was invited to explore Oman and share my experiences with my readers courtesy of Oman Tourism.

oman doorsOmani doors pop vibrantly from golden sandstone buildings (houses, garages, you name it) in a way that lures the mind just as much as it lures the body to stop and photograph them.

“Come in, come in,” I imagine these inanimate objects saying. “Let’s discuss life, our families and our friends while sipping cardamon flavored coffee and nibbling on honey-like dates until we’ve had our fill.”

I would consider this my ultimate afternoon in Oman. A little dose of local hospitality paired with the delicious flavors the country has to offer are a combination that is rarely delivered one without the other. It’d be like a sandwich without its filler; peanut butter without its jam. After spending 9 glorious days partaking in what this small Middle Eastern country presents as its own, my main takeaways revolve around hospitality of the locals combined with the sensory stimuli — smell and taste being the strongest.

Oman gets you from the start. Besides incensing the entrances and foyers of hotels with the perfume of Frankincense, there are often little stands laden with tiny cups, stacks of the most decadent local dates, and a tall, ornate pot of fragrant Omani coffee. And get this, it’s free for the taking. Now I’m no newb to the world of dates, but good, caramel-like dates come with a big price in Australia. When people are practically throwing free dates at you, well, who am I to pass that up?

dates and coffee

My weakness: dates and coffee. YUM.

If you find yourself in the same sort of stand-and-devour-countless-dates situation, just do what I did: Keep telling yourself that you are getting your fiber, protein, potassium, magnesium, zinc and so on up to appropriate levels. Conscience appeased.

And don’t forget the coffee.

While the naturally sweet date is a treat on its own, paired with the traditional cardamon and clove flavored coffee takes the fragrant and delicious food experience to the next level. After living in Australia for 4 years, I have taken that coffee snobbery to heart, knowing how a cappuccino should be served and so on, but Omani coffee, while watery and unmilky, trumps them all.

tea pouring

Pouring the tea at our Moroccan meal. Very dramatic.

Instead of a mug, you sip from a tiny cup that can fit in the palm of your hand. I’m sure this is probably done so that locals can manage several small serves throughout the entire day, but… that didn’t stop me from standing there and downing several in one go.

It goes without saying that our trip to Oman was indulgent; the coffee and dates are just the beginning.

On one night we were transported to a Moroccan inspired meal of tagines and couscous; on another we were introduced to the more local dishes at Ubhar, which also included camel, stewed and slow-cooked until it was tender. The group I was with was the most excited about trying this hump-backed creature, and it actually ended up being the overall favorite.

stewed camel in Oman

Stewed camel at Ubhar restaurant in Muscat.

Soup with seafood dumplings.

Soup with seafood dumplings.

Chicken biryani.

Chicken biryani.

One lunch took place in a bedouin tent in the desert consisting of curries and chicken biryani with a show of music and dancing, that seemed to possess more of an African flair, for our entertainment.

welcome

Welcome to your lunch destination!

bedouin tent

Lunch starting in a bedouin tent.

Lunchtime entertainment

Lunchtime entertainment.

We took breaks with the tastes of India. With about 20% of the Omani population being Indian or of Indian heritage, it is no surprise that Indian food, drinks, and even language are mainstream. Indulging in many cups of sweet chai tea, which is available at side street cafes and hole-in-the-walls, is a must on my list.

Chai tea break

Chai tea break. WARNING: Do not drink in car or else you might spill it all over yourself and feel very embarrassed.

We hunted down the honey (take a look at Ben’s amazing photos). This turned into an adventure all its own, because, well, we took a few wrong turns in the barren “outback” of Oman on the way. I’m not going to lie; I quite enjoyed the sense of being in the middle of nowhere.

I kept my distance from the swarms.

You can’t see in this photo, but swarms of bees are flying around the green part of the wall. I’ll keep my distance!

This is where the bees are kept.

The bees are kept here, in hollowed out date palms made into hives.

The honeycomb.

Omani honey has a unique flavor. When you stand there eating numerous pieces of honeycomb, just tell yourself that it’s the good, natural kind of sugar. Conscience appeased!

We had a laid-back lunch in the surrounds of a hilly village oasis, where we were bathed in peace and strips of sunlight.

dusk at the coffee stand

sunlight strips

We were still waiting for food at this point.

My photos do not do it justice in the least! This was a yummy feast that I have no photos of.

My photos do not do it justice in the least! This was a yummy feast that I have no photos of.

And we journeyed to the Sifawy boutique hotel where a chef introduced us to the world of Omani seafood, also while giving a cooking lesson on how to make hummus, baba ganoush, fatoush and gazpacho.

the mixing bowl

Preparing the hummus.

Preparing the hummus.

The fish and lobster.

The fish and lobster.

We traveled from coast to desert, and from city to village, in the search for the next unforgettable bite. The food and drink of Oman is honestly a trip worth taking all its own. And why not? With spiced coffees and teas, rich curries and rice, the fragrant gastronomy of this Middle Eastern country couldn’t be more enticing, fulfilling, and, most of all, surprising to the unknowing taste buds of first-time travelers. For those that are thinking of venturing to Oman on holiday, I have one simple thought to leave you with today: Sensory delights await.

Disclaimer: I was invited to explore Oman and share my experiences with my readers courtesy of Oman Tourism. All thoughts expressed in this article are my own.

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About Brooke

Brooke is a passionate traveler who has a love for any country that ends in -stan, languages she'll never be able to speak, and cannoli. She is the creator of Aroamas travel perfume sticks and the female travel focused Her Packing List website. Follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

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14 Responses to Omani Food and Drink: Sensory Delights Await

  1. Rika | Cubicle Throwdown August 19, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    I have always been curious about Omani food – this is amazing! Looks like an incredible trip. I’ve heard so much about the coffee but not much about the food. I would love to try camel!

  2. Melissa August 21, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

    There is always some way to justify eating something sweet!

    All of these beautiful food photos have made me hungry – for the food itself, but also for a trip to Oman.

  3. Arianwen August 22, 2013 at 7:07 am #

    Wow. Your photos look so colourful. I popped into Oman for half a day when I was on a trip to Dubai, but sadly didn’t get the chance to try any of the food. It looks very unusual but delicious!

  4. Thomas August 28, 2013 at 9:13 am #

    Food looks delicious. That guy has some serious skills pouring that tea, I would be caught trying that on my best days. Okay maybe with cold tea. I really like me some honey I am not sure it would have been a good thing for me to see that if I was there.

  5. Emily August 29, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

    While I don’t know a whole lot about Omani food, I now have a desire to learn more about it. Great post. Looks delicious!

  6. Christoffer Moen September 1, 2013 at 3:29 am #

    Wow slow-cooked camel sounds really interesting and yum. After reading this, it defintely made it to my must-try food list. Aaah hopefuly soon! Cheers.

  7. Makis Giokas September 14, 2013 at 11:37 am #

    I’m super hungry now thanks to those photos! Everything seems so well done and it feel like great attention was paid to the details to make it look so good. I definitely would love to taste Omani food at least once!

  8. Noah @ Somewhere Or Bust September 14, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    Looks like some delicious offerings. I just got back from Dubai and the camel biryani was my favorite… though after eating it, I quickly learned that scientists believe that camel is responsible for spreading the Middle East coronavirus to humans. Not the best way to end a meal. But I also figure between past warnings that salomanella has invaded my box of spinach or a little madness in my cow, most likely a few bites of camel won’t do me in.

  9. Bradley September 19, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    Stewed camel!! All the food looks amazing. Really jealous. I knew nothing about Omani food either but it looks amazing. The honeycomb is awesome too.

  10. Hannah November 5, 2013 at 4:02 am #

    Awesome read about the culture of Oman.

  11. eyeandpen November 16, 2013 at 10:28 am #

    The food looks amazing. Sounds like you had a great time!

  12. DanielW February 20, 2014 at 6:18 pm #

    Taking a break from travel blogging? Bet you glad you are not in Kiev, looks like total madness over there! My Mrs has just come back from Kharkov visiting parents, banks are closed and they cant withdraw money from cash machines, long queues for fuel.

    Hope you are well.

    DanielW

    • Brooke February 26, 2014 at 4:56 am #

      Hi Daniel! yes, took a break… a long break (how did that happen?!). Been busy with Aroamas and my other site, Her Packing List, and I just haven’t had time. It does sound crazy what’s going on over there, but hopefully it all ends well :) Thanks for stopping by to say hi!

  13. Sarah March 15, 2014 at 3:15 am #

    Camel?! I think the photo makes it look better than it is :)
    I’ve actually seen it for sale in Australia!

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