I was invited to explore Oman and share my experiences with my readers courtesy of Oman Tourism.
Omani 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?
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.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.
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.
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.
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.
We had a laid-back lunch in the surrounds of a hilly village oasis, where we were bathed in peace and strips of sunlight.
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.
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.