People

You will notice that the Omani are incredibly friendly with strangers. They are also people who are very proud of their origins, language and habits. In 2006, it was estimated that Oman had around two and a half million inhabitants, with a majority of Muslim Arabs. Alongside live Pakistani, Indians and other Asian minorities. Almost half of the country’s population lives in Muscat, the capital of Oman, or in the close surroundings.

Geography

Oman has a very good geographical location that has long been the source of domination disputes. The country is located in Southwest Asia, on the coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It is neighbored by three states: the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Oman has an amazing one thousand mile-long coastal plain bordered by the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman. Madha and Musandam are two territories inside the United Arab Emirates that are exclaves also belonging to the Omani territories.

A large sandy plain occupies the center of Oman. In the north and on the southeast coast you will find mountains and all the major cities. The climate is humid on the coastline and hot and dry in the center.

History

Oman’s history was very much influenced by the country’s geographical position. Located between two continents, commerce was always present here, and whoever controlled these territories had a major economical influence. For more than one millennium, these lands were ruled by the Persians. The seventh century met the arrival of Islam, a religion that is still embraced here today. Muscat was occupied by the Portuguese in the 16th century, but one hundred and fifty years later Sultan bin Saif al-Yarubi forced the enemy armies out of the Omani lands after a long siege that lasted for two years. At the present time, Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said is the chief of state and government leader. The sultan is assisted by a cabinet named the “Diwans.” In recent years there have been changes in the Omani system meaning that traditional and tribal-based forms of organization gradually made room for modern political views.

Famous Attractions

Of major strategic importance throughout history as it connects the West to the East, Muscat is the largest city of Oman and the capital. Since Qaboos bin Said became sultan in 1970, there have been serious changes; modern roads were built at a rapid pace and the economy here started to grow. Muscat is actually formed by three once-separated cities: Matrah, a fishing village, Ruwi, which is the diplomatic and commercial part of the capital and Muscat, where the royal palaces are. The distance between these three sites is rather big, which could turn out to be a disadvantage for tourists wanting to visit Muscat by foot. As an alternative, you can just take a taxi or rent a car.

There are many great places to visit in the capital of Oman. You can start with breathtaking sceneries of the harbor from the forts of Al Jalali and Al Mirani, both prisons in the sixteenth century under Portuguese occupation. A walk through the Corniche area will charge your batteries and will literally fill you up, as this is where you can find many places to eat traditional meals at a low price.

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is open to non-Muslim visitors from 8 to 11 am every day except Fridays. It is said to be the third largest mosque in the world, and it includes unique items such as the Swarovski crystal chandelier and one of the largest Persian traditional carpets in the world.

To find out how nobility lives in Oman, you should also see the beautiful palace of Qasr Al Alam, the office of the sultan, guarded by the twin forts of Jelali and Mirani. Unfortunately, the palace cannot be entered, but taking pictures at the entrance is allowed.

If you want to shop in a traditional Omani place, go to Mutrah Souk. This is a marketplace in the form of a maze which includes jewelry shops, Omani artifacts and hand-made objects. Once in Oman, be sure not to miss out on the ancient city Nizwa and the peaceful city of Sohar with historic buildings and beautiful, large parks.

If you want your stay in Oman to be an adventurous one, here is the place where you can try new things like camel racing, diving, trekking, turtle and dolphin watching, and horseback riding.

A tip for a pleasant holiday would be to not go from April to July when the temperatures are very high.

Nightlife

Alcohol is allowed in Oman, unlike in many other Arabic countries. At night you will find plenty of places where you can eat, drink or have coffee. There are even small clubs where you can dance.

Culture

Oman developed its own form of Islamic religion named Ibadhism. The traditions of the state are strongly connected and influenced by this type of religion.

Muscat's Annual Festival brings together almost two million people worldwide. It is a huge event that lasts for the whole month of January. The festival is a chance to learn many things about the Arabic culture by attending live performances, recitals, traditional dancing and much more.

Cuisine

Dishes are usually prepared using spices, onion, garlic, herbs and lime. However, the food in Oman is not as hot as you might imagine. The Omani consume chicken, mutton and fish. Traditional meals include laban, a drink that is salty and resembles milk, yogurt, pistachio nuts and rice.