GLOBETROTTER — OMAN
Oman is the most traditional country with friendly people and dramatic landscapes. Portuguese occupied Oman for more than a century, the country achieved independence in 1650 under Imam Sultan bin Saif. Sultan Said bin Taimur ruled the country in 1938 and in 1970 his only son Qaboos bin Said Al overthrew him. Qaboos bin Said Al has ruled the country as sultan ever since. Despite the modern appearance of much of Oman, the country remains intensely traditional. In the countryside hamlets and coastal villages, day-to-day life has changed little in centuries. Oman is devoted to preserve its traditional arts, dance and music.
The major events include New Year’s Day on January 1, National Day on November 18 and the Sultan’s Birthday on November 19. The Islamic festivals are Eid Al-Fitr — the end of Ramadan, Eid Al-Adha — the pilgrimage to Mecca, the Islamic New Year and the Prophet’s Birthday. The two Eids are marked by traditional celebrations and dancing in the streets.
The major attractions are Muscat — the old port area where there is the site of the Sultan’s main palace. The National Museum, which displays Omani silverwork, and the Sultan’s Armed Forces Museum in the Bait al-Falaj fort has an excellent outline of Omani history. Sohar Fort — a dramatic sight of a large, whitewashed rectangle with a single tower rising from its courtyard. Nizwa’s Fort was built in the mid-17th century by the first imam of the Ak-Ya’ribi dynasty. Salalah is the best base for exploring the villages and archaeological sites of southern Oman. Al-Balid is worth visiting for the ruins of the ancient city Zafar.
Traditional Omani cuisine mainly includes Indian-style curry and it is pretty much the national dish. A wide variety of soups made from lentils, vegetables, chicken, etc, are found in daily cuisine. Main course dishes are many, ranging from Marak — a vegetable curry, smoked kebabs, chicken, fish and rice from plain steamed to biryani. Coffee is very common drink in the country. The coffee is rich and aromatic and is called kahwa in Omani language. Alcohol is only available in larger hotels and expensive restaurants.