I’ve lived in Egypt for two years in total, both times working as an equestrian professional at different stables. During that time I learned to speak Egyptian Arabic and I learned a lot about Arabic Culture, the Muslim religion and customs as well as the various middle eastern cuisines and traditions. Although Egypt is technically Africa, it prepared me a lot for my trip to Middle Eastern Countries.
I’ve always loved the Arabic culture and have been curious for years to travel to Middle Eastern countries. Which is why when my mom suggested a mini holiday together to break up the dreary winter season, I suggested a trip to the beautiful oasis: Oman.
My mom flew from California to England where we met. Although I was wearing thermals and huge heavy jackets in the U.K. I knew we needed to be prepared for sunshine and warm weather once we headed East so we packed lots of loose fitting pants and shirts that were both comfortable and modest. We then took two flights to Muscat where we arrived fairly late at night. We planned to start our trip in Salalah so the next morning we caught another flight to the other side of the country.
Al Husn Souk / Al Haffa Souk - Salalah
Once in Salalah we headed to a local Souk to check out the market and traditional trinkets. We went to the Souk recommended to us by our hotel which was a short walk from the sea. We took a taxi for 1 Omani Riyal which we had to haggle for. It was easy to catch the taxi from the roadside and being able to speak Arabic helped me to haggle. We walked to the beach first alongside the Sultan’s palace but we did not go inside the palace as it was closed. We watched the sunset before walking around the Souk. All of the items in the Souk were mostly from China or India so we did not do any shopping. (The shop keepers were also from India mostly and were pestering us quite aggressively.) After walking around the market we sat at the local restaurant which was a small seating outside with plastic chairs and tables.
We ate family style and paid the “tourist rate” of 10 Riyals. (1 Riyal = 2.60 USD). We decided the market was far too touristy and so we left with a bit of disappointment back to the hotel. I lived in India for two years and in fact noticed that the tourist gift shops in the airport and the mall and the various hotels and markets all had items which I had seen a thousand times while living in India. In fact many of the products I could even name the city in India where the products were made! Because of this I wasn’t too interested in doing much shopping during my stay in Oman and there were unfortunately not many local handicrafts that could be found. I was told that pottery could be found in certain villages but I didn’t have the time to check it out properly!
The most common tourist item it appears would be the Frankincense. Nearly every shop in Muscat and Salalah tried to sell us the frankincense incense. I personally didn’t really like the smell but it was interesting to see how they burn the small charcoals to use the incense, which they burn everywhere. If your looking to do some shopping while in Oman for some of the local incense then I suggest taking my Haggling 101 course to get the best deal on prices!
Renting a Car in Oman
In both Muscat and Salalah my mother and I decided to save some money and rent our own vehicle rather than hire a guide. In both cities it was a straightforward process, however in Salalah we chose to rent our vehicle in the city and not inside the airport. Luckily I speak Arabic because if not my mother would have had a very hard time trying to rent anything as they couldn’t understand a word of English! It was nice for me to speak the local language but they still chose to charge us a bit of a higher price than they would have for locals. We then drove around the countryside on our own. The roads are easy to manage as they are nice long and straight desert roads and the places we stopped to see were also equally easy enough to find with signs directing us easily.
Day Trip to Wadi Darbat
We drove to the Wadi from Salalah and saw several nearby cities and heritage sites. Because most of the tourists go with guides, they seem to go at certain timings in a rush. Because we had a rental car and went on our own, most of the sites we visited seemed to be deserted and we missed the rush of people. We had most of the places all to ourselves and it was fun to drive in the Wadi and see the many camels and their babies! It was such a paradise and the scenery was breathtaking. The only downside was there was no place to stop and eat so we nibbled on snacks before eating later that day back in Salalah.
Oman is a Paradise
Every place we went and sight we saw was beautiful. The palm trees, the mountains, the desert and the people were all friendly, smiling and welcoming. We were even stopped by a police officer just so he could say hello to us and wish us a pleasant stay before waving us on. We stayed at a Bedouin camp, we rode camels in the desert at sunrise and we explored around, just us two ladies in a rental car, without any trouble or hassle. It was such a beautiful landscape and a fun place to spend our mother-daughters trip together.
It is also very expensive.
Because the Omani Riyal is more than twice the value of the US Dollar, we found it very expensive to travel around. Because of this we were limited in many of our activities. The “budget hotels” (which were about 50-100 USD per night!) were quite shabby and not at all worth the money, however from what we saw, the big resorts that cost a fortune would have been well worth the cost! We had only a brief visit to this country but we decided that next time we venture to Oman that we would “go all out” and do everything luxury style next time round!
A lot of the main excursions and activities take place a couple hours any direction outside of Muscat. We spent most of our time in the desert away from the internet and phones just enjoying the sunshine and eating with our hands. We met several very friendly local guides with very interesting information and it was a joy to speak to all of the Omani people we met. We will definitely consider spending more time in Muscat the next time around though!
Oman is very safe for women travelers
I have traveled to a lot of unsafe feeling countries as a solo woman but Oman is definitely a place I would recommend for a gal’s trip anytime!
Yes, I speak Arabic and yes that was a huge benefit, however, my mom doesn’t speak a word and it wasn’t necessary. Most of the people spoke English and were very welcoming and friendly. I would say that the top three languages in Oman are Arabic, Hindi and English! And luckily, I speak all three languages (from my time living in India as well as Egypt!) Our first day in Oman and I ended up talking to people in all three of these languages and they all were very happy and excited that I could speak to them in their local tongue. I recommend learning a few words in the local language no matter where you travel and how long because the locals ALWAYS appreciate it and often give me the local kindness as a gesture of their appreciation!
Luxury Bedouin Desert Camping
Turtle Beach Nature Reserve
The turtles nest from May and I would have loved to see it! It just goes to show that once is never enough and perhaps that is the big reason why I keep going back to the same places again and again!