I need to introduce a special person, someone I met in Sur city in Oman. Meeting that kind of people make journeys really exceptional. I hope he gonna read this one day and believe that he is really a man of worth. Oman is an amazing country, I loved people there, they might change your idea about Muslims. Traveling around Oman they appeared to be very protective and helpful. I felt the same traveling in Japan. Omanis often told me ‘if you’re in my country you’re my guest’. I felt safer than in any other part of the world.
What to do in Sur?
Starting from the beginning. We finally reached Sur and picked one of many hotels, which are quarter price of what we paid in the rest of Oman. Still remember slightly shy but very charming smile that welcomed us in the reception desk. It belonged to Nasser – the manager of the hotel.
It’s always the people that make me stay longer in some places. So I did stay in Sur for few more days which gave me the opportunity to know him a little better. He also had a friend Mubarak, who is an amazing and friendly man. After check in we started looking for a beach, as we had few really tough days behind us. Nasser said that the first trip is free and took us to a nice, empty beach – where we hoped we can jump into the water in swim suits. Not possible in Sur city! Everyone was looking at us when we took our clothes off. Anyway this was a beginning of one of the best adventures with a great companion. Nasser always enjoyed telling us where to go and what’s worth visiting. He also told us a little bit about Omanis traditions. He took us on a dessert trip, which is unforgettable place and one of my favorite one from all travels. Once we had a cold – the air conditioning in Oman is just insane. 40 degrees outside and Siberia temperatures in every bus, shop or hotel – it’s not possible your body can handle this. It was just a first day and we immediately got a ginger tea, lemon, sugar and kettle send by the hotel service. When I went to the nearest shop I even got a fresh ginger for free.
Is Oman safe for female solo traveling?
I asked Nasser about crimes in Oman. He always said “Ohh no crimes in Oman”! Sometimes only small crimes committed by people from India or Bangladesh. There are a lot of refugees from these countries. Omanis even start to worry about the rising percentage of foreign nationalities living in Oman. The same problem but higher scale faces Qatar and Emirates (Dubai, Abu Dhabi). In Dubai percentage of foreign people is higher than natives. That’s the consequence of bringing the cheap working force into those countries. There are no crimes over tourists in Oman. They were laughing with me when I was carrying my camera everywhere. If I left my camera on the beach, I would probably find it next day same place. The reason is a good manner of Omanis people, the effectiveness of the police investigations (the thief would be probably caught in a few hours) and the most important thing – nobody would buy these stolen stuff.
As an Oman guest people show you a lot of respect. When I was traveling around the country I asked people about relation habits between men and women. Recently a lot has changed. Young people are braking the traditional rules trying to go out on dates or show emotions to a girl when walking outside. Previously the tradition was different. A man should choose a wife first among his family members, which meant close bonds of blood and might have influence on children. Generally man needs to pay a lot of money to the family of his future wife. If she comes from his close family the price might be slightly lower. I also heard stories when a man fell in love with a woman and had no money to pay the family. So the girl gave the money to the man so he could pay her family. 😉 But I also heard about traditions in small villages. Just like everywhere in the world, the honour of the family in small towns is most important. People see everything and quickly change it into rumors. One family arrived from the town to visit another family from the village. The cousins met for the first time. After the family gone it appeared that the young girl became pregnant. The cousin boy refused to marry her, blaming her for being immoral. She disgraced the family. They punished her by forcing to marry an old man. Sometimes if the brothers find out the girl is dating a boy they can even hurt her face in a bad way.
It’s possible to have two wives in Oman. It happens mostly because the first wife is usually chosen by the family and the second happens because of true love. It’s possible to get a divorce in Oman. But it always results with a broken heart and honor of the first wife. It’s very common to have many children, 10,15 and even 19. We heard a lot of stories about families that have 19 children! Can’t imagine that!
Oman smells incredibly beautiful, mostly because of the incense, which is used to aromatise houses and apartments. The frankincense tree aromatic fragrance is also used as an therapeutic ingredient. In our hotel there was always an aromatic tea and coffee downstairs in front of the reception desk. In Oman coffee is usually served with milk, lots of sugar and saffron. Tea sometimes with cardamom.
Traditional outfit in Oman – dishdasha and kumma. What to wear in Oman?
All men in Oman wear dishdasha, the traditional white outfit. Nasser had a light green stitch but he told me only because it was an official wearing from another hotel. Casual cap in Oman is kumma – Omanis white cotton embroidered hat. There are different patterns of kumma. If it’s hand stiched it can cost even 1000 euros, because it takes months to embroider it. An official head wear is Mussar (turban). It can be worn over the kumma. The embriodery is called Tanjim.
There are hundreds of small tailor shops. The hangers weights down with colorful fabrics. Inside that shops you can see men sewing or making a sewing pattern. I have never seen a woman working in that kind of shop. I kindly ask if I can make a picture of the sewing man. The owner agrees but the employee is confused. You always have to ask before making a photo. Never photograph a woman or a child. I saw an old shoemaker sitting on the street in front his small shop and he refused to be on the picture. But I had a feeling most of the people felt enthusiastic in front of lens, they felt special. And for me they were.
The most popular woman outfit is niqab, a veil covering entire body and face. It’s often black but easily available in colorful version. Omani burqa is a special black mask which covers the face of Bedouin girls and doesn’t cover the eyes. Hijab seen in public institutions and banks is a cloth covering body, neck and hair but not face. Omanis women are increadibly beautiful. They wear quite strong but nice make up. Their beauty is a mix of mulatto skin, shapely nose and lips. They often wear henna tatoos on their hands.
There’s a quite big religious tolerance in Oman. You can obviously hear a sound of a prayer from mosques calling five times a day. Women are not allowed to enter the mosques except some Christmas time. But a lot of Omanis don’t practice every day. They are proud of course to be Muslims and have strong believe in Koran. Omanis are normal people, with similar problems and needs. Very proud of their country. They admire the Sultan, who is really good leader, taking care of working places, developing the economy and road infrastructure, providing free medical care for Omanis. When you travel around Oman you can see a lot of oil platforms with fire burning on the top of the chimneys. Mubarak told me that some of them export the oil to Japan and South Korea. During next few days we visited stunning places, pure nature – the wadi and the dessert, which is out of Sur but easily accessible.