After an eight-hour flight with a short layover in Dubai, we landed in Muscat where the temperature was a pleasant 28°C. At that point, we didn't yet know just how enchanted we would become by the hospitality of the Omani people or how we would marvel at the many sights.

Tradition and progress go hand in hand in Oman. Over the last 40 years, Sultan Qaboos has invested a lot of money into the development of the streets and has catapulted the country into the future. It is an incredibly exciting place, without being chaotic. It is contemporary while remaining very traditional and unusual.

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The culinary traditions of the Sultanate have been impacted by many different cultures over the years. Oman is heavily influenced by Indian and Pakistani cuisine, however Sri Lanka and Zanzibar have also left their mark.
Omani cuisine is packed with hearty spices, including cardamom, saffron, cinnamon and cloves. Fresh fish is a staple in Muscat, which extends approx. 60 km along the coast. Further inland, chicken and beef are the order of the day. The dishes are always accompanied by rice.

Great emphasis is placed on hospitality in Oman. One of the most important aspects of eating in Oman is the sharing of food. People come together to eat, sitting on cushions on the floor. There are no plates. You just help yourself to the overflowing platters of food in the middle.

Qahwa: Arabic coffee with a special note and gesture

The coffee culture in Oman is something very special. Wherever you go – in any hotel, home or market – you are welcomed with qahwa, an Arabic coffee with notes of cardamom, saffron and rose water. As it is very bitter, it is served with dates in a silver bowl. Before you take the first sip, you place a date in your mouth. The aromatic notes of the coffee and the sweetness of the date produce the most delicious flavour combination. N.B.: If you turn down a cup of coffee, you are effectively rejecting an important gesture of hospitality.

Qahwa – the recipe Qahwa – the recipe

Ingredients:

  • ½ l water
  • 3 tsp ground coffee
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • ½ tsp ground saffron
  • ½ tsp rose water (available in Coop Vitality pharmacies)

Method:

Bring the water to the boil. Add the coffee and spices. Simmer briefly, add the rose water and serve hot with dates.

Dates are known as the jewels of Oman. Unlike the few varieties we have here in Switzerland, the buttery soft dates in Oman smell of caramel and have a nutty, sweet taste. The dates are used to make syrup, delicious desserts and moist date cakes. The seeds are fed to the camels and the palm leaves are used to thatch roofs and make kitchen utensils. What other culinary delights await?

Shuwa

Shuwa is a celebratory dish from Oman which is only served during Eid al Adha at the end of Ramadan. An entire lamb is braised slowly in an earth oven for two whole days until it is cooked perfectly.

Rice with a thousand and one spices

Biryani rice infused with saffron can be found on almost every menu. It is prepared slightly differently wherever you go, but is always served on a large platter. The magical combination of spices regularly made our taste buds dance. It can be served as a vegetarian dish, or with meat or fish. It is accompanied by salad. N.B.: Always eat with your right hand.

Halwa

Halwa (Arabic for sweet) is the most famous of the Sultanate's desserts. Sugar, honey, rose water, eggs, various nuts and spices are mixed together to form a sticky, pudding-like mixture and served with Arabic coffee and dates. Traditionally, halwa is served on a large platter in the middle and enjoyed by hosts and guests alike.

Lots to discover

Culinary highlights aside, there is so much more to discover in Oman. We explored the country in a 4x4 and had some great adventures. We raced off-road through the desert, ventured into wadis, marvelled at the animal markets and climbed through the mountains. Here are our best moments.

Info: What not to miss Info: What not to miss

Nizwa animal market

The animal market in Nizwa was a memorable experience. It takes place every Friday morning at 7 a.m. near the fort. Omanis come from all over to bring their goats, sheep, chickens, rabbits and cattle to market.

Misfah village

The idyllic mountain village of Misfah can only be explored on foot and is definitely worth the trip. The approach in itself is spectacular. A series of tight serpentine bends leads up the steep hillside to this village built entirely out of natural rock. Misfah is something of a paradise. You can barely take your eyes off all the lush green vegetation. We enjoyed the cool air on a walk along the endless palm groves. The peace and tranquillity is interrupted only by the burbling water of the elaborate Falaj irrigation system and bird song.

Wadis

The wadis in Oman are extremely diverse. When there's been a lot of rainfall, they become heavenly oases with lush palm groves and emerald green natural pools and waterfalls. During drier spells, they are transformed into barren valleys with bizarre rock formations. The wadis are often only accessible with a 4x4 vehicle.

Wadi Shab lies just 2 hours south of Muscat and is a wonderful place to relax, particularly early in the morning before the tourists arrive.

Mosque

The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is the largest mosque in Oman and the only one also accessible to non-Muslims. It is home to an impressive eight-tonne Swarovski chandelier and a 4,000 m2 rug, made by more than 600 women over a period of four years.

Mountains

Oman boasts an incredible mountain landscape. Its highest mountain is Jebel Shams (3,009 metres above sea level). With a 4x4, it is possible to reach a plateau offering fantastic views into the 1,000 metre deep Wadi Ghul valley, Oman's Grand Canyon. The plateau requires nerves of steel though, as it's barely secured.

Desert

Of course, no visit to Oman would be complete without spending a night in the desert under a starry sky. The Wahiba Sands Desert can be found in the east of Oman and boasts spectacular 150-metre-high sand dunes. Many desert camps offer fabulous overnight experiences for tourists and you can even ride across the dunes on a camel.

Sue and Sibylle - Comme Soie
Sue and Sibylle - Comme Soie
The two friends are passionate about cooking and always on the lookout for beautiful things.

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