Oman as a woman – a travel feature and insights into a fascinating country
Journalist Mirella Sidro currently lives in Oman. Where even is that? Can a woman safely travel there? Mirella answers these frequently asked questions for sisterMAG and wrote a comprehensive travel feature about this fascinating country and its culture. Read the full article and lots of insider-tips here!
Oman as a woman
A TRAVEL FEATURE AND INSIGHTS INTO A FASCINATING COUNTRY
Where in the world is Oman?
This is a question I am often asked, and the first reactions to my answer are quite surprising, if not a bit nervous. According to legend, the country where the famous sailor Sinbad came from is located, together with Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the Emirates, on the Arabian Peninsula, directly on the Arabian Sea.
What I can already confirm is that Oman is an ideal travel destination for women looking to find inner peace. This is not difficult in Oman because there are many places where you can recharge your batteries.
»And you want to move there alone as a woman for the next few months? Isn’t that too dangerous?«
Well, the answer is short and sweet: NO! Oman is one of the safest countries in the world. As a woman I can move freely and travel alone. When I visited the country for the first time, I knew that this was the kind of place I had longed to visit. Was it the people, the culture, the landscape? Probably a little bit of everything. Above all, I was impressed by the respect for women and openness towards all religions. I am here for the next few months, learning the local language in a private college and wanting to know as much as possible about this wonderful and inspiring culture.
The best time to travel is between October and early April, otherwise you’re dealing with some extreme heat in the land of incense.
Nothing goes without a car
Maserati Levante We visited our favourite places in an SUV by the luxury brand Maserati Levante. A thank you to Maserati Oman and Middle East.
Al Bustan Palace a guest of Sultan Qaboos
You don’t have to pay much attention here, as you quickly realize that everyday life is not so different from what we’re used to. But what is different from many European cities is that here you are lost without a car. It is best to rent a 4×4 SUV. The transportation infrastructure is modern and safe. Even the motorways are illuminated once the sun goes down. Just as in Germany, traffic rules are very important. Some places, for example, only allow for travel with a 4×4 SUV, although the roads are wide enough and paved.
When stepping through the gate of the palace, everyday life takes a backseat. The scent of Omani incense, known worldwide for centuries and even coveted by the Pharaohs, as well as the imposing entrance hall with its crystal fountain and beautiful chandelier, reflect Oman’s nature – built from the most precious materials yet refined and stylish. You’ll notice that wealth is not openly displayed in Oman. The architecture adapts to nature, remaining faithful to traditional structures without sacrificing modern comfort. The luxury hotel is located on a remote beach about an hour from the airport. Like a shell in which a pearl is hidden, the octagonal building nestles perfectly into its surroundings. On one side there is a wonderfully landscaped garden facing the sea while the other side presents a view of the Al Hajar mountains. The Six Senses Spa offers luxurious treatments and various sports activities. There is a private beach exclusively for women where you can rent private loungers. For me, the Al Bustan Palace is one of the most beautiful hotels not only in Oman, but worldwide.
If you are in Muscat, you must of course visit a local bazaar! The most famous is MUTRAH SOUQ . If you have been to a bazaar in Egypt or Turkey before, you know that it can be very noisy and hectic. In Oman it’s the exact opposite. It is quiet and nobody tries to lure guests into their shop.
The prices are fair and trading is a reserved practice built on respect.
I like to buy scarves, incense and clothes – or fabrics from which you can sew your dream dress. And all this for between 10 and 20 euros depending on your taste. It’s best to visit in the morning after around 9 a.m. – before the crowds start to arrive and while you can still find a parking place.
Opposite the souq is the CORNICHE. The promenade runs along the shore and boasts a wonderful view of the harbour, countless small shops and historical houses on the other side of the street. Evenings here are especially wonderful.
My Tip: Get a freshly squeezed juice from the juice bar right next to the MUTRAH SOUQ and take a walk towards the fortress. You can also marvel at the pristine floor on which you walk, which shines as if freshly polished in the lantern light!
The museum is not only for history lovers. You’ll also find inspiration in both its exterior and interior architecture. Modernity paired with tradition draws guests into the spell of 1001 nights!
Royal Opera House
Opened in 2011, the ROYAL OPERA HOUSE was the first, and for a long time only, opera house in the Gulf States. Surrounded by a garden, the regal building conforms to its natural setting. In addition to operas, international concerts and ballet ring out from its walls. But the house is not only interesting for guests who want to visit an event – the gift shop and restaurants are well worth a visit.
The SULTAN QABOOS GRAND MOSQUE was considered the largest in the world until it was recently overtaken by the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. The chandelier in the middle of the prayer room was built by Swarovski and weighs eight tons. For four years, 600 women tied 1.7 million knots to the Persian prayer rug. The mosque offers space for 20,000 people. Tolerance plays a very important role in Oman. While the official state religion is Islam, other religions are respected. No one asks me about my religion, as this is considered rude in Oman.
One of the most precious perfumes in the world comes from Oman.
Made from pure essential oils, a 100 milliletre bottle costs around 380 euros on average. It is best to plan a visit to the manufactory, which also serves as a showroom where you can watch the production. In the shop you’ll find perfumes and leather goods which you’d have a hard time finding in Germany.
Of course, there are several shopping malls. The most famous are OMAN AVENUES MALL, MUSCAT GRAND MALL, MALL OF MUSCAT, and CITY CENTRE. The parking lots are spacious and free of charge. You’ll even be inspired by the opening hours: the gates of these SHOPPING MECCAS are open until midnight!
Omanis like to go out in cafés. Smoothies and shakes are particularly popular. Of these there are many, as well as international chains. But I love the local cafés, which are lovingly furnished.
MINT & COCO has just been named the best newcomer restaurant in Oman. I like to drink a matcha latte and the national drink, chai karak – black tea with full-fat milk, spices, and sometimes saffron.
ROSELLE OMAN enchants with its interior, which is marked by thousands of roses. There are so many latte varieties that you’ll lose count, all lavishly decorated with edible flowers. A true feast for the eyes!
If you are on the go and want to try this incredibly tasty tea in Oman, you can get it almost anywhere along the street in a Tea Corner for about 50 cents.
The best fresh juices are available at Mango Talaat. CAFÉ BATEEL in the new Al Mouj (The Wave) district offers great fresh juices and cakes overlooking the marina. It is especially nice at night – one café and restaurant after another lined up all the way to the marina.
I love henna, and can absolutely recommend visiting a henna studio while you’re here. There are studios for tourists, but you’ll miss out on the Omani feeling. In the ROYAL PRINCESS PALACE you sit next to local ladies with whom you can dive into conversation while your hands and feet are artfully decorated. The studios are in full commission for wedding and Eid, but women also like to wear henna for everyday life. The best time to go is from Sunday through Wednesday morning if you want to avoid a wait. It costs around 25 euros with a lot of fun guaranteed.
Beaches as far as the eye can see
As Oman stretches along the Gulf, the country is blessed with beautiful beaches! Omanis spend every free minute there – for walks, sports, picnics, barbecues, or just to sit and read. You can even drive on the beach. I like being on the beach in As-Sib, a hot spot for locals. In the morning you can enjoy an incredibly beautiful sunrise and in the evening the sun doesn’t set over the sea but behind a beautiful mosque to bathe the city in a majestic light.
Anantara Jabal Akhdar
Apropos unforgettable SUNSETS AND SUNRISES . These are to be found at the luxury hotel ANANTARA JABAL AKHDAR. Only about two hours by car from Muscat, the hotel is located on a canyon at an altitude of 2000 meters. It’s a truly unforgettable journey, winding along a serpentine road. With an SUV you also have the advantage of going off-road into pure nature. One is rewarded with incredibly BEAUTIFUL VANTAGE POINTS . The luxury resort seems to float between heaven and earth and is built exactly at the place where Princess Diana once fell in love with the country. Follow in her footsteps and look over the endless canyons towards yoga classes taking place in the morning. JABAL AKHDAR means »Green Mountain«, and takes its name from the garden terraces on which the famous pomegranates, apricots and almonds grow. The rose water of JABAL AKHDAR is also quite renowned. From the end of March to the end of April, the Damascene roses transform the mountains into a delicate pink sea. What better way to take home some rose water than straight from the source? Roses also sweeten your stay at the spa. Although the location is isolated in the mountains, it never gets boring in the hotel: a wide range of activities is available, including hiking. I recommend the ACTIVITY WALL – a mixture of hiking and adventure – to courageous ladies not afraid of heights. The garden of the hotel, whose architecture recalls an Omani village, is a highlight during the day as well as at night. Here you will find native trees, flowers and of course the famous roses. At night, the paths are only dimly lit to allow you to see the abundantly starry sky. This will stay with you forever.
Oman is full of fortresses and castles.
The Omanis have been settled since ancient times and are not a nomadic people. One of the most beautiful and largest castles is located in NIZWA. How convenient that it is on the way back to Muscat from the hotel! Today it is regarded as a city of artists, while in the Middle Ages it served as the headquarters of the Imams. The castle has been completely renovated. The view over the city is phenomenal: WHITE HOUSE ROOFTOPS protrude between palm trees with rock formations reaching infinitely into the horizon.
The castle is surrounded by bazaars and artists’ studios.
Old handicrafts as far as the eye can see. But beware: the artist market is very expensive. The local pottery, hand-woven baskets, incense pots, etc. can be bought at the MUTRAH SOUQ in Muscat for much less. In the souq I recommend a visit to the brothers with the blue eyes. Here I regularly buy spices, nuts, dried fruit, rose water and natural soaps from incense and roses.
Oman’s landscape, with its mountains, wadis and oases, is perfect for connecting your soul with nature and the universe.
One of my favorite places is HAWIYAT NAJM PARK . There is a sinkhole with turquoise green water in the middle of this desert terrain. The water is so clear that you can see the bottom from a bird’s eye view. The Bimmah crater was caused by a meteorite impact, according to local lore. But this has already been refuted. The water, a mixture of salt and fresh water, is refreshing and pure. Not a bad spot to take a dip.
Wadis make for a great opportunity to bathe. One of the best known is WADI SHAB. Getting there requires about an hour of traversing big rocks and nature trails through a gorge between two mountains. It feels like walking through the fairy tale of Aladdin or Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. There are hardly any people on the way and you are overwhelmed by the picturesque nature. The paths are not entirely harmless, but it’s not enough to make you turn around. Your curiosity will carry you towards what’s hidden behind the next rock. Sometimes there are small waterfalls, sometimes banana gardens, which are supplied with water by a millennium-old irrigation system. The hike is rewarded by natural pools with light green water. You can master the exhausting way back with a smile!
Some of the most beautiful places in nature have no address – this is often the case in Oman. Good thing there is what3words. Simply enter the three terms in the APP or online at MAP. WHAT3WORDS.COM and you will be navigated precisely to this point.