Day 3 – Oman: A Taste of Warm Omani Hospitality

A reminder to my adventurous (careless) fall !!

It’s only in an Omani household where you get to experience an authentic Omani cuisine and a real taste of warm Omani hospitality.  I am so honoured to be a special guest at Suleiman’s home for lunch.  The experience itself was satisfying – purely Omani dishes (no fusion).

Misfat Al Abreyeen, a village where
houses cling to the rocks

Day 3 was full of interesting sights and fun experience.  As we started to descend from the summit, we spent time to enjoy, once again the spectacular view of the Grand Canyon.  After enjoying the awe-inspiring view, we went to explore Nizwa, the former capital city of Oman, and its villages:  the Wadi Ghul Village, a beautiful deep canyon in the mountain range that overlooks terraces of corn and wheat; and the Misfat Al Abreyeen, a village where houses cling to the rocks.

We parked and spent time walking around the village of Misfat Al Abreyeen.  One of the interesting spots we visited was the hot spring pool and the authentic rock-made showers each for men and women. I saw a couple of farmers climbing the date tree to harvest its fruits. The next thing I did was to climb one of the trees, not to harvest dates but to find a perfect angle to take photos.  Few seconds later, I fell out of the tree and landed with my butt – fortunately with no serious injury, but just scratches and bruises on the left hand, both arms and elbows, and all over my stomach. It stung painfully!! I washed it off from the running spring water from the ‘falaji’ (water channel) to do an alternative first aid remedy.  Despite of the heat and aggravating pain, we continued walking around the date, lime, and mango trees orchard.  We took a break to chat with one of the locals carrying basketful of freshly picked mangoes. He offered me one piece and graciously, peeled and cut a slice for me to taste.

Bahla Fort, the biggest and oldest forte

At 10 am, we proceeded to our next stop, the old village of Bait al Sahfa, known for its locally produced bread.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to try their breads as shops are only open between the months of September to April. We then decided to proceed to our last morning stop at Bahla Fort, the biggest and oldest fort in Oman. Unfortunately the fort has been under renovation and restoration for the past 15 years. The only way to get a view of the fort is to drive up to the other side of the hill.

According to Suleiman, who happens to be a native of Bahla, the town, during its olden days used to be the centre of magic and traditional healing. To give aid to my scratches and bruises, he brought me to his family home for a traditional medicinal fix.  He phoned his mother about our coming visit. Her mother graciously asked if I could join them for lunch. There are many local restaurants in Bahla to fully enjoy the traditional Omani foods at a very affordable price but to experience the local Omani hospitality is priceless. I’ve asked Suleiman if I could bring something for her mother. On our way, we stopped at a fruit shop for a box of 5 kg of bananas at an astonishing price of 1.50 OMR (A$ 1 = 0.41 OMR).  I could not stop thinking how cheap the bananas were, as it would have costed $12/kilo in Australia.

We arrived at Suleiman’s home, and were welcomed by his father, mom and his siblings, (younger sister and 2 younger brothers). Their modest guest room was set up with traditional furniture, an Arabian rug and cushions against the walls, ornate accessories and the typical wall furnishing, a photo frame of the Sultan. Suleiman’s father gave me a local remedy to ease the stinging pain from my cuts and bruises.  It was locally made from the ‘Alcua’ tree, extracted oil from the fruit.

His sister laid a thin disposable plastic mat on the floor to place all the foods. Fruits served as a starter. Suleiman’s mother and father joined us. They also offered me fresh dates and a local seasonal fruit ‘bot’ (similar shape to a mini grapes, but only grows in the dry mountains) along with an Omani coffee. After minutes of good conversation, the main course was served composed of  ‘biryani’ rice, chicken, vegetable ‘masala’ and salad. This time, seated with us was his younger sister. I observed how Suleiman took a portion of each to place on the mat with the aid of his right fingers. The rest of the time, I managed to help myself.

Interior in of the Jabrin Castle guest rooms, characterised with a fine decorated ceiling

After lunch we drove to our last stop for the day, the Jabrin Castle, which I considered as the finest of all. The castle has restored the best of Omani characteristics as indicated with its finely decorated ceiling akin to the Grand Mosque with intricate flower patterns. Guest rooms are uniquely designed. It also has a huge collection of Arabic books. The kitchen keeps a massive pot, big enough to fit a whole camel. It’s a three-story level building, excluding the basement. The basement is where dates’ room was located.

By 3.30 pm, we arrived at our final destination, Nizwa.Where I spent the night. I checked in at the Golden Tulip Hotel, which is located outside the centre of town. The hotel is an ideal location for events/convention. The reception staff was great and reminded us the room inclusions and what time the meals start and end. Excellent buffet dinner was served at the hotel restaurant.  I had a smile on my face as they served sweets, other  than the traditional fresh dates or fruits. If you fancy a taste of ‘shisha’ – the hotel lobby has this ready to serve or at a nearby restaurants.

If you are turtle-lovers and are interested to hearing about their nesting process, stay tuned as I will be covering this interesting adventure in tomorrow’s article.

In this article, I am delighted to feature Sultanate of Oman Tourism, the gracious sponsor of my visit to Oman. To discover Oman and view a list of major wholesalers in Australia and New Zealand, visit tourismoman.com.au

© 2012 by Michelle Riel, retains sole copyright to her contributions to all the contents of this site.

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