Travelling offers so many opportunities and amazing experiences, incredible scenery, exciting festivals, mouth-watering cuisine and interesting culture; museums, galleries or events are just a few examples. The Sultanate of Oman offers all these and more.
The most important cogs in the wheel of a special travel experience usually involve its people. It is they that pull all the rest together and mould the culture of the nation which has the traveller seeking to discover more. The attitude of the local people can also make a visit enjoyable or in some circumstances total hell.
A recent trip to Oman did not offer many opportunities to really mix with the locals however the few times I was able to, they were friendly and welcoming. They appeared genuinely pleased to receive visitors and were always polite when there was any form of interaction.
Even when just wandering amongst the souks, villages and other attractions most appeared genuinely happy and a ready smile was never far away.
The Omani people are an attractive, photogenic race with faces filled with character. Generally happy to pose for photographs, they instinctively seem to understand that posing should be natural. Fishermen, souk merchants, camel drivers and of course children all seem more than happy to act as models when a camera is pointed in their direction.
The traditional clothing adds to the attractive nature of Omani people. Both men and women wear contrasting but equally interesting robes.
The usually pure white dishadasha worn by men is topped off by a colourful turban like keffiyeh. This headwear is apparently quite formal however most men seemed to wear them throughout the day. The ceremonial khanjar which is a curved dagger, worn as formal decoration is a spectacular accessory.
Although many women choose to dress in full black which covers them head to toe there are just as many wearing very colourful robes which are still equally modest but much more expressive. Many also choose not to cover their heads and faces, but for more formal occasions shawls maybe included and gold or silver jewellery to compliment the bright colours.
Understandably the few refusals received were from women dressed in traditional full dress including the face covering burqa. However they were always polite when declining a photograph and on a few occasions even amused that they’d been asked.
The children seem full of fun and mischief and whilst a wise, character-filled face is a treasured image, a youngster wearing a curious smile is infectious.
During a day of exploration in the fishing town of Seeb near Muscat we received a warm welcome from three generations of a Omani family. An attractive family group the older generations seemed genuinely proud of their children and happy for them to pose for several minutes.
We managed to communicate despite some language difficulties and they invited us to join them for their evening meal. I really felt disappointed and slightly rude having to decline their generous hospitality but we were already late for an earlier invitation. Such invites are apparently common in Oman which further demonstrates the friendly nature of its people.
Seeb despite its proximity to the capital Muscat manages to retain its original charm and has avoided becoming too commercial. There are relatively few travellers wandering through the stalls of the souks or between the fishing boats or nets along the seafront.
One of my companions was Yvonne Zägerman of JustTravelous who is a very attractive woman. During our walk around the town she remained respectfully covered up throughout, however she still attracted a great deal of attention from the many merchants of the souks. An advantage of this however was that the vehicles all stopped whenever we needed to cross the road.
Oman has much to offer the travellers, lively cities, attractive villages, fascinating souks, beautiful scenery, amazing Wadis, palaces, mosques and museums. However its greatest attraction is its people, their friendly and open attitude will have any visitor feeling welcome and matching the smiles of their hosts.