It happened in the year 2016. I went on an ambush tour in Oman in May and August. I was a tourist in the United Arab Emirates and had to change my visa status twice. Previously, if a tourist in the UAE wanted to extend their tourist visa, they had to leave the country and return. It was a roller coaster ride, and I chose the beautiful Sultanate of Oman to leave the UAE and re-enter.
Where exactly is Oman?
The Sultanate of Oman, or Oman, is a Western Asian country. The rock and sand terrain country is located on the Arabian Peninsula’s southeastern coast. Oman spans the Persian Gulf. And it has land borders with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Yemen. Therefore, I find it easier to leave and re-enter the UAE by bus. At the same time, Oman has maritime borders with Iran and Pakistan.
Its capital is Muscat, and the currency is called the Omani rial. And their official language is Arabic. Its people are known as Omanis, and over 85 percent of them are Muslims, making Islam their official religion.
Keeping that in mind, what are the things to remember when visiting Oman?
Since it was an ambush tour and was my first visit in May 2016, I did basic research to understand Oman’s culture better. Because it’s an Islamic country and I’m a woman, I needed to dress more conservatively. Wearing a hijab is optional unless you visit a mosque or go to a bustling public place.
Drinking alcohol in public, being drunk, or driving under the influence are all punishable offenses under Omani law. However, tourists and visitors can purchase and consume alcohol in licensed establishments such as hotels, restaurants, and nightclubs.
The English language is known in Oman, and they do understand and can speak it, especially if you visit major cities and even traditional markets.
USD, GBP, and EURO are all accepted at banks and hotels that will exchange at government-set rates. They also accept GCC currencies like UAE dirhams, Saudi Rials, and so on. During my visit, I paid in cash with UAE dirhams. The hotel and market where I went then gave me a change in Omani Rial, which I used on my subsequent purchases.
Carrying cash is ideal for taxi rides and smaller daily purchases, but credit card payments are widespread in Oman. Generally, restaurants and hotels accept major credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard. With American Express, some hotels and restaurants charge a 5% surcharge for its use.
Bringing your passport is highly recommended because it may be required, especially for multiple transactions or random checking. It’s a practice that tourists also do in the UAE.
The weather in Oman is relatively hot and humid. However, the temperature may drop to 29°C, while the average high temperature is 39°C. The best month to visit Oman is between October to April because the temperature can be between 17°C to 35°C. Definitely, avoid the scorching summer months between June to August, which I experienced in August.
My Memorable Experiences in Oman
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Omanis, as previously stated, are generally warm and friendly. I was initially scared because some of them appeared so serious during the border and immigration encounter. But everything changes the moment they speak to you. They smiled and said hello to everyone. They were accommodating during my entry and exit from Oman.
I also met an elderly gentleman who owns a small shop near the hotel where I was staying. I went to the small shop to get some snacks and treats. The older man was very nice to the other customers who came into his shop and me. He spoke to us in a warm, friendly manner, knowing that most of us in the hotel were Filipinos.
#2. Landscape and Terrain
Mountain rocks mostly surrounded the area where I stayed. I was astounded because I usually see this type of terrain on National Geographic. I also saw some wild animals, such as ibex and gazelles. When we pass them on the highways, they are free to roam around.
Although Oman has a desert landscape in general, you will notice its eerie beauty. Perfect in every way! They also have areas where vegetation grows. My hotel has a nearby farm where they grow some green vegetables.
#3. The Journey
I enjoyed the journey because I had no idea I could travel alone in a desert country. It boosted my self-esteem and gave me the confidence to try something new. Although I was traveling with a group of about 15 Filipinos, we only met on the first leg of our journey. I met new people who later became contacts when we returned to the UAE.
We exchanged many life stories that inspired us in various ways. The majority of the people I met, in particular, were OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers).
One of the women stated that she was a single mother working as a housemaid whose contract had expired. She told me about her background, and I was impressed by how brave she is to face the life challenges she has confronted. Another case involved an older woman attempting to extend her tourist visa in the UAE and thus had to exit and return. She stated that she traveled to the UAE to assist her daughter in caring for her newborn baby. She shared some of her personal stories, and we discovered that we both live in the Philippines’ Pampanga province. The world is indeed too small!
Oman is a lovely country! I would like to go back there with my hubby if given a chance. There is so much to learn about Oman, particularly the culture and food. Sadly, I could not sample their traditional cuisine during my visit, so I would like to return to Oman.
Maybe I’ll visit Oman’s beautiful beaches and some world heritage sites next time because I enjoy ruins and historical sites. I highly urge you to plan a trip to the stunning Sultanate of Oman!
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