I’d love to tell you about Omani culture but after ten days in the country I still hadn’t really seen any. If I was significantly more wealthy I would have done, as I could have hired a car and driver to go and find all the wonderful historical places that are denied the pleasure of public transport. Struggling to find any kind of accommodation under $40 a night didn’t leave much of a budget to do anything else, especially after Couchsurfung didn’t bestow any of its couches on me.
Whilst the capital Muscat might not be as soulless as other capitals in the Gulf, it’s hardly packed with old buildings; even the Old Town is mostly composed of buildings designed to look old, rather than anything genuinely ancient. Its also has no centre, being more an agglomeration of developments strung along a great stretch of coast, which either requires a lot of long bus rides or modes of transport beyond my modest budget to see any of it. Hence I opted for the more human scale of Sur a few hours away down the coast, which could at least be negotiated on foot.
The next big problem in the search for culture was the Indians, or rather the fact that Omanis had obviously decided if a thing is worth doing its worth paying an Indian a lot less to do it instead, so they could sit around and drink tea in preference. What this means is that most of the services you require as a tourist and many more besides, beyond the occasional hotel manager, are performed by Indians, Bangladeshis or Pakistanis. I did not manage to find a single Omani restaurant during my time there and was forced to survive on three Indian meals a day. Of course there are far more demanding requirements in the world of travel, particularly as I was off to Pakistan next and I could happily have daal and chapati for breakfast for days on end. Thus it was that I spent most of my time in the company of South Asians, enjoying their food, learning precisely nothing about Oman. The occasional Omani I did encounter was perfectly pleasant, even the taxi drivers weren’t total bastards. Having seen some nice pictures of things to visit, if you can afford to get there and pay for the hotel, I’m sure it’s a perfectly good choice of holiday destination, where you might even get to learn something about the culture. Just don’t bother asking me about it.
They did do a nice line in old doors I noticed so here are some pictures of doors to keep you entertained until I find something else to write about.