Five Musts When Visiting Oman

by Alexandra Hart Vrampas

Oman is an overlooked paradise in the heart of the Middle East.  This unique nation has oceans, deserts, mountains, and some of the most welcoming people on the planet. If you are adventurous enough to teach abroad in Oman, these are five stories you have to be able to share upon returning to your home.

Mosque in Muscat, Oman

1. First you will want to paddle through the various crystal water bays of the Gulf of Oman

Standing atop one of the small cliffs in the Bandar Qaran bay ready to jump off, you think back to the phenomenal day you just experienced.  You woke up bright and early, packed the kayaks up on the car, drove the forty or so minutes to the small fishing village outside of Muscat and carried the kayaks out through the muck to where it was deep enough to paddle.  Kayaking around the bends and the multiple small islands in the area, you spent hours gazing through the clear water at different species of fish and various sea critters.  You even dared to go out on the ocean side of the islands and get some rougher sea kayaking under your belt before coming back in to the calm enclave where Dhows and private boats picnic, snorkel and waste away the afternoon. 

You took a break and docked your kayak on one of the small private hidden beaches along the coast and enjoyed a pre-packed peanut butter and jelly sandwich with your sea-salt encrusted apple (staple teacher food), and now you are about to cliff jump into crystal clear water while your friend catches the moment on a GoPro.  You ask yourself, can life get any more exhilarating

2. Next you will want to hike the peaks of Jebel Akhdar

As the grandmother of the Bedouin family pours the steaming Arabic tea into a small Omani teacup in order to welcome you to her humble home up in the cold peaks of Jebel Akdhar, you imagine the lifestyle her family happily calls ‘daily life.’ On your time off from your teaching program in Oman you spent the better half of your day hiking up the steep cliffs, having to climb down multiple times before being able to climb up.  You balanced yourself along the local “aflaj” irrigation system for hours on end, nervous to send even a pinky toe into the icy water.  As the day unfolded, your hatred for the four stairs leading up to your house quickly morphed into gratitude that they are not one hundred, abrupt, toothed stone steps and you quickly grew an appreciation towards the large surface area of the date palm branches that protected you from the sun during the numerous breaks your sore legs were forced to take. 

As you watch the grandmother put down the teapot, you are overwhelmed with respect for the family. You might be teaching in Oman but you have so much to learn. You respect for the simple yet strenuous way they lead their lives and the amount of joy they seem to carry with them in everything they do. You sip your tea and reflect on how much you have learned from this mountain, this village, this home, this grandmother. You ask yourself, can life get any more eye-opening?

Jebel Akhdar, Oman

3. You won’t want to miss out on bargaining at the bustling and historic Muttrah Souk

Walking into a small hole in the wall, you see a mural of colorful scarves ranging from pashmina to cloth, teal to magenta, beaded to sparkly, and patterned to solid. You smell the heavy fragrance of frankincense that lingers in every crevice of the souk thanks to the small hole next door and the other hundred plus frankincense stores housed in the cramped market area. You decide it’s a more economical choice to buy a scarf for friends than attempt to carry one of the lavish necklaces or five pound gem-studded earrings you passed while walking through the gold market two pathways westward. You have already sifted through the baskets of silver rings and examined the old coins and navy medals at the larger store that had the mannequin in a burka outside of it. And in the store right next to that one you had toyed with the antique nautical equipment that you thought deserved to be in a museum. 

Now you are ready to barter with the always smiling salesman who never fails to remind you that you are his first customer of the day and he will give you a great price for holding such a high honor.  You ask yourself, can life get any more exquisite?

4. Make sure to dangle along the crevice of Snake Canyon

The sound of someone jumping into a pool of water echoes around you as you bite into your Nature Valley Oats and Honey bar.  Your friend pushes off the other side of the canyon and comes sailing towards you as you sit on a crevice in the heart of Wadi Bani Awf.  You hear the chuckling of people crossing Snake Canyon several hundred meters below you just as your friend clears the last part of the zip-line and harnesses themselves onto the ropes along the canyon’s walls. You had spent the morning driving through the Wadi to Snake Canyon where you proceeded to spend the past hour hanging onto ropes and climbing across, up, and down large slabs of rock.  The combination of height, beauty, tranquility, and difficulty makes for the perfect Via Ferrata course in the world. As you take the last bite of your granola bar, you mentally prepare yourself for the next leg of the course.  You ask yourself, can life get any more adventurous than teaching abroad in Oman?

Camels

5. Make sure that you experience the best form of off-roading: Dune Bashing

You will never forget the feeling right before you push over the edge of the sand dune and the only ground to be seen is two hundred feet below you. Gravity quickly takes over and the Mitsubishi Pajero flies down the dune gracefully leaving behind two long crevices in the windswept sand.  You have already traversed well over ten large dunes today alone, and have had to use another vehicle to drag the car out of deep sand twice, but that feeling in your stomach has yet to change.  You think back on the weekend of sliding down the dunes on broken snowboards, attempting to sprint up them but, sadly, not managing to surpass the speed of molasses, and conquering them in four-wheel drive vehicles. You can’t think of a better ending than to be sitting atop one of the dunes with friends, eating cheese and crackers, and looking out at the setting sun over the horizon. You ask yourself, can life get any gorgeous?

Oman is home to a treasure box of activities that you have yet to partake.  It is truly the most exhilarating, eye-opening, exquisite, adventurous, and gorgeous place you will ever visit. So remember, yes, your life can get better. Just find a teach abroad program in Oman and set off on the trip of a lifetime.