5 Ways to Transform and Travel: Sultanate of Oman
Updated: Jun 15, 2020
Guest Post by Erin Coyle
Are you looking to travel to somewhere unique and unusual? Are you tired of having the same
travel experiences? Are you looking for a new location that is not a place you would normally
travel to? Are you looking for some me time and just need to relax and recharge? I have just the
place for you that will solve all these questions.
The place I want to talk about is The Sultanate of Oman. This amazing country is near the UAE
and Saudi Arabia. It is well known for its pristine beaches, amazing desert, hospitality, hiking,
snorkeling, and camping.
There is something for everyone in this charming country. Most people have heard of the capital Muscat; however, I suggest you drive south two hours to Sur, which is a charming coastal city.
Photo Credit: Erin Coyle
Sur is the capital of Ash Sharqiyah and in ancient times it was an important shipping port. Sur also produces these large wooden boats called Dhows and you can still find people making them. I can attest to this quaint city because I have lived here now for almost two years teaching English in a foundation program at a college.
Before I give you some ideas for traveling and transforming, I want to share with you some of
my travel experiences.
Photo Credit: Erin Coyle
Erin's Travel Highlights
Prior to living here, I taught English in China for five years. I explored so many cities while I lived there. I have always had a passion for travel. I have done adventure travel in New Zealand, solo and group travel around Southeast Asia, explored parts of Europe, and I have even booked trips with tour companies because I just did not have time to explore on my own.
I love learning about culture, trying new food, wandering around, meeting locals, getting lost and just appreciating what I can learn when I travel. I always keep a journal and take tons of pictures, so I remember what I have experienced!
Now coming back to Oman. You might be skeptical when I say this is the place you need to
visit, especially Sur. But trust me, you will be glad you took the plunge when you book your
ticket here. You can travel solo, with friends or family.
Sur has allowed me to slow down, appreciate nature, learn about local culture, and has allowed me to forget stress and worries, especially when I am in the desert because there is no cell phone service!
Many visitors pass through Sur on the way to see turtles and go to the desert. But if you have
some extra time, stay three or four days so you get a chance to recharge and learn to appreciate
the simple things.
You will be glad you took this time for yourself. So here is your list to transform while you are here.
5 Ways to Transform and Travel in Oman
1. Experience Heritage and Culture
Do you like to learn about a culture when you travel? The Shipmaster Museum is a must when
you come to Sur so you can learn about Omani heritage and culture. Badr, a local Omani man
owns the museum and has collected items over the years and has won many awards.
When you enter, the first thing you see are doors – one of my favorite things in Oman. As you make your way inside, you can find books, traditional pottery, and clothing. Do not forget to go upstairs and enjoy the views from the traditional majlis where you can relax and enjoy the breeze.
A majlis is a sitting area and you will see this in all Omani homes. It is common to have a majlis for guests on the side of the house before entering the main area. Here you are usually offered drinks and snacks. When you finish, take a minute to enjoy some coffee.
While you are enjoying your coffee, this is also the time to ask Badr all sorts of questions about
Omani culture. A tidbit regarding coffee – when you want more coffee you should hold your cup
out looking as if you want more. But if you are finished you should shake the cup and that means
you do not want any more coffee or Qahwa as they say in Arabic.
I should also remind you that it is considered impolite if you do not try food or drinks if someone offers it to you. The Omanis are known for their hospitality and it is always a highlight to take some time to sit down and enjoy what is being offered to you. I have always experienced this hospitality, whether I am wandering around Sur, hiking, camping or even walking on the beach!
2. Admire Door Craftsmanship
This second way might seem strange but trust me you will learn to appreciate this craftsmanship
while you are here. I mentioned earlier that I love Omani doors, so now it is time to walk around
the houses near the Souq to admire these beautiful doors.
The Souq is where you can buy anything from clothing, electronics, household items and more, so you can always go here after you wander around the houses.
I love these doors because each one has a different and unique design that has been made by
hand. Some of the doors are wooden with flowers carved out, while others are colored with a
simple decoration or symbol.
I also said that I have learned to slow down since I have lived here and since I have learned to do this, I have also learned to appreciate the simple things. I now take the time when I am walking around to notice these different styles of doors and I never get tired of taking pictures anytime I see a door.
I think I also like these doors because each one is different and then I start to think about the time it has taken to make these doors and the details that goes into them. You will usually find these doors on older homes as the new homes have a more modern look.
These doors are also nice, but I still appreciate the older style. One of my favorite doors is in my
opinion the symbol of Sur. It is a dark wooden door with a dhow boat carved on each side. I have
seen this style of door on several houses in Sur so you should be able to find one!
Another way to admire craftsmanship is to go to the shipyard and watch the men build a dhow
boat. This is the boat I mentioned earlier that is made from wood and what Sur is known for.
There is a small shop here, so if you are lucky and it is open, you can stop in and buy a small
wooden craft made by locals. The shipyard is easy to find, so when you are walking around, just
ask someone or look for the White Coffee Shop near the bridge – you cannot miss it.
Since you are passing by the White Coffee shop you might as well stop to buy a karak tea or a
fresh juice. Karak is essentially black tea, milk, and tons of sugar, but it is delicious! Some
places add cardamom for a different taste. This shop is considerably basic, but it is an icon here.
You can also enjoy views of the lighthouse from here. So, either on the way to the shipyard or
after the shipyard it is a good time to take a break, reflect and just enjoy the quiet.
Photo Credits: Erin Coyle
3. Appreciate Nature
Are you like me who always loves a good sunset? For me, sunsets never get old and I always
admire and appreciate the beauty of them. There are a couple of great spots to go, so have your
One place to watch the sunset is inside the marina along the wall. I call this the wall because
each wall has different paintings that have been created by individuals and groups of people.
Some walls have pictures of camels, while others have painted images of people and symbols.
You can come here and walk along the wall and stay a while to enjoy the paintings and of course
the sunset. You will also find many dhows here in the water so imagine the picture you can get
as the sun is setting over the dhows. I sometimes come here after a stressful day at work to relax
and take my mind off everything.
Another place to catch the sunset is the watchtower, which is just over the main bridge. You can
park your car at the hotel at the bottom and walk about five minutes up to the tower. You will get
great views of the city, and you can take in the beauty of the sun setting while watching
fishermen take their boats out. It is so peaceful and relaxing up here and being here is another
good spot to reflect and reset.
Watchtower Sunset by Erin Coyle
4. Eat Like a Local
Now I am sure you know that many places around the world eat food with their hands, and
Oman is one of these countries. They do not always eat with their hands, but it is quite common
in many restaurants and inside homes.
So, if you are more of a fork and knife person, try to eat with your right hand for one of your meals. Typical Omani food is rice with chicken, meat or fish mixed with Arabic spices. Sometimes the food will have some Indian spices mixed in as well.
One of my favorites is Hyderabadi rice with fish. The rice is full of flavor and sometimes they
add dried raisin, chickpeas and caramelized onions on top. So, do not be shy and just take your
right hand and pick up small pieces of the rice and meat and just eat.
By the way, the portions are quite large so if there are just two of you, I suggest ordering one
meal and splitting it or just tell them you do not need a lot of rice. Now if you are vegetarian or
vegan, you can still find some options such as falafels, dhal and paneer. Some restaurants have
more options than others so just look at the menu before you sit down.
5. Recharge in the Desert
Remember I said in the beginning that if you have the time you should spend three or four days
in Sur. This is so you have time to drive an hour and a half to the desert.
If you come here between November - February, then I suggest you camp one night because it will not be too hot yet. If you travel here after February, then I recommend just driving to and around the desert because it will be too hot for camping. This may seem pointless, but the views along the way are beautiful and worth it.
You can rent a car and drive by yourself or you can find locals to take you and they usually post
their details on Airbnb. Or when you are walking around Sur, just ask someone and they will be
happy to assist you. While you are driving, you will see beautiful landscapes, which keep
changing as you keep going.
You will also spot camels walking around, and sometimes they are close to the road so you can pull over and take some pictures. They are very friendly, so you do not need to be afraid.
There are two styles of camping – old school style with tents and sleeping bags, or luxury style
where you sleep at a desert camp. I will warn you; these camps are expensive but if you cannot
be bothered to deal with a tent and sleeping bag then you could choose this option.
These camps also offer camel rides and dune bashing, but you will have to pay extra for these activities. I love coming to the desert because I can recharge and turn off my brain. It also helps that there is no cell service! I usually go with friends and it is a great place to watch the stars, have some
laughs and just enjoy being in nature
I love waking up early in the morning to enjoy the sunrise and take in the fresh ripples in the sand.
Transform and Travel in Oman
Have I convinced you to come to Oman yet? Whatever your style of travel is, try something
different next time and experience something totally unique in a country that has something for
Erin in Her Words
My name is Erin Coyle and I am from the United States. Currently, I am teaching English as a second language at Sur College of Applied Sciences in Sur, the Sultanate of Oman. I have been teaching here for almost two years in a foundation program.
Prior to this, I taught English as a Foreign Language at Jiangxi Science & Technology Normal University in Nanchang, China for five years. Before starting my overseas teaching career, I was a morning show co-host in radio for six years and before this career I worked in event planning and fundraising.