I often wonder what is important in a place more, its historical relevance or just the sightseeing places which we often mark down with a sense of achievement in our maps, tweets and tags and feel most content with. How many of us delve deep enough to really know a place, some places are really worth diving deep in. And once I dived in the vast sea of information on Oman provided by Kaes and Mohammed from Zahara Tours and of course Oman Tourism, more and more intriguing facts started coming up.To read all my Previous Posts on Oman Click
- Oman:A Wildest and Warm Hi
- Top 25 Interesting Facts on Oman
- Sur:The Fascinating World of Turtles and Dhows ,Feature Huffington Post
Today morning, I thought let's skip history and plunge in straight to Muscat, Nizwa and Sur which are main cities/or rather cities I visited but later realized how important it is for you to know what is behind what you see, or rather going to see. And to be honest, History was the subject I hated the most back in High School but the world history is definitely beyond the textbooks, it’s damn interesting. Let's begin with Visas (I know it's imp!), currencies bit of local lingo and history and to not make you feel sleepy with this, lets discuss this quick event which I don’t know how many of you know about.
Did you know??
Perched High Above the Gorge at Wadi Shab near Sur in Oman, Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series took place in 2012.
Now that I have given you the hint that it's not going to be a boring the same old usual stuff, let’s begin with the visas and other stuff quick quick quick.
Oman Visa Process
To be frank and also suggested, the best way to get visa is through an Indian Tour Operator/Local Operator to Oman . That means you can either book your visa through reputed Travel Agent like Thomas Cook, Cox and Kings and the like or local travel agent such as Zahara Tours(which we used). To enter the country, you need a passport that is valid for at least 6 months .A resident of India, holding an Indian Passport can get an electronic visa (E-visa) through an Indian Tour Operator. To identify the different types of visas, please visit the Royal Oman Police website which is as http://www.rop.gov.om/visa/english/onlineservices_visaapplication_main.aspx
I wouldn't recommend the use of Travel Agents for Europe(I would be writing about Schengen Visa shortly since I am visiting Spain in May) or UK but with Dubai and Oman it gets simpler.
Oman Visa Documents
- Scanned Copies of passport valid for at least six months.
- Scanned Passport Size Photographs
- Return Ticket and Hotel Confirmation from Oman
- Visa Processing takes about 4-6 working days (Fri Sat are non working days in Oman)
- Single Entry Visa up to 10 days cost OMR 5 and
Single Entry Visa with stays of 10 days to a month costs OMR 20.
1 Omani Rial = 156.61 INR(Current Rate as of 17/04/2014)
1 Omani Rial = 1000 Baisa
Since the amount is huge, you need to careful about how much you spend because you wouldn't know when you do so. We exchanged currencies at a State Bank of India in Muscat from Dollar to Rial. In that Bank, we also had exchange options as Indian Rupee to Rial.Although currency is on the higher end,you would find comparative prices everywhere,like Dish dashas(local dress for men) comes for 5 Rials,Caps for 1 Rial at the souk.
Omani Local Network
It's important I know. Most of us Indians have a habit of talking to our friends, lovers, family .When abroad best is to use Skype. I hardly use Skype(I limit my internet to bare minimum when I travel). I usually buy Sim from the Airport or the local joints. In Oman its best to buy Sim at the Airport. I bought the SIM for 2 Rial with incoming free and free internet. Just to tell you Dollar wasn't acceptable at the Sim Card booth center at the Airport, and I had to borrow money from someone. You can also exchange Dollars with Rial at the Airport for the amount you need for SIM and rest at the city center.
Is Arabic. But English is widely spoken and understood. Many of them even understand Hindi because we have many Indians settled there.
GMT + 4 Hours
How to Reach Oman: Air Tickets,Road ways
The national carrier of Oman is Oman Air which is a convenient flight costing around 18k +.The other options are Air India (20k +) from Bangalore.Muscat is also 5 hours 30 minutes by road from Dubai.
History: The Origin of Oman
Oman came from a name called Uman. Uman is believed to have originated from the Arab Tribes who migrated to its territory from the Uman Region off Yemen to Magan(a name thought to refer to Oman's Ancient Copper Mines).Many tribes settled in Oman making a living by fishing,herding,stock breeding as there was no border between Yemen and Uman.
Oman had a pure Red Flag until 1970.The name of the state with the Red Flag was 'Muscat and Oman'. Muscat was the eastern Arabia not Oman. Oman was the interior part ruled by Imam who never ruled Muscat. When they both co-operated the name was changed to 'Muscat and Oman' and after the defeat of Imam, Sultan Qaboos Bin Said changed the name to Sultanate of Oman. When Sultan came into power, he did not wanted to keep the Flag colour as only red which symbolises power and changed it to 3 colours which is the present flag of Oman - Red, White and Green. To know what these flag colors mean in detail click: The Meaning of The Oman Flag Color
History: The Indian Ocean Trade and Oman
I know how your face lights up with that one word India! But how does India in any way connected to Oman, you wonder?
As far back as 5000 BC, southern Oman(now called as Dhofar) was the centre of Frankincense trade. This highly priced commodity produced from aromatic sap of the Frankincense tree was traded for Spices from India and was carried by caravans all across Arabia. Frankincense is found only in Salalah (which is north of Oman) because you need lot of Humidity for the plant to grow and survive. The Monsoon(Khareef Season) in Salalah comes from India because we have Indian Ocean There.
Did you know?
Two brave women to sail India to Oman across Arabian Sea .To know more click here
In Olden days, these traders would rely on to the fixed schedules of monsoon that would easily transport the Dhows with the wind. The oldest trade lines hence was with Kutch, you would still find traces of Swahili Carvings and Khimjis in Muscat and rest of Oman. In fact one section of Muscat near the Muttrah Souk has Gujarati Styled Buildings dating back to 1930's and 1940's.We will also discuss the stark resemblance in cultures like the institution of Marriage in the upcoming post on Muscat. We will also discuss about Dhows when we discuss Sur. We will discuss about Frankincense too a little more, and where can you get them in detail.
History: The Influence of Portuguese, Persia, Iran, Zanzibar, Gulf
When you are in Oman, you will cherish the hint of different cultures wrapped into one while retaining its originality. The Portuguese Ruled Muscat for 140 years, they were there in 1500's so that explains where Oman has so many Portuguese Forts. The Persians ruled Oman for the longest time from the 1st century till the 10 th century, the Arabian architecture is inspired from Iran and Persia. The Cap are from Zanzibar. Originally Omanis wore Turbans before the 10th century; they started wearing caps when they bought the slaves from Zanzibar during the sea trade between Oman and Zanzibar. Till 1964,the king of Zanzibar was an Omani.
Oman enjoyed further prosperity in pre- Islamic times also through the trading of copper .Indeed, Oman is referred in some sources as Mountain of Copper and there are evidence of vigorous trading between Oman and other Gulf Countries.
The Renaissance of Modern Day Oman:The Rise of Sultan
Did you know ?
As per the Global Peace index of 2007,Oman was listed 22 which was even 3 positions higher than Australia!
As per the people of Oman, Sultan Qaboos Bin Said is the most respected and the wisest of all who has given his heart and soul to the development of country since he took over the authority from his father in 1970.Before 1970, Oman had 3 schools, no roads, no buildings, no nothing. His Majesty,Sultan Qaboos Bin Said was born in Salalah and he received his primary and secondary education in Salalah and at Pune, in India, and was sent to a private educational establishment in England at age sixteen. At the age of 20, he entered the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. After passing out of Sandhurst, he joined a British Infantry regiment, The Cameronians, and was posted to the 1st Battalion in Germany for one year and also held a staff appointment with the British Army.
After his military service, Sultan Qaboos studied local government subjects in England and, after a world tour, returned home to Salalah where he studied Islam and the history of his country. The first oil extraction happened in Oman in 1957 by Iraq Petroleum Company but it was only after 1970's that it was exported to Korea by Oman.
To get a quick glimpse before 1970 watch the video:
And now, Oman has everything which a modern country should have. The best of rules, regulations ,roads, facilities, schooling which is compulsory for everyone. In fact I was stunned to know Oman now has 1050 fully equipped schools with 600,000 boys and girls studying. The Sultan believes in peace and making peace around the world, hence Oman shares a very cordial relationship with its neighbors including Yemen and Iran .Mohammed from Zahara Tours told us he met Sultan when he was 15years old as they were staying behind the Palace. The Sultan once in a year does "Meet the People" trips where he himself with the ministry ask the people for their problems, get to the root of it, and solves it then and there.
That's it for today.I know its heaps and bounds of information over there, but I guess it’s better than those just about going anywhere suggestions. As you read through Muscat,Nizwa and Sur you would know its significance :) Till then, Shukran(Thank You).We will discuss the Vocabulary in the next post as we travel through interiors of Muscat Plus a video on Oman in the coming blogposts.