Capital | Muscat
Population | 3,027,959 (July 2011 est.)
Area | 212,460 SQ KM
Official Language | Arabic
Holidays | Birthday of Sultan QABOOS, 18 November (1940)
Currency | Rial (OMR)
Time Zone | UTC +4
Best Time to Visit | Mid-October to mid-March, to avoid the monsoon season
Connecting with the Culture | Visiting the three Portuguese forts in Muscat. Browsing through the early-morning fish market in Mutrah. Discovering the old fort at Barka. Bargain-hunting at Nizwa’s colourful souk. Exploring the archaeological sites around Salalah. Camping overnight in Wadi Bani Awf. Hiking and caving in Hajar Mountains.
Read | Phillip Ward’s Travels in Oman: On the track of the Early Explorer, a combination of modern travelogue and historical traveler accounts.
Listen | to Symphonic Impressions of Oman by Lalo Scifrin, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, which captures the mood, scenery and traditions of Oman.
Eat | balaleet- popular breakfast dish of sweet vermicelli with egg, onion and cinnamon; machboos- slow-cooked meat and rice with onion, spices and dried limes.
Drink | laban- salty buttermilk; cardamom- infused yoghurt drinks.
In a Word | Tasharrafina (nice to meet you).
Characteristics | impressive forts; sandy beaches; beautiful mountain scenery; vibrant bazaars; groves of frankincense trees; men in bright blue dishdashas (shirt dresses); ancient ruins; traditional dance and music; silver jewellery; desert motoring; remote villages.
Surprises | Camel racing is a traditional sport, as is bull-butting—pairing Brahmin bulls to fight (no injury or bloodshed is involved); nomadic Bedouin tribes still live in the interior.