Muscat, Oman – Why I Hated It and Will Never Go Back

Last fall, I met an Omani man at my guest house in Delhi, India. When he learned I was a travel writer, he began to gush about Oman. “You must go! It is so beautiful. Muscat is gorgeous and people are so friendly.” I was sold. I added Oman to a list of Middle Eastern countries to visit this spring.

I arrived in Muscat, the capital of Oman, on a balmy March evening on the heels of visiting Dubai in the UAE. I’d thoroughly enjoyed my time in Dubai and, if reports I’d read on the Internet were any indication, I’d be even more wowed by Oman.

A walk along the Corniche passes between this rocky promontory and the giant incense burner perched on the hillside, which is a nod to Oman being the world's major producer of Frankincense
A walk along the Corniche passes between this rocky promontory and the giant incense burner perched on the producer of Frankincense

My first inkling that Oman might not be all that I hoped came a few minutes later. The driver of the taxi who met me at the airport started asking what I wanted to do in Muscat. I replied that I’d begin by taking the hop-on, hop-off Big Bus in order familiarize myself with the sprawling city. “Oh no! You don’t want to do that. It’s really expensive and you have to wait a long time between buses.” His warning was quickly followed with a sales pitch. He could show me everything I needed to see in half a day and it would cost only $65.

Clock Tower in the Central Business District of Muscat, Oman
Clock Tower in the Central Business District of Muscat, Oman

I wasn’t interested. As a photographer, I often need to wait for the right light, or for crowds to clear in order to get the best shot. As a writer, I must be able to roam at my own pace, soaking up the atmosphere, talking to locals, and musing over story angles. Being tied to a tour where I’m allowed 15 or 20 minutes at each stop simply doesn’t work. I politely declined, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Trapped in his vehicle, I suffered the hard sell all the way to my hotel.

Entrance to the traditional Souk (market) in the Mutrah neighborhood of Muscat, Oman
Entrance to the traditional Souk (market) in the Mutrah neighborhood of Muscat, Oman

It was late and I was exhausted by the time we reached my hotel. I wanted nothing more than to fall into bed and sleep for ten hours. But my room fronted on a six-lane highway and the traffic noise was so bad I knew sleeping would be impossible. I asked for and was given a second room…which had a balcony with sliding glass doors that would not lock.

As a solo female traveler, I have a few non-negotiable rules for staying safe. One of them is never to stay in a room where the doors won’t lock. Once again, I asked for my room to be changed. The third try was even worse. The room reeked like a dead animal and there were dark brown spots on the carpet the size of dinner plates. I’m sure the Filipino staff hated me by that time, but I had to demand a fourth room, which was finally acceptable.

In Old Muscat, a mosque is framed by one of the 16th century Portuguese forts that once guarded the harbors
In Old Muscat, a mosque is framed by one of the 16th century Portuguese forts that once guarded the harbors

My experience did not improve over the next five days. I began in Old Muscat, where the only interesting sites among a sea of whitewashed buildings were the Al Alam Palace and two 16th-century Portuguese forts. None of which were open to the public. With everything closed during the midday heat, streets of the old town were deserted. The only sign of life was four Omani men wearing the traditional Omani Dishdasha, an ankle-length white caftan, and round embroidered caps known as kumma. They strolled slowly down the middle of the street, eventually disappearing into one of the brilliant white palaces. Little did I know this would be the closest I would ever get to Omani culture.

The Corniche is a 4-mile long walkway between the Mutrah area of Muscat, and Old Muscat, the original site of the city
The Corniche is a 4-mile long walkway between the Mutrah area of Muscat, and Old Muscat, the original site of the city

Dejectedly, I turned my back on Old Muscat and headed back down the 4-mile Corniche. It was a beautiful seaside walk, but as in Old Muscat, everything along the way was closed. I arrived at the Mutrah Suq just as the market was opening for the evening and ducked inside to wander its cool narrow alleyways. Like any other market in the world, merchants hawked wares ranging from gold to spice to pashmina shawls. But every single one of the shop owners was an immigrant. I met friendly Pakistanis, Filipinos, Bangladeshis, and even Nepalis. But not a single Omani was to be found.

Shop owner in the Mutrah Souk hawks his goods
Shop owner in the Mutrah Souk hawks his goods

On day two I fended off multiple pushy taxi drivers, found the Big Bus stop, and sat down to wait. The bus arrived fifteen minutes later, but I wasn’t allowed to board. A cruise ship was in town and the company was busy shuttling passengers back to the ship. When the next bus finally arrived, it did an “abbreviated” route that ignored some of the stops shown on the company’s website.

We were well past the beach by the time I realized the driver had skipped it. My only option would have been to go all the way around and wait for the next bus. By that time it was too late. Even if I took a quick stroll on the beach and grabbed a late lunch, I would miss the last bus back. And a taxi back to the hotel would set me back another 25 bucks.

The stunning Swarovski crystal chandelier in the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
The stunning Swarovski crystal chandelier in the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

My Big Bus ticket was for two days, so I set out early the next morning. I was beginning to suspect that there was little to see or do in Muscat, and the Big Bus tour quickly confirmed my worst fears. Strangely, the two most visited sites, the Muscat Opera House and the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, were not even included on the route. Unlike the hop-on, hop-off buses I’ve taken in dozens of other locations around the world, this one was a total rip-off. I did manage to see the mosque when a lovely French Canadian family at the hotel invited me to accompany them in their rental car. Good thing, too, because the taxi driver I’d hired to take me didn’t show up.

A palm-lined beach along the Corniche in Muscat, Oman
A palm-lined beach along the Corniche in Muscat, Oman

For the remainder of my time in Oman, I decided to focus on day trips outside of the capital city. I’d read about jeep tours in the surrounding Sahara-like dunes, off-roading through rugged mountain scenery, and wadis where hidden emerald pools offer opportunities for a cool dip. I tried my favorite go-to booking site, GetYourGuide, and even Viator, without success. Not only are tours in Oman extremely expensive, the minimum number of participants for any tour was two people. As a single person I would have had to pay double, even if other customers joined the same tour. The cheapest option was $250 for a half-day trip to a wadi. I just said no.

Dining along the Corniche in the Mutrah area of Muscat, Oman. The only choices are a few expensive restaurants or these "fast food" sidewalk cafes.
Dining along the Corniche in the Mutrah area of Muscat, Oman. The only choices are a few expensive restaurants or these “fast food” sidewalk cafes.

I spent my last day wandering around the Mutrah area, eating horrible fast food and trying to meet locals other than taxi drivers. The only Omanis I found were squatting on the sidewalk in front of a sand pit, playing an ancient game known as hawalis. The chess-like game involved moving a series of pebbles among four rows of holes dug in the sand. The men refused to acknowledge me and even my requests to take a photo went unanswered. Lacking denial, I snapped the photo. I stood there a while longer, trying to decipher the rules of the game, but their snub made me increasingly uncomfortable. I later learned the centuries-old game, which is just as incomprehensible as the local culture, is exclusive to Oman.

Omani men play Hawalis, a board game where stones are moved between four rows of cups dug in the sand. This version of the game is said to be exclusive to Oman
Omani men play Hawalis, a board game where stones are moved between four rows of cups dug in the sand. This version of the game is said to be exclusive to Oman

Others may wax lyrical about Oman, but the only friendly people I met were immigrants. And the countryside may indeed be beautiful, but since all the tours were exceedingly expensive, I never saw it. There is no published information about bus routes and no rapid transit. Even renting a car is problematic. My new French Canadian friends told me horror stories about getting lost in the interior on roadways completely devoid of any directional signs. Oman doesn’t have a clue how to handle tourism. Until it does, I can find lots of other places to spend my money.

Author’s note: Since publishing this article, I have been flooded with comments from travelers who love Muscat. I’m the first to say that different places resonate with different people. I may not want to return, but those of you who are intrigued by Oman as a destination may find both this comprehensive travel guide to Oman and this 10-Day Oman Itinerary helpful.

Muscat, Oman - Why I Hated It and Will Never Go BackMuscat, Oman - Why I Hated It and Will Never Go BackMuscat, Oman - Why I Hated It and Will Never Go BackMuscat, Oman - Why I Hated It and Will Never Go Back

499 thoughts on “Muscat, Oman – Why I Hated It and Will Never Go Back”

      • i am staying in oman for 15 years now n dont evne know where the f is that hotel … but yeah u may have picked up the cheapest …and hence … there are many other hotels whcih are far more cheaper n coming up ….. but most are managed by expat staff hence good …

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      • Hi Barbra I’m sorry but I find your article about my country very offensive. Beside of course your hotel room was terrible the hotel you mentioned is very cheap. I’m sure that you understand that there were different hotels but you decided to suffer due to your choice of accommodation

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    • Mesh,

      Rather than avoiding the Riyam Hotel, you would be hard put to find it. It’s on the downward slope from the Muttrah Gate, opposite the Muttrah Flour Mills, and as you drive down the hill your eye automatically looks beyond the hotel to the port of Muttrah.

      It is inconveniently situated for taxis or buses, and it would be a pretty long hike to the Muttrah Corniche.

      Quite how a self-described “experienced traveler” ended up there is a mystery, but, as she herself says, the room she eventually got was all right and there was probably nothin g at all wrong with the first one. Traffic on that road would decrease dramatically after 2200 hrs.

      Reply
  1. After reading the first few comments, and scanning through the rest, that followed the description of your trip to Muscat, Oman I can only say I am shocked by the comments posted by readers. Some are absolutely shameful. The country, the people, the lack of tourism is what exists. You only wrote about what sounds like a horrible place to visit. AND you should not be berated like a small child, called names etc.

    I thank you for your sincere description of your experience. I enjoyed your article, the in depth details you provided, the honesty and the time you spent putting it down for all to read. Most of us look forward to a vacation and I know it leaves one feeling quite sad when it does not work out. Sorry to hear how dreadful it was.

    All the best to you. Be safe. 🙂

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    • Katherine, I’m from South Africa, worked in Kuwait for 12 years and traveled all the surrounding countries (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Qatar, Oman, Jordan and Egypt).
      I’m a married man and was accompanied by my wife all the time.
      I’m saddened to hear that the jewel of this “area” became the gritty piece of sand in your mouth.
      EVERY country has its ups and downs (as you as an experienced traveler must be painfully aware of) – and it’s not only in Oman where you would stumble over “stuff” as an alone woman. I think it’s a bit irresponsible to travel alone as a woman in ANY country in the world. Life has just changed that much.
      South Africa is a horrible place to visit if you listen to some people. Others wouldn’t be able to stop singing it’s praises.
      I think the “attitude” of not “studying” a place before “stumbling” in there is robbing you of many golden opportunities. A simple thing like getting hold of a taxi – greeting “salaam aleikum” instead of “good morning” will bring down the fare to about 50% of what you pay as a tourist!
      The Big Bus was an amazing experience every time (four times) we visited this beautiful country.
      The mountains and wadis of this place are absolutely stunning and we didn’t get stingy behaviour anywhere we went.
      Jebel Shams (not far from Nizwa) compared perfectly well with any of the other amazing gorges to be seen in the world.
      Salalah can keep you busy for a long time (or it can be boring as hell If you want it to be).
      The cosy little beaches along the coast line are there to be explored (if you have time, of course).
      The one thing I’m absolutely convinced about, is that you can’t judge this heart-gripping book by its cover only.
      Katherine, I’m really sorry that you feel like this about this amazing country.
      We had a lot of beehives on our farm and the one thing I’m 100% sure of is that you should not open a beehive before you didn’t “study” the ways of bees.
      U might never get to the honey…
      Please go again. Study the culture, the do’s and the do nots and eat the best food you will find in the “area”, eat the lovely sweets available, see the best sights (especially in nature) available.
      You owe it to yourself!

      Reply
  2. I’m sad to hear that you had a bad time. My wife and I went to Oman on our honeymoon last year and absolutely loved it. We talk about how badly we’d like to go back. I’ve been to 54 countries now, and Oman was one of our favorites. Muscat was lovely, but doesn’t have a lot to see; we rented a car and went out to Nizwa, Wadi Badi Khaled and the Wahiba Sands for a desert safari. It was so beautiful, people were lovely, roads were great and adventure was awesome. We highly recommend! I write for a travel blog too (https://theroyaltourblog.com/sam-spector/) and plan to write a glowing review on Oman. That said, there are places that I’ve been that I didn’t care much for that others adored, sometimes a few bad experiences can ruin a great place.

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    • Wow I have been to 19 countries and Pakistan 15 times. Also we travel around the UK with stop over breaks every single year. I will check out your blog

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  3. Dear Barbara,
    I am sad to hear of your negative experience in Oman. However, I think that with better planning, you might have had a better trip. Another thing is the acceptance of the culture; for example in Oman it is normal for Cab Drivers to hassle you. If you listened to the cab drivers, you might have gotten a good deal, and they would take you out to where ever you wanted to go for very cheap. Oman is an extremely safe country, so though in typical western countries and everywhere else in the world hotel doors lock, that shouldn’t have been a huge concern, though to me, it is totally understandable. If you wanted a better hotel room, might I suggest paying more money. By paying more money, you would have gotten a much better hotel room, so for this matter, I believe fault would lie with you. In terms of people, Oman is a rather sparsely populated country, I can say from my experiences there. If you would have looked closer, you would have met some Omanis, but once again you need to research the place before going there. Oman is an islamic country, and in islamic countries men are rather shy around women. It is a different societal dynamic that I think you should have looked into a bit more before heading to Oman. It is not the same as Dubai, as Dubai is extremely industrialized and modern, though Oman is not. Oman is a more “off the road” experience, for adventurous travelers, rather than tourists. I hope not to offend you in any manner or way, though to me it looks like you went to Oman without researching the country properly and going in with a tourist mindset. I hope you come again, and when you do, I recommend looking for a nice Hilton and giving the cab drivers a chance, as they really are helpful. Oman is not necessarily built for tourists, though if one keeps an open mind and is optimistic, then it will be a wonderful place to enjoy yourself. Locals are extremely friendly and helpful, and cab drivers would have taken you practically anywhere. Lastly, though you didn’t have a good experience in Oman, I would have to disagree with your photographing the locals without their consent. That was rather rude, and as Oman is an Islamic Arabic country, they either didn’t understand you or were keeping their gaze away because you were a woman. I hope you try to visit Oman again. Try Selalah.

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      • Hi Michael: Not at all! Your comment was kind and thoughtful and full of good information. Many people said that I should have researched more before visiting Oman. I realize that the normal tourist would have done so, but I never do this. I’ve been to all seven continents and more than 100 countries, traveling as a solo female. As a travel writer, I make it a point to do very little up-front research because I don’t want to arrive at a destination with expectations. I prefer to be surprised, as it makes for better writing. Believe me, I’m pretty flexible and know how to “roll with the punches,” so I never worry much about what I might encounter. I just make it work when I get there. Unfortunately, Oman does not make it easy to do that. I do believe that I would have had a better experience if I’d gotten out of Muscat but, as I said, I couldn’t find a tour operator who was willing to put me together with other travelers to make a group. Every single one of them insisted that I needed to book the tour myself and pay for a minimum of four participants. I found that bizarre and frustrating, to say the least. However, I don’t agree that it is safe for a solo female traveler (or anyone, for that matter) to stay in a hotel room where the doors won’t lock, regardless how safe the country is. Perhaps at some future time, I will give Oman a second try and hope the tourism infrastructure has improved by then.

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        • Very interesting blog and comments. I think it’s not about the infrastructure of the country but rather the mentality of people around you in a new country. For example, in Iraqi Kurdistan there is no infrastructure and its not built yet for tourism either but you will still have the best time of your life because people are so nice and helpful.

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        • I haven’t been to quite as many countries as you Barbara (96 to date) but I used to follow the same approach i.e. not do a lot of upfront research and let the place surprise me (or otherwise!) But now when I write about destinations that I’ve been to and do some research to check facts, I discover that I missed some interesting places because I didn’t do that upfront research. And I also find that research avoids me making simple mistakes with things like taxi drivers, money changers, etc. Like you, I’m a photographer and will sometimes spend hours waiting for the right light or the right composition, but most taxi drivers that I’ve hired for the day soon cotton on that you don’t want to be rushed once you explain what you are doing, and given that they are not using up fuel if you are taking two hours to get a good shot, most are happy to go along with your modus operandi once they understand what you are doing. PS: I loved Muscat. I spent two days walking the city and found it a relaxing break from the hustle and bustle of Dubai,

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        • You need to know locals or friends. Oman is actually so much fun and has a lot of adventure. Next Time you come send me a message and i will show you around.

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    • Came to write EXACTLY this, as a westerner myself I found this comment to be entirely accurate and the article to be somewhat disappointing to how things really are there.

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  4. There’s nothing wrong in what Barbara has said. On the one hand everything is expensive and on the other, facilities are poor. Everyone’s experience can be different.

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  5. Hi Barbara, thanks for the interesting read! I’m sorry some people are attacking you regarding this post.

    I’m currently in Muscat and it’s my fourth time here. This current trip I’ve been here since March so going on eight months now (settled in place due to the current world situation but that’s another story)

    I 100% agree that Muscat really doesn’t have the infrastructure in place yet to really accommodate typical tourists. It’s definitely more of an “off the beaten path” destination and perhaps better suited for travelers that are comfortable with a little bit more of a challenging destination.

    I just wanted to add here that my first impressions of Muscat weren’t fantastic either. I caught a bus from Abu Dhabi to Muscat which stopped at the Airport and arrived sooo many hours later than scheduled – dropping me in Muscat at some ungodly hour (2 or 3am?) and then of course the typical taxi tourist ripoff, etc.

    The first few days I learned that yes the public transport is next to non existent, some areas are simply deserted in the middle of the day (the heat is just too much) and it just doesn’t have the same familiar touristy flow as some of its neighbors (think Dubai or Manama)

    But honestly once I really started to feel the vibe I appreciated the authenticity of the place – it is very “old world” and not what we would normally come to expect when visiting a city as a tourist. I’ve come to learn as well that once you do find and meet the locals they are some of the warmest, friendliest and most welcoming in the world.

    I think the haters in the comments need to appreciate that everybody has a different point of view. I adore India but absolutely despised Pushkar. I don’t get what all the fuss is about with Bali. This is what makes not only different people but different places interesting. If everything and every place was all the same there would be no reason to travel and discover new places – also not every single destination is going to be loved by every single person.

    Personally I do hope that you may give Oman another chance one day. I adore Muscat but also look up Nizwa, Sur & Salalah too. Also the natural beauty and the mountains and deserts here are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen and worth the hassle!

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Ignore the trolls in the comments and keep exploring!

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    • Hi John: I couldn’t agree more. I’ve visited all 7 continents, every country in Europe, and more than 100 countries around the world. Not all places resonate with all people. Oman just left me cold. But…perhaps next time would be different. I’ll give a return trip some consideration, based on what you and others have said. Oman sounds like one of those countries that take a little more time before one can discover its essence.

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  6. Totally agreed I’ve been there many months it’snot a place for general tourists. It need a lot of money to go travel in good places there. I’ve been around the country itself are really beautiful I’ve been to sinkhole park, Sur,Nizwa etc but I use trick of holiday boyfriend with money I had at this time to enjoy there? Although I don’t have to pay for drive. People are not nice for me. But when I go to Sur I saw local family local girls. That was fun. The sea the mountain the village the atmosphere were amazing.

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  7. You are horrible barbara. you spew lies about the glorious nation of oman. Oman is beautiful and wonderful. because of your horrible biased self entitled review of oman, this is one of the first of results when one googles Muscat. You did not do any research into the country, nor were you willing to spend any money. this is the reason of your bad experience

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    • Never been there, i heard about there an hour ago and i must admit i want to go so badly so i googled the place and her blog article came up second!! it caught me, by trying to discourage me and many others from visiting the country, (almost like a campaign of some sort) Anyways i read it none the less and immediately i saw what type of PERSON this writer is. Very picky, uptight, miserable, loved to complain instead of accepting that life isn’t always gonna be a smooth jolly ride and lastly BIASED!!!……. its unfortunate that some people would do this all in the name of destroying a country’s image…. im Jullian, I live in Jamaica and I WILL VISIT OMAN DESPITE THE LIES TOLD BY THIS UPTIGHT, PICKY, LIAR, thank you.

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      • You are totally right Julien, you are totally right. I agree 100% with what you said. As in your own words, barabara is an “UPTIGHT, PICKY, LIAR”

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    • Dude, your comment speaks way more to Omani unfriendliness than Barbara’s whole article does. How rude to say such nasty things on someone’s personal blog.

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    • How could the writer, Barbara, be “spewing lies” when she wrote her truth of personal experiences in Oman? She explained why she didn’t research beforehand Umm because she never does! But, you suggesting her bad experience was because she wasn’t willing to spend any money is simply outrageous. Obviously, she was perfectly willing until “they” tried to make her pay 4x the rate for a single person. I don’t blame her for not accepting under those terms, it’s ridiculous to even read it!

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  8. I have visited tens of countries and lived in 5. I live in Oman since 2016. I would admit in terms of nature and authenticity, Oman is better than most of GCC states. However, in Oman, expats (foreigners residing here) are ripped off widely, awkwardly and in a very naked way. E.g. taxi drivers are Omani, and majority of their passengers are expats. So there is no taxi meters or Uber or … . In public institutes, there are separate rules and salary scales for Omanis and expats, workloads are incomparable too. As another recent example, in COVID era, delivery jobs were gd, so they announced only Omanis can do delivery from now on as they are less infected, though infection statistics showed opposite. For people who have lived in an environment where disreminiation and cheating against foreigners is sorta encouraged, it is difficult to distinguish between tourists and expats and do not rip off tourists where ever they can. That is the problem, I guess

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  9. Totally agree with Barbaba writing

    Oman is a great country, but I was left underwhelmed

    Most exciting parts of Oman are outside Muscat, but it is too expensive to visit, solo or with a group.

    Most of best places I visited, I had done minimal research and was blown away when I got there. Muscat and Oman was not one of those places

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  10. Interesting and helpful post. Thanks for sharing it, Barbara. Good on you traveling alone and being adventurous. I don’t understand why everyone should like every place and we are only allowed to share all things positive with others. Your review was authentic based on your personal experience in your own context. Perfectly valid and I enjoyed reading the details. I suspect I would struggle too for the same reasons. (Why should you accept a hotel room with the door not locking? Nothing cultural about that.) The follow up nasty offensive comments by “defenders” of Oman are having the opposite effect on me. Uff no thanks.

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    • Thanks so much Kaca. I ignore the trolls, but I am happy to receive considerate comments like yours. I suspect that if something bad had happened to me because the doors would not lock, the haters would be the first to attack me for being stupid enough to stay in an unsafe room. They have WAY too much time on their hands LOL.

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      • Funny how debate works for you! You say something you are entitled to about your experience. Fair enough. Some others who have been to Oman then mention “wow, to be honest, it wasn’t exactly like that for us”. You recognise that but find it hard to admit….and suddenly the only way you can comment back is call them haters and trolls! So much for your journalistic ability. You must have had a very sheltered life, irrespective of being a “global traveller”.

        I don’t think ANYONE in the comments below has challenged your decision to request different rooms because the doors won’t lock. But you keep mentioning that like a victim to draw sympathy on your situation. Asking for a safe room is just common sense, no one is putting you down for it. It is all the other crap you have decided to almost go on a “character assassination” of Oman, which people disagree, because they are surprised but your opinion of it and would like to mention that is not all there is about Oman.

        No one has actually trolled you. They have seriously taken you up on your assumptions and comments about various things you’ve made an opinion of in your 3 day trip. No one needs a reason to visit your website and troll you, unless, they seriously do have something to say completely the opposite of what you experienced. You’ve hated Oman too, so ever reflected for a bit on maybe that makes you one of the haters too?

        Only when you reflect and recognise that maybe you got it wrong on some (not all) of the points you made, will you be able to see that your audience/readers too have a point to make (some opposing) and they do not automatically become haters for that.

        “Thanks so much Kaca. I ignore the trolls, I am happy to receive considerate comments like yours.”
        By “considerate you mean only those which agree with you apparently?!

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      • Haters? Weren’t you the one who told you agreed with some people giving some good points… YOU didn’t research about Oman… WHICH IS TOTALLY YOUR MISTAKE… You were barely willing to spend a DIME on your hotel stay and you’re like “Why I hated Oman” please develop some form of brain before calling people trolls when all they’re trying to say is that the first result which comes up when anyone searches up about Oman is THIS… The fact that YOUR blog SPECIFICALLY yours would pop up (A person who didn’t research enough and went to the country with an empty mind) I just find it OUTRAGEOUS… You took pictures of locals while they’re doing their thing CLEARLY anyone here can agree with me that it’s rather DISRESPECTFUL for anyone in any circumstances to do that… I don’t mean hate, but just saying Barbra I don’t think your visit was well planned before you started writing this article… I suggest giving Oman another try or researching about the country when all your blog is doing which is according to others spoiling the image of this beautiful nation… Because it is really funny how debate is working from your perspective…

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    • The problem is that she portrays it in such a disrespectful way. Nothing wrong with having a bad time somewhere. I’ve traveled to 20+ countries and didn’t absolutely love all of them. There’s something uncouth about describing a country you’ve spent 5 days getting to know in the way this article does. The headline says it all. Any person who is truly eager to about new cultures wouldn’t turn others away with such a disrespectful headline. If this article were about a country you cared about I’m sure you would be just as offended. Of course the hotel room was unfortunate but everything else? Barbara gives a very nearsighted account of her very individual experiences and yes, I think there is something wrong with that when you have such a platform. Pitiful journalism is what this article is, even if her other articles are great. Also, before you question my own experience in Oman, I lived there for 15 years and I can tell you that no, you may not be able to experience everything great about the country in 5 days, but that’s no reason to hate on the people and culture after such limited exposure. Come visit Oman and it will speak for itself 🙂

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  11. Oman literally mops the floor with the UAE. It is crystal clear that you were neither prepared for the trip nor willing to spend what it takes to be comfortable in a high cost jurisdiction like Oman. If you choose to visit a new destination without having done any research on it, then the blame surely doesn’t lie with the destination. This is not “vitriol” as you imply in one of your earlier posts; it is plain common sense. Fortunately, the savvy traveller of the 21st century is more discerning and better informed.

    For you to not have enjoyed Oman is, unfortunately and ultimately, your loss.

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    • “This is not “vitriol” as you imply in one of your earlier posts; it is plain common sense.”

      EXACTLY. Why is this person so sensitive to replies which are against her article and why does she think everything is poisonous, haters, trolls etc?

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    • you piece of shit,you country is 25,000 years behind the time. I was there in the 80’s and it has not changed. UAE is far more fun and interesting.

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      • So you were in Oman in the 1980s, and on the strength of that, you claim that the Sultanate has not changed in the past 30 something years.

        Do you also believe that the world is flat, and that pigs can fly?

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      • Well, after courteous Omanis, how unpleasant to to see such language from a supposed female – the word lady would obviously not be applicable.

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    • Very much agree with this post from Ali. As an expat who has lived in Oman for 5 years and has spent a lot of time in Oman, I read this article with disbelief. One should take time to research a place before travelling there. Some things stated are obviously based on assumptions, for instance Barbara says at Muttrah souq ‘not a single Omani was to be found’ but in her posted photograph the shop keeper is Omani!! I also find it disturbing that a journalist/ experienced traveler would make such comments as this ‘I later learned the centuries-old game, which is just as incomprehensible as the local culture’, which spreads negative stereotypes based on narrow-minded assumptions about cultures you have not tried to understand.
      Oman is a brilliant country and Muscat is brilliant city with lots to explore for those who are willing!

      Reply
  12. Hi, below are my genuine experiences in Muscat as a solo traveller not knowing what to expect after landing in the beautiful, clean and peaceful city.

    1. The Omanis I met were all delightfully friendly and warm.
    2. Omanis went out of their way to help me get around.
    3. An Omani invited me into his house for tea and bread, and brought me around his neighborhood, because he was proud of his hometown and culture and wanted me to know about it.
    4. I hired a taxi for a day to get around. We agreed on the rate and the hours. He was not at all calculative. He brought me to the major spots as agreed and much more further beyond – to the mountains and cliffs – which were not discussed originally at no extra charge (maybe it was already factored in, but that didn’t matter).

    Overall, my experience in Muscat far exceeded my expectations. And it is very likely that I will go back again 🙂

    Jimmy (fron Singapore).

    Reply
    • Well said Jimmy! See how such comments never receive a reply from the author?
      She is constantly harping about getting vitriol, trolls, haters etc. when people are just trying to tell her – not all she says is true. She is only replying to posts which thank her and agree with her!

      Reply
      • I agree. i lived in Oman with my young son for 3 years and it was amazing. People far more friendly than UAE. So kind.

        But I do remember a very bitter lady at the college I worked at who got sacked (for good reason) and would go around the town and online forums parading her negative views of Oman. It’s a type. This article reminds me of her. Some kind of entitlement and inability to look at the negative effect they have on others.

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  13. Hey! Sorry to here you had a bad time in Muscat. I actually moved there from Texas and live there permanently now. If the taxi driver insisted on taking you around, it’s just the culture. Usually if you say No about 3 or 4 times, then they will stop. Also Oman is one of the safest places in the world and no crime ever happens so the door lock thing was kinda normal. But It would make sense to get a different room. Also Omani Hotels are not very nice ususally. It’s the houses that are beautiful.

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  14. I’m sorry to hear you had a disappointing time in Oman. I had an incredible time in the port city of Salallah, and Oman was one of my favorite places I’ve ever been. I can’t wait to return!

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  15. Hi Barbara,
    Recently stumbled on your blog (thanks to the worldwide lockdowns!) and can\\\’t help sharing my fair, objective and unbiased perspective of Oman, having lived there for three years until 2015.

    The spewing of negative trolls–mostly absurd, petty, hostile–is disturbing in a civilized culture/society we live in. Human decency teaches us that we can agree to disagree with respect; that honest opinions should not be misconstrued with reactionary anger and agression. Kudos to you for taking the high road on your blog!

    This vicious demeanor reminds me of some lowlife expats/foreign workers that Oman unwittingly attracts. They are rude, arrogant, and shamelessly reprehensible given that they are morally obliged to represent their mother country while employed in their host country.
    (Let me be clear: there are many classy Oman expats as well of whom I have remained friends with to this day).

    While it is apparent that you traveled to Oman without due diligence (advanced planning and research are a must to an Oman visit), much less assumed Oman to be as equally flamboyant and sophisticated as its Dubai neighbor, Oman\\\’s lack of efficient, affordable tourism infrastructure failed you nevertheless.

    Therefore the agonizing isolation one goes thru in Oman is real if you don\\\’t drive, can\\\’t drive or don\\\’t know one kind soul. The loneliness of being alone in a laid-back, Muslim country is believable. And the apathy of a few self-absorbed expats exists. Because the large percentage of the workforce are foreigners, fitting in as a Westerner in a diverse, myriad of unfamiliar ethnicities can be daunting and unsettling.

    The saving grace for me was the kindness and hospitality of many Omanis including some of Muscat\\\’s elites who opened their hearts to me, after recognizing my passion for volunteerism.

    On my first month in Muscat, I was lucky to be introduced to an open-minded, English-speaking, college student moonlighting as a tour guide. My reasonably-priced private city day tour which included a delicious ethnic meal at this young man\\\’s home where I was warmly welcomed by his family was awe-inspiring so that I subsequently hired him on a couple of memorable out-of-town and safari trips when my friends and family eventually visited Muscat.

    The above ingenious tourist programme compelled me to be a catalyst in promoting Oman to international market hence in the true sense of community service, I offered my help and support to the newly-arrived visitors or expats who might otherwise be alienated by the Muscat lifestyle.

    What a pity if Oman tourism has not gotten its act together after all these years. At the very least, if they truly believe in progress and the importance of good customer service, they should diplomatically contact you and invite you back to Oman. They should not depend merely on expensive cruise/group tours and sugar-coated ads/promotions to compete in the tourist market. It is indeed a disservice to the mainstream, budget-conscious traveler as well as to the local working class without a savvy tourism infrastructure in place.

    Otherwise, the Sultanate of Oman is a quiet, peaceful country; a travel photographer\\\’s dream with its lovely landscapes, dramatic typography, unpolluted beaches, magnificent wadis and amazing sunsets. It is a haven for the sports and outdoor enthusiasts in golf, cycling, sailing, biking and camping. For the luxurious, the opulent Royal Opera House and the exquisite 5-star hotels with their own private beaches are worth visiting/exploring. For the aesthete, the country is laden with traditional charms and rich heritage. The interior towns are quaint; the locals blissfully ignorant but kind-hearted. (You must have heard of the general notion that the Omani people are reputably the gentlest and most respectful among all the Arabs in the Gulf region). And for the foodies, the unique Omani tea is delightful; the authentic cuisine savory.

    The highlight of most Oman visits is the desert safari which fares better than Dubai\\\’s due to Oman\\\’s expansive desert and alluring sand dunes. From the exciting camel rides to the thrill-of-a-lifetime sand bashing, you will not be disappointed. The way of life of the friendly and beautiful Bedouin people is humbling, if not interesting. Lastly, being marooned on the desert\\\’s highest peak where forever is an understatement; very serene..so magical with the mesmerizing sundown seemingly at your arm\\\’s reach is to me, pure nirvana!

    Wishing you the best in your future travels!

    Reply
    • Hello Aná Née Mousse. Thanks so much for your very detailed comment. I don’t pay much attention to the trolls, but I let their comments appear as long as they aren’t using vulgar language, anonymous names, or attacking me inappropriately. You are correct that I did little to no research before arriving in Oman, but I do this for a reason. I’ve been to more than 100 countries and I find that arriving with little knowledge gives me no expectations and is thus better for my writing. I want to be surprised, taken unaware. I’ve got 3,200 stories on my blog and I can count on two hands the number that are negative. I never set out to write something negative – that’s not my thing. But very occasionally, I just don’t resonate with a place. This is definitely what happened with Oman. But, perhaps the planets were in a weird alignment or something. From what you say, I may indeed need to give it another try one day. Again, thank you for your comment. I very much appreciated it.

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      • Dear Barbara, I’m terribly sorry for what happened to you in my country. I do understand your experience and all the feeling that you felt in such situations. I’m a local Omani, and I do not blame you and can’t deny that much of what you said is correct in a way or another.

        One place, different people and different realities. However, what I am sure about is that there is so much you missed in Oman. Yes, it may be expensive sometime, unclear other times. For these reasons, you may need to search and set a plan before coming.

        Anyway, I would love to have you as my guest any time you decide to come back.

        Reply
        • Thank you Ameera, that is so very kind of you. I hope for all our sakes that the day will come soon when we can travel again. And should I ever get back to Oman, I will definitely let you know. I would love to meet you.

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      • With all due respect, I think you should remove your article. We have all had bad travel experiences, but your description is not reflective of a “lack of resonance” with the place. Your description is really just objectively ignorant. I encourage you to delete this article, revisit Oman, and even if you still have a bad experience, post about it but please be respectful. Also, maybe do a little more research before visiting. Disrespecting locals in the name of better travel writing isn’t a very good M.O.

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    • Hi Aná Née Mousse,

      I enjoyed reading your comment and I think you made a lot of good points!

      During my relatively short time in Oman, I too was mesmerised it’s nature, landscapes, food, and architecture. I found the local people to be friendly and warm, and rarely felt uncomfortable as a young woman. I was however, very lucky to be visiting the country with my boyfriend; a former resident who had prior knowledge of good places to visit, and friends who could drive us to different locations. Due to Oman’s unfortunate lack of accessible public transport, my experience had I been travelling alone may well have been very different.

      As a traveller myself, I’m wary of ever saying that I “hated” a country that I’ve visited, especially on a public platform like the internet. I do this because I know that my opinion is subjective, and people can be very defensive and sensitive about the countries they love and call home. There are countries I have been to that I haven’t enjoyed as much as others and places where I have had negative and uncomfortable experiences, but there isn’t one that I’m not willing to give a second chance under different circumstances.

      Whilst I absolutely do not condone the trolling in any way, I do think Ms Weibel could have been slightly less harsh in describing Oman’s shortcomings. Although this of course does not warrant the negativity she has been receiving.

      Ultimately my opinion is that a country like Oman, or any country for that matter, is far too complex to gain a full understanding of in just a matter of days or weeks.

      I urge anyone who has just read Barbara’s post to still consider visiting Oman, and Barbara herself to perhaps try visiting again.

      Safe and happy travels! 🙂

      Reply
  16. Good heavens! I absolutely loved Oman and Muscat. Been there twice in two different decades and will go again if possible! I LOVE the entire country of OMAN in general for it’s desert and rocky mountain scenery and and MUSCAT as a city in particular really attracts me for it’s laidback lifestyle and friendly people.

    Yes the local people ARE a lot friendlier than in the UAE or Qatar for instance! Yes, the places are beautiful, the scenery is fascinating and there is a lot more on offer than other Gulf countries, but you need to have made your homework before you visit.

    Muscat city has a very laid back and relaxed attitude to many things. However, this may not include local men being very receptive to what might be perceived as a nosy Western woman disturbing them when concentrating in the middle of a traditional game they are busy playing with and their minds are occupied in the game. I mean would you go and disturb two men sitting in a park in the USA playing chess for instance or linger around them and watch or take photos? Or your son whilst playing his Playstation? A bit rude to be honest. It comes across that you feel quite entitled that everyone should place you on a pedestal and be very welcoming towards you because you are a solo Western woman traveller. That is the impression you came to Muscat with.

    Personal encounters like taxi drivers with a sales pitch are to be laughed at. Hotel rooms with problems is a situation which could happen in any city of any country/continent. Just check the negative reviews on any major booking website. Hotels do not reflect local tradition or culture. They are only there for profit making. It is YOUR responsibility to use your due diligence in finding a good one. It is really wrong for you to apply those negative experiences and blame a country or it’s people for it! I have stayed in beautiful, superior, welcoming hotels and found the service amazing.

    “The only friendly people I met were immigrants”
    Gosh! You seem to have got hurt about “insults” you’ve received in your comments, but have you even tried reflecting on your own statement? You’ve generalised an entire country and Omanis as unfriendly people based on your 2-3 day experience there, for which to be honest, I don’t think you prepared for in advance. You just expected to make a landing and find everything in perfect place for your entertainment.

    “And the countryside may indeed be beautiful, but since all the tours were exceedingly expensive, I never saw it”.
    Yes it is expensive. you did not check this before arriving? And you then felt you need to complain about it? Some places are more expensive than others! Get used to it!

    “There is no published information about bus routes and no rapid transit”.
    Rapid Transit? You kidding me? Most places in the gulf don’t!

    You making a thing about every point specially for Oman seems like you have translated your personal disappointments about your hotel and taxi into a sour grapes story of hating the country itself!

    “My new French Canadian friends told me horror stories about getting lost in the interior on roadways completely devoid of any directional signs”.
    Haha! Where are they now? Your “new French Canadian friends” still sitting lost perhaps somewhere in some other desert in another country? Brilliant typical ignorant Westerners. They didn’t have a sat-nav? They didn’t have a map? Just decided to set out on the highway into the “interior” naively depending on the Omani Government to have made sure to have placed directional signs everywhere in remote corners of their country! Whenever we drove around in Oman, we had a sat-nav and google maps and had absolutely NO PROBLEMS with it. Plus we used basic common sense! I mean it is the desert! So the sunshines all the time. So you clearly know which side is East, West, North and South! That already simplifies a lot of things and makes it very clear which direction you are more or less heading towards! Similarly when I was lost in the “interior” of Portugal, the last thing I did was blame the Portuguese government for not placing directional signs. Neither did I go around telling everyone that it was a horror story. I found my way, using methods which anyone with common sense would – use maps, mobile phone, stop and ask the shepherd trying to get the sheep away from the road etc! BTW, tell your French Canadian friends to not visit any large country…..for instance Russia or Australia….and go driving into the “interior”.

    Do not judge a country by the lack of your own plans, preparation, affordability and self-entitled expectations. Maybe the next country you visit may be more friendly to you then.

    Reply
    • Sandesh, I have to admit you really do come across as a, as we say in Wales… A bit of a cock! I for one found the article interesting if not a bit short. However, one thing I did take from it, was the experiences of the person who wrote it, NOT the experiences of a burk like you who went there before her. I’m glad you had a good time, but just because you did, doesn’t mean everyone else will.
      Just so that you know, the whole point of checking someone’s travel blog, is to get a general idea of what to expect in a particular region from the authors point of view. It doesn’t mean because I’ve read it, I’m going to write a country off or book my trip there after the final full stop, it means I can consider my next move and see if I can make my experience there better or not, given the brief glimps of someone else’s time there.
      If you feel so aggrieved about the countries standing in people’s minds, perhaps YOU should write your own blog, column, book or website, so YOU can feel the warmth of people such as yourself. Although as most trolls on the Internet, I’ll hazard a guess you’ll remain as proactive as your comments are valid.

      Reply
  17. Don’t miss out on visiting a country based on one persons view. Try it out yourself. The vibes you give off is what you get back. Just a thought.
    You should not even think of going to Pakistan or to any country in that region for that matter Barbara, because we are all rude and will stare at you if you take our pics without permission, because we are not specimens but people .Also we are quite dirty for your liking and can be quite unfriendly and sometimes violent. So there another list of countries you should never go to. Also we can steal too!!!Made it easy for you.

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  18. Barbra listen Muscat is a really beautiful place with amazing culture, traditions and history. The people are very nice and approachable. Im not an arab myself I’m an immigrant and i have been living here for 14 years. I think that you should have done your research cuz it seems like you didn’t . Its easy to shift blame isn’t it?
    IF U CANT SAY ANYTHING NICE DONT SAY ANYTHING AT ALL (especially when u didn’t do ur research)

    Reply
    • “”F U CANT SAY ANYTHING NICE DONT SAY ANYTHING AT ALL””
      Strange remark, that. So you leave out anything which tells your experiences, just in case you hurt the feelings of the Omani’s?? what happens in cases where your comment is quite factual?? Do you let others visit that place and undergo the same misfortunes?? Pleasure in knowing that others will undergo the same bad treatments/happenings?
      I worked in Oman on archaeological work and found that the way they treated imported Indian workers was quite awful…inferior beings, not superior Omani’s. There is a side to them that you either ignored or missed.

      Reply
      • All Omanis like everyone else are not the same some are honest and kind.
        Some are not.
        So are people in the rest of the world…aren’t they?

        Reply
  19. Sad thing is. The entire country suffers from this review. It’s one of the first search results on Muscat. Maybe muscat should counter saying why hole in the donut sucks and should never come back! Hopefully those with minds switched on pay no attention to this nonsense and those with them off tune right in. If you don’t have anything good to say, please be quiet. 🙂

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  20. Hey guys, can I just say, please stay respectful. I do agree that she did not make the best decisions and could have done more research on Oman to make sure that she finds where she was looking. As Oman is not the perfect manufactured tourist farm that is Dubai, it would have been best to search for the hidden gems which give more insight into the local culture, instead of expecting local culture to come to you. As for the men playing that game on the street, I think that it is understandable that they got uncomfortable. I have been photographed before by tourists which was also uncomfortable and I have also read about places in Africa where people were sick of -themselves- being the tourist attraction. Also, many Arab countries like Kuwait and Dubai have strict rules about photographing people. As an Arab myself, I think that we generally don’t like being photographed by others (unless want a family picture for ourselves) and are less forward, unlike in many Western countries).
    Barbara, you like photography right? I have heard great things about Oman’s monsoon season where temperature’s in Oman drop so it is less humid. Maybe you would like that? It seems great for photo’s.

    Reply
      • How am I self entitled by saying that people should stay respectful and not cuss her out? How am I self entitled by giving Barbara reasons as to why not everyone welcomed her with open arms and trying to find understanding? How am I self entitled by suggesting to her to give Oman another try in Monsoon season as she was clearly struggling with the heat and it would give her better pictures? I mean, did you even read my comment at all? And ‘the world owes me’? Applies to nothing I have said. Read before you reply next time.

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      • Exactly! It is very clear that Barbara is totally on cloud cuckoo land when it comes to travel and the experiences. She has no respect for locals. Expects them to treat tourists with welcoming smiles and service her all the time perfectly! Maybe she needs to get used to the fact that she is not the most important person when going travelling. Maybe she needs to visit France and get a little “snubbing” from the locals to get a taste of what people can be like! (BTW, I love France). When going travelling, go with the least expectation, not the greatest! The people you are visiting are living their own lives in their own world. They are not all waiting to please and entertain tourists all the time. And thank God, Oman is NOT the tourist mecca that people like Barbara want it to be. This has helped in keeping it authentic and traditional and genuine. Most countries which do not have the perfect amenities are exactly the places which are the most interesting and have the most to discover. You just have to put up with some not so perfect things, to experience them.

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          • You and I both know you’re lying about that. Or maybe you didn’t feel snubbed because you could understand other white people not giving a flying f*** about you.

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          • Ive been to france and its one of the most racist countries in the world.
            Bad people bad food.
            In each country the experience differs from person to a person.

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        • Ive only just found this site… your response is so correct! Oman is charming, Beautiful and safe and authentic…..why compare it with Dubai, completely offscale.

          I am a solo female traveller in my elder years. In November 2019 I used AirBnB in beautiful Qantab, together with a fantastic Omani guide for 10 days….my own personal guide . In those 10 days I experienced Oman in awe and delight.

          My wonderful guide took me to many of his friends homes where I was urged to try every delicacy they had gone to much trouble organising….I can still taste the helwa!!
          My guide introduced me to mishkak. karak ….I think you can tell I long to go back!
          My holiday was not exactly budget, but neither broke the bank….no person snubbed me, no person laughed as my pronounciation of Shukran!

          Oman and Omani people may you forever prosper as you have been doing whilst keeping your true Identity

          My

          Reply
      • Wow, I’m being insulted just because I did not insult Barbara and told other commenters to stay respectful? I’m trying to let Barbara rethink her view of Oman. Have you guys actually read my comment. So childish.

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      • You guys are offended by her review but your rudeness and ungraceful handling of criticism brings Oman down more than any of Barbara’s negative reviews. You guys are poison.

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        • Thank you so much Layla. I do appreciate what you have said, and comments like yours are much more likely to make me try Oman again some time in the future. Frankly, I’ve stopped replying to most of these commenters because of the absolute vitriol they spew. I realize that others have raved about Oman, but the plain truth was that I really struggled with my experience in Muscat.

          Like I always do, I chose my hotel based on guest reviews in, probably, Booking.com (don’t remember exactly, too long ago). The reviews were fine, but it was far from what I expected when I got there. And those who criticize me for not being willing to stay in a room where the doors would not lock…well, all I can say is that as a solo female traveler, safety is my number one concern. Regardless of how safe Oman is in general, it is stupid to stay in a room with no secure locks. If something had happened – god forbid, a rape or a robbery – these same commenters would undoubtedly be the first ones to attack me as being stupid for staying in such a room. I’ve traveled solo to more than 100 countries so I’m not a timid traveler and nothing much ever scares me. But I am careful not to put myself in situations that could become dangerous.

          Second, as a seasoned traveler and writer, I prefer to arrive at a destination without having done much research. It is better for my writing (and for my readers) if I arrive without expectations. In most cases, I am blown away by what I find. In some cases, a destination is just OK. But in very few cases, I am disappointed. Muscat was one of those destinations. As of today, I have 3,228 articles on my blog and less than ten are negative. I have no interest in writing terribly negative stories, but I feel I owe my readers honesty. Oman has said it wants to attract more tourists. In my view, the country has not yet developed the infrastructure that would be necessary to become a major tourist destination, and that was the point of my story. For example, I have absolutely no desire to drive into the desert in a rental car, all alone. The mere fact that I could not find a single tour company who would not arrange for me to join a group tour was completely insane to me. How much business are they losing? And why hasn’t the government set up an agency to assist in tourism development. These are very simple things to do.

          Don’t get trapped in the trolls who are now attacking you. They are mot worth the time it takes to reply to them. Again, thank you for being considerate. Perhaps someday I will give Oman another try, as you say, in Monsoon season.

          Reply
          • Hi! I feel terrible for what you went through. I am from Oman, please try visiting again to this Friendly country ( well at least after the pandemic is over) ?. The issue about people’s friendliness, you might have met wrong people at the wrong time. Every country has good and bad people.

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    • Monsoon season, great for photos eh? My experience was that it absolutely falls down in torrents, washes a bit more of Oman towards the sea and it greens up for a while. Novel experience, mind you

      Reply

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