Including local experiences in the Bradt Guide to Oman

Writing the revision for the Bradt Guide to Oman – Experiences that could and could not be included, turned out to be a difficult area to deal with.  I needed not only focus on finishing the text & maps but also change my viewpoint of Oman’s tourism.

Bait Al Zubair Museum
Bait Al Zubair Museum

Previously, for my tour company organising a visit into a museum in Oman for tourists would be pre-planned in a basic tour, a special visit to Honey Bee keeper

Beekeeper Oman
Beekeeper Oman

could be agreed within days, while a visit to something like Jalali Fort (before 2001)

Jalali Fort visit
Jalali Fort visit with part of a group

might take many months of discussion with the office for Sultan Qaboos. But essentially they took local knowledge and in some cases personal contacts, something that a tourist would not have; so should they be included if it would not be possible to see them!.

Bradt Guide to Oman 4th Edition Cover
Bradt Guide to Oman 4th Edition Cover

The desire to see a country through the window of a vehicle has limited appeal for today’s tourists.

Traditional Oman Meal for our Tourists
Traditional Oman Meal for our Tourists

With tourism in many countries, there is a trend to experience at first hand authentic local lifestyles. Customs and culture are an essential and growing part of travel experiences.

Traditional Rug Weaving Oman
Traditional Rug Weaving Oman

In many countries, these might include learning how to cook food like a local, see local fabric weaving, captain local traditional riverboats yourself or attend a local sports event.

Online information in many countries is readily available and so a tourist can organize it easily. In Britain, great events, such as the Henley Royal Regatta in England, National Eisteddfod of Wales or Edinburgh Festival are planned and promoted years in advance or happen like clockwork by place and time.

So my viewpoint needed changing for this Oman Travel Guide from using my own experience and personal contacts as a means to see local events, to looking at tourism partly from a tourists viewpoint and what could a tourist plan themselves in Oman, without difficulty.

A tourist would, to an extent, rely on the guidebook as Oman’s events do not usually have many months of firm details for date or place, for example even regular religious national holidays are announced only a few days in advance. Smaller, to use a naturalists word, ‘Endemic’ experiences are often simply word of mouth. So including suggestions in the book, irrespective of their appeal, that might not be found or available would be frustrating for the visitor.

In the event, within the Bradt Guide to Oman – there are experiences like Bullfighting in Barka

Batinah Bull contest
Batinah Bull contest

which could be included as the location was specific and time was easy to explain. Others such as camel racing could be mentioned but with the lack of a schedule planned years in advance, it was impossible to direct a tourist to a location for the once or twice a year race held there on different dates each year.

Camel Race - Oman
Part of a small group at a Camel Race with me – Oman

More frustrating was the situation with local crafts as, even with fixed locations like the pottery in Bahla or Sidab ladies, opening hours were not guaranteed and usually depended on an individual’s decision to be at work.

Pottery Craft Bahla
Pottery Craft Bahla

The guidebook, therefore, is unfortunately sparse on ‘Endemic’ experiences and includes an emphasis on historic buildings and outdoor Oman which although many are special they do not have the uniqueness that makes them specifically Omani.
I do hope that as well as the future development of mega projects such as Mina Sultan Qaboos, attention to a more uniquely ‘Endemic’ Omani experience will be made by the Oman government.

These perhaps one day may even include officially approving AirBnB (currently its done with no government sanction and therefore any AirBnB accommodation can be closed instantly) which after all is simply an online booking system for a version of Britain’s Bed & Breakfast family home accommodation. I feel that these ‘Endemic’ experiences have the potential to create a lasting & unique impression on visitors and more importantly provide a good income to local people.

Author: Tony Walsh

Book author including the current Bradt guide to Oman – edition 4