Oman’s cultural tourism

Writing the revision for the Bradt Guide to Oman I needed not only focus on finishing the text & maps but also change my view point of Oman’s tourism.

Learning about Beekeeping
Learning about Beekeeping

Previously, while working in Oman’s tourism, organising a visit into a museum in Oman for tourists would be easily pre-planned in a basic tour, a special visit to Honey Bee keeper could be agreed within days, while a visit to something like Jalali Fort (before 2001) might take many months of discussion. But essentially each took local knowledge and personal contacts, something that a tourist would not have.

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

Jalali Fort visit
Jalali Fort visit

These might include learning how to cook food like a local, and eat the food in a traditional local manner, see local fabric weaving, captain local traditional river boats yourself or attend a local sports event. On line 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,

Henley Royal Regatta
from Henley Royal Regatta

National Eisteddfod of Wales or Edinburgh Festival are planned and promoted years in advance or happen like clockwork by place and time.

So my view point for this Oman Travel Guide needed changing into looking at tourism partly from a tourist’s viewpoint and what could a tourist plan themselves in Oman without difficulty. A tourist would, to an extent, rely on the guide book as Oman’s events do not usually have many months of firm details and smaller, to use a naturists word, ‘Endemic’ ones 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.

Camel Race Oman
Camel Race Oman

In the event, within the book some event like Bullfighting in Barka 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 each season. 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.

The guidebook therefore is unfortunately sparse on such 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 AirBnB which after all is simply and online booking system for a version of Britain’s Bed & Breakfast family home accommodation. I feel that these Endemic experiences which cannot be replicated elsewhere have the potential to create a lasting & unique impression on visitors and more importantly provide a good income to local people.

The Bradt Guide to Oman should be available by the end of 2016, certainly in January 2017 – feedback about it is very welcome.

Author: Tony Walsh

Book author including the current Bradt guide to Oman