by SALIM AL AFIFI
Experiencing new dining cultures has always been my favourite thing about travelling. Yes, you’re most likely to find me in charge of handling the food part of my friends’ itineraries. Through food, you get to explore a variety of mouthwatering dishes, bond with the locals and learn more on how to eat like a local. This week, I bring to you a three-day itinerary that includes some of the best restaurants in town, from the capital of Muscat to the interiors of Oman.
Pick a hotel that has excellent dining varieties, such as the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa, a five-star resort with more than ten dining outlets for you to dive in and experience when you’re staying in. Check-in at Al Husn, one of the three properties at the resort, known for its exclusive, royal treatment.
12:00pm: Arrive at the resort. Check-in and have yourself a quick power nap.
01:00pm: Leave the hotel and head over to the city for an Omani lunch at Ubhar Restaurant in Shatti Al Qurum. Order their signature rice-based dishes with pit-roasted local delicacy: Shuwa. Make sure to try their frankincense ice cream.
02:30pm Cruise around Shatti Al Qurum. Visit the ‘Love Street’ and drive along the corniche with your windows rolled down. You’d spot a Starbucks, but ignore the temptation and drive straight to Tea Time, where you can have a cup of karak, a speciality cardamom-infused milk tea.
03:00pm Stop by Ice Cream Mama for another sweet treat, inspired by local, traditional popsicles. This is the perfect dessert in this summery weather. Go for their charcoal flavour or one of their local ingredients.
03:30pm Drive back to the resort to relax for an hour, freshen up and change for dinner.
05:00pm Drive beyond the airport, to Mawaleh, to try some of the best doughnuts in Oman. Mini Donuts serves freshly baked treats with all your favourite toppings with hints of local flavours. If you love savoury donuts, go for the Chips Oman with cheese option. If you’re more of a sweets person, try their lotus or cinnamon dust varieties. Alternatively, you can try luqaimat, sweet dumplings bathed in sugar syrup, which next to Mini Donuts. You can have them with a splash of date syrup. Yum.
7:00pm Have your dinner at one of the best Turkish places, Turkish House in Al Khuwair. You might be tempted to have their shawarma sandwiches (which are amazing) but the start of the show is their grilled fish that comes with a side of cold mezze and a selection of oven-baked bread.
09:00pm Drive back to Shatti Al Qurum for some street food magic. Behind W Muscat Hotel, you’d find several food trucks selling mishkak, Oman’s beloved skewered meat mixed with chunks of fat, bathed in tamarind sauce and chilli. You can have beef, lamb, prawns, squid or chicken cubes. Enjoy a walk by the beach with your mishakak.
10:00pm Head back to the hotel for a final treat. Enjoy an evening of bubbly drinks and pleasant music at the Piano Lounge, located on the ground floor of Al Bandar at Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah.
08:00am: Rise and shine. Get dressed and head downstairs for a lavish breakfast at Al Tanoor.
10:00am Drive to Muttrah fish market for some fresh catch-of-the-day treat. This is a perfect stop to mingle with the Omani fishermen and get to know more about their fishing traditions and culture. After exploring the market, grab your favourite fish for lunch.
12:00pm Eat at Fishers Grilled restaurant in an alleyway on the opposite side of the street, facing the fish market. Take your bargain and ask the chefs to prepare it for you using their flavoursome spices and go to town with it.
02:00pm: Drive through Old Muscat, past the Al Alam Palace, and up through the Sidab Fishing Village, all the way to Al Bustan Palace, then back to Muttrah. This journey is filled with lots of opportunities for beautiful, instagrammable travel photos. So make sure you have your camera ready.
04:00pm Head out to Muttrah for a lovely stroll along the corniche, then visit the oldest traditional market in Oman, the Muttrah Souq, where you will get to buy local spices and souvenirs.
06:00pm Stop by Bait Al Luban (facing the traditional fish market in Muttrah) for a scrumptious Omani dinner. Pick a seat at the majlis area, and have a traditional experience seating on the floor. Order qabuli rice with chicken or meat, or go for another round of smoky shuwa. It’s beyond delicious.
08:00pm: Return to the hotel and enjoy another feast at Bait Al Bahar, one of the best seafood restaurants in Oman. After that, head upstairs to BAB Lounge for designer bubbly sips. Unwind as the DJ keeps the party going.
06:00am: The final day will be a long one, so wake up early and skip hotel breakfast.
06:30am: Stop by a tea shop at Al Bustan Street, on your way to Ruwi. Have a cup of karaoke with traditional Omani bread, Rakhal. Pick a condiment or spread of your choice, from cheese and jam, to Nutella and hard-boiled eggs with honey. Yum.
07:00am: Pre-arrange a trip to Nizwa in Al Dakhiliya region. It’s a two-hour drive from the capital. (Make sure to arrange this at least a day in advance). Enjoy the mountainous scenery that stretches across the interiors.
09:00am: Arrive at the traditional market, Nizwa Souq. Start exploring the livestock market, see the bedouin come in from the desert to buy camels, goats, chickens. The friendly battle between the locals is one of the highlights, so arrive early and immerse yourself into the atmosphere; It’s an unmissable experience that makes for lovely photos. (Make sure Day 3 falls on a Friday for the livestock market)
10:00am Enter Nizwa Souq and stroll around its muddy alleys, exploring some of the best pottery items in the country. Stop by their sweet corner for some traditional Halwa, a dense, sweet treat made of caramelised sugar and hares starch. It’s heavenly delicious.
11:00am: Drive to Al Hamra to the Bait Al Safah living museum. Meet old village women who sit in a traditional house and demonstrate traditional handicraft and old school ways of making Omani dishes over an open fire. Stick around and watch them make Omani bread. Guests can pre-arrange a special session if they’d like to cook with the women — how cool.
02:00pm Have lunch at Bait Al Safah before driving back to Muscat.
05:00pm: Arrive at the hotel. Freshen up and prepare for dinner.
06:00pm Dine at Al Maida restaurant in Azaiba (at the 18th November street), where they serve the best Yemeni cuisine in town. The place has floor seating for those wanting to experience a traditional way of dining. Order the fragrant and meaty rice dish of Mandi — the dish is an absolute delight.
08:00 For a final stop, head over to Dukanah Cafe on the other side northern side of Azaiba (behind GMC car showroom) and try authentic Omani desserts. Order Jawla, a sweet treat made of bread, date syrup and honey. Or, you can go for a date paste made with Omani ghee. To wash it all down, order a rosewater lemonade or a cup of kahwa (Omani flavoured coffee).
10:00pm: Drive back to the hotel.