Exploring Oman through food
“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” - George Bernard Shaw
The people of Oman believe exactly that the most sincere love is that of food. Food is fuel for us Homo sapiens, keeping our body running and thereby also avoiding bad vibes. While some of us eat to live, there are a lot of us who live to eat. We make up a significant portion of the population who love food, experiment with different types of food and even daydream about what will we eat for the next meal or day. (Let’s admit it, we all have done it, at least I have.)
Living in the capital city of Muscat, I have been fortunate enough to be able to visit different food joints and sample all that the city has to offer. Since Oman is a melting pot of cultures and has a substantial population of expatriates from various countries, Muscat has a plethora of restaurants and small eateries serving almost all types of food - Indian, Mexican, Lebanese, Arabic, you name it, we have it.
Muscat is home to many famous snacks which are mandatory to be sampled if one does come to visit and I shall try my best to list down a few of my favourite snacks which have to be eaten when one is in the city.
1. Shawarma and Falafel
Shawarma is an emotion for us, non-vegetarian, Gulf raised kids. We grow up eating shawarmas which, in layman terms, is a roll with chicken stuffed with garlic paste/ tahini/ hummus in it.
We are fiercely protective of our shawarma and do not let anyone degrade it! The most popular restaurants which serve shawarmas are Camilia Café (Turkish Shawarma) Istanboly and Al Hawas Coffee Shops. For our vegetarian brethren, we have Falafels which are equally good. Falafel is a heavenly concoction of chickpeas or fava beans and spices.
Shawarma with Mountain Dew (can confirm that Mountain Dew runs in our blood by now) is an emotion for all of us living in this country.
2. Arabic Sweets
Sweets such as Kunafa, Baklava, Basbousa, just to name a few are popular sweets liked by everyone. These sweets are easy to find, available in abundance everywhere and are delicious.
Dates are also very popular here. There are 250 variants of dates indigenous to Oman. Raw dates hand-plucked from the trees are also worth trying. Visitors usually take back with them boxes of dates. Dates are rich in fibre and nutrients and make up a very healthy and yummy snack.
What should I say about this drink? Laban is a close sister of the buttermilk family and is thick in consistency. This drink is loved by practically everyone who lives here or those who have migrated elsewhere. Readily available in all supermarkets with many flavours such as mango, strawberry etc. The original Laban is much preferred. Since, we have really high temperatures during the summer, Laban is consumed by most people to beat the heat.
4. Fast Food Joints
Muscat has almost all fast food joints. KFC, McDonalds, Subway, Pizza Hut, etc. What I love about these joints is that they have tailored their menu according to local tastes and preferences. They have some standardized items on the menu available everywhere in the world as well as a few extra items which are local to Oman. You wouldn’t find a KFC Twister or a Shawarma pizza elsewhere! These fast food restaurants are a must visit if one wants to taste new, previously unheard-of items from these franchises.
5. Arabic Food
Oman, being a predominantly Arabic speaking country, is rich in its heritage and culture. Arabic food is also eaten widely here. Some of the most popular Arabic specialty food found in most street eateries and restaurants are Mishkak, Mandi, Kabsa, Shuwa, harees, etc. Omanis are generous, hospitable people who don’t shy away from taking care of guests. If one visits an Omani home, they are sure to be able to taste or rather have a dining experience with an assortment of food and kahwa.
Food speaks volumes about a country’s culture and identity. Oman celebrates the food of all the inhabitants of the land and has been integrating their own cuisine with the food of a million expatriates who call this land their own. Food is a vital factor of who we are as people and we love our food and I’m sure you will too. So, what are you craving?
Satansha Mamotra is pursuing a management degree in Hospitality and Facilities Management. She is fond of reading and especially loves to write. She loves being the unofficial scribe at college, being asked to write up with something special on every occasion, be it a college fest, a farewell, a birthday celebration, or just plain fun, quirky stuff.
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