White sand beaches, rolling desert dunes and expansive mountain ranges, Oman is the Middle East’s best-kept secret. In this episode, we’ll find out why it’s one of the safest countries in the world and meet a unicyclist seeking the most breathtaking trails on a single wheel.
00:34 About Oman
02:07 Is Oman safe?
03:24 Traveling during Ramadam
10:40 Jake's assignment in Muscat
14:07 "...the people are incredibly kind." - Jake
16:43 Jake's favourite photo from Oman
19:05 Travel News
22:00 Cockroaches on a plane
23:01 Exploring mountain trails on a unicycle
27:40 Going with the flow
29:28: Tips for traveling to Oman
32:17 Diving in Oman
34:50 Next week
Jake Saylers won a 10-day photographic assignment in Oman under the mentorship of National Geographic photographer Jason Edwards. View Jake’s story here and as promised, below is his selfie in front of his favorite photo from Oman.
Rahma Khan, is the author, and founder of the travel adventure blog The Sane Adventurer, “… a blog full of safe adventurous travel stories for all my fellow adventure junkies who love to live their wildest fantasies but within the limits of sanity.”
Sarah Duff is a freelance travel writer, photographer and documentary filmmaker who has been adventuring around the globe on assignments for a decade. Originally from South Africa, she currently calls Berlin home. Read her story about her 10-day circular road trip around Oman here.
Stephanie Dietze is a copywriter and editor and features in The New Outsiders, a 2019 book published by Gestalten highlighting the passion for the wilderness through the stories of fly fishers, cold-water surfers, campers, free-climbers, craftsmen, and many more unique characters including Stephanie, who is also a unicyclist seeking the most breathtaking trails on a single wheel.
“Wild nature, a mountain to climb, my sleeping bag and the stars above – there’s nothing else I need.” - Stephanie.
Scholarships Newsletter: Sign up for scholarships news and see what opportunities are live here.
Like the idea of visiting Oman? You may like check our other countries in the Middle East, like Jordan with world-class mountain and trail hiking. Read this blog entry by Escaping NY for more on Jordan.
Explore Panama, the land of diversity and hair frizz-inducing humidity in this podcast episode.
Next Episode: Mark and Mya.
Explore your boundaries and discover your next adventure with The World Nomads Podcast. Hosted by Podcast Producer Kim Napier and World Nomads Phil Sylvester, each episode will take you around the world with insights into destinations from travelers and experts. They’ll share the latest in travel news, answer your travel questions and fill you in on what World Nomads is up to, including the latest scholarships and guides.
World Nomads is a fast-growing online travel company that provides inspiration, advice, safety tips and specialized travel insurance for independent, volunteer and student travelers traveling and studying most anywhere in the world. Our online global travel insurance covers travelers from more than 135 countries and allows you to buy and claim online, 24/7, even while already traveling.
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Speaker 1: Welcome to the World Nomads podcast delivered by World Nomads, the travel lifestyle and insurance brand. It's not your usual travel podcast. It's everything for the adventurous independent traveler.
Kim: Thanks for tuning in. Kim and Phil delivering you the latest World Nomad's podcast and we're exploring Oman in this episode. It's an up and coming destination, Phil, in a country not everyone is talking about quite yet. So we're featuring the destination. It's almost ironic to [inaudible 00:00:27] inspire you to visit this place before everyone else does.
Phil: It's just our little secret, okay? Look it's just, it's only a small country, and of course it's in the far southeastern part of the Arabian peninsula. It has got, count them, four UNESCO World Heritage sites. They breed the best Arabian horses. Coffee is the national drink and frankincense trees grow there. I didn't know frankincense grew on a tree.
Kim: It's, they do, I've seen pictures.
Phil: Okay, well they, In fact, every house is scented with frankincense and once it was the most precious gift that was only for royalty, but now you can go grab yourself some frankincense in Oman. The reason it's a bit of secret is it was only opened up to foreign travelers about twenty years ago. So it's managed to keep most of its old traditions alive.
Kim: Yep. In this episode we'll hear from photography scholarship winner, Jake Zales. His photographic assignment was to explore this, old historic town of Muscat and its surroundings. We'll also find out what he's up to six years after winning the scholarship and we welcome back Sarah Duff, who talks about her ten day circular road trip around Oman. She got some great tips too, combining unmissable sites with a mixture of off the beaten track adventures, including snorkeling and that is just the start.
Phil: All right. Let's kick it off. Our first guest is Rama Khan, who grew up and still lives in Oman. We start the conversation by following on what we discussed in a recent episode with Eric Maddox about what is the Middle East and what isn't, and the idea or misconception that perhaps it's not safe in that region.
Rama Khan: Oh, yeah, it's do or die by belief, you know? That Middle East is not the safe place, but you know what? Take my word. It is one of the safest places to travel in the world. I mean, people should move on now. This is not Syria, or this is not Palestine, this is a very developed part of the world, which is attracting a lot of, tons of tourists every year. It pretty much clearly shows that this place is safe. That's why a lot of people are coming here.
Phil: A bit like the UAE as well. There's quite a lot of freedom of expression for women who are living there, yeah?
Rama Khan: Oh yeah. You won't feel like that you're in the Middle East or in an Islamic conservative country when you are in the UAE because there are a lot of tourists of course, and the government they have given all kind of freedom to the people. You won't see any kind of conservative Islamic values being forcefully imposed not only on the locals, but the people and the tourists who are coming to the country. So in that way it really has given tourists a huge, way to attract the tourists, I mean, because they are given all sort of freedom of person would look for in a country when he travels.
Rama Khan: There's no, there's nothing to stop them, you know? Its actually only the one month of Ramadan, which is the fasting month. Muslims fast in that month, so yes there's a bit tiny bit of restriction in that month that you cannot eat in the daylight in public. You can only eat in the designated places. The party thing and the cinemas they go all off during the daytime. But I think apart from that one month, all year around UAE is a big time party city.
Kim: So, Rama, are you saying as a tourist, Ramadan is probably time to avoid Oman or is it okay if you are Christian to eat in public during the day?
Rama Khan: Well, it really depends. For someone who wanted to come to Oman to maybe, more interest in party things and for more entertainment he's looking for, well in that case I think Ramadan should be avoided.
Phil: Then after sunset, it's a different story when...
Rama Khan: Definitely. I mean, after sunset the scene change entirely. It becomes so likely after, you know when the people, they have broken their fast and they are all energized, so we have late night Ramadan markets and all the restaurants and the malls is open until very late in the morning. Some of the restaurants they are open until, maybe 2:00 a.m. or 3:00 a.m. in the morning as well. There are these giant cafes where people are just sitting until late hours they're watching football Omanis here love football. It's very, what do you call it, it's very much happening in the evening during Ramadan.
Kim: All right, Rama. This is your part of the world. This is your home country. What is it that's amazing about it? Why do you love it and why should other people love it?
Rama Khan: Well, you know, I must say Oman is the best kept secret of Arabia. There are plenty of reasons to visit Oman and of course there's a lot more to do in the country than what is at safari. When we talk about Oman, the only thing, and every traveler from the west will think of, "Okay, it must be like all desert and there will be those big dunes and riding camels", but hey, no, that's not country's true reality. Oman is one of the most naturally diverse countries in the Middle East. It has a long stretch of 3,000 kilometer coast line and I mean that offers tons and plenty of water activities and that do all year around. Apart from that, Oman is also home to the largest, to the highest mountain peak in the Arabian Peninsula. Its called the mountain of Jabel Shams which also happens to be the second largest grand canyon on earth. That's pretty much interesting, right?
Rama Khan: Oman is, there's also the second largest cave chamber of Majlis al Jinn in Oman. So what I'm trying to say here that for an adventure lover, a person who is into adventure travel, Oman is a heaven. For a traveler who wants to just come here and do all sort of adventures, you name, we have it. There's plenty of diving opportunities in Oman. Even the capital city of Muscat it has, I can say, more than ten or fifteen islands or diving sites in a very close proximity in Muscat where you can dive and the marine life in Oman, I mean, it's really diverse. The marine life here is something which is something not to be found anywhere else in the Middle East. So for diving, for hiking, and this type of adventure, Oman is the best place to be. The culture and history also that, it's very vibrant in Oman.
Rama Khan: The Muscat, the capital city of Muscat is home to, do you know? The 16th century forts which were built by the Portuguese who used to come to Oman, I mean it was not Oman during that time in 16th century, but they build those forts, they have many forts around the city which are a huge iconic tourist attraction in the capital city of Muscat here. Not only that, what makes Oman really different, from its more happening neighbor, is that the government have maintained its laid back vintage Arabian life in the country.
Rama Khan: You know what's surprising? There's not a single skyscraper in Oman. If someone is coming from UAE and he's suddenly interested in Oman the scene entirely changes. You won't find a single skyscraper here because the government here, they believe that they have to stick to the Bedouin Arabian values and they don't want to modernize in that way. They don't want to make it a concrete jungle, you know? So the skyline here is old life of Arabia, you know? But you have the most fascinating [inaudible 00:07:59] in the Arabian nights or that kind of thing. So, that's pretty much interesting for the people who come here.
Kim: You mentioned that it's a great place for adventure. I believe that it also has, and it's fairly new, one of the toughest ultra marathon races. Have you come across these?
Rama Khan: Oh yeah. It was recently there was a Spartan race and it was all across these mountains and running through the crazy grand canyon. The weather in Oman is pretty much crazy, it's only hot or very hot. That's what we call it over here. In spite of that, it's very interesting to see people running through the damn hot weather, swiping themselves around, running across these mountains and these wadis, we call it wadis here in Arabic. Wadi's basically a small spring in the mountains, but it's very pretty and beautiful. So, yeah, very recently there was this marathon and these kind of races happening over here. I mean, yes, that also it's attracting a lot of people from all around the world to Oman. I don't think so anyone would have imagined running across deserts and mountains and the heat. Yes, people do exist who actually like that, which is rich for the country, you know?
Kim: Now, your blog The Sane Adventurer we'll share in show notes. Tell me about the name, The Sane Adventurer.
Rama Khan: Well it just comes from, that I love adventure I mean, to be honest, that clearly shows in the name and sane is because I wanted adventures with sanity. Because millennials these days, they're so crazy, they're just, for the sake of a single selfie they'll be just, willing to give up their lives, and that is pretty absurd and I would [inaudible 00:09:40] to be honest.
Rama Khan: So yes, the purpose of the Sane Adventurer was, I want to talk about adventure, that what adventures you can do and you should do but with a hint of sanity. You have to do with all sort of security, and being a figure and you're trying to attract people to do adventure so it's become really a huge responsibility on my part that I should tell them that this adventure can be done but you have to follow this security safety measures. That's very important.
Phil: And we like that, well said Rama.
Kim: It was in our last destination episode featuring Namibia that we spoke to Jigar Ganatra. Now, he was a film scholarship winner in 2017 and he has now gone on to launch his own business, Halisia Travel. Now he takes aspiring photographers and filmmakers, gives them authentic experiences and connections with local in different parts of the world but he particularly focuses on Africa. So, as we say with our scholarships, you can turn your passion into a profession. He's the man that went on a photographic assignment to Oman as our winner of the photography scholarship in 2012.
Kim: Jake Salyers? Did I get it right?
Jake Salyers: You got it right. Thank you guys for having me. I was telling my friends earlier that this is my favorite thing to talk about. The experiences that I've been able to have and to travel and you probably won't be able to get me to shut up, I think, by the end of it. I had a, it was life changing to take a World Nomads trip so I'm happy to talk to you guys.
Phil: So how does change your life?
Jake Salyers: First thing that I think it did was it was a huge piece of validation for me in my career and knowing that I was going in the right direction and that, somebody out there, Jason Edwards who was the photographer for the trip, recognized my talent and he saw in me that I could do what he was doing. Or something similar to it. I guess I was 23 at the time, I'm pretty sure I was. Having somebody of his stature, reach out from the masses and pick me, was such a monumental thing to happen to me to show me that this was something I could do. I have continued to pursue photography. I do a wide variety, still a lot of the natural world, landscape stuff. I also do weddings and corporate stuff and events and there's a lot of things that you do to make it, make it happen.
Kim: Well tell us about Oman. You went there as you mentioned, Jason Edwards your mentor, he was from Nat Geo.
Phil: He's Nat Geo photographer.
Kim: What was it like?
Jake Salyers: We were going from the second we got on the ground. I met Jason at the hotel. I got there a couple hours before they did and I don't even think that they went their rooms. We just went out in the field like that and immediately I kind of got the understanding of the intensity and what was required and the energy that went into capturing what we wanted to capture. When we first got to the hotel what we went to first was a bullfight in downtown Muscat. You wouldn't have seen it from a main road, he knew somebody, and all of a sudden we were in this big, big space, kind of in the middle of the city and there were these giant bulls who locked horns and pushed against each other as a crowd of people screamed and cheered around them and bet on who was the strongest bull. We were doing that 30 minutes after we met. We were out there shooting.
Phil: So what were your expectations of Oman? What did you know about the place before you went there?
Jake Salyers: Not much. I really didn't know much. I knew it was in the Middle East, I knew it was an Islamic country but from a historical perspective I went in pretty open minded not knowing what to expect. The people were incredibly kind. Everybody I met, was, the hospitality was very high and they were also people who invited me into their homes but I didn't know, I went into the experience not having much expectations.
Phil: See if you can set me right, this is my expecta ... I've never been there, I don't know. I had seen your essay and what have you, but my expectation probably aligns with something like the movie Lawrence of Arabia.
Jake Salyers: Yes, I think that was my sense of what a Middle Eastern country would be. So I had never been to a Middle Eastern country before. I'd never been to kind of a desert place like that but it certainly looks like that, it looks like that, it's one of my ... I'm very happy that you brought that up because it is one my favorite movies of all time. The sand, the wadis, the places that you kind of ... These giant valleys that water occasionally comes through were fascinating and they definitely reminded me of that movie because that was a big thing.
Kim: So you said it was your first visit to an Islamic country. Earlier we spoke to Rama who lives in Oman. We talk about stereotypes, I'd be interested as an American going to an Islamic state in 2013, which is when you went, did you have any pre-conceived ideas of what it would be like?
Jake Salyers: Sure, I imagined that there would be certain aspects of the culture that were cloistered. I expected to see women in burkas and I expected that there were going to be bars lining the streets. I understood as an Islamic country one that was more conservative. I might have expected people to be more unwelcoming because of that but that, it was the complete opposite. Yeah, I actually spent a week after I left Jason, in Oman. Some of the people that I had met the first week I re-met up with them and they showed me their world just because they wanted to and not for any kind of personal benefit at all.
Kim: You were able to put your camera down pretty much.
Jake Salyers: Yeah! I was and I think that ... You know the interesting thing is Oman is a desert country and so from a photography stand point, the times to shoot were early in the morning and late at night or in the evening and so from like, whatever, eleven to four, it was too hot and too bright to do anything but during those times I did happen to put my camera down and meet up with some people and go to their homes and talk to them. Yeah, it was just, it was an incredible place.
Phil: Do you have a favorite photograph of yours from that time?
Jake Salyers: Yes! Probably a photo from that bullfight. I took it within an hour of meeting Jason and I have a giant print of it on my wall that's ... Even though it was one of the first photos I took it really spoke to what the whole trip was and what I saw. It's definitely one of my favorite photos that I've ever taken.
Phil: Will you do me a favor? Will you do me a favor? Will you take a selfie standing in front of your photo on your wall?
Jake Salyers: I will. I'll take a selfie in front of it, yeah. It's pretty good, it's in my apartment and it's the first thing people see.
Kim: All right, well make sure you do it landscape. Not that I want I to tell a professional photographer how to take a selfie but you mention the fact that Oman is desert, very shortly we're going to be chatting to somebody about snorkeling on the islands off Oman, so it seems like a country that's got-
Jake Salyers: Yeah! We went scuba diving. It's the first time I've ever went scuba diving was in Oman.
Kim: We didn't see Lawrence of Arabia strapping on a scuba tank did you?
Jake Salyers: [crosstalk 00:17:47].
Phil: I've been in the water off Dubai and I imagine it's pretty much the same temperature, water temperature, as in Oman there. I'm surprised the fish don't come out already poached.
Kim: It's warm.
Phil: It's very warm.
Jake Salyers: It is, yeah. I guess they've got currents and stuff that keep the water cool but for us it was very ... You didn't need a wetsuit or anything. It was bath water temperature almost.
Kim: So Oman, a place that you would recommend and obviously life changing for you given that scholarship win.
Jake Salyers: Yeah, it was. I would always recommend people go to Oman. I think that there's such a wild variety of things to see, there were some incredible mosques that we went to. We went to the sultan's mosque. Fascinating architecture. You know as westerners, as a non-Muslim you can only visit at certain types, times of day, so you can't go during the normal prayers but the benefit of that is that we visited it, it was largely empty. There's cultural things like that and then you can go out into the desert and there's dunes. We went to a shipyard which was amazing. There's just so much.
Kim: A link to Jake and his great pics plus that selfie in show notes. Phil what's travel news?
Phil: All right a bit of a serious [inaudible 00:19:07] in my role as a travel safety expert I've been asked by several news agencies just really recently, if I think the Dominican Republic is safe to visit. This follows a number of so-called mysterious deaths of American visitors in recent months. I think it's eleven all up in the past year. So, here's my take on it, okay?
Phil: We sell travel insurance here so we've got data on what happens to people when they travel all over the world and I've got to say, eleven deaths out of 2.5 million visitors is not an unexpected number. It's sad and it's tragic but it's not unexpected. A lot of those you can put down to so called natural causes. People have heart attacks when they travel, it happens. But there have been a disturbing number of illnesses among visitors that I suspect may be linked to tainted alcohol.
Phil: A few people have reported getting sick after drinking at a bar or from the minibar in their room. I don't think this is deliberate targeting of tourists. It's not drink spiking with the intention of robbing them. I suspect what's happening is what we've previously in Mexico and in Bali. Backyard distilling of spirits. So, that stuff gets added to the brand name labeled alcohol that gets served over the bar. Obviously when you make it in the backyard it's cheaper, so the profits that you make from the drinks you sell over the bar are much, much higher, but there's a problem. If you're distilling spirits in your backyard, a difference in the temperature of one degree during that process, a certain part of that process, you won't get alcohol, you'll get methanol!
Kim: Oh that's the one.
Phil: Which is very toxic and very poisonous. So I think that is what is happening there. I don't think it's a malicious deliberate targeting of tourists.
Kim: Can I ask this?
Kim: If you're getting a drink from your minibar, would you not be looking for something that's sealed? Or unsealed?
Phil: Yeah, well I mean it's a problem, that's the thing to do. Only drink ... Because if you're distilling in your backyard, you're probably doing that sort of dodgily, so you're not going to be able to reseal a bottle in the way it's supposed to be done when it leaves the manufacturer. So where possible, make sure you see the spirits you're being served being taken from a bottle that you watch being opened and the seal being broken. That gets difficult, of course, because if you're in a bar, they've got them on the dispensers that are already open or if you are in a busy nightclub they're not going to go open a new bottle just for you. So that's going to be difficult to do, so drink beer or wine.
Phil: Yeah, and also try to keep a bit of perspective about it as well. 2.5 million visitors, American visitors, a year and only a handful of people ... Now, it's a problem but I don't think it's a massively widespread problem. Something a little bit lighter? Yeah? Okay.
Kim: What's lighter than drinking?
Phil: Yeah, okay, this is my idea of a flight from hell. A flight from London's Gatwick Airport just a couple of days ago heading to Vancouver, had to be delayed because a plague of cockroaches started falling from the overhead lockers.
Kim: "Snakes on a Plane."
Phil: Well, cockroaches on a plane started falling in people's laps and the flight attendants were going, "Can you kill?", there's people squishing bugs and then they had to bring the pest exterminators on and the plane got delayed by seven hours and the pilots ran out of flying time so everybody-
Kim: [inaudible 00:22:31].
Phil: I know. So everybody got offloaded and they had to go the next day.
Phil: If that doesn't put you off, I don't know what will.
Kim: Thanks. So that's travel news?
Phil: Yes it is.
Kim: Well let's divert and we actually, as we like to do in each destination episode. Stephanie Dietze features in her new book called “The New Outsiders: The Creative Life Outdoors”, it's excellent and it's ... she's there because she's doing something fairly unusually Phil, exploring mountain trails on a unicycle.
Stephanie: It's funny because, looking from the outside it might seem like something very unusual but to me seems like something that evolved very naturally. I started unicycling just riding on the street as a kid when I was eight and then joined a club in my town. We went to competitions as a group but the competitions were inside the gym. They were more like figure skating, it's music, and then you do some skills that you learned and try to look nice.
Stephanie: When most of my friends from the club stopped riding around their teenage years, I never had the idea of quitting so I continued and then later on I was still going to competitions and that's mostly because I started going to international competitions where I met this amazing international unicycling community. From then on, there was really no way back because it's such a great community.
Phil: But how did you get the idea of unicycle mountain biking?
Stephanie: So for one world championships that were in New Zealand, my friends and I went there to explore the country, before and after the competitions, and we brought some off-road unicycles and it was the first time for me to actually do that. Then we drove around the country, explored the country by unicycle. Which was actually super nice because it's a great way to go and see more than you would when you walk but it's super slow and not as fast as biking. So, you get your chance to look at the landscape also. And then from then on, all I was interested was in was riding in the mountains.
Phil: And the added advantage, of course, is that you've got your hands free while you're doing it.
Stephanie: Kind of. For mountain unicycling we have a break that's, the handle is mounted just below the saddle, so you have one hand free actually but you use that to keep your balance. It might look you have your hands free but you're actually quite busy.
Phil: Obviously there's a technique in riding unicycle but how have you adapted that to going down mountain tracks here?
Stephanie: When I ride in the mountains, especially exposed or more technical trails, I'm well aware of my abilities and I will only do what I can do more than 100% that I'm so sure I will do it and not fall. Whereas when I ride in a more, not easier but not as exposed terrain, I can do more risky maneuvers or learn something new, because when I fall, it's not as bad. I mean, I might fall on my hands or fall on my arm but I won't actually fall down a cliff.
Phil: Do you fall off much?
Stephanie: Yes actually! It's very rare that you just, in contrast to mountain biking, where you just ride down the trail and hardly ever get off, in mountain unicycling you will actually ride and then probably fall off a lot at the first try if it's a technical trail and you just go back up and you try it again. It's not really about riding the trail in a whole single take, also because it's very exhausting, it's more about clearing the sections that you wanted to clear and set yourself up to clear, like the more challenging ones. So we actually do fall a lot but that's part of the learning process.
Kim: What have the reactions been as you've passed, not fellow mountain unicyclist but perhaps other [hikylists 00:26:25] hikers or mountain bikers? What's their reaction?
Stephanie: People overall react very positive and they sometimes can't believe their eyes and are out of words. Others who are more into mountain sports are really amazed and usually they say, “Wow this is amazing, how can you even”. Mountain bikers for example, who struggle to ride trails on two wheels they can't believe that we are riding them on one wheel. A lot of people say, “Hey I've seen this on the internet, I've seen some videos” and then a lot of the time we will say, “Oh, that's probably our video.”
Phil: Where is your favorite place to ride?
Stephanie: My favorite place to ride is the Austrian Alps, in general, I would say. They have a really good network of trails that are not too easy. I've traveled to many places around the world [inaudible 00:27:09] that the trails are made for everyone, meaning they're really easy and so in the Alps it's really nice because they have a lot of single trails, a lot of actually quite hard and sometimes dangerous trails, so it's more like you are getting the responsibility to take care of yourself and assess your, the risk that you want to take, and that makes the trails more interesting.
Kim: How would you describe yourself as a traveler? With a unicycle and a tent and a backpack.
Stephanie: I usually try to not make a lot of plans but just go with the flow when I arrive at wherever I'm going. I usually try to avoid other people. Does that sound bad? I like, just solitude in nature with my friends, if they are there. Just goof around and feel like we're all alone in this vast landscape.
Phil: A nice thought Stephanie. A link to her site, which features amazing video, plus a link to her book is in show notes of course.
Kim: Yup, we met Sarah Duff in an earlier episode chatting about 4x4ing in Namibia. Now, Sarah must love a bit of a road trip because this time we hear about driving in Oman.
Sarah Duff: I'm a road tripper for sure. It's one of my favorite ways to explore a country. I love independent travel and for me driving, seeing landscapes change, checking out small little places that maybe aren't in the guidebooks, going camping, getting off the beaten track. Yeah, I think this is why I love road tripping and Oman is a particularly good country for road tripping and it's quite an adventure to explore.
Kim: In what respect is it a good country for road tripping?
Sarah Duff: The landscapes are pretty spectacular. There's quite a lot of diversity. Oman is a very dry country and a lot of it is desert, but there's quite a lot diversity. There's interesting little villages. There's date palm plantations. There's these little oasis that you can swim in. There's an interesting coastline. Very rugged mountains that you can hike in. So there's a lot to explore and see.
Kim: What about the logistics, if we can just go back to hiring the car, how difficult was that and do you have any tips for people that would be thinking of looking at this country now that we've, we're exposing it before anyone really knows?
Sarah Duff: Yeah, hiring a car's pretty simple. There's a few car hire companies. We actually hired our car from our guest house owner. A friend of ours had stayed at the guest house and put us in touch with this wonderful guy, Ali, and we stayed with him and then rented a Suzuki jeep from him and we also rented camping equipment from him but there are a few companies where you can rent 4x4 and you can rent all of the camping equipment that you need. So you can get a rooftop tent, shade, [inaudible 00:29:58], grill, and all of that stuff. And driving in Oman is really easy. We bought a SIM card at the airport so we used Google Maps to get around. Petrol stations are everywhere, petrol's very cheap. People were very friendly and helpful. If ever we were lost, people were very happy to help. So it's an incredibly safe and easy country to rent a car in and drive around in.
Kim: Speaking of safety, we've debunked the myth that Oman is a dangerous place to visit just because it happens to be in whatever they call the Middle East. So you felt entirely safe the whole time?
Sarah Duff: Yeah, of course. I think people think of the Middle East and because of what they've seen on news they kind of think that every country is the same sort of safety level, I think, but Oman is particularly safe. It's probably one of the safest countries I've ever traveled in. It's the kind of place where people don't lock their cars when they go into the super market and people don't lock their doors in their house. Our guest house was never locked. So you can leave stuff in your car and never worry about it. You can go for a swim and leave your camera and not worry about it. Yeah, in my experience, even traveling in Europe and North America, it's yeah, really one of the safest places I've ever been to.
Kim: So you talked about hiring camping equipment. What was it like finding a spot to camp and where did you end up?
Sarah Duff: So, you can camp almost anywhere in Oman and Omanis love to camp and on our first night of camping, it was actually the night a public, the night before a public holiday, and we were camping along the coast. We wanted to go camping along the coast and it was completely packed. We kind of had this idea of this wild coastline where we would be the only ones around for miles, but there were families everywhere. So we actually had to do a little bit of an adventurous 4x4 mission to find a spot to camp on. But it's a really amazing thing that you can camp wherever you go and just bring your food with you, and your firewood, and make a barbecue and just camp under the stars.
Kim: Now I know you said that it's dry, there's a lot of desert. We spoke earlier in the podcast to Rama, who is from Oman, and she says the one thing that visitors or travelers don't really understand is that there's some actually some good diving and in the article that you've written you talk about snorkeling.
Sarah Duff: Yeah, we did a snorkeling trip from Muscat, from the capital, and we went out to the Dimaniyat Islands, which is a marine reserve. It was about 45 minutes boat ride from Muscat and we had a wonderful half-day snorkeling trip. The visibility wasn't amazing but there were lots of fish and we saw lots of turtles as well, and I love seeing turtles when snorkeling or diving, it's such a treat.
Kim: Can you leave us with some tips for, I guess probably, women in particular who are traveling to a country like Oman to respect the local culture in terms of covering up. Well you tell me, I haven't been.
Sarah Duff: Yeah, I think that, I think that's a good idea to be respectful of the local culture there. I did see some western female tourists who were wearing very short shorts, or short dresses, and to me that feels pretty rude, personally. So for women, wearing long pants or a long skirt, something that's below your knees, and covering up your chest and your shoulders is generally the respectful way to go. And then if you're visiting a mosque, then it's, you need to wear a headscarf and cover up your arms, and wear something that goes below your ankle. So it's not hard to cover up and I think it's important that we do that because we're in somebody else's country and it's just nod of respect to another culture.
Kim: Sounds like a country that should be on everyone's list.
Sarah Duff: For sure. It's still pretty under the radar, so it's a good time to go now.
Phil: All right that wraps up this episode on The World Nomads Podcast but if you can't get enough and want to be inspired by another incredible destination, you might want to try out our episode on Panama.
Speaker 8: Well, Panama is the only country in the world where you can see the sunrise on the Pacific and set on the Atlantic. It's the only place in the entire world where you can do this and that can be done at the top of Volcán Barú, which is a volcano in Boquete, which is a small town in the west of Panama which is known for it's coffee plantations and the Los Quetzales Trail for spotting Quetzals and that's pretty much the only place that you can do this.
Kim: You'll find that episode in show notes and you can get all The World Nomads podcasts through your favorite podcast app and you can ask Alexa and Google to play The World Nomads podcast. Phil, to get in touch?
Phil: Please email us at [email protected]
Kim: Next time we see you we'll meet an amazing nomad who's traveled the world with his beloved dog. Have to point that out, very clearly, because he does a lot with this dog, doesn't he?
Phil: I know! This is like the best traveled dog I've heard about it.
Kim: Yup, it's the next amazing Nomads episode and it was all inspired tragically by the passing of his father. We'll see you there.
Phil: Okay, bye.
Speaker 1: The World Nomads Podcast. Explore your boundaries.
Women are often more worried than they should be when it comes to travel in the Middle East. Megan Czisz shares her tips on how to be prepared and get around safely.