Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Muscat Beckons

Published February 14, 2012 - Muscat Daily. Click here to view article.

Every summer tens of thousands of Omanis from northern Oman head to the south for their annual Khareef migration. Dhofar's lush monsoon is the perfect getaway from the soaring summer temperatures in Muscat and the interior.Local newspapers bring up the migration on a regular basis throughout the monsoon season and the Ministry of Tourism posts teams at airports to record the number of visitors going into Salalah. It's a big deal.

However, has anyone noticed the annual exodus of Dhofaris to Muscat during the cooler months of the year? I have. Last weekend I treated myself to the spectacular South African ballet performance at the Royal Opera House with a good friend.

My weekend involved the usual shopping, a mandatory coffee at Shatti al Qurm and a brief visit to Muscat Festival at Qurum Park. The difference with this trip is that I spotted people from Dhofar wherever I went.

Muscat Festival and the major shopping malls were packed with Dhofari women on shopping sprees. Dhofari men could be seen lounging in all the cafes on the beach enjoying Muscat's beautiful February weather.

You may be wondering how I can pick out a Dhofari in a crowd. Trust me, it's easy. Dhofari women can be easily identified from the face veil with the eye slits, glittery abayas and their clip-on hair pieces the size of large melons.

The men are even easier to identify from the way they walk and – for lack of a better word – their swagger. Their dishdashas are usually quite long and sometimes even touch the ground. Their kummas' (caps) are usually tipped slightly to one side and often they have a tasseled turban thrown over one shoulder or draped casually over their heads. The Dhofari accent is also very easy to identify.

So why have Dhofaris chosen Muscat as their top holiday destination? First of all families in the south can be quite large. It's convenient to pack the whole family into a couple of cars and drive up to Muscat to spend a week or two in a rented apartment. Salalah is pretty deprived when it comes to shopping malls, cafés, restaurants, cinemas and entertainment, hence the fascination with Muscat. The capital area is a very nice place to be in during the winter.

Whenever I'm in Muscat, I use my time to catch up with friends, meet new people, stock up on treats, and pretty much indulge myself in every way possible. There's always something interesting going on, and the newly opened Royal Opera House has given me even more reason to fly up regularly. I have been to four performances already and look forward to many more in the coming years.

As a Dhofari woman, Muscat also allows me to be anonymous if only for a few days. I relish the freedom of cozying up in a café and working on my laptop without worrying about being stared at or recognised by members of the tribe (female…. face exposed …spotted at café… chaperone-less…must report!) I'm exaggerating a bit, but you know what I mean.

Dhofar is pretty conservative when it comes to women. I know Muscat and Salalah are only a 1,000km apart but they might as well be two different countries.

I do enjoy my brief jaunts to Muscat, but I'm always ready to come home when they're over. The hustle and bustle of the big city is fine for a weekend, but I can't imagine spending more than a week in Muscat. When the pilot announces the beginning of the descent to Salalah on the flight home, I put my book down and look out of the window to admire the view. I can never get enough of it. The moment the desert turns into smooth hills and I see the green banana plantations, palm trees and pristine beaches, my heart skips a beat. Muscat has its charms, but home is where the heart is!


  1. This is how I, as someone living in Muscat, feel when I return from Dubai.

  2. Sounds like you had a blast up north sweets. Enjoy all you can. You had me in fits of laughter when you listen the "dhofari spotting methods." I do it here in Bahrain looking at the Omani peoples and trying to place where they come from, most of them Muscati though.
    Ive just made myself a chai caramel latte, please do join me for a cuppa, chin wag & store brought cake lol.
    Love you sweets. Regards to all your side. xxx

  3. do you feel Muscat Festival has changed over the year? does it need to? I like it but there doesnt soem like there has been any upgrade in its appeal

  4. Exactly the feeling I have whenever I return to Muscat from a time abroad.

  5. Interesting :)

    I LOVE ur style of writing . It is unique

    Keep Surprising us

    P.s I am one of those

    I mean a dhofari woman with a big melon on my head :p

  6. Totally agree with you on Muscat and Salalah being like two different countries.. people, mannerisms, outlooks, priorities... differ so much .. Witty post.. Loved it :)

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  8. Even for non-Dhofaris Dhofari spotting is easy. But mashAllah they've got some kind of style. It makes you stare that's for sure.

    In my more rural village you can spot a Muscati, a Dhofari, A Sharqiyah girl, or a beduoin, but the village girls are ALL the same... plain black islamyia or same style sleeve as that black abaya with minimum decoration, colourful lendli underneath with laysu on top. Maybe a black shayla overtop that. Never niqab unless she's very very strict with herself religious. Or her husband is an idiot (rare though). So it is impossible for me to pick out a Rustaq person, Nakhl girl, Bahla woman, Hamra lady, Nizwa chick ect, beyond accent.

    In a way Dhofaris are lucky. You can easily spot exactly who you have to hide from;) and most of a time I can smell someone Dhofari before I see them by their perfume or Bukhoor;)

    You can only do that with OOOOOOOOOOOLD Al Batinah or Dakhliyia women by smelling the rose water on them.

  9. A man who leaves home to mend himself and others is a philosopher; but he who goes from country to country, guided by the blind impulse of curiosity, is a vagabond.

  10. The gentle reader will never, never know what a consummate ass he can become until he goes abroad.