The Sultanate of Oman is one of few places in the Middle East free of sectarian strife, political instability, and terrorism. Striking the delicate balance between welcoming modernity and cherishing tradition, Oman is a gracious host to all, including vegan travelers. Often referred to as “the Jewel of Arabia,” at a glance Oman appears to wear the same garb as its Gulf neighbors, but its substance and style is truly unique. By watching the rapid development of its sister nations, Oman has charted a cautious and sustainable path to progress without forgetting its heritage and Arab hospitality. With a surge of interest in solar energy and strategic plans to become a luxury travel destination, the Sultanate is positioning itself to thrive well beyond its oil reserves. And, when attention is turned toward environmental sustainability, plant-based options emerge by necessity, which explains why vegans can find hummus in the hills and dhal in the desert.
Variety in Muscat
Travelers looking for Muscat’s “city center” often find themselves at the City Centre Mall. There is no downtown or skyline that centralizes urban life, but rather pockets of activity and adventure tucked around the coastal capital. Must-see destinations include Mutrah Souq market, the National Museum of Oman, the Royal Opera House Muscat, and the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. Excursions down the eastern coast include relaxing in desert valleys, watching turtles nest, and finding solitude in al-Wahiba desert. Local cuisine reflects how Oman’s plate has been touched by trade relations with Persia, India, and East Africa, making biryani rice, red lentils, and black-eyed peas household staples. However, a steady stream of new cuisines are constantly entering the city’s palate. Vegan varieties of Omani food can be found at Dukanah Café, where traditional architecture is combined with simple meals of the past such as unleavened Omani khubz (bread); dengu (Swahili for “chickpeas”); and small pancake discs served with date syrup called guroos. Hayat’s Restaurant is a health-focused eatery with vegan options such as Sweet Potato Falafel, Cauliflower Tabouleh, and bruschetta topped with mushrooms, avocados, and cherry tomatoes, while Wagamama, the London-based Japanese-fusion franchise, has reached Oman and will be introducing its dedicated vegan and gluten-free menus in the coming months. Finally, The Yellow Chilli can prepare a multi-course vegan Indian meal with 24 hours advance notice.
History in Nizwa
Nizwa, the former capital of Oman, still boasts historical forts and marketplaces, but also access to the abandoned village al Hamra, Al-Hoota Cave, and the fertile green terraces of Jabal Akhdar. Favorite vegan-friendly spots in town include Turkish restaurant Al-masharef and Spicy Village, a popular Indian chain of restaurants. With the exception of the far south, Oman’s heat blisters at well above 100 degrees for much of the year, so a mountaintop escape to Ananatara Al Jabal Al Akhdar provides respite from the heat. There, guests can enjoy plant-based dishes such as red-quinoa porridge, pomegranate-and-almond granola, and roasted beet hummus from the Balance by Anantara Wellness menu.
Fjords of Musandam
As a northern exclave separated from Oman by the United Arab Emirates, Musandam bares jaw-dropping fjords and rugged coastlines that dip into the sea. With easier access from Dubai than Muscat, Musandam is a popular snorkeling and diving destination with a variety of hard and soft corals, reef sharks, green turtles, and eagle rays. Fishing villages dot the coastline, but vegan voyagers can find refuge in Six Senses Zighy Bay, where an onsite organic garden supplies the kitchen with fresh vegetables and herbs for creative culinary feats. The generous breakfast buffet offers a variety of non-dairy milks, granolas, fresh fruit, nuts, and raisins, as well as Arab favorites such as foul moudammas (mashed fava beans), fatta, stewed chickpeas, falafel, and baba ganoush. At the Summer House restaurant, vegan specialties include Grilled Avocado and Beet Salad, Peach Balsamic Gazpacho, and Raw Chocolate Avocado Pudding topped with fresh berries.
Senses of Salalah
For visitors who can come to Oman only during the low season (when peak summer heat is unbearable), consider venturing to the Southern coast, where the monsoons paint the region in misty green hues from July to September. Salalah’s landscape is an assortment of waterfalls, geysers, beaches, and mountains. To understand Oman’s historical legacy, visit Museum of the Frankincense Land to learn about the fragrant tree resin that has been harvested in Oman for more than 6,000 years. Also, check out Al Baleed Archeological Site, where preserved ruins create lasting memories for all travelers. As with most major towns, Indian food is often the safest option for dining, but Al Baleed Resort Salalah offers Asian, Mediterranean, and international restaurants at the luxury villa resort by the beach.
Chantal Blake is a freelance writer and unschooling mom of two from New York City who has been traveling and living abroad with her vegan family for nearly a decade.