Giving something back

When travelling through Oman there are many small things you can do to give something back to the place that you have had the privilege of exploring. Every action, no matter how small, counts. Consider that in a village or even the terraced fields of Al Jabal Al Akhdar, you are enjoying the result of hundreds of years of work, so do try to make a contribution to the local economy.

Ceramics suq, Nizwa by Typhoonski, Dreamstime A ceramics suq in Nizwa © Typhoonski, Dreamstime

Respect the locals and their right to privacy. Bear in mind that it is their home territory, so when driving in a 4×4 in remote areas, do not zoom straight through the middle of a village, but explore on foot (noting any signs prohibiting entry). It is also essential to show respect by being dressed conservatively, with women especially being well covered up with loose clothing at least to the knee and at least three-quarter-length sleeves – no cleavage, tight-fitting tops or bare shoulders. The less flesh on display the better. Women should not swim in pools within a village environment, and at all times wear conservative one-piece costumes. Naked swimming in wadi pools is a no-no and if done you may spend several nights in prison before deportation. Ask permission before taking any photographs, and be aware that Omani women and girls will often refuse. Omani men and boys will often enthusiastically oblige. If you have a digital camera, showing Omani children their picture on the screen invariably delights them. Be aware that most adults do have smartphones with cameras and that high-end DSLR cameras and their expensive zoom lenses are also surprisingly common, so you are not demonstrating a novelty and the subject that you are surreptitiously taking a photo of may be very much aware of what you are doing.

Look after your immediate environment. Limit your water usage. Do not leave water running. Take a shower if you can, rather than use the bath. Turn lights off in hotel rooms when they are not absolutely necessary. Re-use towels (hang them back on the rail, so they will not be considered laundry). Limit your use of air conditioning, if possible. Always dispose of your own rubbish after camping or picnicking.

Purchase any locally made artefacts. Buy a pot from the Aladawi pottery factory in Bahla, or a rug from the locals selling their weavings in Jabal Shams and Al Jabal Al Akhdar. Don’t forget the essential purchase of frankincense and a burner – you will have become part of an ancient trading history in this commodity. Every small amount you give helps to sustain the heritage and keep alive longstanding Omani traditions.

Eat at local restaurants and coffee shops – your valued rials will help in keeping these small businesses running. Buy some fruit at a suq or roadside stall. Stay at any of the static camps in the country, for example those in the Wihibah Sands; these make trips out to Bedouin camps where you will share lunch in a traditional home. Simply by demonstrating their way of life to you, the Bedu are able to benefit financially, so by using the camps, you are making a contribution to their living.

Respect the rules when visiting nature reserves and sanctuaries. Take care not to disturb the wildlife in any way. This is their habitat. Adhere to the list of dos and don’ts when it comes to viewing the nesting turtles. Don’t touch the coral when scuba diving or snorkelling – it causes damage.

Make that little bit of extra effort to find out more about local charities. There are also collection boxes in some supermarkets, especially at the checkouts in Lulu. You might be able to help. Perhaps you can volunteer your time, knowledge or assistance in bringing awareness to their cause in some way when back in your country of residence. There may be a new project underway at the time of your visit. Do give them a call.

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