Oman is a country of lakes and mountains and, for most of its history, its citizens enjoyed a leisurely and delicious dining experience.
Now, though, as the country gears up for the 2022 Winter Olympics, many are looking for a bit of a change.
“It’s just not very well known,” said Dr. Mohsin Haddad, chairman of the Oman Tourism Council.
“It’s not the kind of thing you can go out for with a group of friends, or even a group with a small group.
And it’s a really difficult experience to find a place to eat.”
For many, the country is missing an opportunity to tap into a niche of tourists.
“This is the best time of year, people want to come,” said Hamad al-Khatib, a 22-year-old marketing manager.
“I have been to every country in the world.
I don’t know if Oman has a better time than in the past.”
But Oman’s tourism industry is still facing the challenges of the past.
The country, once the jewel of the Persian Gulf, is now struggling to compete with a growing global tourism industry.
Its gross domestic product fell by 9.7% in the first half of this year to $3.6 trillion, the fifth-biggest in the region.
In 2017, tourism accounted for almost 30% of the country’s GDP, down from over 35% in 2017, according to government figures.
Tourism also is being negatively impacted by the increasing number of Middle Eastern countries seeking to access the country for their own private economic interests, said Dr Ali al-Hamid, head of the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies in Oman University.
“The government has been trying to make things easier, but they’ve only been doing so in the last couple of years,” he said.
“This is a big problem for the tourism sector.”
Hamad said he had been planning to go to Dubai to celebrate his graduation from university but had been unable to secure a visa.
He now hopes to return to Oman and start a new life in a country that, despite its size, offers him the same opportunity as anyone else.
“I would like to be able to live a normal life here,” he told The Hindu.
“My life is not about what I do on the beach.
It’s what I eat.”