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Oman Food and Drink

The cuisine of Oman recalls its role as a key trading post between east and west. The spices used in stews and soups came to Oman by way of the spice trade from India, but the traditions of grilled meat and preserved fruit came by land from the Arabian peninsula.

Muscat is the dining centre of Oman and the best place to try some of the more interesting dishes of the Sultanate, including spectacular seafood hauled fresh from the Arabian Sea.

As a rule, Omani cooking is less spicy than in other parts of the Gulf, with lots of dishes based on lamb and chicken, usually served with rice, or fried together with rice in local versions of India's biryani. Some of the tastiest dishes are reserved for big religious festivals. Locals eschew alcohol in favour of strong coffee, flavoured with cardamom and served with dates and other sweet treats.

Specialities

Ruz al mudhroub: A special rice dish served with fried fish.
Maqdeed: Dried shredded meat, often served at festivals.
Muqalab: Tripe cooked with crushed or ground spices.
Arsia: Lamb meat cooked with rice.
Mishkak: Skewered meat grilled on charcoal, marinated in a pepper, cardamom, clove and tamarind sauce.
Shuwa: Meat cooked slowly for up to two days in underground clay ovens, marinated with herbs and spices.
Mashuai: Spit-roasted kingfish served with lemon rice.
Maqbous: Rice with saffron cooked over spicy red or white meat; also call kabsa.
Halwa: A sticky, gelatinous sweet made from dates or sugar and flavoured with saffron, cardamom and rosewater; nuts and preserved fruits are often added.
Lokhemat: Balls of flour and yeast flavoured with cardamom and deep-fried, served with sweet lime and cardamom syrup.

Things to know

Muslims are forbidden to drink alcohol, but most hotel bars and restaurants have a bar for guests. Visitors are only allowed to drink alcohol if they purchase drinks from licensed hotels and restaurants. To buy alcohol for home consumption, Western nationals must obtain a licence from their embassy.

Tipping

Tipping is not expected but becoming more common; 10% should be given in hotels and restaurants with licensed bars, but is not expected in more casual restaurants.

Drinking age

The legal drinking age (for non-Muslims only) is 21.