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If you are near Barka, you should definitely pop into the world famous Omani Halwa factory there.
You can do lots of taste testing before you buy.
Expect to pay OM1.5 per package.
One package contains 2 dishes.
Written Jul 3, 2003
In Oman, men don't fight bulls; bulls fight bulls. People bring their livestock together at an arena outside town. Ropes are attached to a hind leg, and two animals are goaded into butting heads. The first bull to go down on his knees, wins. These animals are very valuable, by the way. A good one will cost well over US $20,000.
Written Aug 24, 2002
To be honest, most people drive, for this is a car culture just like the US, Canada, or Australia. If you're here, though, and don't have a budget healthy enough for car rentals, then you can get a bus from the main Capital Area -- Greater Muscat, if you like. These run along the main coastal freeway several times a day. Indeed, you could catch one at the roundabout just outside the airport. Taxis are also possible, but as a foreigner without at least survival Arabic, you'll probably be ripped off, so I'd advise against it.
Written Nov 29, 2003
Generally speaking, Barka' like every other place in Oman is about a safe as it can get. Even so, as a foreigner -- and especially if you're a woman -- it's not a good idea to wander alone along the beach at night away from "civilization" because things have been known to happen. There have been instances of rapes along this particular stretch of coast, though they are admittedly very rare. If you use common sense, however, you needn't worry.
The main road -- a freeway/motorway -- that runs along the coast past Barka' is fast and well-maintained, which people take advantage of, I'm afraid. Expect tailgating; expect drivers to pass you and then exit 50 meters ahead of you. And never assume that they will slow down or move into a neighboring lane as you attempt to merge.
Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of driving this particular road is that intersections with it are usually uncontrolled -- unless there's enough traffic to warrant a roundabout. Cloverleaf-style interchanges are virtually unknown here (To my knowledge there is only one in the country and even then it's only half a one), so cars must yield before they enter from side roads. The trouble is, though, that they can't always be bothered. It's best to be very alert to merging cars whenever you see an indication of a road coming in.
Written Nov 29, 2003
Favorite thing: Bullfights are the main event. (See activity tip below) These take place on Friday afternoons throughout the winter, and fairly large crowds come to the event, which is, by the way, free of charge. To find them, ask at either the Shell or BP station on the edge of town as you drive in.
The fort, which was built in the late 17th century, sits just meters from the beach and was built as a defense against Persian and Portuguese invaders of the time. It boasts a rather unusual octagonal tower and has been pretty well fully restored over the past few years. Administered by the Ministry of Culture and Antiquities, it is open to the public and is well worth a visit, if for no other reason than for the splendid views over the town, the gigantic date palm grove, and the azure waters of the Gulf of Oman.
Fondest memory: Together with some friends and their children, I took my wife to see the bullfights fairly soon after she first arrived. In those days -- 1990 -- the event was held in an open stretch of desert on the outskirts of town. People squatted or sat on the sand in a large circle around the central area where the bulls were set upon one another to fight, while those that were waiting to participate were tethered along one side with their owners sitting/squatting to one side of them -- a rather buccolic bovine sight.
After one particular sparring match, the men broke the two bulls apart. Alas, one of the two animals decided, all on its own, that it had had enough of the whole affair, so it broke away from its handler, lunged in our general direction, and took off running towards and through the crowds. The handler raced off in wild pursuit, holding the hem of his dishdasha above his kneew so he could run. This, of course, concentrated minds, and everybody, including the friends, my wife, and me scurried out of his way as fast as we could go, upsetting stools, picnic dishes, water jugs, you-name-it.... I don't believe my wife has seen another bullfight since. Can you blame her??
Updated Nov 29, 2003