Old Ibra as the locals call it is a place where time travel is possible. The village of Minzfah has the appearance of a village that has been abandoned after a great storm. Palm tree leaves cover the paths and roads while dust and dirt give way to small green gardens owned by some of the few Bedouin people that still live here. The locals are super shy but friendly and the colorful doors hint at a time past that saw this place to be lively. There are numerous stories about how this place used to be the epicentre of fighting when fighting occured in the 60s between tribes that lived in the area. Apparently Sufalah (village where I lived) and Alayah (I later moved there) ( 10 km apart) used to be at war. I only heard random stories about this because nobody really wants to talk about it. It is a shame because this whole village oozes history and is a true highlight of the Sharqiya region.
Ibra is a very small conservative town and some would even say it is a village of 10,000 people. One of my favorite things to do is to sit around with the locals and get to know them (obviously easier if you are a man) but there are several places or cafes to sit down and watch the world go by and experience what a real small town in the Middle East looks and feels like. The locals will try their best to speak English to you because they love to practice so the language wont be a huge barrier like in Yemen etc. I highly recommend sitting outdoors at a cafe but please note that women dont do this (male dominated) and you will be stared at because of how rare travellers are in the town but travellers are accepted. Ask the owners if they have any problems and if they say no they take advantage of the situation and enjoy. You will have a great time ;)
One of my favorite things about the town where I live is the accessability of food. The Golden Star is located in Alayah Ibra and they sell whole chicken for $3 Canadian and they are worth every cent. The locals that work there (Indians) are super friendly and they are more than willing to serve you first before anyone even if there is a lineup. The chicken is super fresh and goes fantastic with hummus and pita bread from the Muscat bakery next door.
Favorite Dish: The chicken has been a staple in my diet for the past three years and I usually buy two or three a week because each chicken lasts for about two meals. For what you get, the chickens are some of the best bargains in the country :)
The Golden Star / cafe is a great choice in Ibra because it sells whole chickens for $3 US and they are enough for 2 meals plus they are BBQd. The cafe is a nice atmosphere and it is one of the cheapest restaurants in town. The location is great for people watching.
The Sky Line is based on a restaurant near the Emirati border and the staff followed the new boss from the border to Ibra. The food is dirt cheap, great quality and they have a mindboggling range of fresh juices for really cheap. The most expensive dish on the menu is $1.50 US. Great Juices!
Favorite Dish: Fruit Cocktail is Amazing not to mention the club sandwich.
One of the biggest reasons why Ibra doesnt see more travellers because independant backpackers are unheard of and are extremely rare because travellers are unaware of the transportation scene. Travelling Oman alone is a challenge and half and I reckon it is the most difficult place to travel around in the Middle East (more difficult than Yemen or Iran) because of the lack of infrastructure. Despite the hardships, there are ways to get around and one of them is the national bus lines. There is a bus that leaves from Sufalah Ibra (from the Penguin fast food restaurant) for Muscat at 8am and 230pm for 1. 5 rials and the same goes for travellers wanting to go to Sur. Other than these two daily buses, there is nothing.
Everyone thinks that the Middle East is dangerous and they naturally associates it with the Israel conflict but the truth is that most of the smaller towns including Ibra are probably safer than your town or city in your home country. One danger that is prevalent everywhere in the Middle East is the danger arising from cars. The drivers zoom through these towns at a rate that would make your head spin so be careful crossing the streets (especially near the roundabout in Alayah and Souq in Sufalah) because drivers will zoom past driving 120 km an hour in a town area which is insanity. Other than the driving, there are no dangers and I feel safter in Ibra than in Eastern Canada. For example, I actually forgot my wallet at the petrol station for two days with over $100 dollars in it and when I returned two days later, every bill was there as though it was never touched.
Ibra is one of the least visited cities in Oman so it doesnt attract huge tourist groups that Nizwa or Muscat gets. The only real tourists are the ones that pass through on their way to Sur or to the Wahiba Sand Dunes. The only chance of being ripped off would be in the Wednesday souq but even then the locals will not take advantage like people in Turkey or Jordan. Dont worry you will have a great time in Ibra :)