Like the rest of the Arabian Gulf, coffee drinking is an integral part of everyday life in Oman. Notably thicker and spicier than the typical western blend, this refreshment is always offered to guests upon arrival and customarily served in graceful, long-bodied pots called dallahs. Traditionally fashioned from silver in Nizwa, bronze models are more standard these days, though no less elegant. Some really old dallahs also contain small pebbles inside the lid, which both announce the boiling of water and alert company to anyone lifting the lid to add poison! Bring back one of these as the perfect kitchen addition for those who regularly suspect their friends of plotting to kill them.
Ever had dinner guests who have stayed on long after you want to go to bed? If so, you may also like to acquire yourself an Omani incense burner – or majmar. Ornately carved silver orbs used primarily for burning frankincense, a majmar is produced when the final round of coffee has been served and – rather unsubtly – wafted around a guest’s body to signal that their departure is desired. Think of it as the equivalent of yawning loudly and saying: ‘so, should I call you a cab then?’
In times past, when it was forbidden for Omani men to wear jewellery, the shrewd among them got around this by taking to having their weaponry decorated. The result is khanjar, the curved silver daggers that now stand as the nation’s most iconic emblem. Featured on both the national flag and the one rial note, khanjars are these days mostly worn at symbolic occasions. Unsheathing it does still signify that you are seeking revenge or would like to assassinate somebody however - so don’t just whip it out to spread the garlic sauce more evenly across your kebab.
4. Henna tattoo
Henna tattooing is common among Omani women and can make for some very beautiful – and temporary – bodily decoration. The designs generally fade after five days or so, though make sure you go to a reputable artist who uses a traditional henna recipe. Some modern hennas have had chemicals and dyes added to hasten the drying process, which can result in stinging, scarring and even health risks. Be particularly wary of black henna.
If it was a good enough gift for baby Jesus, it should be good enough for Aunt Mildred.