One travels to be enriched, inspired and to gain perspective on your normal situation in life.
So when I was planning to head to the stunning and fascinating Sultanate of Oman I did make a point of finding out about its customs regarding alcohol given its an Islamic country.
The place is newish to tourism so I didn’t expect too much, and generally sale of alcohol is limited to selected places, with the government keeping track of all official sales.
The Omanis practice a tolerant form of Islam and are a modest and dignified people, and you should always adapt your ways to the places you are visiting.
I travelled there for the cultural and extraordinary landscapes, not to get tanked by a resort pool.
We generally spent a different night somewhere, and most places were alcohol free, even if a good standard hotel, this is sometimes a pity as after a challenging day trekking, climbing or navigating a mountain pass in a 4WD you really felt like a restorative glass of wine or G+T.
Or if they did sell booze often it was very limited in stock, such as one place that didn’t have Gin, or most wines though listed on the menu. It didn’t seem particularly expensive though subject to a government excise, though they add a sales tax and service change.
So after a particularly arduous day we found ourselves at the spectacular setting of the Desert Nights Camp among Sahara like sand-dunes.
On the menu was a cocktail list that seemed to come out of the 70’s and near the top was ‘Martini Cocktail- Gin or Vodka, Shaken or Stirred‘.
Happy Days indeed.
After dressing dinner, it was off to the bar then, under a full moon complete with camels nearby and dunes all about, an exotic setting indeed.
They stocked Cinzano vermouth (typical on my travels) and Bombay Sapphire + Gordon’s (the latter was in all mini bars I came across).
Not wanting to get my hopes up I gave the barman some basic instructions and cross my fingers. Now, obviously the Cinzano in an inferior choice of Vermouth being too fruity for a Martini, especially Bombay, but what the heck.
Sometimes the time and place transcend the rest.
A lovely chilled Martini in the desert sands, very romantic and just the ticket to wash the dust away.
The next night a different bar person, same instructions, but I could hear from inside whilst waiting the clanking clicks of something being shaken. Oh dear.
The result, pictured, was a sea of ice flakes. I didn’t want to offend, I’m sure they don’t get many takers for these there, and discreetly removed the ice… to my wife’s G+T.
A few days later, on our last nights in the country we treated ourselves to the superb Shangri La Resort outside of Muscat, situated between mountains and the sea.
This struck me as a natural Martini habitat.
Naturally I scoped the bars on arrival and their stock and could tell I was going to be in safe hands. Their Long Bar stocked Tanqueray, Bombay, Beefeater and Tanqueray 10, Cinzano again for the Dry Vermouth.
I’ll blame it on the sound of the ocean waves, the summer night, sublime Oud music in the background and the waying palms, but several excellent Tanqueary and Beefeater versions later, I felt most content.
The next evening we took in the fabulously decorated (with Frank Sinatra in the background) The Piano Bar. Sitting on a terrace overlooking the sea and resort, my last night in Oman, perfection.
The barman knew his business, chilling the glass, proper bar presentation, excellent stirring technique, and it was poured at our table.
He also came back in a few minutes to ensure (lovely complimentary tapas too) it was how I liked it. Indeed it was.
I opted for the classic dry Tanqueray, the evening and setting didn’t need anything else to the perfect Martini experience.
Sublime, thank you Oman.