Cup of friendship

Here, visitors are held in the highest esteem. And their hosts have a special way of making them feel welcome: with a cup of Omani coffee or tea.

You can smell it brewing in people’s homes as you walk along the streets of Oman’s cities and towns. Qahwa, or Omani coffee, is the way people greet one another. Cups are shared when people come together as they exchange pleasantries or during special ceremonies.

Made using ground beans, its often brewed atop the stove, and everyone has their own way of individualising their brew. Some add rosewater, others saffron, cardamom is a popular and aromatic addition, as are cinnamon or cloves.

Qahwa

Perhaps not surprisingly, there are a few rules they go along with its drinking, although you only need follow your host’s lead as to whether you drink the coffee before a conversation or after. You’ll often also be offered freshly sliced fruit, dates or a piece of halwa to accompany the brew. Once you’ve had enough qahwa, shake the cup gently and hand it back. Handing it straight back to whoever is in charge of pouring will mean you’re served more.

Tea, traditionally drunk in the morning, is another Omani twist on the sort of cuppa you’ll be served in much of the world. Black tea is brewed on top of the stove with evaporated milk and cardamom powder. Sometimes fresh ginger is also added to the mix, and you’ll often see Omanis pouring cups from their thermos throughout the day. This tea is called karak chai, and closely resembles the chai served in India.

Cafe serving Karak Chai

When you’re out and about in Muscat or one of Oman’s other cities, look for tiny, hole-in-the-wall cafes serving this popular beverage. In keeping with its origins karak chai is also often served with a crepe-like flatbread similar to dosa. Called rakhel, it’s layered with ingredients including cheese, honey and egg.

We don't know about you, but this is definitely our cup of tea.