Liju Cherian –
A travel community with millions of members around the world, Couchsurfing is one of the best ways to experience Oman. A new trend, this provides meeting with locals and travellers, making travel a truly social experience. Couchsurfing connects travellers with a global network of people willing to open up their homes, find accommodation and share their lives with travellers.
For Sophie, a 25-year-old-traveller from Frankfurt, Germany, the Sultanate offered her the maiden couchsurfing experience. As a couchsurfer, she stayed with an Omani family during her visit experienced first-hand how people lived.
Her experience was great and her hosts were extremely hospitable, engaging and helpful. Thoroughly impressed with her Omani couchsurfer, she came back again after eight months. This time it was a road trip to Salalah and discovered Oman’s unique places which provided her an image of what the Sultanate has to offer. Her first time attempt at couchsurfing enabled her to make new friends.
“It was great coming back with a feeling to have friends from a different country. Couchsurfing gave me another image of foreigners, made me tolerant and taught me that sharing is better than possessing,” says Sophie.
She loves exploring new places and experiencing newer cultures. Her style of travelling is not the typical tourist type where the focus is mostly on the main attractions of the country. Rather, she tries to be with the locals in that particular country by mixing with them and exploring beautiful hidden places, not just mentioned in guidebooks. The effort made to reach those places usually pays off in the end.
She visited the Sultanate for the first time in February 2018 during her stopover to Sri Lanka and had no clue about Oman at that time as she stayed most of her days in Muscat. During the visit, she tried couchsurfing, the hosting app, and it worked so good for her that she decided to use it again on her return visit.
During her first visit, she travelled solo and never encountered any problem whatsoever. This, she felt was because most of the citizens spoke English and were willing to help and always welcomed them. She also visited Muscat and saw the amazing Islamic architecture of Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque.
Sophie recounts her experience with the local Omani boys during her road trip to Salalah. On their way, they went to see Bimmah Sinkhole, the water-filled depression, and saw three young boys by the road looking for a hitch-hike. They seemed so tired from walking, yet were smiling and had some fish which they got for their lunch. She enquired where they were heading and told they stay high up in the mountains. Sophie and her host thought it would be great to give them a ride and see their village. It was a bumpy road most of the way to where they live but it was really amazing, she recalls.
The boys were kind to show them some really beautiful locations and invited them for Omani Khawa but unfortunately they did not have enough time as they had to rush to see Wadi Tiwi.
“I really fell in love with the country and that is why I made a promise to myself that I will come back and discover more of Oman and to learn more about its people and culture. I made some great friends and we planned a road trip down to Salalah,” says Sohpie who is a doctor for alternative medicine and works as an area sales manager for an Austrian firm.
What really surprised her about driving to Salalah was the long and uninhabited coastal road and eating out in little restaurants where the locals treated and cared for them.
Another surprise in store was the sudden change in nature upon reaching Salalah where everything was very dry and then out of nowhere she felt she was driving in Germany when she saw those huge coconut palms and green mountains that adorn Dhofar Governorate.
“I never expected to see such a green city in this part of the world and that is something that makes Oman very unique in my opinion. Salalah is a very beautiful place and it has one of the prettiest beaches I ever saw. We went to this beach south of Salalah and nobody was there and felt peaceful to spend the night out there.”
Sophie promotes her travels through her Instagram@sophievoelk, having so far travelled to 21 countries and used couchsurfing while in Canada and Oman.