It’s a well-known fact that one of the best ways to learn more about a culture is through its food.
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Zayr, which means visitor in Arabic, was started earlier this year in Muscat as an online platform that enables tourists as well as Oman residents to book experiences and spend time with locals at their dining tables. Cooking classes and food tours are also available.
Visitors can also book meals such as smoked chicken mandi, grilled octopus and thareed, with each meal coming with starters and dessert, as well as spirited conversations with Omani hosts.
The idea for the company started about seven years ago when Hamed Al Amri was working abroad with an international oil company.
“I invited my course mates to visit my family and celebrate Eid with us. It was a very heartwarming experience for both our family and for our guests.”
“I’ve travelled a lot and it has shaped my personality,” he adds. “I wanted my family to experience the same but because we are a big family and can’t travel abroad often, I thought we could at least open our hearts and doors to other people from around the world. So that’s what we started doing.”
Al Amri’s family hosted over 300 travellers over the years for meals. “Each time feels different,” says Al Amri. “It’s like experiencing a new culture right from your home.”
Realising the potential to unite people of different cultures and teach visitors more about Oman’s traditions, he quit his job last year to set up Zayr.
Part of this process involves finding locals who are willing to become hosts. The locals then share ideas for a unique experience, which Zayr visits and vets, to ensure it’s up to a certain standard. To date, more than 90 families have registered to become hosts (and are currently undergoing the vetting process).
Moreover, more than 150 visitors have had the chance to dine with local families.
“The reaction from guests has been amazing,” says Al Amri.
“I’ve had people tell me it was the best thing they did during their trip to Oman and how much it has changed the image that media and news sometimes paints. But my favourite part was when someone once told me ‘I was looking for food but I got a family instead’.”
He credits the hospitality of the hosts for much of Zayr’s success.
“To me, the hospitality of the Omani people is the most authentic part of the country that people should experience,” he adds. “It’s just a huge part of Oman’s true culture.”
The experience costs $50 (Dh180) per person with children eating for free. The cooking classes cost $80 (Dh290) while prices for the food tours vary.
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