For the most important day of their lives, couples are looking to Oman to provide the perfect setting for their nuptials. Alvin Thomas reports on why the Sultanate is an ideal location for starting together.
It’s a magical moment in the life of the bride Meshael and her groom Khalfan: it is the day of their wedding; the day they mark their love for each other and tie the knot.
But, in Oman, marriage is not only a commemoration of the love of the bride and groom but also the building of a strong bond between two families – starting from the heads of the family all the way down to the youngest siblings.
Therefore, all the male members from both sides of the family are at the mosque – standing with a strength of 200 – for the ‘Melkah’ (or Mulkah).
And sitting in his finest white dishdasha, wearing a mussar of deep red with an ornate silver Khanjar tucked into the sash tied around his waist, Khalfan gives his hand to the mullah opposite him, who reads a short passage from the Holy Book of Quran.
Following this ritual, the two are officially married.
Next, the families and close relatives proceed to the elaborately decorated hall that they have booked for the ‘Urs’ (the wedding party) – where the families get together to celebrate the new relationship.
While the men and women are in separate rooms, there is no shortage of excitement.
On the bride’s side of things, the family members are all chatting while clicking photos and enjoying the sumptuous buffet. Meanwhile, Meshael’s friends are in awe of her lavish jewellery and the intricate henna painting that she is adorning.
The men, however, are on a selfie spree: annoying the photographers but having a jolly time, as they tease Khalfan with clichéd jokes on marriage. The elder members of the family, however, are immersed in conversation; some even reminiscing of their “lucky day” while also giving the 28-year-old tips aplenty.
There’s music, dance and an abundance of food. But, some of the men are outside dancing to traditional Arabic tunes, with their khaizrans (wooden canes). It’s everything the bride and groom have dreamt of and planned for more than eight months.
“A wedding in September after Eid al Adha was what Meshael and I dreamt off, since we knew we were going to get married. We came to know about the marriage in January of this year,” says Khalfan.
“But, the heat in the summer meant it would have been feasible to have the wedding outside Oman. Now, however, everything has lined up perfectly and it has been the perfect day for what I think is the most amazing couple alive,” he laughs.
“Having the wedding in Oman – my home – has just made my day all the more special; everything felt right and in place.”
Meshael concurs, before adding: “My wedding is a day I never thought would be perfect.
“You see, all these weddings going wrong on television and you feel something is bound to go off-plan. Really, that was not the case for us,” she says, as she looks into Khalfan’s eyes.
Just like Meshael and Khalfan, wedding memories hold a special place in every person’s heart. Every bride and groom aspire to look and feel their best on the most important occasion of their life while being able to enter matrimony in the dreamiest of locations.
In the process, Oman has become home to a new trend – destination weddings, in which the whole wedding party from outside Oman comes here for that “perfect wedding”.
And, why wouldn’t they? With its white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, striking rock formations and stunning mountainous backdrops, the Sultanate is the setting many are looking for.
“The Omanis are lucky,” says Sneha Pillai, a bride-to-be from the coastal state of Kerala, in India, who is considering Oman as the destination for her big day.
“There’s no matching Oman when it comes to unadulterated and natural beauty. Sure, I can get a similar setting in the Bahamas or Mauritius but these places are always – and I mean always – occupied by tourists. It’s not a dream for anyone to get married there, now.”
In reality, she is only one among the many considering Oman as a destination for their weddings.
“The peace and quiet is something I highly regard; privacy matters,” she tells us.
Since 2014, seven big Indian weddings have taken place here, as confirmed by Oman’s tourism ministry.
This has also been beneficial for other industries in the country, especially for food and beverage firms and jewellery makers.
For instance, Sneha is considering buying all her jewellery from various vendors in Oman.
“A big wedding needs a lot of jewellery,” says Sneha, with a chuckle.
“Something I really admire about Omani weddings is the ornaments that the brides wear. I love them.
“Actually, I would love to combine Omani and Indian ornaments to create a mix of flavours. I would also like to do that with the food that will be served at the after-party,” she says.
Of late, Oman – thanks to its safe environment and the welcoming nature of its citizens – is also seeing an influx of honeymooners, who are spending the first weeks of their marriage exploring the country.
“There’s a rustic vibe to the country that you cannot get from many other tourist destinations,” says Abraham, who is in Oman with his wife Riya.
“I remember my brother complaining of having a terrible time in the Caribbean during his honeymoon, in 2015. That was mostly because of the hordes of tourists there at that time.
“Oman during this autumn season gives you what you deserve – the sights you would normally see in Europe; the green valleys, mountain ranges worth scaling and even sinkholes and caves for exploring.
“What more can anyone ever ask for.”