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When you work and travel, you usually spend a lot of time in countries other than your own, so you sometimes get to see how the local people celebrate their holidays. One holiday I’ve been able to experience in the Middle East was Eid al Adha. I traveled to the exotic little city of Salalah, Oman during this period where I learned all about a holiday treat famous in the Arabian Gulf region – Omani halwa.
What is Eid al Adha?
Eid al Adha is Arabic for the Festival of the Sacrifice. Eid means happiness, so the holiday Eid al Adha is a festival of happiness in which the Muslim world celebrates happiness by sharing it with others. You can read the history of and stories about Eid al Adha in the Middle East and learn why it is celebrated on a different date each year here.
During Eid al Adha (called Eid for short) Muslims bestow gifts on family and friends. These gifts sometimes come in the form of sweets.
Omani Halwa in Salalah, Oman
One one of the most popular Eid al Adha sweets in the Middle East is halwa. People of the Arabian Gulf region in the Middle East know that the absolute best versions of halwa you can find is Omani halwa, created and sold in an exotic little city in Oman called Salalah.
Salalah is a really beautiful place, located in the Dhofar region of Oman.
You can read what I wrote about the famous frankincense, harvested in the Dhofar region and sold in Salalah, here.
You can read what I wrote about the Dhofar region’s lush green monsoon season here.
I was in Salalah in October just before Eid in 2010, when I learned all about the sugary sweet halwa from my Omani friend Ali.
Riding around Salalah during Eid, I saw windows of sweets shops filled with blue, red and yellow plastic bowls full of the Omani halwa.
Ali and I stopped at one of these sweets shops and sat with the shopkeeper, who served us some samples of the halwa along with cups of strong Omani coffee.
People travel to Salalah from all around Oman as well as from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other Arabian Gulf countries, to taste this amazing and famous halwa. I was very happy to get to try it and buy some to take with me.
Ali then drove me to one of Salalah’s foremost halwa factories to see how it is made.
Omani Halwa ingredients, according to Ali:
Sugar (3 different types)
These ingredients are poured into a huge boiling vat and cooked for three to four hours. Once the mixture reaches a boil, it is ladled into bowls and then sets into a sort of really delicious jelly.
A solitary man was making the halwa that day in Salalah.
This was fascinating to watch. You can see a video I filmed of the process below.
Once it was cooked, the man poured the hot halwa into bowls.
You don’t eat Omani halwa hot, though. You wait for it to cool, and you refrigerate it. The halwa then turns into a jelly-like substance, and you eat it cold with a spoon.
Not many Westerners travel to Oman at all – even people who work and travel – much less during the Eid al Adha holiday. If you do ever find yourself in the region anywhere near this holiday, though, definitely buy some Omani halwa for yourself and your friends and family back home. You’ve probably never tasted anything quite like this super sweet amazing treat.