Muscat: Thirty-four-year-old Sara Al Balushi is busy redefining the events scene in Oman with her veritable signature that spells good times for everyone.
The success of Burgerfest held in November this year in Muscat’s premium locality of Al Mouj Golf Grounds buoyed her to take on another event, Muscat Eats, which was on hold for a year due to pandemic.
The event, which concluded its fourth appearance this weekend, has also been hailed a success with 150 active stalls and 50,000 visitors for the 3-day event.
“We had over 50 stalls and clocked 15,000 visitors for the 3-days event in 2017, when Muscat Eats made its entry into the event scene. There were no flagship events then in the food and beverages industry which was a big lacuna especially since Oman has a variety of culture, each with a distinct food flavour. Muscat Eats was created to fill a hole and we spared no effort to present a well-organised orderly event. Muscat needed a niche calendar event like this and we set the ball rolling for one.”
Bakery and home-cooked food
Sara ensures that through her event local SMEs get their space and the much needed spring-board to leap ahead. “95 per cent of my participants are Omanis. A lot of family businesses in the capital area started off with my event and today are into successful food-related businesses such as bakery and home-cooked food catering. They take a stall in my event to test the reaction of visitors to their food and service, and encouraged by the reaction work out their future plans.
"I am extremely happy and proud to have helped many family ventures this way. Even for the stage shows that are always part of my food-themed shows, I ensure a lot of local participation along with other nationality groups. At the end of day, my events cater to an entire family – to their food and entertainment needs while catering also to the requirement of my food-stall partners to move their merchandise. Time, money and effort well spent for everyone. This way, I also promote my in-country value.”
First Omani lady to start restaurant
Coming from a family of businessmen, Sara knew she would eventually take up business as a career. Her late grandmother was the first Omani woman to start a restaurant by name Omar Khayyam, in the capital which eventually got taken over by her uncle. With her father owning a few restaurants in Oman, little Sara grew hearing a lot about restaurants and food industry. She has more than 14 years of experience in hospitality, food and beverages industry as well as tourism sector.
Sara, who did her school and college in Muscat, started her career in 2007 in the HR department of a leading bank. She pursued her masters while working with her dad and also opened up a franchise of Subway at the same time. “My family has always been very supportive of my ventures. My parents, husband and siblings are all very proud of what I am doing. Even my 8-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter are very supportive and encouraging in their own way to their mother’s ventures.”
Bollywood night of food and market
Sara is also planning a series of Oman’s first, including beach carnival called Sur Al Hadi, first night market and a food truck festival.
“I am also planning a Muscat Entrepreneurship conference called Iftikar sometime next year and a Bollywood Night which is an Indian food event with market place at Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre.”