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A short visit to Oman

We are enjoying the holiday of Eid al Adha in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman. Eid al Adha is the second Eid celebration in the year, it celebrates the willingness of the prophet Abraham to sacrifice his young first-born son Ismail as an act of submission to God’s command and his son’s acceptance to being sacrificed, before God intervened to provide Abraham with a ram to sacrifice instead. Eid is a time of rejoicing and celebration and moslems typically sacrifice an animal (goat or or sheep) and share the meat amongst the poor, family and friends. I am not sure how they manage this in Qatar where the only truly “poor” people live in the labour camps. I do hope some of the meat finds its way to them.

I believe many of our friends in Qatar have now done their duty in regard to sacrifice and those who couldn’t have arranged for family back home in Egypt or elsewhere to do so for them. It became a common site in the days before the break to see one or two sheep in the back of a car and there are professional butchers who do the rounds at this time of year to slaughter the animals the halal way, cut them up for distribution and dispose of the remains thoughtfully (apparently for some time unwanted entrails posed some health threat here in Doha). At Eid al Adha it is traditional, as we say “merry Christmas” to say “eid mubarak” so (belated) “eid mubarak” to all readers.

Oman is a lovely place to visit, very much more relaxed than Qatar, particularly in regard to dress standards and beverages. Perhaps this is beacause of the countries heritage as a major trading port with lots of contact with the outside world, perhaps not. Whatever the reason it feels like a release being here.

The first thing we noticed here was that all the streets had sensible provision for “foot traffic” and the drivers obey road traffic signals regardless of whether or not there is a traffic camera. There is also greenery everywhere, granted it is all irrigated and most of the plants would die if it wasn’t for black poly-pipe but it makes a huge difference to see lots of green. The lack of dust in the air is also refreshing, clear air every day so far and the buildings all look like they have been freshly washed. Hopefully as they green Qatar this aspect will improve but there is also a major difference in landscape. Where Qatar is pretty much all desert and dunes, Oman is very rocky and even “mountainous” (depending on your definition of a mountain).

Unfortunately we didn’t do a lot of research before we came, thinking of this four days as a sort of reconaissance trip. If we had we would have realised that you really need to have a hire car to get the most out of it. We have done as much as we could on foot and by taxis. We are staying in an area of Muscat that the locals call “little India” for reasons that would be immediately obvious if you were here. The big benefit of this is the abundance of excellent and very cheap restaurants in the local area. Muscat is very quiet over Eid as most people have gone elsewhere for their break and we have found many of the tourist attractions such as dolphin-viewing are booked solid and that, having hired out everything, the hire car companies have shut down for the break as well. We have spent the first few days at resorts where we have been pampered between snorkelling on private beaches and having drinks and nibbles and reading books around the pool. We find our way to these places by taxi, usually driven by a smiling friendly Omani (another key difference – you will never find a Qatari driving a taxi!!!!) which is fun and so nice to have it confirmed just how genuinely NICE the people of the Gulf are.

Today we nursed a bad case of overexposure to ultraviolet rays at the hotel, only going out to find a restaurant for lunch and to visit one of the new shopping malls. Nothing very exciting but gave me time to write this and we still managed to spend some time in the pool. Tomorrow we are planning to have a trip a little down the coast.

We will definitely be back here insh’Allah and highly recommend that if you ever find your way over to this part of the world you are able to visit. We are also planning in the future to have a driving holiday over in Oman, lots of wadis and beautiful countryside to see.

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