Monday, January 01, 2007

Like A Sunday Morning

Oman is a strange country. Like its other Arab brethren in the Gulf its wealth comes its substantial reserves of oil. In the past 35 years the country has been transformed from a rural backwater to a thriving, developed country with all the latest mod-cons including swanky shopping centres, sports clubs and even traffic that obeys road rules (more or less), a very rare thing indeed. Apart from these exterior signs of affluence the first thing a visitor to Oman will notice is the number of non-Omanis. Expats are used to do the majority of the work in the country, from the Westerners who are brought in for their technical expertise; educated Indians for administrative roles; various south Asians (mainly Sri Lankans and Tamils) for manual work; and Chinese women as prostitutes.

Life with the Pidgeons (for that is Michael's surname) has been shamelessly relaxing and full of luxuries that have been unknown to me on the road: daily hot showers, fantastic food, playing recreational sports (Michael, his brother Steven and I have often gone down to the local sports complex to play squash, pool and even use the gym), having lie-ins, playing chess on the terrace, and getting driven around everywhere (thankfully, as public transport isn't very well developed here and Muscat is sprawled out over 40km of coast). I am therefore very grateful to them for inviting me over and giving me a holiday from my trip (it's surprisingly hard work fleeing a "meaningful" job for two years) to recharge my batteries, restock my belly and, not least, for making me feel part of the family. But, as they say, all good things must come to an end and soon I will have to leave my munificent hosts, though first I will have to get my Yemeni visa as soon as the holiday period is over (Christmas, New Year, the weekend and Eid al Adha have combined this year to make the embassy perpetually closed).

Anyway, I wish everyone a happy new year and I hope you've all recovered from your hangovers and have made worthwhile resolutions. I, personally, have resolved to return home some time this year, something that will probably relieve my parents.


Ex-Shammickite said...

What a great trip you are on! I'm so envious. I've done a bit of travelling (yes, I dipped in the Dead Sea too.... very slimy) but mostly on organised excursions. I just didn't have the opportunity or circumstances to travel on my own. Have a blast... and all the best for 2007.

Ex-Shammickite said...

Thanx for leaving me a comment. Yes, I have been to Mexico, but only to cross the border by car from San Diego to Tijuana for an afternoon when I was visiting LA 3 years ago. Scary stuff crossing that border! I only had a UK passport so I wasn't sure if they would let me in... then I wasn't sure if they would let me out again! We parked in completely the wrong part of town, lots of hookers who looked about 15, scary looking people strolling the streets. Everyone was short and dark, and I am a tall redhead and I felt so vulnerable! I love Mexican food, but didn't eat any on my afternoon in Tijuana!