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Sultanate of Oman

Stilgherrian’s upcoming trip to Tanzania brought back intense memories of my years spent in Oman. (That link is to the school my children attended, the page has some lovely photos, good info & further links.) The island of Zanzibar, Tanzania,  was but a very short plane ride from Muscat. Very popular destination for either a holiday or weekend break, especially amongst the non-Omani expatriate community. And of course many Omani people have families in Zanzibar, it being a long time traditional trading nation of Oman in times past (Zanzibar once being part of Oman, way back in the 1840s).  I chose not to visit Zanzibar during my time living in Oman, I figured we had our own spectacular beaches and scenery on the Gulf and I didn’t need to go to eastern Africa. But a number of British & French women friends did visit. Some went out of general interest in travel, others went for the sex tourism aspect that was, during the late 90s, seemingly popular. Women exploiting poor, local men. Using them as gigolos. How many of those women are now reaping the consequences of those holidays I wonder? I’m unable to find any links to reputable sources on this, my words are therefore only hearsay.

Anyway, as I said at the top, it all brought back memories. I’ve been poring through the old photos and turning the pages of a much loved book A Day Above Oman. Truly, I and my children were so fortunate to have lived in such an extraordinary land. To experience living within a peaceful Islamic nation, to be welcomed, to see multiple faiths and cultures live peacefully inside one country. I left prior to 9/11. My children stayed on for some years, returning to Australia after graduating high school. They tell me little changed after 9/11. Apart from more buildings, and a growth in the tourism market. Aimed at the high-end wealthy tourist. I think my youngest child feels a bit lost now. For so many years Oman was “home”. She came to Australia only a few years ago after finishing school. Her father then moved country to Abu Dhabi. My daughter said it felt very odd to “go home to see Dad” and yet, it was not at “home”. She’d encountered serious culture shock moving to Australia, and had to confront it again when visiting her father a couple of years later. Her father has since moved to Ireland (Eire), she’s not sure what to make of that – from the rocks and sand of the desert nations to the rolling green, misty hills of Ireland.

Memories of Oman:

  • super spectacular scenery – mountains, oases, beaches
  • fantastically beautiful mosques
  • the call to prayer, especially Friday noon and sunset calls
  • goats, lots of them – usually in my garden
  • donkeys
  • magnificent underwater corals and marine life
  • black, sticky oil patches on super hot sandy beaches in summer
  • hectic driving – scary
  • magnificent feats of engineering on mountain roads
  • the royal “gateways”, built at entrances to Muscat in honour of His Majesty
  • colourful dresses of the women, covered in sheer black cloaks in the city, not in countryside
  • alcohol, plenty of it if you’re licensed, and cheap
  • wonderful parties & functions at embassies
  • being amazed at the drug taking at said parties (Aussies & Kiwis tended to stick to beer)
  • food! the local restaurants out in the villages and suburbs
  • seeing Nelson Mandela
  • soldiers with guns, always
  • the royal palace by night
  • the royal staff apartments
  • meeting such an amazing range of people within the expat community
  • archaeological sites, many of them with biblical connections or ancient history
  • bureaucracy, and plenty of it
  • the smiles and genuine friendliness of the Omani people, even if they were shy & reserved

Funny, the good memories really do outweigh and outnumber the bad. That’s nice. As for the bizarre memories, I’ll leave them for another post.

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