This post is in response to IndiBlogger contest titled Beauty has an Address based on Oman.
We lived in Muscat, Oman from October 1995 to November 2000 and the five years was an introduction to a culturally and typographically vibrant and irresistible.
Our entry into Muscat, the capital of Sultanate of Oman, had coincided with sublime weather, by Oman standards, as October onwards the hot air or the mistral disappears from over the crumbly slatey mountaintops. Also unknowingly, we had timed our arrival with the 25th year of ascension of Sultan Qaboos bin Said and the country’s National Day celebrations. The country was eulogizing the metamorphosis into a new era engineered by discovery of oil and the Sultan’s commitment to his people. The buntings and multi hued lights stringed along pillars and atop buildings added to the festive ambiance and after sunset Muscat turned into an Arabian Nights city with lighted minarets, streets and buildings.
It was the beginning of a never-ending love affair with a country that hitherto had been an unknown entity, a Middle Eastern country confined to desert lands of geography books. I am glad I did not listen to well wishers advising us against flying out without any contacts or friends to help out. We did not know anyone, except for my husband’s company contacts, and in a way it was a blessing as I was free from getting opinionated.
In five years time, 1995-2000, I came to know a country of majestic burnished mountains and blue-green waters snuggling up to an endless coastline, of undulating sky-line of buildings and rolling clouds, the souqs or markets reminiscent of ancient trade routes, of frankincense and dates, the swirling golden Wahiba sands, forts and mountain passes, of folklore and distinctive tribals. Evenings spent strolling along the Corniche, in Muscat, washed by waves and engulfed in the glow of the setting sun it was easy to imagine the lure of this entreport for sailors on way to riches of Asia. Lord Curzon, the British Viceroy of India (1898-1905) had labeled it as the ‘most picturesque place in the east’ and like multitudinous tourists down decades I too seconded the description.
In 1995 Muscat was a city of artistic roundabouts embellished with artifacts, majestic forts and palaces, traditional souks vying with modern hotels, civic installations and sprawling parks proclaiming an ancient history of political and military activities. The Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Grand mosque was being constructed ( since then completed) and has the world’s largest chandelier and a hand-woven Persian carpet covering 4.26 sq.km. It is one mosque where non-Muslims are admitted for a look around.
The children would spend weekends at the ice skating rink or freaking out on the serpentine drive to Qantab beach, an engineering masterpiece linking the mountains for passage to the sea. School vacations meant driving to picturesque mountain cities and villages, Nizwa cloaked in antiquity was my favored haunt, the Jebel Akhdar or the Green mountains, Musandan reminiscent of Norway fjords, the verdant wadis or valleys and crooning streams of Dhofar, the southern tip of the country.
Like any other Gulf country Oman has surfeit of glamour, money, labor, simple living but to me it was a multitudinous wrap around, unique and fantastically natural in all its heatness- beyond conditioned houses, conditioned cars, conditioned offices, shopping complexes and “Even are classrooms are air-conditioned”. This from children on first day at Indian School, Muscat.
Now, fourteen years later when asked what would I like to do and see on return…..I can only say ‘Oman in entity’ as it was and must be paradisiacal.