Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Oman 2004

Weird and wonderful things to note about Oman:

A) On coming drivers stop your car in the middle of the road and ask you for a light for their cigarettes (well it happened to us!)
B) Goats are known to stand on the bonnets of 4 wheel drive vans (see photo)
C) It is illegal not to keep your car clean- by order of the Sultan. It is crazy not to have a car, because in the cities public transport is, well, not there.
D) If you want to order a pizza be sure to know how to describe where you live, i.e
'Oh you know we're between Abdul's restaurant and the green mosque, just opposite the electrician's'. Street addresses are non-existent outside of Muscat, the capital
E) At Sur University College, at which my friend teaches English, all students are elementary, even the ones in the 'advanced' classes. Motivation to learn, it seems, is evidently not intense when education is free and nobody either speaks or needs the language outside the classroom
F) There are mountains and valleys and palm trees, so it’s not just desert and camels (though it is that too)
G) Oman is home to frankincense, so it’s the place to buy presents for messiahs.
H) Oman was runner up in the 15th Arabian Gulf cup on Xmas eve. Like all classy nations they lost on penalties.
I) It’s easy to hitchhike (though I didn’t) because Omanis feel obliged by Islam to extend hospitality. Wave your arm up and down slowly and gracefully. If you're lucky (as I was) you may, without asking for a lift, be picked up by someone wanting to practice their English.
J) If you fancy visiting an extremely isolated mountain next to an extremely sheer and precipitous canyon, be prepared to meet a host of camera shy yet very persistent carpet sellers.
K) Omanis are very friendly and hospitable, like all Arabic people I find. We had a puncture on a coastal road at night without a torch and a chap stopped and helped us, even though we hadn't asked for assistance. At a guess, in neither London nor Bratislava can you smile or wave at strangers or be smiled or waved at by strangers, without questions of sanity being raised.
L) Giant turtles come ashore at night to lay ping pong ball sized eggs and bury them in the sand for two months. Provided they are not dug up and eaten by foxes, they must then scurry unassisted through the sand to the nearby sea.


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