By Gerry Barker
February 12, 2018
Muscat, Oman – Here we are 8,000 miles from Guelph in the sultanate of Oman, located at the south end of the Arabian peninsula about 150 miles south of Dubai.
We arrived here on two overnight flights and an eight-hour layover in London between flights.
We were invited to spend 30 days with our cousins who winter here in a lovely home on the edge of a cliff overlooking an Arabian sea estuary. Our cousins are Canadian expats who spend their summers in Orillia overlooking Lake Couchiching..
It has been an illuminating experience. Muscat is a modern, clean city with great highways and access. The streets are lined with trimmed shrubs and gardens of flowers, Bougainvillia everywhere in huge clumps, orange, pink and red. The buildings are cement block, smoothed with white stucco. Most are decorated with lacy ornate roofs and windows.
What I noted was there were no homeless people in the city. We toured the coastline and there are people living by the sea who do not have the modern amenities of Muscat. There is an absence of bicycles as the Omani, under the Sultan, have created a new city by world standards.
The Omani’s have few scooters and love their cars. While there are speed bumps and roundabouts, traffic moves swiftly. There are no miles-per-hour signs. The bumps control the speeds.
Our cousin, Ian Mackay, is our guide and his lengthy experience in Oman has been filled with wonderment and surprise.as he took us into areas that painted a picture of this young nation.
While Muscat is a beautiful city with outstanding architecture, it is Muslim country with traditional dress prevalent with most women outside their home, wearing the black overdress called the abbeya. The men are typically dressed in an ankle length white gown. Think I know now why bicycles are not around.
We are reminded that we are guests in Oman and must dress appropriately. This past week we attended a Ballet performance by a Russian Prima Ballerina, accompanied by her husband playing the violin.
To Barbara and I, the real star was the magnificent Opera House. Walls and ceilings are carved, crystal lights everywhere, even the courtyard is white marble. The 75-year-old Sultan, is an admirer of classical music and lover of the sophisticated cultures in other parts of the world.
The Sultan owns two very large yachts, in which he has been known to have the national orchestra entertain his party during the voyage. Why two yachts? Maybe one was for the orchestra.
The Sultan came to power in 1971 when he deposed his father who was a despot, not supporting the Omani population. It was the beginning of progressive governing that has resulted in the 4.2 million Omanis‘ to enable a soaring of standard of living and lifestyle improvements in just 47 years.
It occurred with a little help producing oil.
Okay, this country is tightly controlled by the Sultan. He is revered and admire by the population for his transforming policies. He is a generous benevolent dictator who has created the modern model of an independent Arabian state.
Oman has an army, navy and air force. There is no evidence that the Jihadists are active in the country.
One small irritant, unless you are a resident for a least a year, in order to purchase alcoholic beverages, you apply for a permit. The first item is getting a sponsor. Then getting the police to verify. The liquors are in hidden locations and you are only allowed per month the allocation given to you.No, you cannot accumulate the monthly allowance.
Drink it or lose it.
Awkward, yes? Muslims don’t drink. Therefore public drunkenness is eliminated. This results in fewer alcohol-related accidents and family battles. Breaches of this and the use of drugs are harshly dealt with.
The odious comparison
Our 200 year-old city is suffering from neglect of the infrastructure that makes the city run. The city staff has indicated the cost of catching up and correcting what has been neglected will cost $500 million over the next 20 years.
Unfortunately, in the past ten years, millions has been wasted, due to appalling mismanagement by an administration that conducts most of its business in closed-sessions.
But all is not lost. Next October, the people have the opportunity to express their dissatisfaction and elect members of council who will reform the way our city is being managed and return power to the people.
Our adventure here will end March1 when we travel back to our home. We will be a little bit more appreciative of our permanent home in Guelph and our friends and neighbours.
Next task is filing our income tax and preparing for the October election.
Guelphspeaks.ca will re-engaged the first week in March.
Finally Barbara and I want to express our appreciation for the generosity and kindness of Carol and Ian Mackay for putting up with a pair of relatives.