Well I am back in London after two weeks exploring my new hometown and its surrounding area. I really enjoyed Muscat. It was lovely getting a chance to check out the place I am moving to before I land there at the end of the year to settle in. I learned a lot about what to plan for, how to pack and what to buy before I go. More importantly, I experienced my share of hilarious, ridiculous and exciting things while I was there. I’ll attempt to share as many as I can in this post!
Possibly the most surprising thing on the To Do Before I Move list is clothes shopping. I didn’t buy any before I left London because, well, it’s winter and the shops are full of wool coats and scarves, nothing really suitable for 33ºC/91ºF. I was excited to get to Muscat and buy a big pile of new summer clothes, but when I got to the mall the stores were selling this – I kid you not:
Seriously. Who would want to buy that in a place where the temperatures at night in January drop to a teeth-chattering 17ºC/63ºF?? The thought of wearing this any time of year here makes me melt.
Apparently, shopping in Muscat’s malls is just like shopping in London: it’s all the same stores and they are selling all the same things at the same time, regardless of the fact that their locations are in completely different climates. Crazy. But a good fact to know as someone moving there in the dead of winter. Must buy summer clothes before I go!
For the second week of the trip I had a car, so I could scoot around a bit and get a lay of the land. I have a slight obsession with memorising the streets and things where I live, so it was fun to start mapping it out in my head (and buying an unnecessarily high number of maps to help me do so). In true Three Miles an Hour form, I thought the best way to document the adventure would be in postcard photo ops.
I am not entirely sure how to describe driving in Oman. It’s halfway totally normal and halfway completely insane.
- Normal: big, new, pretty freeways that take you anywhere you want at a pretty reasonable speed
- Freaky: people crossing the freeway by casually holding their hand out to stop you when you’re going 80mph because it is the fastest shortcut and it’s totally legal
- Normal: roundabouts, fancy traffic lights, speed cameras
- Fun but pretty silly: the entire driving system is based on u-turns. You cannot possibly get anywhere without doing at least three.
- Normal: big, pretty street signs in English telling you where you’re headed
- Hilarious: whether the destination is ahead of you or behind you on the same road, it is listed on the sign because, “hey, you could always do a u-turn and go back the other way, so it’s an option, that’s all we’re saying”. So imagine you are in Nebraska driving I-80 East to New York City. By Muscat logic, San Francisco should obviously be listed as a destination because that road does technically take you there…
- Normal: there are good drivers, there are bad drivers
- Slightly terrifying: the only way to get your head around the chaos is to think of cars as little metal bubbles around pedestrians, not heavy, moving vehicles with their own physics to consider. example: you’re walking home from the station and you remember you forgot to get milk. You stop the moment you come to that realisation, turn around and immediately head back the way you came, against oncoming pedestrians who move around you to create room. That. In a car. On the road.
One perk to all the u-turns and frequent stops to accommodate people doing weird shit on the road is that you get time to take in the beauty of all the mosques. I was born and raised in Utah: Land of Churches on Every Corner. Muscat might run a close second to Salt Lake for the number of churches scattered around, but I can say with absolute certainty, the mosques are far more gorgeous than the churches could ever hope to be (click here for some great photos of them!). Case in point:
There is a flip-side to the obsession with decoration and embellishment though. The amount of fake gold and fake crystal strung about the place is pretty incredible. The local home good stores are absolutely dripping in it.
Although we don’t have a flat yet, I have an undeniable urge to nest. It’s a bit of a problem. I haven’t had a real place of my own that I can make a real home in its entirety for four and a half years. I am ready. So ready. Perhaps the hideous decor actually saved me from buying the whole shop. Phew. I opted instead to buy us a couple of plants.
They say you’re meant to bring plants as housewarming gifts because it implies the recipient will stay there long enough to take care of them. Although we don’t have a house to warm yet (and, let’s be honest, no houses need warming here), I was pretty excited to stop at a nursery and buy our first little dudes. Aren’t they adorable?
Almost immediately, the small one on the right suffered a pretty rough death when the cat upturned it and ate all its roots off. Bastard! We’re trying some recovery tactics, but it isn’t looking good. So it seems we’re running at a 50% survival rate on the plant front straight out of the gate. Sigh.
Because we don’t have a house yet, I also refrained from buying our three-foot Omani flag for National Day, a holiday to celebrate the Sultan’s birthday. The Omanis love Sultan Qaboos and very rightly so. He has done amazing things for the country over the last 44 years of his reign. It’s a tricky area because I am pretty strongly opposed to dictatorships for many obvious reasons, but if you have a truly benevolent and forward-looking dictator, it’s somewhat astonishing what they can accomplish in such a short time.
I loved being around in the lead up to National Day (though I wish I could be there for the real deal this week) because the country started getting wonderfully festive. Everything is covered in gorgeous Omani flags and coloured street lights are hung along all the freeways. These crazy grass-head masks are everywhere too. I am looking forward to seeing the celebration in all its splendour next year!
Well, folks, I have a lot more to tell you about still, but it looks like I will have to put it in another post. Too many things to share!
I hope you’re all having a good week, and I will see you again in a couple of days. And don’t forget, if you want your own personal post(card) I send them every week! Just send me your details here and it’ll be on its way.
See you next time!
Want a postcard? Send me your details here and I will send you one too!