Monday, March 15, 2010

You're Moving Where...

Well I know many of you have been anxiously awaiting my next post so now that our air freight has FINALLY arrived and I am reconnected to the world electronically you are in for a treat. Yes, the adventure has finally begun...

When I began to tell people that we had decided to move to Oman, some of you knew in what part of the world our destination was located, some of you even knew what continent it was on. Sadly though, most of you were completely unfamiliar with Oman. This blog post is dedicated to you, the majority who like me, needed some background and a bit of a geography lesson.

Oman is situated on the Eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula bordering four separate bodies of water; the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Oman, the strategically positioned Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. For those of you who prefer to remain on land, Oman borders the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Oman is a stunning mix of rugged mountains ( Jebel Shams is the highest peak at 3075 m), vast deserts, fertile wadis (valleys) and my personal favorite, over 2700 km of unexplored, beautiful white sand beaches.

Despite the heat, Oman is naturally lush with relatively few manicured green spaces in comparison to neighboring UAE, instead relying on its diverse, overwhelmingly picturesque landscapes to encourage a growing tourism industry.

Oman is a growing economic force, owing its prosperity almost entirely to its current ruler's foresight and ingenuity. Sultan Qaboos bin Said, took control of the throne from his father in 1970 by means of an undisputed coup. Gives new meaning to taking over the family business ;+)

Since enthronement, Sultan Qaboos has modernized Oman's economy, turning it's prolific oil and gas revenues into modern infrastructure, medical facilities and free education for all resulting in a positively growing local and global economy. Along with these significant investments, the Sultan has implemented a policy of "Omanisation" of the workforce resulting in an overall decrease in it's dependence on professional expatriates. Although, luckily for us the need for outside expertise still hasn't disappeared completely.

The annual temperature ranges from a comfortable 26 degrees in the winter to a never reported higher than 49 degrees in the summer months. (When the temperature rises above 50 degrees, imported outdoor workers are forbidden to work resulting in a seemingly disastrous halt to the sweeping of roadways, landscaping and general city cleanliness maintenance.)

And now, as my 1st post from overseas comes to a close, I will address the question on most of your minds.

Oman is a Muslim country but it is remarkably relaxed as Middle Eastern Muslim countries go. I do not wear a burka (the black full face and body covering worn by Saudi Arabian women), an abaya (essentially a burka without the face covering) or even a hijab (the common head covering worn by Muslim women worldwide) while out and about in Muscat.

That said, my dress is more conservative than it would be in North America, especially given the heat. My standard public garb consists of Capri's and longish short sleeved t-shirts that don't show any cleavage and if I am visiting a less metropolitan area than Muscat, a hijab is required, especially in the desert.

Luckily the Ras Al Hamra club hosts a European style private beach and pool area where bathing suits, shorts and men in Speedos abound. But more on this another day...

A demain...

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