Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The Camels Are Coming

Yes I know the title is a hokey Biggles reference.  But to be fair it is kind of appropriate.

Well we arrived in Muscat Oman on Monday morning.  Rather tired after the trip, mind you it's nowhere near as long as the haul to or from Europe, so there's really nothing to complain about.  Like all long haul flights this one had little to recommend itself.

It was rather pleasing to be met in the arrivals hall at the airport and escorted through the visa process, Customs clearance and provided with an airport attendant to manage our bags.  That was all good and Katrina tells me we were watched rather closely by all the other passengers as we ignored and cut across queues.  Now that's the way to do an international arrival.

When we got out of the Customs area it was straight off to arrange local SIM cards and pick up our hire car.  Although Oman Police had put on a driver and SUV as well.  So he took the baggage and we followed very carefully in his wheel tracks.  And another win here, I had ordered a Corolla, but the hire company fronted a Camry!  That's just fine by me, a little more sheet metal around us while we learn to drive on the wrong side of the road.

Tuesday was induction day.  Much of it spent sitting in the HR office and then the Police Hospital undergoing medical checks as part of the commencement process.  Unfortunately this co-incided with the induction checks for a trainee cohort of 100plus.  Mind you we had our friendly driver from the day before, Sultan, who seemed to know everyone and somehow our checks just seemed to miraculously occur much quicker than for the trainees.  They tell me that when this is all finished I will have the status of an officer within the Customs Division.

Katrina and I are staying at the Police Club, funnily enough in the same apartment that I had when I came over for a week in October/November.  It's adequate, but not digs we would want for long term.  Essentially a bedroom, lounge, kitchen and shower/toilet.  Mind you having daily service including laundry helps a lot.  There's also the benefit of the Police Club itself which includes gym, spa, sauna and a wet bar.  Good food at more than reasonable prices.  The lunch buffet for two with a juice and water cost a max of $5 a head.  Hope that we can get food elsewhere for similar prices.  What little shopping we have done seems on the whole to be significantly cheaper than in Australia. The one or two things that aren't includes internet access.

We got the full monty guided tour of the club, so here's Katrina with a model traditional Omani boat - rather significant as for some time Oman had a rather substantial trade empire, stretching well down into Africa.  They also have a wood panelled lounge set up to mimic a ward room of an old timber ship. Oh BTW the man standing to attention in the background painting is the Sultan, who is well beloved and appears pretty much everywhere.

On Monday afternoon we had just finished unpacking and setting up when Katrina heard the tortured strains of bagpipes and drums. Must have been her musical affinity shining through  That it seems was the Oman Police (Camel) Mounted Bagpipe Band.  So we took ourselves off to the gates of the mounted police training school for a look see.  Come back tomorrow morning they told us.

So we did and got a guided tour through the complex and personal introductions and performance from some of the camels.  They maintain camel patrols through the more inaccessible parts of the country as well as using the camels and horses as PR exercises. Camel mounted tent pegging??  Gotta see that!

 Katrina being "presented" with a flower by a camel.
Me feeding the newest recruit, who is one to two months old.

As we wandered around the mounted training school they fed us local coffee (spiced with cardamon). That may have helped elevate my blood pressure which the doctor picked up during the checks and then sent me off for an ECG.  All good they said.  Apparently I have a heart and it's in good condition. Of course they may have just said that and...........

This left hand driving lark is a bit of a challenge so far.  It's the middle of the Gulf Co-operation Council road safety week.  Brochures in the shops and so on.  Don't seem to be making much of a difference as the general attitude to driving seems to be rather lacksidaisical.  What's this indicator caper? Lane change no problem, see I just did it.  In a country of three million they topped 1000 in road deaths last year.

So defensive driving seems the order of the day.  The biggest issue is getting our heads around the navigation thing.  So far we've learnt that general practice seems to be to go past where you want to go and turn around at the next roundabout, that freeway entrances are counter intuitive and all roads seem at some point or another to lead to the Sultan department store, which is not very big! Oh and Katrina keeps thinking things are in the opposite direction to where they are.

Not a bad start all in all.


  1. All I can say is WOW! What a way to be greeted, and to start your Omani adventure. Left-hand side of the driving doesn't take a lot of getting used to, as everyone is doing it. Defensive driving certainly sounds like the ideal solution, unless you can somehow get hold of a Saladin with air con and a good sound system. ;)

  2. We've driven on the left before, it takes a bit of getting used to, particularly when making left hand turns and for me when I check the non existent rear view mirror somewhere out and above the driver side wing mirror.

  3. Excellent start to your stay! And if you manage to get any footage of the Oman Camel mounted pipe band - could you share? (I *love* pipe bands :D)