Thursday, 29 March 2012

Street view

We've been in our house for about five days now and so far we've had dinner in once. Not that we're social butterflies, but there is so much to organise that every day involves more stuff!  So much so that we have found ourselves eating at the shopping centres.

The general lifestyle is quite different, early starts and late finishes.  I can only assume that the mid day nap is a taken by most.  Coming home at 10:30 earlier this week everything was open and people everywhere.  So much so that I stopped at the local bakery and bought croissant for our forthcoming 0530 breakfast.

It might have been  mentioned that there is a mosque across the street and we hear the morning call at around five.  There's a series of other calls throughout the day, but unless the windows are open...........  Earlier in the week the actual mosque calls were preceded by kids practising their calls. We heard that from a series of mosques as we passed by.  Some of the kids sounded really excited.

Speaking of kids, our little street is teeming with them.  They're out and about in little groups, doing kid stuff. kites, bikes, general play and the ubiquitous soccer games.  Every afternoon it seems the local kids gather for their soccer match in the vacant lot across the street.  They range in age from under ten to around 20, but it's all in and in the way of these things everybody gets a fair go. The game only ends when the dusk call to prayer goes out at which point small clumps of kids break off to head home and the game peters out to a few kids playing kick to kick.  Then darkness and a silent street.

There is an interesting mix of clothing, younger kids in pants and shirts/t-shirts, teens in a mix of stuff (early teen dishdasha and late teen soccer strip) and male adults predominantly in the dishdasha and hat or head scarf.  The dishdasha is a single, simple garment that covers neck to wrist to ankle, think of a styled wee willie winky night gown.  Many have colour trim around the collars, cuffs and front opening, they all however have a tassle hanging out from the collar overlap onto the right breast.  Katrina tells me the tassle used to be scented, and the way many sniff them it would seem they still are.

In Oman whenever an official photo is taken the locals are required to sit it in traditional garb.  So it's the dishdasha and hat.  Drivers licences, resident id..........  The Sultan is keen to ensure that Omani culture is not swamped and blown away by integration with the world.  So at government workplaces the dress code is uniform or dishdasha and hat with scarf. In the evening the scarf comes off and it's just the hat.   Most women wear black outer garments in public and at a minimum a head scarf, running all the way through to full cover.  Although the last is in the minority.

As ever how you wear your clothes matters as much as the style. It's interesting observing the differences.  Somehow young males manage to make their outfits look "stylish" and there's that definite swagger/air of I'm hot stuff emanating from the young turks as they cruise in their little schools.  For some the dishdadha's have been tailored to emphasise body shape. Ahh youth it's the same the world round!

All this makes it easy to identify the expatriates, as we wear pretty much what we like.  Although given the conservative nature of society I am a little disappointed that so many of the Westerners seem completely oblivious to local sensibilities.  Some seem to flaunt their ability to show swathes of skin and in some cases they would be better not to! Kinda reminds me of a universal principle that should be enforced everywhere - ICBM (Insufficient Clothing for Body Mass).

Muscat is awash with expatriates, Indian, Bangaldeshi, Pakistani and the generic Westerner, sprinkled with the odd Chinese/Japanese.  You see them everywhere, and now we are part of them.

Driving is still a challenge, as my automatic reflexes are still firmly locked to the other side of the car, so there's been a few close calls.  But Omani's, despite manic driving and apparent disregard for road rules readily make way and flag you through.  Which is an interesting juxtaposition with the high beam flash from behind when the (high speed) queue of cars you are in isn't going fast enough for the guy that just wants to get on with it.  The general speed limit seems to be 80k, and on the express-ways it's up to 120k. Speed signs are few and far between and there are speed camera's at regular intervals.  But, I am advised these are set to 20k over the limit and that fact seems to be well known.

Yesterday we ate out before coming home to a movie and a late night (after 10), well it is the weekend.  Our meal at the Indian fast food place was filling and at about $8 for the two of us good value.  Mind you 3/4 of a tank of fuel in the little (tardis like) Mazda2 we have cost even less!

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