Thursday, 26 July 2012

Mid July and things are moving

I guess calling the 26th Mid July is strictly speaking not all that accurate.

But things are moving on at work and home now only needs furniture in the spare bed room!  I have a study desk, we finally found a lounge suite - although that cost more than we really wanted to pay, but after months of looking when we found on we were both comfortable with the decision was made. And we have a day bed in Katrina's study, which folds out into a queen size bed. 

Things at work are starting to heat up - in the sense that the project I came over for should really start to hit top gear in the next couple of months.  Yay!

The walls of Sohar Fort - under re-construction as you can see.
In the mean time I have been looking at organisational arrangements and making recommendations for improvement. Hopefully some of these will be picked up and I will be able to start feeling that I am making a real difference. 

The week before last I spent up country in and around Sohar looking at operational locations, with an eye to process and looking for possible improvements. Sohar is north of Muscat in the direction of Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.  

Unfortunately on the week away I didn't really get to look at much of the scenery. The days tended to be rather long with 7am starts and on one occasion a 1am finish - that was a long day. Having said that we did get a break in the afternoon that day and avoided the worst of the heat. How outside workers do it I don't know. 

We did get to have a short walk around Sohar town. This is a seaside town, not really developed at all for tourism and well on the way to becoming the industrial heart of Oman.  

According to some Sohar is one of the places that Sinbad the Sailor is reputed to have originated from. Could be the basis for some pretty good tourist attractions I would have thought. 

Exercising the Bull
Sohar also practices Omani bull fighting and has a bull ring somewhere in the town. Now don't get carried away, it's not like Spanish/Mexican bull fighting at all. Essentially two bulls are led up to each other, they lock horns and then spend about two minutes pushing each other around the ring. On a pre arranged signal the handlers grab a rope tied around the left fore foot and pull the bulls apart, ending the pushing contest.  Could be worth having a look as it would seem that little to no damage is done to the bulls. Apparently the guy "walking" his bull in the sea would have been training it for the ring.  

About a week ago the holy month of Ramadan commenced. For Muslims it is a period of fasting, prayer and giving. Fasting commences each morning at dawn (which is around 0430 here) and ends around 7pm. Fasting is complete - no water, no tobacco and definitely no food. Although there are exceptions made for the sick, elderly, young, pregnant and sports-people. Even so the Islamic Olympians will have to make up their fast when they return home after the games. 

It is illegal to eat or drink in public, including in your car and you can be fined for doing so. Most of the food outlets are closed throughout the day, opening in mid to late afternoon so that people can buy food to take home and break the fast (istfar). Some have been given dispensation to remain open to service non muslims, but these are places where people eating and drinking cannot be seen from outside. 

I have been asked at work a few times if I am fasting and the answer to that is yes during the work hours.  Although I could close my office door and eat or drink, and I am told that would be accepted, I do not think that would be fair on the people around me. And it is no great hardship in any case.  You see as they have no formal meal break in the office I have often worked through with nothing more than a drink of water and a cup of tea, and during Ramadan office hours are shortened. Work starts at 0830 (instead of 0730) and ends at 1 (instead of 2).  Although I always start earlier and end later than most, an extra hour or half hour at each end, partly because that lets me avoid traffic and not having had a desk at home, until this week............

It is pretty quiet, people wise, at work at the moment. Many people take leave through Ramadan and some have gone on pilgrimage to Mecca. This isn't the Hajj, which falls in September this year and is a holy obligation that Muslims must (if they are able) make at least once in their lifetime.

Once the office closes everyone goes home and the place pretty much shuts down as people take their rest through the heat of the afternoon. And then come dark everybody is out and about. Friends and families coming together to break the fast and continuing until well into the late late hours. Followed by bed and a really early start for that breakfast.

In about three weeks Ramadan ends and the Islamic World then moves into a celebration called Eid Al Fitr. A time of feasting and hospitality. The public sector closes down for Eid. But Katrina and I will be off to Europe for two weeks then, to go to a wedding in Switzerland and catch up with some people.

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