A spot of Desert Rain: Muscat, Oman

I knew before relocating to the Sultanate of Oman that this is one of the hottest, driest places on Earth. I’d spent a few years in the Australian outback, and wasn’t concerned about extreme heat. I hadn’t anticipated accompanying extremes of humidity though, or that the “real feel” (adjusted) temperatures would reach 60°C (140°F). How can it get so humid in a desert city that gets around 100mm (4 inches) of annual rainfall?

I was surprised to discover that many Muscat schools and colleges close when it rains, much like the rare snow-day reprieves I loved so much as a kid. As a Gulf newcomer I didn’t understand why every minor rain event dominates the headlines, or why my 18-year-old students rush to the window at the first hint of a shower, every bit as excitable as 8-year-old me on an Australian snow-day.

Then I found out just what half an inch of rain can do.

Yesterday was hot and sunny in Muscat, like most days since the last ice age. I went out for a drive, took a swim at a nice little beach and met a couple of friends at the beach bar.

A nice spot for a swim Photo: Peninsularity Ensues
A nice spot for a swim
Photo: Peninsularity Ensues
A nice spot for a beer Photo: Peninsularity Ensues
A nice spot for a beer… fine and sunny, September 4, 2.00pm
Photo: Peninsularity Ensues

After lunch the pressure dropped and the wind picked up… it started to rain. Not a torrential downpour (which would be catastrophic) but a light steady rain for less than an hour. Driving home I used my windscreen wipers only sporadically, but I did come across this…

So many cars sputter their last this way Photo: Peninsularity Ensues
So many cars sputter their final sputter this way… September 4, 4.00pm
Photo: Peninsularity Ensues

…and this.

Photo: Peninsularity Ensues
Photo: Peninsularity Ensues

Suburbs were flooded and roads were closed. Trees were down. There was a partial roof collapse at Muscat Grand Mall. Whenever it rains for more than a couple of minutes, people tragically die, swept away in the flash floods that fill the wadis in just seconds. It seems almost impossible that a desert city on the Arabian Peninsular can in just moments be transformed into scenes like this…

Muscat, 2009
Muscat, Oman, 2009
Oman, 2011
Muscat, Oman, 2011
Muscat, Oman, 2015
Muscat, Oman, 2015

If you happen to be a fan of rugged natural beauty, Muscat is a spectacular sight. Surrounded by a breathtaking rocky mountainscape, it is very fortunate that such little rain falls… a city couldn’t exist here otherwise. A few millimeters of rainwater transforms into a cascading torrent, exploding down these barren slopes with nowhere to go except into the city.

A soon-to-be flash flood, Muscat, Oman
A soon-to-be flash flood, Muscat, Oman

And then, almost as quickly as it arrived, the water is mysteriously and unapologetically gone… businesses and individuals start counting their losses and the cleaning up begins again.

Muscat, Oman, 2007

The losses sustained after each rain are almost incomprehensible. After Friday’s weather, a Times of Oman article reported that 70 lives are lost each year on average in Oman, and the annual financial cost exceeds 1.2 billion OMR (over US $3bn). This means that every inch of rain that falls on Muscat does approximately 800 million dollars in damages.

…and here’s a bit of fun footage from the Times of Oman showing the results of Friday’s rain, and some local nuts who might not completely appreciate the power of water…

 

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53 Comments on "A spot of Desert Rain: Muscat, Oman"

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Delia
Guest
Delia
1 year 9 months ago

That was the very first time I had experienced during my stayed the heavily rains with strongest winds that caused many cars to rumble..

Mars
Guest
1 year 9 months ago

For the past 8 years of my stay, this is the first time that I saw Al khuwair area being flooded. For the past years of year, the flooding usually happen in Ruwi, Darsait, Qurum and Hamriya

The Last Baron
Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Nice summary. I’m sending it to U.S. relatives who have no clue…

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

So sad

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

because of bad planing. .

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

I hope no one got hurt or lost their lives… they should plan of making flood control ditches…

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

So sad

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Oman

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

o m g… so sad…

but sohar not comes rain..

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Vert sad that todays rigth because that tme you cant Say thé road going sohar

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Correction on dates.. the Mcdonalds and car racks were taken from the Hurrican Gonu in July 2007 if memory serves right.. the following Storm was Phet.. in 2010

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Thanks for this

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Anytime 🙂
I was glad when i read this post. The perspective intrigued me so i thought i would just update on the dates. Thank you for the post i found it quite informative.

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Rey Pocais, as far as i know 5 people died in this flood, mainly from the area “Al Hoqain”

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Peace be upon them…

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

So sad

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Ooohhhhhh so sad
Olmost dont have drainase

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

So get the drainage sorted out; at least on the most susceptible roads. The main SQ Road at Khuwair springs to mind!

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

I thought improvement in drainage done ..remember gonu ?

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

So sad

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

So sad

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Oh so sad

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

DRAINAGE PLAN THE ANSWER

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

A littlebet rain damage a lot…

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

those are the causes….now they need action and improvement….

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Scared..

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

thats y i dont want to go out when the rain is coming… im leaving in khuwair…

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Scared

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Horrible

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Yes because need drainage lol so sad

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Thanks all, but that is not true. Yes we face big problems as Oman is a mountain country and their many valleys, but infrastructure improvement have taken place in the last 8 years. Please see or go around if you’re in Oman before you say

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Absolutely right sir I m with you..people who are criticizing oman should first go to their own countries and then talk.oman is million times better infrastructure than other countries.I salute to all authorities who are working for oman.May oman live long

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Yes I’m agree sir because I was here at 2009 till now alhamdulilah oman have big improvement and peacefull country I’m happy to be here..

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Since 1995 i was here n oman..people here always smile at u..they r not proud

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Drainage system have improved a lot after ‘Gonu’ if u will drive from Ruwi to seeb you can see the difference but may be few other areas have to be addressed too

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

May be in future the metrology, the weather predicting department should notify the municipality about rain expected days in advance so that they can arrange to clean and keep the drainage system to free flow

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Wap great loss

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

As does the Omanization of things like civil engineering.

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Sml rain only but all damage…

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Issam Riyami

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Sometimes i wonder if the topography was totally ignored especially while giving out new permits for development !

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Chance to swim for those who doesn’t used to take a shower. Peace

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

billion dollar ???.

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

সুবাহান আললা

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Lynda Silk – you might find this an interesting read!

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Needs more improvement on the drainage.

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Well written

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Still, they do not work on developing a drainage system … that would be probably cheaper, efficient and necessary

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

How’s the life at Salalah. Lesser than the MSL sea level. ..

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Should plan how to construck a good drainege becoz if theres no drainage that is the cause of flood

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Oman is very rich country you can make it a good drainage

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Sajid ali you’ve love so much your country and I salute you for that….

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

true

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