It may not shock to hear that life in the Middle east is a touch different to that in the west. We all know the place is an apocalyptic Mad Max-esque war zone, overrun with crazed, hyper-violent religious extremists. We’ve all seen the news. The Arab world is a dangerously volatile, geopolitical mess.
Well… that’s what I’ve heard.
Fortunately though I live in one of the safest, friendliest and most peaceful countries on Earth. It’s just north of Yemen, east of Saudi Arabia and south of Iran.
The calculatedly understated Sultanate of Oman invariably surprises, not only because of the country’s stunning natural beauty but also the diverse, tolerant and harmonious nature of the population. This is of course an Islamic country, but here in Oman almost half the population are expatriates like myself, and the disarmingly relaxed and friendly Omanis comprise the world’s only predominantly Ibadi nation. The upshot of this? Well, here the Sunni and Shia pray peacefully, side by side. Christians go to church. Buddhists visit the temple during the full moon. Friends meet up in the sports bars and nightclubs, and dress as they choose on the public beaches.
A couple of years ago I took a visiting friend to the local market to grab some things for dinner. Being his first night in the exotic middle east, he grabbed his camera and we set off by
camel Kia to the local souq local supermarket.
“Man… it’s just like home,” he said… somewhat surprised.
Of course, it’s not exactly like the west. There are more spices.
For the most part though, shopping in Oman isn’t quite the chaotic, donkey-infested, snake-charmer infused labyrinthine assault on the senses that some westerners imagine the Arab world to be. Of course, those kinds of places are indeed scattered about the Middle East and North Africa… they’re for tourists.
Omanis prefer the mall. They like air-conditioning. They like coffee shops and food courts. They like sitting and chatting. Omanis like going to the movies. They like upgrading their phones.
And then of course, in December… there’s this.
Yes, it’s Christmas time in the Middle east… well some of it anyway.
Christmas Day isn’t a public holiday here. This isn’t a Christian country. It also isn’t anything like the Arab/Middle-eastern stereotypes perpetuated by western media. And so, from some poolside Christmas drinks with colleagues and friends…
Merry Christmas from beautiful Oman.