December 28, 2008

Passing Time by Making Lists in the Airport

The Best Things about Oman

1. The attitude of the people. Its so different than in the United States in terms of people's willingness to be open and helping...for no reason at all. For instance, me and a friend were stranded in a patch of deep sand at night, and two guys pulled over and helped push us out. This was just one instance of many. This cultivation of caring has been almost totally lost in the United States at least.

2. The Adhan. Its easy to measure your life by the calls to prayer, and there is a masjid virtually any place you go, including the mall and the airport! Praying was never so easy.

3. Its not Dubai. There are no tall buildings, and life moves at a more relaxed pace--i.e. it does not seem as if you are living in a giant construction site.

4. Somehow the Omanis cultivate both a healthy sense of piety and the openness to allow other cultures to be themselves and practice their religion.

5. Al-Jazeera International. Not unique to Oman, obviously. But anyone who watches it for a few hours will be absolutely astounded at how little of what is truly news actually gets reported on the major US networks.

The Worst Things About Oman

1. Some people cannot drive. And Omani drivers will tail you and flash their lights repeatedly if you are going slower than them on the freeway (even if you are going more than the speed limit). Seriously. I am lucky to be alive.

2. Taxi drivers will rob you absolutely blind (like one who asked 5 riyals for a 500 baisa fare) if you 1) are obviously from America or Europe or 2) don't know the usual fare or don't ask for it ahead of time.

3. Occasional moments of what may be termed 'cultural exaggeration'--i.e. Those people who claimed Omanis 'invented' Swahili to communicate with Africans.

4. The treatment of Bengalis, Pakistanis, Phillipinos and other house and farm labor is really low (though there are exceptions).

5. The heat. Self explanatory.


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