First Post from Oman

So this is my first post from Oman, one of several I will be making for today.  I’m not really sure what to write for a first post, so I figured I’d write a little bit about the trip and some general things I’ve noticed, and maybe a bit about the blog in general.

The actual time in the air for flight was probably only about 14 hours or so, but taking into account delays and switching flights, the trip probably took closer to 20.   It was pretty pleasant overall, though cramped.  Its been a few years since I’ve been on a flight, so I had forgotten how little room you actually have, but on recent flights they have movies, music, and TV built into an LCD screen so that kind of makes it a bit better.  After that, it was about an hour and a half from the airport in Muscat to our living facilities on the outskirts of a dusty little town called al-Manah.

Al-Manah is a bit remote, but very nice.  Its got kind of a stark, austere beauty that reminds me of parts of Texas.  There are date palms everywhere, and we are surrounded by mountains.  The college itself is a bit closer to the main part town, but the dorms are within walking distance of a smaller segment. Both the college and the dorms are set up for basically just us.  There are 30 of us here, and while they have different classes throughout the year I think, both the campus and dorms are only meant to service thirty people at one time.

The nearest city is Nizwa which is actually the capital of ad-Dakhiliyah, and is actually where we do what little grocery shopping we need.  We can get around by the school’s buses, or if drivers aren’t around, taxis, but we have are small restaurant with seating set up next to the dorms.  Laundry is also onsite, and we have a gym and a swimming pool.  Because water infrastructure relies on truck rather than pipelines, the pool was actually filled up by repeat trips from a truck.  Water for showers and sinks and laundry presumably comes from a cistern of some kind somewhere, but I’m not sure where it is.

One architectural feature that I’ve noticed since I’ve been here is how en vogue defensive elements are in the buildings.  Most of the bigger residences I’ve seen are walled off and even some of the smaller ones.  Our dormitory is actually surround by its own wall with its own gate, but it seems fairly common where we are.  I should have taken a picture of that actually, but it only now occurred to me, so I’ll edit later and add one.

So, walls, but also, crenelations.  I’ve seen a preponderance of walls in other areas like Italy and even in some areas in the U.K.   I don’t think I’ve ever seen anywhere near as many crenelations any where else I’ve ever been as in Oman.  Its on hotels, houses, shopping centers, and even the airport.  For me personally, it seems to be pretty unique to Oman.

Another student and I were talking about it, and we came to the conclusion that while some of the walls and the crenelations are for show and style, they evolved out of a past need to protect yourself from nomads if you had a farm or residence too far from a walled town.

As far as the Omani people go, they are in general some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.  There are many Asian migrant workers here and even quite a few Arabs from elsewhere, but you can always tell an Omani by his Dishdasha and Kumma or Mussar .  I don’t think I’ve met a single Omani who was not wearing one, and the only time I’ve seen them outside of one is when playing sports with them.  I think its a way of asserting and maintaining cultural identity in a country that is both flush with migrant workers from elsewhere and competing a largely Westernized world.

Everything seems to be going fairly well except for some technical difficulties.  Apparently Sprint locked my phone from using other SIM cards and I was unable to get Sprint service here, so phone service was non existent.  I’ve hopefully just fixed that, so my Omantel SIM card should now be functional.  There are wifi based text and calling apps that I can start using when I can receive confirmation SMS’s so that’s a substantially cheaper option.  However, Wifi at the dorms is touch and go.  It seems to work okay when no one else is on it, but when 30 people are all using it at the same time, it slows to a crawl.  The school itself is much better; that’s actually where I’m posting from now.  I also, decided to leave my laptop at home as I was traveling light, but I now suspect that may have been a mistake.  There’s nothing to be done, but deal with it at this point.

My original plan for the blog was to post once a week, but that has clearly failed.  Now I’m thinking that I should post multiple times a week and focus on individual events.  I’ll also post a few extra times to catch up on things I haven’t posted yet.  I also need a better title, but that’s less important.

I’m going to end this post with a few random pictures of where I’m staying.

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