Situated in the south-eastern quarter of the Arabian peninsula, Oman is widely regarded as the friendliest Gulf state to work in. It's an extraordinarily beautiful county, with a diverse range of geographical features including rugged mountain ranges to hike and camp in, unspoilt wadis to swim in, desert sands to admire as well as modern, cosmopolitian cities to explore. The country lends itself to a diverse lifestyle.
The morning call to prayer from the neighbouring mosque rings out across the landscape as I am awoken from my slumber. Although it’s only 5:30am the sun has already crawled out from behind the mountain. In Muscat there is very little sign of human action at this time in the morning. As I go for a brisk walk around the block I notice the sun rays beginning to glisten on the waves crashing down on Qurum beach.
It is already 1pm when I make my way down to the cafeteria at work where I have a wide choice of cuisine available. Will it be Turkish kebabs or Murgi Masala? Cheap and affordable, I have a range of small deli type restaurants to choose from, each with their own unique cultural dishes. In the end I decide to go for the kebabs not having tried Turkish food for a while.
It is the end of the day and although the temperature has dropped considerably since the mid-afternoon it is still a great time to go off for a swim. The Dolphin is one of the best clubs to go for a swim at this time of day or to relax in a deckchair with a drink under the shade. The Dolphin is exclusive but affordable and well furnished.
The morning call to prayer wakes me again and although I have heard it many times it is still not a sound one gets used to. It's still early in the morning but the heat is quite oppressive. It’s going to be a hot day! As I walk out to the car I see the store owners putting out the tables in the local shops for the early risers.
Today some of the teachers decide to order food from the local Lebanese restaurant where the service is fast and cheap. Beautiful humus and tahini with vegetables!
We are going for our weekly pub quiz at the Dolphin sports club tonight for some fun with expat friends. Drinks are cheap and the facilities are excellent!
Getting ready to join the daily commute to work, traffic can be quite heavy in the morning depending on when you leave. There is a private nursery school nearby and I notice parents dropping their children off at the gates. On the ride to work I go past the recently completed Opera House, a marvellous architectural feat. I make a mental note to go inside and have a look, or better still, go to an Opera performance!
For convenience I walk across the road and order a coke and a sandwich from Subway which is conveniently located nearby. There are many food franchises to choose from but Subway is my lunch venue of choice. When living abroad there are times when one needs to be reminded of home conveniences. The service is fast and efficient and I am back in my office in no time!
I return home in a happy mood looking forward to the beginning of the weekend. I am going off to Trader Vics tonight at the Intercontinental Hotel with some friends. A vibrant and upbeat club that caters for Cuban-salsa enthusiasts, Trader Vics has become a staple venue for weekend nightlife. Drinks are a bit on the pricey side but the cocktails are to die for and the live bands are really good. I feel like I am in Havana whenever I come to Trader Vics.
Although it is Thursday morning in the Middle East it is equivalent to a Saturday morning in Western countries. I feel a great sense of relief that I have been able to sleep in this morning especially after such a wild night of dancing and partying. I suddenly remember that I am due to meet Helen at Costa Coffee at 10am on Qurum beach. Qurum beach is one of my favourite places to swim and relax with friends. It has a rather continental feel about it, as if one is on the Algarve in Portugal or in Southern France. The bars and coffee shops form a strip along the beach and people often sit outside sipping lattes and discussing the week ahead.
As I drive back home I notice the congestion in traffic that has suddenly increased since early in the morning. One of the downsides of Muscat is that it is not a pedestrian-friendly city and the only real way to get about is by car. While it took me five minutes to get down to the beach it takes me 15 to get back again.
After a relaxing afternoon at home it is time to go for a barbecue and sundowners with some friends. Their home is situated on a hill overlooking the sea with an amazing view around the coast. This is a great time to sit with a glass of wine and watch the sunset in the early evening.
I wake up on Friday morning not feeling nearly as bad as I did the day before. Last night’s activities were a bit more relaxed than the previous night. I have agreed to go with Helen and Joe to visit the old city in Muscat. Old Muscat was the original city and the new city has been built around it. It is just 1 mile (1.5km) long and 0.6 miles (1km) wide and is one of Muscat's famous tourist attractions. Up until 1970 Old Muscat was a walled city and the gates to the city were locked at sunset. Anybody failing to carry a lantern to illuminate their face was arrested. In a land where radio, television and newspapers were banned the wall was the only administrative form of communication. The Sultan announced his decrees simply by posting them on the walls.
On the way back from the old city we stop off in Muttrah for lunch in a restaurant overlooking the harbour. It is beautiful at this time of day, although a little hot, and it's a pleasant site to see the boats moored in the harbour.
After a long weekend of socialising I am getting ready for the week ahead. An early supper followed by some TV, and then it’s off to bed with a good book and a good night’s sleep.
Although it's a Saturday morning it's actually equivalent to a Monday morning in the West. This is a difficult day if you are a sports lover in Oman because most of the sports matches in Europe happen on a Saturday. I have to leave work at 6:30am otherwise I will be caught in traffic on the way to work. The congestion in Muscat is very noticeable, especially early in the morning.
At lunch time I have a quick look on the internet for the scores to football matches in the Premier league while I eat my lunch.
On the way back from work I decide to stop off at the Qurum shopping complex to get some things I need. One of the great things about malls in Oman is they have many of the convenience stores that exist in the West. I go to the Marks and Spencer's food section to get something for supper. I also decide to stop off at a sports shop to buy a new pair of boots for football tomorrow night. Finally I end up in Karfour which is the store where one can find almost anything that they need.
I am awoken by the call to prayer again and I am drinking a cup of coffee by 6am and getting ready to make my way to work again. As I drive to work I pass the Sultan Qaboos football stadium where Oman will be playing a football match tonight, a qualifier for the Olympic games, the centre of town is going to be very packed tonight and if Oman wins there will be a great party atmosphere.
Today we have a work lunch with all the staff at the Mumtaz Mahal. This is one of the best Indian restaurants in Muscat and with a hilltop perch overlooking Qurum National Park it is a good location for a working lunch. The highlight of the lunch is the famous snake coffee, a coffee concocted at the table involving brandy being dribbled along a sinuous piece of orange peel and set alight. I am a bit worried about driving back to work after this fiery cup of coffee.
It is seven-a-side football tonight and I meet the local gang down at a local football club for a game. Along with the swimming it forms part of my weekly exercise and is thoroughly enjoyable. The club has excellent facilities and my new boots seem to fit really well. After two hours of playing I am exhausted and I decide to head home.