November 18 has always proven a special day for me, and even more since arriving in Oman during 2009. It is really quite something to think that you are sharing your birthday with that of a nation.
Of course, late Sultan Qaboos, was born on this day back in 1940, and the continued observance of his birthday as the Sultanate’s National Day is a testament to his 49-year reign, and even globally, as a man of peace, his achievements put the others of us born on the same day, very much in the shade. Only Darwinian botanist, Asa Gray, who charted the genetic relationships of plants has had a similar global impact. Though he too reflected immense modesty, writing “Upon much that may have to say, I expect rather the charitable judgment, than the full assent, of those whose approbation I could most wish to win.”
The date of one’s birth, it is said, is “written in the stars,” and we under the star sign of the Scorpio are often seen as aggressive, but it is a water sign, like Cancer and Pisces, and are generally passionate, powerful, emotional and intuitive. We are patient, plan effectively, and work hard, while always aware of our environment, or at least, so I am told. Like most of us, I don’t see myself in such a way that my future is determined by my birth, however, I am intrigued that this country, of which Hanya Yanagihara said, “If the only thing you knew about it was its location, you may never go there at all.” Yet, I have come to appreciate it so much, and it, and myself, are inextricably linked.
So… what did I want to do to celebrate my birthday? I wanted to go fishing, which is something Lena and I can do together from the Sultanate’s lovely beaches and coastline, but the beaches are closed. So we decided on a trip up Jabal al Akhdhar, as we hadn’t been there since last November for the UTMB race.
We chose a modestly priced ‘newish’ hotel with nice views, booked a room for the night, and drove up around midday.
As we did so, I reflected upon the much-improved road and safety barriers, as I am not great with heights, and I recalled that first-ever drive up the mountain in 2010 challenged me ‘vertiginously.’ It was certainly much easier this time!
We arrived in the early afternoon to the Sama Hotel in Al Aqar, and checked in, and on impulse, Lena said to the gentleman in reception, “Did you see my husband’s birth date on his ID card, it is his birthday today, on National Day, is there any chance of an upgrade?” To our astonishment, it was approved immediately, and we found ourselves accommodated in a modern chalet with all ‘mod-cons’ as they say, overlooking the pool and the grandest of canyons. It was superb!
Lena asked what I wanted to do on my day, and I suggested a look at the mountain-top fossils, as we usually do, and to check out the new tourism construction sites and locations, of which there were many. The Jabal is obviously becoming a tourism magnet, as the number of establishments is growing significantly, with some iconic shapes emerging, all tastefully developed, and hopefully, after COVID-19, perfectly placed to respond to the tourist industry.
Remember Lena asked what I would like to do? I also said I wanted a “lazy” day and evening and sitting out on the viewing area in a comfortable chair, lemonade in hand, watching the sun go down, a time of reflection, it met the brief perfectly. Stargazing at night, and a gigantic breakfast on the terrace the next morning, both fitted the ‘lazy’ brief too! This may not have been the birthday ‘celebration’ I had wanted, but one I genuinely enjoyed, thanks to Lena, and the Sana’s Satish, Bantu, and the team... unforgettable.