To have, or to have not: It’s no contest

We really do have a lot to be thankful for here in the Sultanate, which, day after day lives up to its oft-given tag of ‘The Jewel of the Middle East.”
For a start there is the weather which though it does get uncomfortably hot sometimes, you simply learn to manage your time in the sun a little better. One big advantage is that I don’t have to look out the window each day before deciding, for example, I go to work early in the mornings, and yes, I do mean early, as the call to prayer before dawn has proven an extremely effective alarm clock. The cooler early mornings are genuinely invigorating, and by the time I’ve arrived at work, I’m full of enthusiasm for the day that lies ahead.
I also take my exercise in the middle to late evenings, as I go for a two or three-kilometre walk. I take my phone, access the ‘Deezer’ app, and off I go. It’s not only healthy for me, but a chance to say hi to the local restaurant, coffee shop, late evening outdoor diners and barber shop workers, on my way past. I wave, say “Hello,” or “Salam Alaykum,” whichever I have learned is appropriate, and sometimes a word or two. I do get some comments, but I think most are in jest, so it’s all good. The best thing is that I feel totally at ease, and when I think back ten years ago when my family was incredibly apprehensive of my living in the Middle East, I simply smile and thank the stars that I did come here.
Speaking of feeling safe and relaxed, we had dinner with a group of visiting athletes, a couple of weeks ago, who were here for the big UTMB Ultra Race across the mountains. From Ireland, Switzerland, the US, Lebanon and the Canary Islands, they were a pretty eclectic group, but they were in awe of the hospitable reception they were getting from the locals, with being invited to join Omani families for coffee, dates or a meal, almost without exception.
In fact one of the Americans explained she had been forced to confront her attitudes towards the Middle East, as she had “lumped everybody into one big ‘be afraid, be very afraid,’ attitude.” She was adamant that she would be sharing a “very different message, on social media, and among her friends and family. It’s a message that we are really not getting at home.” It was great to sit and chat with this articulate group of positive, active, much-travelled people, and even better to hear them viewing Oman so positively. So, that’s just another good reason to be thankful for being here.
The cost of petrol, though being twice the price it was when we arrived here all those years ago, is still comparatively inexpensive, and allows one all the latitude one needs to cover the country and enjoy, explore, and eventually embrace this raw, yet beautifully arid environment. With its diversity of sand, stones and sea, Oman offers a combination of sights and sounds to delight any tourist, and I feel sure that if the policies of the tourist operators and the ministry can be brought together to provide all manner of tourist experiences, this country could easily shake off its reliance on the oil and gas industries.
Finally, we are blessed that the culture, heritage and demeanour of the people of this magnificent little nation is what it is, rejecting the gun culture of the United States, the knife culture of the metropolitan United Kingdom, and the ‘high viz’ petrol riot culture of Europe. Yes. Let’s thank God for all that we have, and not what we have not.