Where are the poor people in Muscat?

The headlights of a car swung to the right but it was enough for me to see a shadow stooping over a trash bin. I thought nothing of it until I walked closer. I saw a man, well in his seventies, putting both of his hands in the bin.
It is not something you see every day in Muscat. The man was rummaging through rubbish bins, looking for scraps of food.
You see expats doing it but this man was obviously an Omani. The bin was less than hundred metres from a petrol station and a quarter of a kilometre from my house.
He was partially visible with only one street light near him. I stood there for nearly a minute, wondering why a man in his age would rummage through the bins.
I took several steps towards him but stopped. That would be like intruding into his privacy. Besides, what could I do? Offer him a few rials or invite him home for a meal? He needed much more than that.
The bins he was finding food in were less than 50 metres from a car park. I did a mental calculation about the worth of these vehicles. The 11 cars that were there, according to my crude estimation, were worth at least 50,000 rials. That amount of money could feed a hundred families a year.
Not only that, the houses nearby were owned by people whose net worth could well be a couple of million rials. And that is a very conservative estimate.
I went to the supermarket which was part of the petrol station and bought a drink. As I was walking out, a young woman in her late teens or early twenties was walking in. I did a quick rundown of what she was wearing. Her handbag, high heels, watch, jewellery, make-up and clothes were worth a couple of hundred rials. Yet, we still have people rummaging through the bins in Muscat.
Years ago, I had the privilege of interviewing an official in a ministry who told me that Oman has no poor people.
Yet again, with all the wealth that brims over the top of the society, we still have people looking for a decent meal. One government official defended that theory in a press conference saying since Oman’s families are close-knit, grown up children are supposed to look after their elderly parents. But with changing times, this is no longer a reality.
Married children now live separate lives, leaving parents behind. On the other side of the social problem, widows are left alone to raise their children. With no men around, women too, in some areas of the country, are struggling to place food on the table.
I know many would say the status of the poor people in Oman is exaggerated. They would even say they don’t exist at all. It would not be proper to list all the towns or villages where poor people live. They don’t live in the streets but in houses but the fact that they have a roof over their heads does not mean they are not poor.
There are no statistics in the country on the actual number of poor families. I think no one wants to acknowledge it. However, the fact remains that right here in the capital, poor people suffer in silence while the rich remain on the sidelines not doing much about it.
It made sense that the government has banned street begging because real poor people do not knock doors. But if they don’t knock doors, it does not mean poor people do not exist at all. They are right here in Muscat, breathing the same air as we breathe but not eating as well as we do.