mercredi 25 janvier 2012
SHALOM FROM A JEW IN THE SULTANATE OF OMAN
A JEW IN OMAN
There is a sensation of welcome when you arrive at SEEB international Airport at Muscat, the capital city of Oman. A Filipino is directing you to the bus, an Indian is driving it but as soon as you enter the clean well organized arrival hall, the scenery changes. Friendly Omanis, some with crystalline noses, wearing their headgear and long robes in white mostly, greet you and actually ask you with a smile, How are you today? 20 OMR (60 USD) for a visa on arrival and the two young men at the Immigration, stamp your visa in your passport and wish you a warm welcome to Oman. Takes less than 5 minutes. 5/5 for Visa on Arrival Service! First you pay 20 OMR in Cash and give our passport and the receipt to the Immigration Officer. No need to fill out where you were born, the validity of your passport etc. Once outside the Immigration Hall, a sea of Indian faces with an occasional White Robe. A large Omani with distinctly African face tries to help me locate the shuttle bus to the hotel, I ask him, Are you from Zanzibar? You guessed right, sir, he says but I left when I was three years old. I remember earlier the Immigration Officer saying, Zanzibar and Oman are the same, same! A Taxi counter outside. Majan Hotel (one of the many things to go wrong with the hotel) 7 OMR. Taxi licences are granted only to Omani Nationals so the driver is a dignified Omani with a handsome face. After the grumpy, unwashed purveyors of public transport in India, especially in Bangalore and Cochin, this is a welcome relief.
Traffic is bumper to bumper. There is no Bling feeling the kind you receive when you arrive in UAE but a subdued presence like that of Malaysia. In fact the drive from the airport to the hotel and the hotel reception itself all reminded me much of KL.
The reception was manned by an Omani, couldn't take his cell phone off his face to help me and gave me wrong information to boot. An Indian appears, who is the manager by his demeanour one could guess, was being very helpful. No Free Internet in the hotel, 1 omr per hour, so I couldn't access the voucher, which had been sent to me from Oman Air Holidays. The Indian manager gives me a paper with log in and password and soon after that I was on my way to Room 301. Very reminiscent of a hotel room in the USA, much cheaper than this one though, but there are some Omani touches. Internet connection was not good and it was slow when it connected,
Walking outside for just a few minutes, you arrive at an area with shops and I was taken to my adolescent days in Kuala Belait in Brunei. The same smell, the same kinds of shops, but the faces are not Chinese but Indian. Indian Barbershops and Indian Tailors and Indian laundry.
So, this is the New World Order.
Richer by oil or Industry, these countries, Gulf States, Saudi, Kuwait etc. and also European North and America in the west, Malaysia’s wealth comes from Oil but not fossil oil, but Palm oil by displacing the poor orang Utan! these countries attract the unemployed/employable/lucky youth of Indian Subcontinent-here Indian is in the British Raj Sense: India Pakistan Bangladesh or Ceylon/Sri Lanka. These young men are everywhere, very little presence of women, when Omani women can be seen in public, they cannot be seen at all by all the black covering they wear. At the airport I did see very stylishly dressed Omani young women, who were wearing beneath their tent like dress very fashionable clothes which they wanted to flaunt. Good on you, Oman! Hotels Cleaners, Waiters, maids as usual are Filipinas, Burmese and Thai are also present. Hotel Guests are mainly: European or North American. Didn't see a single Chinese face!
Sitting at a table, open air, chilly at this time of the year, about 18 or 17 C but with the breeze feels much colder, at this recommended restaurant, Al Assail Resto, well known for it s Kebabs they say. It is Pakistani and the place had a good clientele. Single Indian men sitting in groups, an occasional Omani deep in conversation, about business, with whom but an Indian! The fair skinned Pakistanis look very European, it is their dreams and aspirations that make them Pakistani, if they cut their hair differently, wore their clothes differently or had decent shoes, we would easily mistake them for an Italian.
Friendliness everywhere, it looks like the hospitality is an Omani characteristic. I have felt more welcome here in Oman than in India because those who are in contact with expats or foreigners are very aware of the difficulties being a foreign so they don't wish to pile the sorrow on the tourists.
How can you not love a group of people, who don't bat an eye at these foreigners, sitting here, wearing a button that says ISRAEL? Has got Chef Guevara in stickers and a Jewish Star of David around the neck.
Thank you Oman, for the renaissance in your thinking.
I am the Jew in Oman and say Shalom to you.