Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Muscat Musings

My flight landed at Sultan Qaboos Airport around 10.30 pm and the 30 minute drive to the city was smooth and pleasant; the traffic swift and silent. The next morning at the office was uneventful as have been the days since. The pace of work seems decidedly languid although probably it is because the new colleagues are giving enough space to me to settle down slowly soaking in the atmosphere and the tempo of the place.

Oman is quite an amazing country, rather different from its neighbours. The Omani people seem rather mild mannered and gentle, tolerant and understanding. Was greatly impressed to see the hundreds of Neem trees lining the roads; actually made me wish if only the Indian government was as enlightened and not so biased towards planting eucalyptus everywhere. The landscaping on the road sides is particularly impressive.

The landscape is stark and striking, dotted by bone dry hillocks that are separated by narrow furrows cut by water ages ago. Some hills seem made of hardened mud, others of limestone, and yet others of slate and some of granite like hard rock. Having different colours, they together make up some very picturesque scenarios. My friend Atulya told that he recently met a German lady, a geologist who told him that the Omani landscape is absolutely unique in the world and also that once upon a time these hills were underwater.

Surprisingly (for me at least), one sees no dogs around though encounters with occasional cats are not uncommon, particularly around the garbage dumps. Amongst the birds, the only ones visible are all pigeons. Mosquitoes and insects also cannot be seen anywhere although I did see two flies in a restaurant.

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