Peace be with you. And then your response would be Wa alaykum as-Salaam, and with you peace. That is the traditional greeting among Omanis, one that we have picked up as well. A few phrases and manners goes along way.
My first impression was the heat; the moment we stepped off the plane, first in Bahrain, as our stop over and then into Muscat. The airplane is churning out the air conditioning and it was pouring out the open door, but the second I exited the plane, my glasses steamed up as it went from cool to hot. It is oppressive at first, it feels like a weight upon your shoulders and it settles into your lungs and makes you feel like it is difficult to get a good deep breathe. Apparently even Omanis found it hot during the first two weeks we arrived with temperatures around 50C, calling it a heat wave for Muscat.
We walked from our air conditioned apartment to the swimming pool and then back to the apartment again. We had a rental car which Richard drove to work so I was house bound with the boys. We visited the pool every day during the mixed time because if you have a male child older than seven, they may not be present during the ladies only time. The lifeguard explained that Islams begin segregating their children for prayers and other things at the age of seven when they begin to learn right from wrong. The boys go with the men and the girls go with the women.
Our location was perfect for us (within walking distance of the pool). We were placed in a beautiful, nearly brand new, three bedroom apartment. Having three children has it blessings and this was one of them! A family of four would have been placed in a much smaller, older, soon to be demolished apartment, but they were nearer to other facilities.
The traditional Omani dress and the call to prayers were the other culture shock for us. At first it was kind of shocking and we had to tell the boys not to point and stare at the men in their dishdashas and the women in their abiyahs. Some Omani woman cover their entire face, leaving only their eyes as slits. Seeing them in the washrooms cleaning themselves and rinsing their feet has become a regular thing. They have separate prayer rooms in all the shopping malls so it is just an accepted custom that one respects.
The men are quite striking with their dark skin and hair and the brilliant white, freshly pressed dishdashas. Everyone has been friendly and everyone seems quite taken with our blonde haired boys. Ethan still gets frequent head rubs and high fives, so not much has changed.
What seems abnormal or odd, quickly becomes the norm. We are living a “normal” life in a Middle Eastern country. Richard goes to work, the boys go to school, I get to stay home and take care of things there. We have started going to church and then we hang out on the beach with friends or at the pool on the weekends. Even pizza and movie night has been reinstated!