Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas in Muscat

What does Christmas look like in Muscat? In many ways quite familiar, in most ways more subdued. For the last 2 weeks I've noticed the English language radio stations play the occasional holiday song (the secular ones). A few Western expats will hang strings of lights on their balconies or in their yards. Other neighborhoods may be different, I can only speak to what I've seen between the office and home. Judging by photos online many have well decorated Christmas trees inside their homes. Certainly the hotels have huge tree displays and many offer special meals and celebrations for those who don't want the hassle at home. Stores have had holiday music in the background, again fairly secular, and there have been plenty of Christmas sales for a couple of weeks, sometimes storewide discounts.  And it's not just expats taking advantage of the pricing!  One can find all kinds of holiday decorations, from fake trees and fake greenery to ball ornaments, bells, holiday dishware and household goods. And LOTS of chocolates!

At the opera house it was business as usual with rehearsals on both the 24th and 25th, since these are ordinary working days in the Islamic calendar. Our program, "Cossacks of Russia and Tajikistan Folklore" opened on the 26th. To my knowledge, in Oman, Christian expats are permitted to take the 25th off in acknowledgment of the occasion, but in theatre in general, holidays have always meant a lot of work as people want to be entertained. We did arrange, though, to have rehearsals end by afternoon so that expat staff could enjoy a little of the holiday. Several Omani, Pakistani and Indian colleagues and acquaintances went out of their way to wish a Merry Christmas, some even sent a card. Me? I hosted a small dinner at home for some "orphans", friends made in the last year, and we had a delightful evening with great conversation and too much food. Just the kind of celebration I like!

Here are some samples of typical store displays which should look familiar:

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