“Winter has finally arrived,” announced my friend Nasser from Nawras as we greeted each other before our regular Saturday meeting a couple of days ago. “But you are not wearing a scarf or warm hat,” I replied. “Well it is not that cold,” explained Nasser, “and I don’t really like to wear those scarves. But it has rained a lot, so winter is here!”
When I arrived in Muscat I remembered that Naifa, from my office, used to keep the blinds closed on the windows by our workspace, even though outside was bright sunshine and we had a lovely view over the rooftops of Madinat as Sultan Qaboos.
A few weeks after I came to Muscat there was some heavy rainfall and the blinds were immediately opened, with Naifa disappearing downstairs to both watch and stand in the rain. “Isn’t the weather wonderful,” she would say every time it rained.
As a hardened Brit, used to dark, cold and wet winters, and wet summers, I found this behaviour most odd. But now I can understand it. As someone said to me the other day, there is nothing quite like the smell of fresh rain. This is true, providing one doesn’t smell it all of the time!
Muscat experiences some of the highest temperatures of any capital city in the world, with average highs of 33° centigrade and lows of 24° throughout the year. Rainfall, at around 100mm per year, is very low – by most definitions our capital city is located in a desert. I do miss the true seasons experienced back in the UK, but not the winters. For me, Muscat has just two seasons: summer and light summer.
I soon realised when I came to Oman that one of the consequences of the climate here is the Omani love of water, green grass, and trees and flowers: things that are not naturally found here. We are very lucky to see so much greenery around our city, with a number of the roads and walkways generally attractive to look at. I am sure that many of us compare our city with several others in the Gulf region and give thanks.
There are plans in the making to add to the landscaping around our city with the greening of the wadis and other open spaces. Irrigation is clearly expensive, but the need for water can be reduced with the careful choice of species and clever design.
At this time of year, in our light summer, it is great to be able to walk around and enjoy our parks and beachfronts, and I hope that the municipality continues to provide these new areas for informal recreation. Think how Central Park in New York, or Hyde Park in London, are often full of people having fun. There is no reason why our city should not have plentiful examples of just the same.
Nick lives and works in Muscat and the views expressed in this column are entirely his own. You can e-mail Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org