Sunday, April 14, 2013

Muscat in the 70's - stolen from OPNO

When I first moved to Muscat.....

.... there was a round about by the airport that was terrifying
.... there was no Muscat Expressway, nor that road between MQ and Bowsher
.... Death valley road was a winding twisting single lane road that people still drove at 100KM/H+ on
.... there was only 1 mall in town (Muscat City Centre) (No Sabco and Markez al Bhaja don't count!)
.... there was no Burger King (but there used to be, apparently)
.... the CCC area where Nandos is was underwater
.... there were black-outs every summer
.... the Airport didn't have that extra building with the extra gates and the Subway joint upstairs
.... you didn't have to pay for parking at the airport
.... traffic jams were rare, and were never actually that bad, it never took long to get anywhere
.... a loaf of bread at Al Fair was 200bz (its now 850bz)
.... a 6 pack of Coke was 400bz (its now 850bz)
.... the coastal road to sur was a track and it took all day to get there, it was paved to Quriyat, but not a dual carriageway like it is now
.... the road from Qantab to Yiti was not built
.... there was only Muscat Private Hospital for expats (badr al samma doesnt count)
.... a pint of beer at the Blue Marlin in Bandar al Rowha was RO 1.3
.... there were no green golf courses in Oman, really only the PDO course and Ghala Wentworth
.... the road from Sohar to Buraimi was not built
.... the road from Seeb to Nizwa was not what it is now (added a lane)
.... no one had heard of Duqm
.... there was no port in Sohar
.... there were no restaurants on love lane by the sea
.... ADSL was capped at 512 kb/s (a max speed of about 60KB/s) and cost about RO 39 a month
.... there were 2 mobile phone companies, and wireless data was SLOOOW and EXPENSIVE
.... the Al Said Royal yacht was a different one to what it is now
.... there wasn't a Lulu's in Wadi Kabir, nor a TSC or Al Fair in Azaiba
.... Azaiba was called Atheibah, and now it's called Udhaiba
.... The Wave had just opened it's first street of houses
.... Left Bank beneath Mumtaz Mahal was not there, it was an empty space
.... all the banks were based in Ruwi
.... there was no working sewage network, you saw yellow poo trucks everywhere
.... there were no Majlis a Shura elections
.... there was only 1 English radio station, 90.4
.... 18th November street was a single lane road with roundabouts
.... the shining Shatti apartments and mall didn't exist
.... the Royal Opera House didn't exist
.... Oman didn't grow cherry tomato's for sale in supermarkets
.... Muscat Daily didn't exist
.... the Radisson Blu was called the Radisson SAS

Its amazing to think how much change Muscat has seen in the last 6 years that I've been living here, I wonder for those that have been longer how much change they can remember, and I wonder what new changes we will see in the next 6 years?

What big changes can you remember?

le fin.


Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

So you arrived right after Gonu?

Good post.

I have been here in Oman since the 80s and I remember the advent of Lulu and how getting to Mutrah from Qurum was an adventure, and driving to the interior took all bloody day.

Then I remember the doctors and British SAS and Air guys like my mother's second? husband, who've been here since the 50s-70s and I am astounded. Alot has changed since my husband's childhood of sleeping on the roof of a mudbrick house in the summer (without acs back then) with a rock tied to his foot so he couldn't fall off, to beat the heat lol.

You forget, when Al Harthy complex [destroyed pretty much since Gonu] (in Qurum) was the only mall, lol, and it caused protests similar to the opera house because of the liquor store where Patchi now is, and plots to "blow it up" lol. Ah... lol, the good ole' days when my sister nearly killed me for going to Dubai and drinking "a root beer" when only pepsi and dew were available in Oman and a macaroni and cheese blue box by Kraft could not be found anywhere... lol.

I have enjoyed your blog since I first discovered it, moving back here permentantly. I just miss Angry, Suburban, and MJD (though he's still around).

Divia said...

I came about 4.5 years ago. Big difference between now and then is the traffic. Used to take 20 minutes to go anywhere in Muscat, now could be more than an hour! Somehow the last 4 years there are more cars on the road

Eliza said...

wow, love this post. I've been here for 2 years and I know I've see a lot of growth just within that little amount of time. I can't imagine another 6 years down the road. crazy thought!

Val Kwaan said...

When I first came to Muscat, in 1973, the only western-style food shop, as such, was the Mutrah Cold Store which was in a shed on the old road over the jebel between Mutrah and Muscat. There was very little variety in it and if you wanted a treat like ice cream or lettuce you had to buy it on the black market from someone at PDO.

You could only make an overseas phone call from the Cable and Wireless office in the old city.

There were almost no roads at all, just tracks, most of them built for PDO's pipe line construction. It was a major undertaking to go anywhere outside the Capital Area and special permission was required to go into 'The Interior'.

There was only one small hospital. My husband came to work on the second one at MAM Camp.

After every Eid tribesmen would bring their families into the hospital, because they would get sick from eating the meat that was their very special Eid treat. Many people had holes made in there ears to let out the devils that made them ill and brand marks on their faces.

The sea teemed with fish and the shells on the beaches were breathtaking in their number, variety and beauty. The environment was completely unspoiled. It was a paradise.

The ordinary Omanis we met as we traveled around were all so welcoming and and generous, opening their homes to us in the old tradition of Arabian hospitality. It was an enchanted place.

Arun said...

Great comment by Val Kwaan.
I think there used to be a waterpark in Muscat, somewhere around the Seeb area!

Anonymous said...

Val- you beat me to it by a few years!

Arun- there was a waterpark where the Wave is now. I remember camping on Azaiba beach for a weekend and not seeing another soul.
Filling the car with petrol for a trip to the little village of Al Khoudh.
Baiza buses were a great form of transport but the cheaper version was the back of a pick-up truck.
Muttrah souq was a proper souq unlike the made in China shopping mall it is now.
The Gulf Hotel was luxury
Muttrah Hotel did lobster night for 5 Rials
The Sheraton was open!!
The InterCon was the only place to buy decent bread
Dairy Queen in Qurm was the place to hang out
There was no fence around, or steps down to, the sink hole
Wadi Shab was still a beautiful place
Getting to Oman Dive Centre was taking your life in your hands
Death Valley police station had crashed cars in front of it which caused more crashes!
If there was a traffic jam it was because there had been an accident and still only consisted of 50 cars
You checked in early at the airport and went to Bellapais for dinner first
The commy at PDo was a treasure trove of epicurial delights!
Prisunic was a whole new world
Ruwi high street was a fun destination

So many more.......

Anonymous said...

I stayed in Oman in the late 70s and also more recently.

In the 70s it is easier to remember what was there rather than what wasn't. The airport was already established at Seeb, MQ (or MSQ!) and Qurum existed but were very new. I remember four major hotels. Two now have different names. They were, Intercon, Gulf, Ruwi and Al Falaj hotels. There was just open space around the Intercon, except for fisherman shacks. The Salalah road was a headache inducing washboard from start to finish. There was a paved road from Muscat to Buraimi but most side roads were still unpaved.

There were roundabouts in town but no flyovers. If you wanted to cross the main highway in Ruwi, you walked to the edge of the road and the traffic stopped to allow you to cross. Don't try that now.

People were just so friendly nd unhurried.

Anonymous said...

The Al Bustan being built
Filling up with petrol at Quryat with a hand pump at the petrol station
Intercon in amongst the sand dunes
Ralph Wehner (RIP) as the F&B manager at the Intercon
Snake coffee at the Bellapais (if that is what the restaurant at the airport was called)
Security pass needed to drive to Salalah
Renovation on Bahla fort starting
The Qurm Heights road being built

Anonymous said...

Should also have added to the list:
No tourists! Intercon garden was great with 20 people in it, plus the BA crew

BA flight was jumbo, routed London, Muscat, Singapore, Australia

Susan said...

ROFL - My mother moved to Oman in 1979.

AZ said...

Driving from Hamriya to Yiti and Sifah. No Muriya development in Sifah and no "whatever they did" in Yiti.

Heather said...

Bhs was the only place to shop for clothes unless you went to ruwi or a tailors

James Wren said...

I was in Oman from 85 to 88, here are some of the things I remember:

Hotels, there was a the Bustan, The Intercon, the Novotel, Holiday Inn, Sheraton and Gulf Hotel

The best restaurant was the Airport Restaurant, not inside the airport but next to it, is that Belapais? People at MAM just referred to it as the Airport Restaurant

The shops at MQB were cool, the Dairy Queen was the highlight

The Muaskar Al Mutarfa base in Rusail was full of expats, white Toyota Corollas, great pools and delicious food

The place to go...was SABCO! Simbad's for dinner!

Look up in the it a bird? is it a plane? Yes, it's a Golden Falcon Gulf Air Tri Star! Loved those planes

Al Fair at Christmas....

The lights and decorations along the highway for a visiting head of state, I remember when King Juan Carlos of Spain came in was all for him!

Watching Air India 747's and the little Oman Aviation planes land at Seeb from our balcony at MAM camp.

RC Cola, Miranda orange

The Princess restaurant by the mosque...the name of the mosque escapes me, but it wasn't the new one!

Omanis driving Mercedes Benz 500's with gaudy decorations and V shaped TV ariels on the back

Going on a banyan with a small navy patrol boat to what is now the Al Bandar beach

Loved it there. Miss it very much, went back with my wife and son last year and had a blast. My son was 5, so we had to adapt our holiday, as you do, ended up in Toys R Us at the Muscat City Centre, lunch at Chillis and then the next day had lunch at a lovely cafe in Medinat Qaboos, bright yellow, very cottage looking, but nice. We did cultural stuff to, but although people told me a lot will have changed, it still had a familiar feel, more buildings but the heart remains the same. Shame I couldn't get into MAM camp to see the old place. Hope someone is reading this, Oman is a great place!
For anyone interested in design, my website has a concept for Oman Rail....

Anonymous said...

nice post....but you did Muscat was not much different 6 years ago.

Today, it stands young, fresh and ambitious with a wise direction. It just needs a bit more time.

Muscat is beautiful in its own way and different from nearby cities like Dubai through the people it has. Just limit the number of exapts sat in bars and swearing as if they were in a deserted pub in Whitby (No Offense to the beautiful seaside town), Mr. Immigration Officer!

Point is, let’s keep Muscat as classy, clean, rich with heritage and modernisation as it’s always been.

I travelled a lot yet Muscat remains amongst my favourite few, besides Guildford in Surrey possibly.

Anonymous said...

The Ruwi hotel was the place for expats to meet after work.
I remember Wadi Shab was an overnighter with the route going up onto the Jebel before descending down to the gravel coast road.
Then there was the radar station built on the top of the jebel so you could no longer get to the top.
Shati Al Qurum (? by the intercon) was just roads and lamp posts for the longest time.
Sur and all the traditional boats being built - visiting in 2003 there were very few being built.
And what was the sailing club halfway between the de-salination plant and the airport ? As I remember it was sand and dunes otherwise.
Great memories

H Megginson said...

I will have to get my parents to check this site out as I was only 7/8 when we lived in Muscat in 1972. My dad worked for Cable and Wireless installing the phone system - I believe he made the first unofficial phone call to test the system back to us in the UK before we joined him (there was fighting in Salalah when he first went out so we didn't join him til later). I can't remember much but do remember staying at the Al Falaj hotel when we had a fire in our flat and getting ill from drinking the water there - the waiters used to fill your glasses for you and my brother and I thought that was brilliant so drank loads. I remember we used to travel in the back of an old landrover - no comfy seats, no seatbelts, just a couple of thin cushions which would slip off the metal benches and we'd bounce around quite happily. We used to wave at the traffic policeman on the roundabout into town and he'd always wave back. Our school put on Scheherezade as a joint venture with the German school there and I played the Sultan (not bad for a girl!).

More than anything I remember how friendly the people were, my brother was cute and blonde so he was a real hit. I was dark haired and bossy, the Americans out there called us Lucy and Linus which we didn't understand at the time because Peanuts hadn't reached the UK then.

I found this site by accident, it's brought back such memories! Thank you.

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