Saturday, 18 October 2014

An Unexpected Pleasure

Oman has been two years of unexpected pleasures.  Yesterday was no exception (of course I wrote this at least two months ago* and then got busy and visited Australia, so you'll just have to wait for the Australia visit blog).  On a Tuesday morning I general host a little "Stitch and Bitch," but today I went along with a group of about 30 other to see the Royal Guard Stables; oh what a splendid time it was.

We often go to the Lulu's hypermarket to shop and that sits slap bang in the middle of the Royal Court area, which is made up of a vast array of building, gardens, racecourse, palace, and, of course, the stables.  The supermarket itself used to be the Royal Guard's quartermaster's store.  You get very used to seeing the red bereted royal guard all over the place and very familiar with the walls that surround everything...lots of walls...lots of everything.  Today I discovered there was also a Royal Guard motorcycle squad who rode large black motorcycles, wore rather sexy black leather and red helmets to match the berets.  I'd never seen them anywhere before, even in cavalcades.  We often muse about what might be hidden behind the walls.  Well, today I found out about one little corner.

The group (a new ladies group called Phoenix) had arranged a tour of the stables and we all were told to meet in the Lulu's carpark at 7:30am so that we could be picked up and taken into the grounds.  We all duly arrived and hopped into the bus, drove through the gates right in front of us and around a couple of corners...there we were.  We didn't know quite what to expect and what we got was a little taste of some of the things that go on behind those walls.  Starting with watching the new music recruits learning to ride.  They will all eventually play on horseback for ceremonial events.

Some of the new music recruits.  Being able to ride is not a prerequisite for joining.

Some of the lads looked at ease on horseback, some looked nervous and some looked like they were convinced the horse was going to eat them.  Round and round and round they went.  While we watched some of the more senior riders running the competition horses through their paces.

This is their world champion dressage horse, who apparently likes to jump.  Unusual in Arabians we were told. He's being trained for showjumping now
And of course Omani's love their bagpipes, so there is a mounted band, including the most gorgeous drum horses.  They were huge.

The new recruits had to hold their horses steady while the band walked slowly past.  They looked even more terrified than when they were moving.

Then we went to watch the farrier hot shoeing a horse.  Considering this large group of people were hanging about exclaiming and taking photos, the horse was pretty chilled.  The farrier was pretty chilled too.  Holy cow he was a big bloke.

Preparing the shoe

Hammering the still hot shoe on - with bare hands.....
Yes, definitely hot-shoeing

Then for our big treat of the day.  Last week Oman hosted the world tent-pegging championships and the Royal Guard makes up a large part of their team. They were all still there so they gave us a demo.  Seriously cool to watch.  They use spears (javelins really) and swords, and it's not very difficult to imagine what tent pegging used to be very good training for...............

The Royal Guard Tent pegging team
The Mascot.  Definitely very handsome and not for eating. 

The latest addition to the stables.  3 months old and full of fun

*Um errr, make that substantially more than two months.  Here it was sitting in drafts.........................................

Friday, 17 October 2014

Eid Mubarak! Ooops!

A week or so ago David went flying off to Brussels for meetings and then popped over to Manchester to visit Meaghan and Jamie, leaving me at home with the cats and what was going to be the last run for my thesis (yes was, but that's a whole other story).
It was Eid and the country had shut down for over a week.  Boy do I mean shut down.  Practically every one I spoke to was heading out for a little trip to Europe, Thailand, Cyprus, Zanzibar, Dubai, Qatar, Abu Dhabi.......  Pout.

 I was being a good girl and sitting at the PC editing away like a loon and listening to the sewerage truck slurp up water from our unconnected sewer outlet.  Dum de da de dum.


What the hell was that??????

A quick dash to the front door showed me..........

Yes, the truck had clipped the gate and pulled down the wall and the pedestrian gate.  Excellent. 
 "You broke the wall!" I cried cleverly.
"Madam, It is broken" was his even cleverer reply.  Then he jumped into his truck and drove away.

Right.  Good.  Marvelous.  It's a little nervous making when the whole world can see straight into your house when everyone lives behind high walls, and of course the whole world did come and have a really good look.  Especially five times a day on the way to the Mosque.  Quick call to my landlord had no reply, and a call to the handy man was met with "Oh....I will come and look at it maybe after tomorrow."  SMS to landlord.  Minutes later, the landlord called and the ability of Omanis to get things going even in the middle of a religious festival swung into action.

By the end of the day two handy men had been, and the police had been. The next day cleanup began happened and the following day the footings were begun.  We were to get a little more front.  Hooray!!  Of course the hooray may be short lived as the owners are looking at renovating and moving in.  Although their youngest boy has decided that he is going to live in a tree house at the top of the biggest tree so that David can live in the new upstairs bedroom.

Footings were followed by a wall that immediately gave us more privacy.  The cats, however, were not amused.  Either were the two beautiful pots that had been sitting behind the wall.  The very flat pots.  The plants, on the other hand, are Omani plants and can survive almost anything.

The wall was followed by two pillars for the gates.  Getting in and out was a little "interesting" at this point.  Well, for those of us with knees that don't bend too well and hadn't been to yoga for a couple of weeks (the teacher was one of the friends in Cyprus....).

Bluey finishing his inspection of the new paving

From the front
New paving ensued, and you can see that we have a new garden bed. Plus enough room to easily fit David's car if we wanted to.  Actually, both cars.  

This was all done by three blokes (here are two of them) armed with a jackhammer (for taking down the old pillars), a drill (for drilling holes of course) a shovel, some bessa blocks, quite a lot of concrete and even more sweat.  The electrics were powered by a lead hanging over the roof.  I'm not sure the tools had any plugs, they just stuffed the wires into the end of the lead.................. 

There it is pretty much finished except for the painting.  Bukra insha'allah.