I am not a religious person, but to say that events in the first quarter of 2020 have been biblical, would be an understatement. I live in Muscat, Oman, where I am a teacher.
his year, we have had the death of the monarch, floods, pestilence and disease - and it’s only April!
On the 10th of January, His Majesty, Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, the revered ruler of Oman, died after 49 years in power. 40 days of national mourning were declared. Music was banned on the radio or in public.
The sombre atmosphere was not a major inconvenience, although socialising in public seemed highly inappropriate. As an expat friend of mine commented, “fun was postponed” for 40 days.
On the morning of the Sultan's funeral, torrential rain started and continued for several days. As anyone who has lived in the Gulf knows, the region is not equipped to cope with heavy rainfall, due to poor drainage systems.
Within hours, the roads were completely flooded. I had friends staying with me, and it was touch and go getting them to the airport on time. Luckily, no deaths were reported, but many people were left stranded in their cars, and 56mm of rainfall was recorded.
In early February, another disturbing event occurred. Swarms of locusts were spotted all over the Sultanate. One morning, the sky was black and humming with the infestation. Thankfully, the government took swift action controlling the pestilence. I didn’t enjoy sweeping up huge, yellow dead locusts for the next few days.
But the major catastrophe of disease was yet to come. The first two cases of coronavirus were confirmed here on February 24th.
Two women who had travelled from Iran tested positive for the disease. Attitudes changed noticeably overnight, with a surge in purchasing of masks and sanitiser.
Life continued as normal for another couple of weeks, in which time I booked a flight home, optimistically, for a mid-April holiday. As it escalated, some colleagues of mine talked about leaving the country before the situation got worse, but it didn’t occur to me to try and go home to Ireland early.
I have been self-isolating for 3 weeks now, and feel fortunate to be where I am. I feel grateful to be safe and healthy.
I have a home, a job, a good internet connection and a well-stocked fridge. Taking each day at a time, my main hope is to return home to Ireland when this is over.
We are living history. The challenges posed by Covid 19 are similar the world over but everybody’s experience of this emergency will be different.
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