Friday, September 5, 2008

In the Still of the Night...

At the risk of sounding like the delightfully ornery Angry in Oman, herewith a Ramadan Rant:

So Mr. Muscati and I spend the early part of our Thursday evening at the hospital, calling on a friend who's recovering from (thankfully minor) injuries sustained in one of the many, many car accidents that are a staple of the season in these parts, given that the Holy Month here involves not only fasting, charity, self-sacrifice, and meditation, but also a more or less universal disregard for all trafffic laws (more on that here; thanks, Suburban!).

After that (memo to self: stay out of hospital if at all possible), We decided to head down to Our Fair City's flashiest beach resort, the Shangri-La, to join some friends for seasonal festivities. It's a fair drive from our part of town, but very, very beautiful:

Think of the above, but night rather than evening, the palms strung with white lights, Ramadan lanterns everywhere, and lots of groups of surprisingly varied types sitting about enjoying juices, snacks, shisha, and what is, for here, a lovely almost balmy summer night. Our group was lively and varied, and we settled in for a well-deserved bit of amusement.

And then...

The music started.

Now don't me wrong - I like Arabic music. Love it even. I can't think of a more appopriate, romantic, 1,001-nights backdrop to an evening like that. But there's one key word there: backdrop.

That's not a familiar word around here. I don't know if it's simply that there's little enough live music that people just don't know how to present it, or if it's just a feeling that if you have a tower of speakers, then by God you have to use them, but why, why, why must all performers be amplified to a Spinal Tap-recalling 11 on a scale of 10?

After a while we just sat and looked at each other, waiting and hoping desperately for a break in the hissing, crackling, caterwauling din.

And, not for the first nor I'm sure for the last time this month, I prayed for the day that the bars can stay open here in Ramadan. Vodka wouldn't have solved the problem, but heavens it would have made it more bearable.

But then I'd run the risk, given the serpintine, hairpin drive home, of ending up in hospital, so I suppose all is as it should be.

Shortly after midnight, someone must have paid off the singer, for the ensemble packed up and went home. Listening to the fountains and the waves and the soft rumble of holiday conversation all around us, I thought one thing: even so, I'd still like the vodka.


Now, lucky readers who've made it this far, a Special Bonus Image involving Gratuitous Shirtlessness:

It's just some random visitors whose online travel diary I came across while looking for a suitable illustration, but I thought it might provide a little light entertainment.

All I ever run across on the beach in this vein are large German tourists in inappropriate Speedos. Although it's true that the lashings of local youth playing football on the sand more than makes up for that. But that's a subject for another post.

Happy Ramadan, y'all.


  1. We were thinking of you last night.

    We had dinner at the chedi, and at the table next to us was a statistically improbible cluster of Beefcakes.

    The four guys looked like they had walked out of GQ and into the Chedi. Which is how I could tell immediately that they are definately not from around here.

  2. its funny I have had a pen pal in Oman for ever and she has never mentioned the traffic problems in Oman...........I must ask her next time I email her.

    Gill in Canada

  3. No one has ever called me ornery before!

    I think I prefer cantankerous :)

    Sorry about your friend, good it wasn't too serious.

    I don't know where these restaurants get off thinking that the music is appreciated.

    I personally can't stand that my friends and I have to yell at each other if we want to have a chat, which we do or why would we have bothered to go out to dinner together?

    Blows yer mind eh?

    I can't eat at Mumtaz Mahal anymore because of that catterwauling Indian woman.

    Thanks for the beef cakes :)

  4. Sub - what fun! I've been meaning to write up our Chedi lunch, and one thing I've noticed about eating there...

    Gill - it's not the traffice per se, at least in terms of volume; it's the driving, which can only be described as psychotic. People - and not just the young men, although they're the worst - seem to believe their cars are some sort of magic bullets impervious to any impact, and drive accordingly.

    The worst thing about my friends' accident, albeit predictable here, is that they're being blamed - and this although even the police admit the other driver (a local young man) was speeding and probably ran the light.

    And Angry - sorry, cantankerous. We've given up on Mumtaz, too, although for us it was the four-hour time period it took to have a three-course meal the last time we went...