Stories all around in these places.
MUSCAT, Oman- Bars in Muscat tend to be in basements, which really lends a literal interpretation of the term “underground.”
Oman is a Muslim country, though it is one that doesn’t get too bent out of shape about some of the things that other Muslim countries do. Oman seems to realize that it is not an island, that other people from other parts of the world are necessary for the country to function and progress — and, more importantly, they seem to realize that these other people are not necessarily going to be Muslim or want to live by Sharia rules.
Roughly half of the people who live in Oman are not Omani — they are foreign workers brought in from elsewhere. This has created an overtly international country in the core of the Middle East, and, for the neighborhood they’re in, a tolerant country.
But nearly every bar in Muscat that I went to was located in a basement.
Drinking in Muslim countries is always, let’s say, interesting. The crowd that is attracted to bars in these countries are usually the white people, the free thinking, internationalized sect, or the dregs of society.
However, I’m interested in how many native Omanis drink in bars here. For some reason I assumed that the bars would pretty much be for foreigners only, with “no Muslims allowed” signs on the doors, like they are in some other countries. But most of the crowd is usually Omani in their white robes — which are sometimes topped off with baseball hats.
I thought the bars would be closed here today, as it is a holiday, but the sports bar at the Hyatt is open. I thought that many of the locals would have stayed home, but they didn’t. They were out in force today — a day off, a day for drinking.
Drinking in the Middle East is like going to a speakeasy of sorts — even in countries where it’s not overtly prohibited. It’s kind of like being part of a club — “the people who drink beer.” Although this is a club that doesn’t tend to be particularly decadent. I haven’t seen one overtly intoxicated person out in the streets yet. Omanis tend to drink beer as if it was tea. They drink, hang out, and then go home.
Someday soon the world is going to view Oman as the Singapore of the Middle East. International companies are going to flow in, activity is going to drop south from Dubai, and this place will prosper. Muscat will become a world city and Duqm will be a place you will hear about. You are going to know about Oman and you’re probably going to come here.
I grew weary of the basement bar at the Hyatt. The place was filling up and, under normal circumstances, I would normally declare it a good crowd. But most of the crowd were too absorbed by the divas on the TV who were rolling around on astroturf pretending to be hurt. I was just kind of hanging out alone, typing, daydreaming, typing.
Three pints of Tiger and a beef salami pizza dropped me thirty bucks. I figured it was time to call it a day. Oman is not a cheap country — even during happy hour.
I stepped out into the breezy warm evening and walked back to the beach.
About the Author: VBJ
I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. VBJ has written 3657 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.
VBJ is currently in: Astoria, New York
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