Thursday, 21 November 2013

My Hero, My Sultan

Photo: niceThe Yanks have one, France has the best one well, that I have been around for,  even bloody Canada has one - in fact most places in the world have one except us English which we cannot really justify. These things are possibly a gory, cheesy and up-itself wankfest which is probably what the politicos would turn it into, it can though of course be and should be a great excuse for a party not just  an excuse for saying how fantastic we are while boosting the Chinese disposable flag making industry. That's right National Day. A punctuation in the year when most nations celebrate their birth often after a nasty bloody struggle against some exploitative overbearing power from far away whose language they might now speak.

Coming to the party style(?)
None of my students could really explain why their 43rd national day falls on November 18th - the Sultan's birthday? That seemed to be the consensus anyway which Wikipedia confirmed. It certainly couldn't be for independence? From whom? Oman was, luckily for them, never formally colonized. No one could tell me, or more likely they were loth so to do, for this is a place where standing out is not considered a virtue....until that is you cover your car in red, green and white stickers, bedeck said car in flags and pics of my hero, my sultan, slip off your traditional conservative, and arguably mentally constricting clothing and go racing around the town centre well as fast as you can which isn't very fast in gridlock, but that's all part of the fun as you get to honking, hooting and cheering.

Of course your face is covered in face paint of the national colours, you might also be a wearing a Halloween style horror masks or  fright wig which is odd as Halloween and dressing up as the devil are a tad unIslamic. Perhaps most weirdly to me and cowering car mate, were the Guy Fawkes masks. None of these objects have I seen on sale anywhere - 'cos that kind of frivolity just ain't Islamic or traditional. It was great to see singing, dancing to African, Latin, Arabic  tunes accompanying the screeching of tyres and souped up engines making sounds disturbingly like gunfire. Cowering carmate was from the US so therefore used to the gunfire but completely unused to Omanis out of the strait-jacket happily sticking their heads, unthreateningly through the car windows.

Beep beep etc
There were plenty of young folk hanging out of cars, on roofs and even a few in the boot. All safe as the traffic was going nowhere.  Plod looked overawed, helpless and hopeless which is always lovely to see. The fear of the uncontrolled crowd. However, it was all good-natured and seemingly sober. Us Euros and assorted others on our way to the hotel pub were welcomed, greeted and thanked for  coming along to the party which had naturally stopped us from getting anywhere close - that was a lovely touch but I did have to turn down the offer of joining a group for a dance. Unlike back home there was no (obvious) booze and a complete absence of women aside from the Carmate who embarrassingly feared that she was going to be pulled out of the car and subjected to all sorts of nasties with her head paraded around on a spike. Oh dear the liberal mask had slipped and she won't be a Carmate again.

Apparently there was all the usual other stuff that goes on - fireworks, military nonsense so beloved of leaders the world over, and I was told that the Red Arrows even turned up. Still, all good free-flowing fun, unless you are a terrified plod or over-reacting Carmate and everyone happy and still at it when returning home several hours later....

So Happy Birthday Sultan.

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