(Written November 18, 2013)
Today was an exciting day in Oman: National Day (aka: the birthday of Sultan Qaboos)!
We decided to go to school in Omani colors (red, green and white) to show our Omani pride! My host mother showed me pictures, and I soon found that we were not alone in our Omani pride outfits. She told me that there are celebrations all day in school with singing, dancing, and food (think Omani flag decorated cake).
We went to an event at Muscat Bank during the morning. There was traditional dancing and music in an area there (kind of like what I saw at the Opera House). It was really fun and many of the people there were also dressed in Oman’s colors. The people dancing and playing music were so happy. Their happiness was contagious and everyone was having lots of fun. The inside of the bank was also decorated with balloons and streamers to celebrate the day. We walked around a bit and tried date-banana smoothies!
It was interesting to see the people in the bank because it was a business area but unlike the US, where everyone wears suits, people were wearing dishdashas and abayas. There were also people of all ethnicities wandering around.
Driving back was also quite interesting as most of the cars were decorated for the occasion. Many cars were painted or had stickers of the Omani flag (or had actual flags sticking out) or the face of Sultan Qaboos. Some just were fully the colors of the Omani flag. Very patriotic!
Watch 2 videos of the music and dancing!:
In the evening, my host parents took me to see the fireworks. There are only two areas in Muscat that have big fireworks, and only two cities in Oman with these fireworks (Muscat and Salalah). We drove to an area just off of the highway and parked our car in a dirt area and spread out a mat to have a picnic. There were tons of other cars around us and alongside the highway. People were sitting on their cars, sitting on the ground, walking around, singing, and dancing. Everyone was very excited and joyous.
Finally the fireworks started (at 8 PM) and everyone cheered. The show was about half an hour long and was very impressive. The fireworks were very grand and beautiful and there were many segments for Oman represented by red, white, and green. The crowd kept cheering after different beautiful fireworks. It was really fun, except for the part when it took us an hour to drive home because of all the traffic (even though we live only a few minutes away!). In fact, there was so much traffic in the area that my host mother’s brother couldn’t come to meet us as planned since the police blocked the incoming road to prevent more traffic.
National Day here is celebrated so differently from the 4rth of July in the US. Granted, National Day is not the same as Independence Day (since National Day also celebrates the birth of Sultan Qaboos), but they are the two most similar holidays I can think of. In the US, the 4rth of July (at least for me), is a day to hang out with friends, have a barbecue, and see fireworks. Maybe I’ll wear red, white, and blue. Most years, I’m not even in the US during the 4rth of July. Sure I’m proud to be American, but the 4rth of July doesn’t make me feel especially patriotic. In Oman, however, you can tell everyone loves their country and Sultan Qaboos. People truly love him. My language partner told me that her greatest dream is “have a call that says tomorrow you will meet with Sultan Qaboos”. Even children love him. It is an unconditional love that I think is wonderful. In the 4rth of July, we do not celebrate Obama. In fact, there isn’t even a ‘Celebrate Obama Day’. I am almost envious of this pride in one’s country and leader that unites Oman on this day. For me, it is amazing that one can have so much love for one’s country and leader. Maybe it is the same amount that I love America, but it is certainly expressed here much more.