Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Muscat Mixed Martial Arts Club - part 1

Before I start I'd like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas back in the UK and hope you haven't all been flooded out! Well, it's 30 degrees outside and I don't mean Farenheit, it's tough out here, I can tell you.
I was at the Asian Cup last month and I met a few guys from Muscat Mixed Martial Arts Club (3Mac) and after chatting to them, I told them I was a reporter and would love to come and visit the club and do some training and reporting out in Oman.  The lads duly agreed and a few days ago, I filled the car up with essentials for a four hour drive, namely water, juice, Skittles and a memory stick filled with driving tunes and I was ready to go.
On the road to Muscat
I live five minutes drive from the Hili border point to Oman and there was little traffic as I went through the barriers and in less than a few minutes I was in the Sultanate of Oman;  Muscat lay four hours away and I was driving through some of the most breathtaking and rugged places on the planet.  It was bad enough driving in December, God only knows what it's like in summer when the temperature rises over 50C.
The mountains on each side of the road stuck up like jagged spikes and the road is literally just carved into the mountains; the first hour is driving through the desert before arriving at one of the Omani border points and I went inside to get my vistor's visa and was duly informed I hadn't been given an exit stamp from the UAE, so I had to drive back to another check point to get one, before I could progress further.
After a short drive back, I had my stamp and went back to get my visa and after a few stamps in the passport, I was ready to go again; I have to say I have never met a more friendly set of officials here in Oman, not like the jumped up little power trippers that disgrace the UK airports.  These guys welcomed me in to the country with a smile and a handshake and were really helpful explaining to me about the exit stamp and when I came back they even made me a cup of coffee.  We had a quick chat about my being there and another shaking of hands I was back on the road and a little bit closer to Muscat.
It's one long big road that takes you into Muscat, namely the Sohar-Buraimi Road and it wasn't long before I saw civilisation and like back in Al Ain, roundabouts; they really look after their roundabouts, the grass is trimmed to within an inch of its life and all bursting with colourful plants and clipped trees.  It really makes driving out here a pleasure, all along the dual carriage ways it's the same, all trimmed hedges and palm trees, no different to back here in Al Ain.
One of the many brightly coloured roundabouts
Back in Al Ain, cats and dogs are everywhere; in Oman, it's goats; many on the loose and many by the roadside, not quite so loose.  Obviously these animals don't know the Highway Code and come a cropper straying into the paths of HGV lorries, laden with steel rods and construction equipment, so not much of a match for the poor goat.
Driving into Muscat
There's a huge construction project going on in Oman, especially on the roads, with new roads being laid and bridges built, so some of the way there, the roads veered off, but even still, the drive was by no means stressful, one just had to keep an eye out for any goats on the run.  Driving through Sohar, the roads stretched out for miles in front of me and the miles were slowly reducing and before long I was starting to make my way into Muscat and to the Corniche Hotel, which I'd set in my sat nav; I'd stopped at a petrol station to buy some credit for my phone and was told they don't work here in Oman, so I was unable to contact my friends, so I thought they'd contact me instead.
Local Omani's playing a game called Hawalees
As I finally arrived into Muscat, there was still no call from the guys, so I popped into the Mina Hotel and asked the guy behind the desk if I could make a quick call to my friend; the guy was called Ashraf and couldn't have been more helpful and so contact was re established with Ali, who called me back and I was met by the grappling coach Taimur.  Turns out that they couldn't call my phone here in Oman, so next time I'm there an Omanian SMS will be purchased to save any hassles.
With Ashraf, my life saver
Taimur took me for a quick bite to eat at a local restaurant and we spoke about the history of the club and of course jiu jitsu;  by now the sun was setting a deep shade of red, so I enjoyed the scenery and food and it was time to go to the gym and meet the guys and gals, all of which will make up Part 2 of this report...................

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