In 2005 I worked for a few months in Ibri in Oman. Ibri is possibly Oman’s fourth biggest town in terms of population; the “Wilayat” of Ibri has about 100,000 people living in it. There is not much more to do in Ibri than there is in the bordering “empty areas” that cover 25o,000 square miles of Southern Arabia.
Anyway stuck half way between Dubai and Muscat, coming up for air in Ibri meant the three and a half hour drive to one of those two places. Although Al Ain two hours down the road to Dubai did at least offer a good swimming pool at the Hilton and a couple of decent shopping malls and Nizwa on the way to Muscat had at least the decent swimming pool. There wasn’t, as I have said, a lot to do in Ibri.
Places like Ibri attract people like me by offering us all sorts of things. They offered me an Assistant Professorship at their Ministry of Education and a salary, which made me just about the best paid person in the “Wilayat”. However, places like Ibri also attract people like a certain Canadian colleague of mine who, despite earning about thirty times more than the Indian and Pakistani workers in the town, displayed a certain ambition by trying to live on a dollar a day. Now, as everyone who has worked in the Gulf knows, you need a car and you most certainly needed one in Ibri; the College of Education was on the outskirts of the town and about a ninety minute walk from where we lived. Now try walking that in fifty degrees celsius in the middle of a Omani summer. My Canadian colleague wasn’t about to but he also wasn’t adverse to standing at the side of the road at seven a.m. with the labourers from the sub continent and try his luck at hitching a lift. No buying a car for him and no renting one either. His dollar a day just didn’t facilitate it. There would be me sitting in my kitchen, supping my percolated lavazza and looking out of the window across the road towards the big mosque and hoping, hoping, hoping that he would get his lift before I got into my car. Actually I felt like a bit of an idiot for paying my some $US150 a month for my car when I had to stop for him. Of course, the dollar a day man was the idiot as are the thousands like him. They are, I suppose, harmless but their pecuniary meanness is generally reflected in a meanness of spirit of the type that would make me give them a body swerve back in London, New York, Paris or Munich.
The location of Ibri is shown on the map above.