I arrived in Muscat in February 2006, and during my second weekend here, I took a drive to Amerat, following then the road to Quriyat, turning off down the wadi towards Yiti. I had a saloon car at the time, and just as I ventured down the wadi, rain started to fall. By the time I reached Yiti the street was flooded, I turned around and took the tarmac road back to Muscat. I had to stop on top of a hill, with around 50 other cars, waiting for the water in the wadi to subside. It took two hours – the 4x4s crossed first, then the taxis, and some while after, the rest of us.
I went to our office the next day in Madinat as Sultan Qaboos, to find the roof had leaked and desks and papers were wet. “We call it a weather event,” said Naifa, “wasn’t it lovely to see the rain.” Of course I found this very odd, and suggested she might like to live in Manchester.
We have had some rain and storms since, of course. But these last few days have been different – I have found myself, like when I am in the UK, consulting the weather forecast on my iPad app. The unsettled and unpredictable weather is the talk of the town, and the children like it because, for some reason, it gives them time off school!
I consulted the BBC weatherman. He explained that the reasons for the current situation is that the west to east jet stream has dropped much further south than usual, and now sits over the northern part of our region. The combination of this, meeting warmer air coming in from the south-east over the Indian Ocean, has created water filled clouds, dumping rain over Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Oman. And there is possibly some more to come. This type of rain is harder to predict, hence the forecasts not being as accurate as they should be.
Average rainfall in Muscat is so low and normally has little impact on events and business around town. When it does rain, the boys seem to like to skip work and test their cars on Bausher dunes. Following my early experience in the wadi near Yiti, I stay at home, and I know many who do the same. The roads here are not built for rain dispersal, and the wadis and other low-lying land are not safe. Some of the driving on the wet roads is reckless.
I did do something I have never done in Muscat before - play golf for four hours in the rain last Thursday afternoon, with a German who was cursing his luck to be playing with two Brits. “You have made this happen,” he announced crossly. “We must carry on,” we replied, with our stiff upper lips, soaked to the skin.
This time of the year is normally very hot and humid, and some relief to that has been welcome. The government seems to be doing quite a lot to ease the risks and keep citizens safe. But we must all be aware that water in large quantities is dangerous, and is best avoided.