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50 Days in Muttrah

Fifty days ago, I woke up to the news that my neighborhood Muttrah had been identified as the epicenter of COVID-19 in Oman and thus would be isolated from the rest of the country until the situation improves. At that time, on April 1st,  172 cases of the novel coronavirus had been reported in Oman, and the first death was recorded later that day.

I live at Al Amana Centre which is located in the heart of Muttrah. I am walking distance from the souq, the oceanside corniche, and mountainous hiking trails. Though none of that matters now because the souq and all non-essential shops are closed, and we are not allowed outside of our homes for walking, running, or any form of leisure activities. The police are stationed at every entrance and exit to Muttrah to enforce the “sanitary isolation” and restrict movement to essential workers and services only.

In fact, my normal grocery store is located only 1.5 miles from my home, yet it remains beyond the police line and out of reach. Thankfully, there is a smaller grocery store that carries all the essentials located within the boundary, so do not worry, I have everything I need. I do however miss Lulu’s (the big store) because they have a much wider variety of fruits, vegetables, and everything else. They also reliably carry two very essential items for my sanity: unsweetened almond milk and Coke Zero. Weird as it may sound, those two beverages are my comfort items that give me a literal taste of home when I’m feeling down, so I certainly miss them.

For reference, Muttrah is the highlighted area on the right of this map.

I am grateful that Oman took such swift and definitive action to curb the spread of COVID-19. We now have 5,671 confirmed cases, of which 2,625 cases are in Muttrah. And we have only 27 deaths, 15 of which are in Muttrah. The situation could have been much worse, and Oman should be commended for their response to the pandemic. In addition to requiring masks and limiting movement, all sick people can receive free coronavirus testing, regardless of their legal status. For a while there was free treatment as well, though that has now been limited to citizens. I am better now, but I actually got sick and went to the clinic to receive a test a couple weeks ago. I was shocked at how efficient and pleasant the experience was, and thankfully the test came back negative. Although I did spend 2.5 weeks in bed with a fever. But like I said, no need to worry, I am better now.

I live alone in the Centre, and prior to visiting the doctor I went 24 days without having a conversation face-to-face with another human. The caretaker of Al Amana Centre and his wife (who was visiting from India when the lockdown began) live inside the same compound, but due to language barriers we rarely exchange more than quick greetings.

I guess at this point, 50 days into it, I feel like I am in a routine. It’s not fun, but it’s not bad either. I do workouts in my room and sometimes in the driveway outside if it’s not too hot (I’ve already seen 109 degrees Fahrenheit reported and it’s still only May…). I read books; I work on online programming and website development for Al Amana Centre. I spend too much time on Zoom, both for work and socializing. Perhaps what I’m most grateful for is that I’ve continued with Arabic lessons virtually. My productivity and focus are terrible lately, but still the ability to make progress and learn new things gives me a sense of time moving forward when everything else seems identical day-to-day. So if you’re reading this:

شكرا يا محمد يا احسن أستاذ

This view from my house shows the Muttrah Health Clinic which has set up a large white tent for coronavirus testing and treatment.

At camp we do nightly feeling checks, and one way of checking in is called E.S.P – Emotional, Spiritual, and Physical. So here is mine for today:

Emotionally – I feel weary. I miss hanging out with my friends here in Oman. I am impatient for the Muttrah lockdown to end. I can’t focus on anything. I am frustrated with my daily battles against mosquitos, wasps, ants, and too many cockroaches. I am simultaneously restless and exhausted.  

Spiritually – I am thankful for my friend Sumaya who reminds me to listen for God during this time and be open to what God might be telling me. Ramadan is a time to work on one’s relationship with Allah, so I am trying to refocus each day with prayer and meditation to assure myself that God is always with us.

Physically – I still feel weak from being so sick. I lost a lot of muscle while stuck in bed, especially in my legs, so now my injured-knee is more unstable than ever and popping and catching painfully almost every day. I think another knee surgery is in my future… But otherwise, I am healthy and well. I miss running more than I can articulate. I am tired for no reason other than the simple act of living feels more tiring these days.

In summary, I won’t lie…I’m not fantastic. But I’m also not bad. It could be so much worse. I am exceedingly grateful for all the comforts that I have. I am praying for all those lacking such stability. And I pray that all of you stay healthy and safe. I hope that together we can make responsible decisions to protect the most vulnerable members of our society. Stay well.






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