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  • Writer's pictureEllie Hamilton

For the first time, I feel like I can finally say that Muscat feels like home...

It feels like a hot minute, but in reality, it has been six months, and what a crazy six months it has been. In that time, we went back to the UK for the summer, celebrated my 40th, Emma and Teddy started a new school and nursery, I celebrated my 40th, we got a cat (literally one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made) and I celebrated my 40th birthday…can you see there’s a theme here.

I can’t believe it’s been 18 blog posts since I started writing The Muscat Diaries back in 2019. I started writing the blog with a view that it would keep all our family and friends up to date with our new adventures, but it’s also created a nice memory log for Emma and Teddy to look back on and it’s also been a great way for me to keep my creative writing juices flowing.

Recently a few people have said to me that they enjoy reading it and one person even caught me off guard and said that reading my blog had helped them before making the move to Muscat which was amazing to hear and for this reason it has spurred me on to write one more post before the year ends.  

If you're new to reading The Muscat Diaries, hello, my name is Ellie. My husband, daughter, and I moved to Muscat, Oman in September 2019 when my husband got a job here. Before we became expats, I used to work full-time in event marketing for a law firm. I never thought I would become a stay-at-home parent, but life took a turn and I found myself negotiating with my 20-month-old daughter instead of suppliers and lawyers. It turns out that negotiating with a toddler is way more challenging!

Since we arrived here, we've made some wonderful friends, gone on exciting adventures, weathered a pandemic, moved to a new house, had another baby, and although it can be challenging not to live so close to our family and friends from the UK, we love living in the Middle East.

When I last left you, I was about to venture to the UK for our summer holidays and I don’t think I could have crammed any more into our time than we did. I was so anxious about the flight as I was riding solo with the little ones, but someone was looking down on us as they were brilliant and for the last 3 hours of an 8-hour flight, they both slept giving me the chance to watch a movie and have a couple of glasses of wine, I mean, what a result…it was near enough perfect! Below are just a few things that I packed for the kiddos which kept them entertained:

  • Tablets downloaded with all their favourite shows (this was more for Emma, as at the time Teddy could not care less).

  • Puffy stickers (These kept Teddy entertained on and off for a good hour)

  • Activity books for Emma with loads of stickers, puzzles etc

  • A Montessori sensory toy for Ted's to fiddle with

  • Snacks, lots of snacks (these were mainly for Teddy as he has hollow legs)

I think I was also a lot more relaxed this time and went with the flow and the beauty of puffy stickers is that Teddy could stick them anywhere and they were easy to peel off again, so I let him go to town on sticking them on the TV monitor, windows, chairs, me etc. Also a lot of the time the more we overthink before a flight the more our minds play tricks on us.

Did he shout and cry at times, absolutely, did I care what people were thinking, no I did not. He’s a toddler, I won’t be the first person to bring one on a flight and I won’t be the last.

During my visit to the UK, I was very lucky to be able to see most of my friends and family. Thank you to everyone who made the effort to see us/let us stay with you! Emma and I managed to squeeze in our annual west-end show which was Matilda, it was fabulous, as was lunch at the Ivy Grill beforehand. My family put on a great 40th party for me which was so much fun, Danny and I managed two kid-free nights in London, we had Teddy christened which was a special day surrounded by friends and family plus we got to see Danny’s brother, and his partner get married which I am still in awe at how quickly they pulled together such a great day in such a short amount of time.  

In a previous blog post, I talked about our search for a new school for our daughter Emma. After considering various options, we decided to choose TLC International in Azaiba. Although Emma faced some initial difficulties in her second week due to feeling intimidated by the presence of older children, we managed to overcome this challenge. Since then, we have been amazed by Emma's progress.

At the start of the term, she couldn't read, but now she has read over 60 books. We are incredibly proud of her achievements and grateful for the excellent teaching at the school. 

Additionally, our son Teddy has started attending their preschool and is loving it. Even though he is the youngest, he has made lots of new friends and enjoys spending time with his teachers.

As soon as Muscat went into the cooler winter months (I say cooler, it’s still in the late twenties), I ventured out to discover more of Muscat by doing a couple of hikes. Now if you have been an avid reader of The Muscat Diaries, you will know that I did one hike with Danny a couple of years ago and it was not a great experience, comical, but not something we were rushing to do again. This time I went with people who knew the routes we were taking. The first hike was Saal Steps, which is about a 40-minute drive from Muscat, and we decided to go first thing so we could catch the sunrise as we were walking up. I don’t know what I was expecting but it was basically walking up a mountain for an hour, so it was challenging, however, the views when you reach the top are worth EVERYTHING. If you get the chance to do it before the heat ramps up again – JUST DO IT!

The second hike I did was the Muttrah trail again, which Danny and I first attempted, and it turns out we went the wrong way…shock! This time as I was with seasoned hikers, I went the right way, and it was brilliant. I now just need to think about where my next hiking venture will be all suggestions are welcome.

We (I) decided to get a new addition to our family. In my infinite wisdom and seeing how well the kids got on with my mum’s cats, I thought it would be a lovely idea to get a cat. I called the local vets to see if they had any cats or kittens to adopt and by doing this we found, Dolly. She was a stray and they had said she was only 12 weeks old, but I was very taken with her, and she looked very sweet, but as everyone knows looks can be very deceiving. We have had Dolly now for about three months and I can categorically say it was a big mistake. Can she be sweet at times, yeah sure, but the majority of the time it is like having a third child, only naughtier as she likes to climb the curtains, bite your feet, and generally just be an utter pain in the bum. Did I try and get rid of her, yes, did guilt set in, and she is now with us forever, yes. I just hope that she eventually calms down and starts to be the lazy, lounge cat I initially dreamed of.

You may or may not have noticed that I turned 40 this year (just a hint of sarcasm there), but I have fully embraced it and made sure that I celebrated it as much as I could as after all you only turn 40 once! Thank you to Danny for making all my birthday celebrations so special #romanceninja

Thankfully I don’t feel 40, although sometimes my knees might say otherwise when they’re creaking as I walk up the stairs, but I was determined to get ‘fit for 40’, no gimmicky diets or spending ages working out.

I wanted to get strong and healthy. I was on a role pre-UK summer hols, but, throughout my time in the UK, I took a back step. I didn’t feel despondent about it, as I was having an amazing time with friends and family, drinking great wine, eating lots of yummy food, and due to having the babes to look after I could only squeeze in the odd run or HIIT. Fast forward to coming back home to Muscat and I was straight back on the fitness regime, Muay Thai, three times a week, plus I have also now signed up for my first 10K race which is at the end of January. As I am typing this, I just completed my first 10K run and I am buzzing. I think I can whole-heartedly say that I am ‘FIT AT FORTY’ and I am looking forward to setting some fitness goals for 2024.

Along with 45% of the rest of the world, we have just celebrated Christmas and this year will always remain a special one as my mum flew out to spend it with us in Oman for the first time, which means the world to me. For the second Christmas, we decided to venture to the Al Bustan again for their Christmas brunch.

The only downside was the Christmas-style food – it wasn’t great, but I think I might be overcritical as I don’t know if anywhere can beat a home-cooked Christmas dinner.

However, the atmosphere was buzzing, and it was fantastic to see Santa arriving on a boat to come and see all the children, Emma also got to have a boogie with him at one point which I think made her month.

I am big on creating core memories and seeing how I only get to see my mum a couple of times a year I want to do as much as I can with her and the difference when she comes out to Oman vs when I go to the UK is that we get to have some one-to-one time as when I stay with her in the UK we always have Emma and Teddy with us. On boxing day, I booked for us both to have the signature massage treatment at Ayana Spa which was incredible. We both indulged in a full body scrub followed by a 50-minute massage and we both felt incredible afterwards. After this, I booked us into The Intercontinental (as what’s the point in getting the most relaxed you could be and then going home to two crazy kids). The icing on the cake was having a full night of uninterrupted sleep and not waking up until 7.30 am – core memory made!

I will always remember 2023 as not only the year of 40 but also the year of growth and for the first time, I feel like I can say that Muscat feels like home. I have discovered, Muay Thai, which has become a bit like therapy and makes me feel, physically and mentally, like a better person. Using my previous knowledge of digital marketing, I taught myself to design and build a website for my sister’s business, which you can view here - I am grateful for all the amazing groups of friends I have made in Muscat, whom without I don’t feel like I would feel quite the same about living here.

As a family, we have also made some amazing memories and yes parenting can take its toll at times especially when you have a toddler on the verge of hitting the terrible twos, but Danny and I have learned to always work as a team and when one of us is feeling it we tag each other out. We also try and take turns with lie-ins at the weekend which can make a huge difference, never underestimate the power of sleep!!

Going into 2024, I don’t like to set resolutions, but goals – some big ones and some small ones. Over the next week, I will be jotting these down but for now, I can wholeheartedly say I am incredibly happy, we are all healthy, and I feel very content and I couldn’t ask for anything more than that.

Happy New Year xx

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