Have you ever met up with someone in a remote place, that you either know or knows someone you know? One of those moments where the world seems very small…
Last year, travelling in Oman, which is a huge country, vast distances between towns, villages, settlements, places that are truly the back of beyond, an overnight stop was booked in a remote little hotel along a little-travelled part of the coast. Incredibly (for the location) found on booking.com, cheap and adequate and 10/10 for getting themselves on the www of booking online.
Rocking up, after a long day of beaches and shelling, with loads of shells, checked in, a really helpful Bangladeshi guy doing the honours. Not a busy place (at that stage, us only), an outside shower by the room, so offload of the shells into the tray to be washed as a faint mollusc aroma was permeating the car. All washed, shells lined up to dry, shower for me and my partner in shell crime and off to the fluorescent room, where tables denoted a possible meal.
A Greek salad was offered as a side to the fresh fish. Odd, I thought, we are in the b-of-b in Oman, Greek salad, but hey, the world’s a big place. Getting into conversation with the only other guests, two Swiss doing a self-drive along this part of the coast, I mentioned my home was in Cyprus. After they left Mr Bangladesh big ears hurtled over “Your home is Cyprus? We worked there for 5 years, where is your house, is it in Paphos?” Replying yes he almost hugged me “ We lived there, we worked for Mr XXX, I can’t believe we would meet a Paphian here.”
Mr XXX was a familiar name to me, my brother-in-law’s best friend actually, so responding with “I know him well, do you remember his koumbaros (In Greek, best man, but also used for best, closest friend) Mr XXXX ?”
The look on his face was a joy to see, I had touched some memory. Rushing into the kitchen, he returned with another countryman, “Here, here is the chef, we worked in Cyprus together“. Completely straight-faced, this new Bangladeshi (I was by this stage thinking, I know this guy) looked at me for a few moments and then said, “You, your sister, her husband, you all loved my pepper steak“. Oh, oh, the best pepper steak I ever had, we used to go there monthly to eat his pepper steaks! Sadly no steaks in the kitchen today, but a beautifully grilled fresh caught fish with lemon, olive oil and crushed garlic dressing (so Cyprus) and of course, the Greek salad.
Here we all were, 5 years down the line, I’m randomly in this remoter than remote place, the two of them had had to return to Bangladesh from Paphos after their visa’s had expired, home for them wasn’t successful, they couldn’t return to Cyprus as by then EU entry for the island had made guys like these obsolete, so the first opportunity was this little place, lonely on the Oman coast, far from anywhere. Sad really, neither wanted to return to their homeland, neither were happy in their new home. For both, Cyprus had been their happiest time and to find they had a Paphian descend on them, allowed a trip down memory lane for all of us.
I haven’t been back, it’s not been on my Oman trip routes this past year, if I did return, I would be sad if they weren’t there.