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Muscat: Thursday, 8th December 2011

A smirr of rain flurried across Muscat this morning leaving its sand dark, its roads slick and reflective and lending the view from my hotel window, a peculiarly European feel.

In Scotland, Blizzards are sweeping the upland areas, swept in from the Atlantic by gale force finds and threatening disruption to travel.

In 24 hours, EU leaders meet in the latest round of talks to ‘Save the Euro.’ To judge by the news networks, should the talks fail, the Euro will unravel. Yet, this seem likely in any case. I have not read an informed article or spoken with a single person in the last three months who believes that it can survive.

In Iraq, final preparations are under way for the withdrawal of US soldiers; a move that could lead to Iranian dominance of the region stretching from Afganistan and Pakistan to the Mediterranean Sea.

In Yemen, a decree from the Vice President decreed the formation of a Government of National Unity, dividing the 34 government posts equally between the governing part of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the opposition.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, election results, delayed by two days, are due to be released today and may see the incumbant President, Joseph Kabila confirmed in office amid stories of deaths in post-election violence.

In Russia, calls for the establishment of an opposition party and threats of demonstrations against the newly elected Putin Government have been joined by comments from Mikael Gorbachev, and allegations of widespread corruption.

In Poland, my beautiful, wonderful partner is settling into her new job and getting used to working in a foreign country.

But the world continues to rotate, on its axis and in my hotel, the great ex-pat ritual of the Brunch is in full swing; young, affluent families from Scotland, England, Australia and South Africa are gathered to enjoy an all-you-can-eat feast with sushi, roast pork, salmon, and canopes washed down with readily topped up Californian Sparkling Wine and finished off with pancakes and mango sorbet. The warm chocolate sauce cools quickly on the sunrise coloured ball forming a hard shell wich cracks and shatters as forks are pressed down upon it.

In my limited experience, the Weekend brunch appears to be a staple of the western expat across the Middle East. They even have them in Riyadh, where I live. All the high-end hotels offer a Brunch and in a place like Abu Dhabi or Dubai, the decserning weekender can choose the brunch which best suits his hopes for the weekend. Some are merely glorified drinking sessions, frequented by rugby clubs or groups of business men. Others are decidedly more civilised, attracting attractive couples and small groups of families whose small children can run around by the pool under the passive supervision of their parents.

Coming from Riyadh last night, it was the women who filled my field of vision, the colour of their dresses and the shapely liberating float of their hemlines on bare skin are like a tonic to a parched pallet. For it is the women who seem to make the brunch what it is; and what it is, is decadent. The brunches are relaxed but the women dress up in loose sundresses as though they were on a once a week holiday rather than a once a week social.

This, together with the sheer excess and unabashed glamour of the food (I have been at brunches in which oysters are served ice-cold) is deceptive because these are decidedly casual and inclusive occasions. The people at brunches seldom seem to be out-of-place to me. They never seem uncomfortable or tobe troubled by the bleak economics of the United Kingdom or the global economy. Anyway, why should they be? They have the rest of the week to worry about life.

Back in my compound in Riyadh, several of my colleagues will be unhappy. the weekend will have exposed the emptiness and boredom at the heart of their lives and they will have begun to miss the simple pleasures of home: an afternoon pint or a trip to the cinema or the country. Were they here in Oman or the UAE, they might have wives and children with them. There would be brunches to attend and social events. My employers’ Christmas Party takes place tomorrow night in Dubai and from the emails I have seen this week, is likely to be a social highlight for those who are based there.

But whatever the impression given by those lucky enough to live and work in well paid employment here and around the Gulf states, the last few years have taught me that the security they convey is illusory. The global crisis is a page turner wich a lot of chapters still to reveal themselves. My colleagues would look askance at the brunch and feel envy of the lives lead within two hours of work. But even in Riyadh, the swirling winds of crisis can still hit home. Our jobs are not certain and I may yet be chased further around the globe in search of work.

In 1934, five years after the Wall Street Crash, it was still possible to imagine that another war could be avoided, but the depression went on for the remainder of the decade and culminated in conflagration. Our recession/depression commenced in 2007 and may yet last until 2017 and beyond, by which time who knows what forces will have been unleashed, what great pain will have disrupted the happy escapism of the Ex-pat brunch?

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