Dr. Elias Nikolakopoulos is the Honorary Consul of Greece in Oman. For 15 years he was the veterinarian of the Royal Court of the Sultan of Oman. He’s now a citizen of the world and above all an extremely sensitive man - he wouldn’t have been trusted by these imposing animals otherwise. Every adjective that starts with the word "open" can describe him; open minded, open hearted, open handed. The well-traveled Elias Nikolakopoulos has lived in many different countries, has married an Omani woman, loves Greece and tries to seek the human dimension in his life, to understand and to offer anything he can, always, everywhere, to anyone.
By Mia Kollia
Translated by Alexandros Theodoropoulos
An honest confession about how one gets to faraway Oman would be: maybe by accident! Sometimes luck, as we all know, is completely unpredictable. But let's start from the beginning! As a veterinarian with a doctorate and specialisation in horses, I was looking for a job in countries with many horses and, why not, in Royal Stables of the Middle East.
I first went to work in Oman in 2005, but I knocked on their door again in 1999. But then I changed my mind for the second time and chose the University of Edinburgh, where I taught and did research.
When I contacted Oman again in 2005, they still remembered me and I was contacted by the Royal Courtyard hunter, where I was destined to work. After that, everything ran smoothly. I was successful in the interview and I was hired in a country that would change my life radically.
If one sees Oman from an outer point of view, the place is definitely another planet. It has its ups and downs and you must be open to see them all.
There, the Omani people get around mainly in their traditional costumes, white dishdasha for men and black abbaya for women, something that is visually relatively foreign to us.
But when you "enter" their society and interact with them, you realise that they are incredibly similar to us on many levels. When asked to compare, I say that today's Omani society is the Greek society of the '60s. Conservative though - but much less than we imagine - hospitable, it wants you "respectful" and honest and when you are like that, it surrounds you with a lot of love and respect.
As a child I was organisational and social, I liked people and communication. Having changed different countries, continents and environments, for study and work, I had developed the ability to combine different cultures, languages and ideas. I also always enjoyed helping others.
From my early days there, I started gathering the Greeks of Oman for a monthly coffee, something that evolved into a strong habit of the ever-changing Greek society. Everyone knew that every first Thursday of the month we would be in a certain place for coffee.
Regular communication with our embassy of Saudi Arabia, which represents us, was the first trigger of a more serious engagement for the representation of our country and mainly for the assistance of our compatriots. So in 2017 I officially became Honorary Consul of Greece in Oman.
You have to be receptive to listen to what the animals have to tell you. Animals speak to you with their body, their movements and their energy. They talk to you clearly, honestly and without buncos. I was recently trying to explain this in a discussion I had with my sons (one is 6 and the other 8 years old) about the language used by animals and whether I understood it. For them I am Dr. Dolittle and I can talk to all the animals!
They tell you what they like, where they hurt, how they feel and whether something helps or not. If you manage as a doctor to "tune in" to their language, then two things happen. First, you manage to help them overcome their pain and second, you are filled with joy by doing that. This applies to all animals.
With horses one can develop a special relationship because, in addition to being very intelligent, they are really communicative due to their size, strength and particularly imposing presence. Communication and connection with a horse is very refreshing and this can be confirmed by all athletes who deal with horses.
Difficulties are never overcome if you are in a hurry.
When one does a difficult exercise in yoga, one never succeeds with the first attempt. Those who do it for years know that every part of the new exercise must be conquered and integrated into the previous knowledge, and only then one manages to "hold" the position with his body and his breath. Well, that's kind of how life is abroad. You encounter minor or major difficulties, but you adapt and manage to overcome them, creating your own personal perception and situation.
Personally, I’ve been very lucky, as Oman is the third country where I stayed for years, after Bulgaria and Scotland, and because it is a very hospitable, kind and receptive country. Thus, any difficulties encountered were dramatically reduced.
On the contrary, I can safely say that in the first week I fell in love with the place and this love continues to this day.
Unfortunately, we must all bear in mind that inequality is in the nature of life and is inevitable. We all have a social and personal responsibility to help those who are not in the same position with us, but mainly we have the responsibility of our personal progress and improvement. You may be surprised, but everywhere, and in Oman, there are rich and poor, working class and all the social elements we have in western societies.
What is different in Oman, as a Muslim country, is the sense of social responsibility and mutual aid that the average Oman has, regardless of class or economic status.
Charity here is a social and religious obligation, in the form of zakat (tithe). Everyone here, in some way, whether through donations, personal work or purchases, tries to contribute 1/10 of their profits to help their fellow human beings in different ways.
I will give you two typical examples. When someone dies, since they don’t make wreaths here, many people collect money to build a well in the name of the deceased, somewhere in Africa, resulting in some strangers having fresh, drinking water.
At home, we have a habit during Ramadan to cook for the workers of our area, especially during the last two years of crisis. So every afternoon, along with my sons, we set a table outside the house and share food.
How much one misses Greece being far away? That’s a painful story that has been answered by songs and tones of ink. You know, I'm very happy in my new homeland. I miss my parents and friends, but at the same time I have to be able to live without them, whether I like it or not. Of course, a Greek song can bring unexpected tears to your eyes, but these things can’t be controlled, that’s our nature.
It goes without saying that information about what is happening in Greece is daily, the quarrels of the Greek reality and learning through enlargement are a must, and when I think about it in essence, I still partially live in Greece. One is the part that always hurts all the expatriates: The lost time with our parents and the lost moments of joy, and sadness sometimes, of the wider family…
In our lives we wear many hats, we play many roles and we achieve various goals. Now I can say with conviction that of all the roles I have "played", apart from all my professional and personal successes, the greatest, most essential and most important role is that of the father. Everything else really pales in comparison. If I had to single out moments, I would choose the wedding with my wonderful Omani wife and the moment I gave birth to my first son with my own hands.