Muscat: An Indian expatriate who spearheaded efforts to set up some of Oman’s most well-known restaurants is heading back home with a lifetime of memories, after 45 years in this country.
Yogesh Shah, who recently retired as the head of the Khimji Ramdas restaurants division, was integral to bringing brands such as Taco Bell, Fuddruckers, Café Vergnano and Laderach to Oman. The biggest impact of his legacy, however, is the arrival of Pizza Hut into the country.
Initially headhunted by Khimji’s to open two outlets in Oman – one in Muscat and the other in Salalah – Pizza Hut currently has 45 restaurants across the country since its arrival in 1988. Yogesh was also integral to the opening of The Indus, a well-known upscale restaurant at the Galleria attached to the Royal Opera House Muscat.
“I was presented with the right opportunity to explore the F&B industry in Oman,” recalled Yogesh. “I relied on my instincts at that time and decided to take the plunge and God has been kind that I got to live here for 45 long years!
“I first arrived in Muscat in 1980 when Oman was undergoing major developments,” he added. “Muscat back in the day was quite different. There were very few roads with only a few pockets of residential areas and no malls or hypermarkets. For entertainment, there was just one theatre.
“I remember very often standing in the heat at the public phone, having to shell out so many coins to make a single call that would last for a few minutes,” he said. “I would post handwritten letters to my family, which would reach Mumbai only after a month, and by the time they received them and replied, it would take another month for their responses to come here. Life then was very different. Of course, with time, technology grew and life evolved.”
Yogesh first heard of Muscat when a Lebanese gentleman visited the Oberoi Sheraton in Mumbai in 1979, where he was employed at the time. While interacting with Yogesh, he mentioned to him that he was looking to set up a five-star hotel in Muscat and was looking for someone with a good hospitality background. It was destiny that brought Yogesh to Oman as one of the seven people recruited to work at Gulf Hotel, which is today known as Crowne Plaza Muscat.
Even so, when his first stint in Oman ended in 1985, he thought he was done with the country, knowing little that he would be brought back just three years later, with his family in tow.
“If there’s one thing that best describes Oman and its people, it is their kindness and their humble attitude towards everyone,” he explained. “I have had the pleasure to work alongside many Omanis for many years and their kindness and generosity inspire us daily. Not once have we ever felt like this place is not our home, and we have always felt so welcome. It is as if we are part of their family. Oman is such a peace-loving society and its willingness to learn and grow is very inspiring.”
It is this friendly attitude in the country – along with many other desirable traits – that made Oman a country where Yogesh wanted to raise his family and give them a good life.
“When it comes to world rankings, Oman often ranks at the top as one as the most peaceful, cleanest and safest countries to live in,” he added. “Oman is truly the best example of a multi-cultural society where people from different countries live together in harmony.
“The roads and the infrastructure and the lifestyle here are unparalleled. And of course, for nature lovers, this place is truly a paradise. There’s so much to explore within Oman that no amount of time spent here will ever be enough!”