Real Life

Weekly people: ‘I helped a prince shed 25kg’

A friendship forged in the Waikato led Jen Cuttance to royal duties in Oman.
I helped a prince loose 25kg

“When I was 23, I was living in Hamilton and met a guy called Nasr who was from Oman and studying at the University of Waikato. We became really good friends. When he’d finished studying, he moved back to Oman to get married and put his studies into practice.

“He invited me to Oman and when I arrived at his door, he was wearing a dishdasha (robe). We went out for dinner and I heard the waitress say, ‘I wish Your Highness would come here more often.’

“The next day, I asked Nasr’s friend why the woman had spoken that way and he said, ‘Don’t you know who he is? He is HRH (His Royal Highness) Sayyid Nasr Albusaidi and his father is the Under-secretary General of Foreign Affairs.’

“I had no idea of his status because Nasr treats people just the same, no matter who they are or what they have! He wanted us to be like that with him. He doesn’t have any ego that might go with being a royal family member.

“New Zealanders are also really good at seeing people for who they are, not where they come from, and that made it easy for me to integrate into the society there.

“I formed some amazing friendships – many of them were relatives of Nasr.

After qualifying as a yoga and fitness specialist, Jen returned to Oman, where her clients treated her like family.

“I decided to train as a personal trainer and yoga instructor, so travelled to Australia to qualify. Then I moved back to Oman and worked as a fitness and wellbeing specialist. I helped Nasr lose 25 kilograms, which was very rewarding.

“My clients in Oman travelled a lot, so I had to work around their schedules. They treated me like family.

“I flatted in a villa there with other expats. Omanis are like the Pacific Islanders of the Middle East – very laid-back and welcoming and it’s normal for a taxi driver to ask you to have lunch with his family! They speak English and so many other languages fluently.

“No-one was legally forced to cover up. The women wear an abaya (a loose over-garment) which is really fashionable. I usually just wore a T-shirt to cover my shoulders, paired with baggy pants.

Jen practicing yoga in Oman.

“I didn’t leave the region for three years and I remember on one visit back home, during a stopover in Australia, I thought everyone was almost naked in their little shorts. I think we can learn something from the Middle Eastern modesty!

“The Omani women taught me to bring out the beautiful goddess within – it doesn’t matter what body shape you are, we can all enhance it. The Arab women taught me a lot! They are so proud of their curvaceous bodies and want to look womanly.

“After living in Oman for six years, I returned home to New Zealand last year to be closer to my family. I didn’t want to miss out on seeing my nieces and nephew grow up. Arabs taught me that family is really important.

“It was quite a transition coming back – a culture shock. Now I run my practice in Auckland. I teach clients the connection between the mind and body and how to listen to the body to feel physically and mentally strong.

“And two to four times a year I return to Oman to run health retreats at my clients’ homes. It’s a chance for them to train with me every day for the three weeks I am there.

“We do strength and core conditioning, yoga, meditation and breathing practices.

Jen now runs a practice in Auckland.

“Through my friends in Oman, I also met a friend who is the grand-nephew of the Dalai Lama. Before I moved back to New Zealand in 2013, he asked me, ‘So, when are you going to finish hiding out in Oman?’

“I had my career there but I didn’t have my life there. No family or a boyfriend.

“He told me to ask myself, ‘What do you want to do with your life?’ I said I wanted to help people feel happier on their journey. He made me realise I could achieve that through exercise and yoga.

“He told me to always keep that in mind and I’d be led to where I needed to be! I remember that conversation and that’s what I’m doing now. It has been an incredible journey.”

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