Well, I guess a little post won't do harm since I noticed there was a mention of this on Al Jazeera yesterday. The official line? Omani armed forces were taking all precautions to prevent Al Qaeda militants from crossing the Oman-Yemen border in Dhofar. The US embassy and UK embassy have issued warnings to their citizens to avoid all non-essential travel to Dhofar and to specifically avoid the Thumrait area. Whether we'll ever hear all the details is unlikely knowing how Oman functions, but those of us living in Salalah know there's something up. It would be polite though if the Omani government would warn its own citizens (I know someone who has to attend an event in Thumrait today and they haven't been warned of anything). A little transparency goes a long way especially if there's any threat to civilians.
Thursday, December 26, 2013
Friday, December 6, 2013
I woke up at 5 a.m. today for no particular reason. I knew something was wrong; it was the same feeling I had when other people close to me had passed away in the night. I dragged myself out of bed and opened up Google News. I took a deep breath. There it was. Nelson Mandela had passed away. I sat there staring at the screen battling with my own thoughts and the feeling of emptiness that began to engulf me. Why was I so affected? My family was safe, the people close to me were ok, Oman was ok, Mandela was so far away. He was someone else's president, someone else's father, grandfather, husband,..... but no. Those thoughts didn't win. I went back to bed and stared at the ceiling for over an hour. Judging from my Facebook newsfeed, pretty much everyone I know was feeling exactly the same.
We all knew he was ill and old. It was inevitable. But even that didn’t prepare us for his death. For a few hours or days the whole world is mourning the same person for the same reasons. Forgiveness, peace, humility, love, that’s what he stood for. I remember in junior high in Salalah writing an essay about him for my “Amazing Leaders” project. I couldn’t think of anyone else in the world alive at the time that I would consider a true leader. Since then I have been fascinated by Mandela. I recommend you read some of his speeches and even his book “Long Walk to Freedom” if you are not familiar with his life.
Unfortunately, I was able to hear the Friday sermon at my local mosque today as well. The sermon was about selling our souls to the devil. It was one of the most negative horrible sermons I have ever heard. The word 'devil, sin, punishment, hell' were repeated at least a dozen times each. In an ideal (but not unrealistic) world the Imam would personalize the sermon. He would gather his congregation and talk about the passing of Nelson Mandela. He would discuss the ideals that Mandela stood for. Forgiveness, humility, love. and how they very much reflect the true message of Islam and all religions. In an ideal world, that would have been our Friday sermon. Instead, we got a load of negativity. I felt even sadder.
II spent the afternoon reading up on Mandela's life. It was a privilege being alive while he walked the earth. Despite spending 27 years in prison, he remained a symbol of everything good in this world.
Rest in Peace Madiba.
Yours from Salalah,
The US Embassy in Oman has issued a warning to all American citizens effective today until January 1st. This is the message:
"The United States Embassy wants to alert US Citizens that it has deferred all non-essential travel for US Embassy employees to the Dhofar region in Oman due to threat reporting. This limitation on travel is effective immediately and will remain in place until January 1, 2014 unless more threat information develops at which time a new Consular message will be transmitted. US Embassy personnel based in Dhofar area have been reminded to be aware of their surroundings, to avoid large crowds, to vary their routes and times when traveling or commuting and to continually assess their personal security habits"
I can tell you it's pretty quiet in Salalah today. I'm assuming that warning is related to the Qaeda bombings in Yemen yesterday that killed 50+ people at the Ministry of Defence.