Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Royal Opera House

The new Royal Opera House Muscat program is out (January-March). More details here on Muscat Mutterings, or on the ROHM website. Tickets range from 3 OMR to 55 OMR.

Sultan Qaboos Soccer Cup

And we won .... :)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Dhofar Tonight

Pay attention if you're an expat living in Salalah!

Tonight is the final soccer match for the Sultan Qaboos Cup. Both teams that made it to the finals this year are Dhofari teams (Al Ittihad/green - Nadi Dhofar/red). This is HUGE for us. In both cases, Salalah is going to be on fire tongiht because the cup is staying here.

Furthermore, because both teams that made it to the finals are Dhofari, the final match was moved to Salalah. It's taking place at the Saada Sports Stadium (next to Dhofar university). The game starts at 7:30 (live on TV), but doors open at 3 p.m and people are advised to get their early. Entrance is free, and there's a special section of the stadium for ladies. I'm tempted.

If you notice an abnormally large number of police cars around town, don't worry. However, if you want to avoid traffic jams and thousands of crazed boys hanging out of car windows painted red/green, I advise you to stay home. It's going to be wild when the game is over (around 9:30 I guess). Be prepared to see lots of Madar (Dhofar celebratory dance, usually seen after soccer matches).

In case you were wondering, Dhofari Gucci is a loyal Dhofar club fan, so I'll be wearing my brightest red thobe tonight.


Sunday, December 25, 2011


Ten weeks into my freshman year at college a few years ago (overseas), I experienced my first 'Christmas'. The commercialism confused me because we had nothing like that during Eid in Oman, but I tried to understand. I spent Christmas day alone reading.

During my second year of college, I was invited to spend Christmas with a Christian family and it completely changed my perspective. They welcomed me into their home with open arms and introduced me to their family traditions during this festive time. Televisions were put away, laptops switched off, and mugs of hot cocoa were made. They isolated themselves from the modern world and settled into a few days of pure family. We baked, we decorated the Christmas tree and wrapped gifts and gave to the poor and played Christmas music. I also went to Mass with them out of curiosity. It was snowing and there was a fireplace in the living room. Every moment from that magical time has remained intact in my memory.

From that moment, I have been working (in my own way) to promote religious tolerance among my friends, family and wider audience. I am proud to be a Muslim but I also deeply respect peaceful people of other faiths. Believing we are superior to others in religion or race or culture will not get us anywhere in this life. What this world needs is more tolerance.

I would like to wish all my Christian readers a blessed Christmas and a blessed Chanukah to members of the Jewish faith (the celebration started on December 20th and will continue until the 28th).

Peace - Nadia

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dhofar's DNA

(view from Taqah lookout point, half an hour east of Salalah)

I'm very much looking forward to buying Maria Dekeersmaeker's new book titled 'DNA of Salalah, Dhofar. A Tourist Guide'. Has anyone been to the Family Bookshop in Salalah this week? Is it available? I know a Kindle edition is available on Amazon.com but I'm not a fan of e-anything. If you find the actual paper book please let me know!

From today's Times of Oman:
.MUSCAT: What has Pointillism, a neo-impressionist painting technique got to do with the Khareef? How many tiles were used in the Mihrab of the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Salalah? Which particular role do Dhofar women play in the traditional music of the region? Why is the camel, the ship of the desert, everywhere in Dhofar? What are the crying stones? Why is the Rub al Khali, the Empty Quarter also called the Valuable Quarter?
All these answers and much more can be found in the ‘DNA of Salalah, Dhofar. A Tourist Guide’ written by Maria Dekeersmaeker and printed in Salalah. “Like DNA is a blueprint of living beings, this book tells in 191 pages, with 57 pictures and with particular maps, stories about the past, the present and the future of the southern part of the Sultanate,” says the author.
As DNA influences most of the characteristics of living beings, every chapter in the guidebook contains a ‘main theme,’ a so-called cliffhanger. The particular information expressed in ‘Essentials’ can be interesting for new discoveries or for further explorations. The references to other publications and websites are the tools.
With this book the Belgium author and journalist Maria Dekeersmaeker, based in Salalah, Dhofar, has fulfilled again another dream come true. In 2008, she wrote the novel The Earth has Fever her debut and first dream. ‘The DNA of Salalah, Dhofar. A Tourist Guide’ is available in bookshops in Muscat and Salalah.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Onken is BACK

..... at Lulu's in Salalah. With new flavors. Forgive my obsession with yoghurts. 'Nuff said.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tim Hortons

So according to today's Times of Oman article here, Tim Hortons is opening an outlet in Muscat in early 2012. You heard me right. Muscat Mutterings is going to be a very happy man. They also said an outlet or several in Salalah would be a possiblity. If that's true, then the future of coffee at this end of the country just got brighter. At the moment there are no cafes here that serve real brewed coffee. Brewed beans. Not paper packages you tear open and add to a cup of boiling water. I'm talkin about real coffee. Tim Hortons are also famous for their wide variety of doughnuts *drool*. They hope to open thirteen outlets in Oman by 2013. THIRTEEN. Surely one or two of them will be in Salalah, right? Happy Saturday!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dhofar findings challenge ‘Out of Africa’ Hypothesis

By M Najamuz Zafar - Muscat Daily - 05/12/2011
The recent discovery of stone artefacts from the Dhofar region has challenged the long-held theory that modern humans expanded across the world from Africa. The new findings now point out that humankind ventured into the Arabian Peninsula instead of hugging its coasts, and did so thousands of years earlier than long thought. Lead researcher Jeffrey Rose, a paleolithic archaeologist at University of Birmingham in the UK, who has been in Oman since 2002 and runs the Dhofar Archaeological Project (DAP) in cooperation with the Ministry of Heritage and Culture, told Muscat Daily that the new findings provide irrefutable evidence of a population expansion from northeast Africa into Arabia.

“The question remains, however, if this was a successful colonisation that led to our expansion to the rest of the world. To answer that question, we must continue exploring Dhofar, and to the north, within the Rub al Khali,” said Rose. He added that the new discovery has led to a few surprises. “First, no one has ever considered the Nile Valley as the source of human expansion. Until now, we expected the group to have come from somewhere in East Africa. "This was based on genetic evidence,as well as very early modern human remains found in Ethiopia. “However, with our discovery, it now seems the colonising population moved out from the Nile Valley.

"They were not fishermen, but large game hunters who were particularly well adapted to the open savannah. It is for this reason that they flourished in Dhofar, which was experiencing much wetter climatic conditions at that time.” Second, the expansion took place tens of thousands of years earlier than predicted by geneticists, forcing Rose's team to re-evaluate the genetic dating methods. “This early date may mean the 'great expansion' that occurred 70,000 years ago originated in Arabia, and not Africa. Third, the expanding groups moved into the interior. Not one site was found anywhere near the coast, completely overturning the prevailing coastal expansion hypothesis,” he said.

Confined to the Nejd Plateau in Dhofar, Rose's team has unearthed more than 100 sites classified as Nubian Middle Stone Age (MSA). Nubian MSA artefacts are well known throughout the Nile Valley, but this is the first time such sites have been found outside Africa. A dating technique called 'optically stimulated luminescence,’ which measures how much radiation a mineral has absorbed over time, revealed that the tools are roughly 106,000 years old. “This is considerably older than present biological data that indicates men left Africa between 70,000 and 40,000 years ago.”
So far the researchers have not discovered the remains of humans or any animals at the site. “The conditions are not very conducive to preservation, as all bone breaks down here. "However, Nubian Complex artefacts are associated with modern human remains in Egypt, so it's pretty safe to assume these toolmakers are the same species that was in Arabia,” said Rose.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Grand Mufti of Oman Condemns Royal Opera House (Part 2)

Further to our discussion yesterday, many of you know that in a recent video, His Eminence the Grand Mufti of Oman, Sheikh Ahmed bin Hamad Al Khalili deemed it unacceptable for muslims to visit the newly opened Royal Opera House in Muscat. This has caused an explosion of debate on local internet forums and the Arabic blogosphere here in Oman. I just read a letter to the mufti written by fellow controversial blogger Muawiyah Al Rawahi on his Arabic blog. I'm secretly pleased with all the discussion His Eminence has triggered. It's very important for Omanis to talk about this and figure out where they stand. (and no, I don't think we must stand united)
Following a request from one of my readers, thinker & blogger Balqis, here's the transcript of what he said. It's a pretty short video (48 seconds).

He was reading a question from a paper:

Question: My Mother, may God grant her health and long life, wants to visit the newly opened Royal Opera House to admire the architecture and beautiful designs. Is this acceptable, given the fact that such venues host musical events known to the world as 'opera'. This is the main purpose of the venue.

Mufti: since the dedicated purpose of this venue is music and dance, then visiting it is not acceptable. As for the architecture and designs, they're not exclusive to this location only and can be found at other locations, and Allah knows best.
If you're a conservative Muslim, don't read any further. It may upset you, but I think many younger Omanis share my sentiments. Let me get one thing straight; His Eminence has been around for as long as I can remember and is a very much loved and respected person in Oman. This isn't the only opinion he's voiced which has caused public debate. Earlier this year when Malik Al Mamari, former ROP chief was replaced, His Eminence expressed hope that the new chief would ban all bars in Oman. When cyclone Gonu struck Oman in 2007, he said it was because of our accumulated sins. He's allowed to express his opinions like everyone else. It's a free country.
On one hand, I truly respect him and feel his opinions are valid, but on the other hand sometimes I feel they're irrelevant for me.
The concept of the Royal Opera House is alien to many Omanis, especially ones living in rural areas and villages. In Salalah, most locals don't know what to think so they've chosen to ignore it altogether. According to the last newspaper column from fellow blogger here, a decent number of Omanis are boycotting the ROHM because they feel the money could have been spent on more useful ventures that would benefit Omanis.

Whether His Eminence is keeping up with the modern times is questionable… and whether Islam should keep up with modern times in the first place is also a topic for debate, but in my honest opinion, if you want to instill sound Islamic beliefs in the new (and coming) generations of Omanis, religious leaders must make their teachings relevant.

Our current version of Islam was adapted by religious thinkers over a thousand years ago and many of the laws were developed for political reasons. We follow the Quran, and the Hadiths (Sunna), our second source of Islamic theology. Hadiths are reports of what the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) said and did in his lifetime. Whatever questions the Quran doesn't answer, the sunna supposedly does. Over the centuries, hadiths have been catalogued by Islamic scholars for our consumption. All we have to do is submit to them (or the ones our Imams choose for us). Does that mean we shouldn't think? What if entire phrases have been misconceived? The reality of Muslims hundreds of years ago is very different from our reality today.

There, I said it.

Islam supposedly encourages 'Ijtihad', i.e. the art of independent reasoning, but scholars today don't. Believe it or not, the 9th century Baghdad caliph (highest Islamic authority) Al Mamun encouraged a version of Islam that promoted rational thought. Those were the days of Avveroes (Ibn Rushd) and Ibn Sina, some of Islam's greatest liberal philosophers. A few generations later, the gates of ijtihad were closed and therefore the tradition of independent thought. In the guise of protecting the Muslim nation from disunity (fitna), Baghdad-approved scholars agreed to freeze debate within Islam. From their politically motivated perspective, everything muslims needed to know was already known. If you had a question, that four existing Sunni schools of thought would address it for you.

Here we are hundreds of years later living with the consequences of a thousand year old strategy to keep the Islamic 'empire' from imploding.

Let's get another thing straight; I'm Muslim and I will always be Muslim. I believe in a pure spiritual and peaceful Islam. I also believe in independent reasoning. The Quran may be sent from the heavens, but does that mean man's interpretation of those holy verses is also holy? Of course not. Quite often I feel the interpretations we have of the Quran may not be as accurate as we'd like to believe. The Quran may be sent from God/Allah/A higher being but most Islamic teachings are man-made. You want to refuse to believe that and continue hiding with your head in the sand? Be my guest.
Our problem with young Muslims these days is that we have a new generation of kids who are smart, worldly and able to think for themselves. Like me, they're not ready to be spoon-fed a version of Islam from a thousand years ago. For example, back to the question of music being a sin. Do I believe it's a sin? Not really. Do I believe listening to music non-stop is bad? Yes, because life's too short and I should be out in the world doing good. Do I believe rap music (it's not even music) with crappy language is good? Of course not. Why would I listen to something so negative? But I think I'm able to choose what kind of music I listen to and whether it contributes to me being a better person. It's a question of morals, ethics and independent reasoning. I don't need an Imam to tell me I'm sinning by listening to Tchaikovsky while I do housework.

Another issue that drives me nuts is the battle of religions. I don't believe Islam trumps over Christianity and Judaism because the Torah and the Bible are from God too, right? How can they be infidels when they follow the same God we do and believe in the same prophets we believe in? Do I think Muslims are the only humans who are getting into heaven? Uh, no. Do many muslims think that? Uh, yes. I think having faith, doing good, and being a good person are what matters.
There are aspects of Islam that I feel have been altered. I'm uncomfortable with Islamic teachings related to killing and war. To me as a young Muslim in this day and age, it's irrelevant and disturbing. The Islam I want to follow is peaceful, spiritual and relevant. And I maintain the right to think for myself.

Back to the Mufti's statement about alcohol, I spent five years in a western country at college. College life is all about drinking. I'm confident in saying that I hate alcohol and wish it never existed. I was saddened to see how utterly stupid my peers became after two or three beers. They say it made them feel better, but if you need alcohol to make you feel better than you have a problem. I was saddened to know that most forms of socializing revolved around alcohol and only alcohol. There were no meaningful activities or conversations when alcohol was involved. And furthermore, drinkers made fun of people who didn't drink (even for health reasons, like a dear friend of mine who had a serious heart condition). I stayed away from alcohol and made friends with people who were willing to do things that didn't revolve around drinks. Did I openly condemn drinkers? No. It's their business. Did I go anywhere near alcohol? No. If you drink, that's your life, but my life is so much better without it. The world would be a better place without it.
.Another issue that I choose to apply independent reasoning to is the whole chaperone idea for women. In Islam, women need chaperones when they leave their homes. According to Saudi clerics, women should never drive and should be chaperoned even when surfing the internet. To me, that makes no sense at all. Did I sin by spending five years abroad? I was raised well and my family trusted me. Did I get into trouble? No. Is it a sin to work with men? Apparently yes. But guess what? I don’t want to believe that. . . and I won't. If I apply independent reasoning to this, it just doesn't make sense to me that God would create men and women then condemn women to their homes. I'd like to think that men and women were put here on this earth to do good and work side by side to make this world a better place. Those are just some of the issues that have forced me to re-think the Islam I was taught in school here in Oman.

But you know something? I respect His Eminence the Grand Mufti. I respect all Muftis. Their hearts are in the right place. We need Sheikhs and Imams and Muftis and religious leaders because very few Muslims want to dive into independent reasoning. They want to be told what to believe in. Their faith is what keeps them going. Never mock that. If that's what suits them, then let them be. If that guy really was worried about taking his mother to the opera house, then bless his heart, and he's lucky he has the Grand Mufti to turn to. And I truly respect the Mufti for taking the time out to answer people's questions.
I was born with a mind of my own and I'm sure God intended for me to use it. I read a lot and think a lot and I truly believe the Quran is a beautiful and wonderful holy book and that Islam is a beautiful religion.... true Islam. However, original Islamic practices have mingled in with our Arab traditions over centuries and today we find ourselves with a version of Islam that isn't necessarily the one we were intended to follow. The pillars of Islam and the faraidh فرائض are clear, thank goodness, but so many other teachings leave me with a huge question marks above my head. I choose to apply my own independent reasoning to some teachings of Islam that were developed by men over a thousand years ago and that seem irrelevant to my reality.

Humans aren't perfect, and the men from centuries ago who developed the Islam that we follow today had their hearts in the right place, but that doesn’t mean they were right about everything. Man's interpretation skills can suck sometimes.

Again, I respect the Mufti's opinion and I wish him health and long life. He has every right to speak his opinion and that applies to me and you as well. He's a remarkable person and very dear to us Omanis. His deputy, Asst. Grand Mufti Dr. Kahlan Al Kahrusi is expected to become the Grand Mufti of Oman in the event of Al Khalili's death (may Allah grant him long life). For those of you who are unfamiliar with Dr/Sheikh Kahlan, he is also a truly remarkable person. Believe it or not, he's quite young and very educated/worldly. He spent years studying (and teaching) at Oxford and obtained his Masters and doctorate in Islamic studies from there. Along with his academic credentials, he has a wealth of research experience working at the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs in Oman as a researcher and advisor for His Eminence the Grand Mufti. He was only appointed as the Assistant Grand Mufti in 2010. I had the honor of meeting him briefly right after his appointment and I think the future of Islamic research in Oman is in good hands. I really liked him.

And finally, as outrageous as this post may seem, keep in mind that I'm still learning. That's the beauty of it. That’s the beauty of Islam. I will continue to study and think. The minute your opinions become fixed, that's when you stop learning.

Regardless of what you believe in, I encourage you to post your opinions in the comment section. It's a learning experience for me.
Peace - Nadia

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Grand Mufti Condemns Royal Opera House

A couple of days ago a video surfaced in YouTube of the Grand Mufti of Oman, Sheikh Ahmed bin Hamad Al Khalili (mufti meaning religious leader or highest religious authority in a country) while he was answering people's questions on religion. A guy mentioned that his mother wanted to visit the newly opened Royal Opera House Muscat to admire the Islamic architecture and the Mufti stated clearly that because the venue hosts evils like dance and music, that is it forbidden for muslims to visit such dens of iniquity. Ouch. I wonder what His Majesty feels about that. If you speak Arabic you can see the video here. Your thoughts?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dear Sultan Qaboos ....

Folks, if you haven't been over to Linoleum Surfer this week, check out his latest letter to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, ... here. Don't worry, 'tis all good.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Siam Kitchen!!

Referring to my notes in the previous post about Salalah's first Thai restaurant, the owners posted a comment with directions and a website! I'm so excited! It looks like a very homey place. Pad Thai here I come!
Siam Kitchen: Authentic Thai Cuisine
Location: Dahariz (map available on website)- Al Montazah Road
Website: Siam Kitchen
Delivery: they deliver to the three Salalah colleges (SCT, Applied Sciences & Dhofar University) five days a week for lunch.
Menu: available on website.
Contact: 9331 4736

Happy Holidays Everyone! (and Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers & those of you at the US embassy who read this every morning :-P)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tuesday Clippings 22/11/11

(Darbat Waterfalls in Dhofar during a good monsoon)

Good Morning! It looks like Tuesday may end up being 'clippings day' for the moment.

1. Abalone season ended two days ago. Production this year stood at 135,000 tons. Yup, that's a lot of abalone. Someone sent me an email asking me to point out that many of the abalone divers in Dhofar are women. Yes, it may sound strange coming from a conservative society like ours, but our women are excellent divers. (and now that the season is over, not only are they excellent divers but very rich divers as well! Most of the abalone is exported to East Asia (usually China & Japan), and is usually sold at around 80 Rials per kilo, but it can go up to 100 Rial or more depending on the type).

2. If you're planning on visiting Salalah for the upcoming very long weekend (Thursday 24th - Monday 28th), the weather is pleasant but dry. No cyclones or winds or dust storms. But you'd better book your tickets/hotels now because there are tons of European tourists here at the moment.

3. In addition to making it to Lonely Planet's top 10 places to visit in 2012, National Geographic has named Oman among the top 20 destinations in 2012. Wow. Read the full list here. This makes me very happy.

4. There was an event two nights ago in Salalah honoring "100 Women from Dhofar" for their achievements. The Minister of State cum. Governer of Dhofar was the guest of honor according to this crappy article from Oman Observer, (who writes these articles? A computer? Or do they use Google Translate?). Who were the 100 women? Details, anyone?

5. Camel Burgers: never thought I'd see the day, but apparently there's a restaurant in Salalah that has become rather famous for its camel hamburgers. Camel actually tastes good but I can't quite imagine what a burger would taste like. The directions someone gave me earlier were actually wrong. So, if you have any idea where this restaurant is, let me know please and we'll spread the love :)

6. Speaking of restaurants, apparently Salalah has welcomed its very first Thai restaurant as well. It's a tiny restaurant called the 'Siam Kitchen' and it's located in Dahariz (I was told on the beach, but I'm not sure). It's run by the Thai wife of an instructor at one of the local colleges, and rumor has it that she's bringing her aunt over from Thailand to cook. Thai food cooked by Thai people? YES PLEASE! (if you have directions, let me know and I'll post them here).

7. I've posted this before, but I'm reposting again because I think it's hilarious. "15 Signs You Might Have Been in Oman Too Long".

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Holidays Announced

Oh yeah ... oh yeah ... oh yeah ..... as predicted the Islamic New Year holiday and National Day holidays have been merged into one long weekend. Folks, the holiday starts on Saturday the 26th and ends on Monday the 28th. Add the weekend to that. FIVE WHOLE DAYS. Congrats!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Oman: The World's Hostage Negotiator

Interesting piece published in Foreign Policy Magazine a couple of days ago following the release of the three French hostages who were being held by Al Qaeda militants in Yemen. Oman is trying reeeal hard to get that Nobel Peace Prize.

Written by Uri Friedman for Foreign Policy Magazine - Nov 14th, 2011
Yes, it's Oman to the rescue yet again. Today we're learning that the Omani government helped negotiate the release of three French aid workers held by al-Qaeda militants in Yemen. A Yemeni tribal mediator tells the Associated Press that Oman and a Yemeni businessman paid an unspecified sum to the militants, who had been demanding $12 million in exchange for the hostages.
The state-run Oman News Agency reports that Oman's ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, directed officials to "provide all facilities" to help France in recognition of the "distinguished relations" between the two countries. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, for his part, has "warmly" thanked the sultan for his "decisive help." The aid workers crossed the Yemeni-Omani border by car, flew to Muscat on an Omani military plane, and then left for France.
If this scenario sounds familiar, that's because it is. In 2010, Omani sources paid $500,000 bail to win the release of American hiker Sarah Shourd, who had been detained by Iran along with her fiancé Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal a year earlier for straying across the Iran-Iraq border. This fall, Oman shelled out close to $1 million for the release of Bauer and Fattal. A diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks indicates that Oman helped secure the release of British sailors captured by Iranian forces in 2007 as well.

How did Oman become the Denzel Washington of Middle East hostage situations? The answer lies in Oman's pragmatic, Switzerland-esque approach to foreign policy. In 1970, Qaboos -- who maintains a tight grip on power and who Robert Kaplan has described as the "most worldly and best-informed leader in the Arab world" -- overthrew his father in a palace coup and set about transforming an isolated and unstable country into a nonaligned regional power. In the 1980s, for example, Oman somehow managed to maintain diplomatic relations with both sides in the Iran-Iraq war while backing U.N. Security Council calls to end the conflict.

This diplomatic balancing act has enabled Oman to enjoy good (but not excessively cozy) relations with both Iran and the U.S. and its Western allies. Qaboos, a supporter of the Shah before the Iranian revolution, has eschewed the hostile stance that Gulf neighbors like Saudi Arabia have adopted toward the Islamic regime. Instead, Oman and Iran cooperate to secure the Strait of Hormuz, which divides the two countries and transports 40 percent of the world's oil and gas.

"Oman views Iran as the strategic threat to the region but has chosen to manage the threat by fostering strong working relations with Tehran," a 2010 U.S. diplomatic cable explained. Iran, for its part, may not view the small sultanate as much of a threat and may value the alliance as it grows increasingly isolated. Oman has pressed Iran to negotiate with the U.S. over its nuclear program and even offered to facilitate secret talks.

America's friendly relationship with Oman, meanwhile, dates back to at least 1841, when Oman became the first Arab nation to recognize the U.S. The sultanate has a free trade agreement with the U.S. and has permitted American forces to use its military bases in the past (in 2010, however, Omani officials strongly denied reports that they had discussed deploying U.S. missile defenses in the country).

Oman's role as a key interlocutor between Iran and the U.S. was underscored last month when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Qaboos following the revelation of an alleged Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. "We would expect that Omanis would use their relationship with Iran, as they have in the past, to help the Iranians understand the implications of what they're doing," a U.S. State Department official noted during the visit.

The hostage deals, then, may represent just one more weapon in Oman's arsenal for neutralizing threats to regional stability like the political paralysis in Yemen and deteriorating U.S.-Iranian relations.

In a 2009 diplomatic cable, the U.S. ambassador to Oman informed an Omani foreign affairs official that securing the release of the three American hikers in Iran would "remove an unhelpful irritant" between Washington and Tehran. When Bauer and Fattal arrived safely in Muscat two years later, an Omani foreign ministry statement expressed hope that the deal would promote a "rapprochement between both the Americans and the Iranians" and "stability in the region." Oman's millions have yet to accomplish those elusive goals, but they have purchased several people their freedom.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tuesday Clippings

(photo taken in Taqah Castle)

Good Morning Everyone! Only one more day until we hit a much-needed weekend. Going back to work after Eid Al Adha holidays was ... blah. Here are some bits and pieces from this week:

1. I did not write a Eid Al Adha post because this Eid was truly uneventful. Men went to prayers, animals were slaughtered, meat was distributed, several family visits took place, and the pilgrims came back from Mecca. That's about it. I think because Eid Al Fitr was only eight weeks ago, the atmosphere wasn't too exciting. The Eid that follows Ramadhan is big because we really feel we earned it ... and unlike other parts of Oman, Dhofaris don't have specific Eid Al Adha traditions like Shuwa although sometimes I wish we did :)

2. MORE HOLIDAYS! Since National Day is November 18th and the Islamic New Year is on November 26th, rumor has it that both holidays will be merged into one long weekend at the end of November. Makes sense since His Majesty can postpone National Day holidays, but he can't change an Islamic holiday. So, Dhofari Gucci is predicting a holiday from the 23rd to the 27th. If that's the case, I might catch a plane to Muscat and do some much-needed therapy shopping.

3. I know I'm late and other bloggers such as Andy have blogged about it, but can I mention how stoked (happy) I am about Muscat being voted 2nd best city to visit in 2012 by Lonely Planet? Makes me so proud of Oman. I think the Royal Opera House just took tourism in Oman to a whole new level.

4. Speaking of tourism, I'm not a huge fan of medical tourism since I prefer to be treated at home, but apparently there's a huge market. (if you have at least 10 relatives who've been to Thailand for treatment and tourism raise your hand!) I blogged about this before, but it keeps popping up in the news everyday, so I'm just reminding you that Salalah is going to host a HUGE medical complex worth ONE BILLION dollars (Saudi investors). The project - covering 800,000 sq m- will include a 530 bed hospital as well as a regional organ trasnplant and rehabilitation centre. The thought of having an organ transplant centre here in Salalah totally creeps me out, but that's just me. I'm just wondering what kind of people this project will attract .... (to read more, here's an article from Arabian Business) .... any idea where the project is being built?

5. Yesterday, three French aid workers were freed from Yemen after being 'lost' for several months. The official Oman News Agency kept sending messages out saying they were 'lost' in Yemen (in Arabic مفقودين) ... so I googled it and as it turns out, they were held hostage by Al Qaeda militants. Why couldn't ONA just say that? And is the Sultan going to continue rescuring hostage westerners on a regular basis? I wonder how much these three cost. The three American hikers whom he freed recently from Iran cost us $1.5 million. So, yeah, Sarkozy called last night to thank him. Dear Western hikers/aidworkers/volunteers ... please stay away from dangerous Middle Eastern countries.

6. This article on empowering women in Oman was published yesterday. If you have the patience for Oman Observer lingo, read it. (lingo? Example: "the realisation of the proposals have started to gain momentum as a result of holistic approach of addressing the concept"..... who writes stuff like that?!)

7. Our papaya woes may soon be over here in Salalah! As you know, Salalah is famous for papayas and bananas, but unfortunately about a year ago, over 400 papaya farms were attacked by the evil mealybugs who ruined our papaya crops. For a year, it's been hard to find papaya and when you do buy some, it's usually very expensive and not very good. I haven't eaten papaya for a whole year, and I live next door to several papaya farms. Apparently, international scientists have been brought in to look for a solution and they will be distributing 100,000 new papaya seedlings to farmers in Salalah in the coming weeks. Folks, we may have our farms back a year or so from now! Read more here.

8. Only five more days to go before abalone fishing season is over! As you may already know, Dhofar is famous for abalone. After a 3 year ban (to renew reserves), this year over 5600 divers (Yes, all in Dhofar) fished for abalone. The cyclone warnings and angry sea slowed the divers down last week, but they're back in full force. Read more here.

9. Lulu Salalah is out of Onken. Sad day for me.

10. There's an Arabic calligraphy exhibition taking place this week at the Oman Society for Fine Arts (next to KFC on the highway). The exhibition is on till November 25th. Check it out if it tickles your fancy.

11. Last but not least, the sweetest piece of news.... Trygve Harris makes me happier everyday. After her success with selling frankincense ice cream in Al Haffa Souq in Salalah during the monsoon festival, she's starting up a business in Oman and will be producing frankincense ice cream (and candy) on a large scale by February. This is so damn exciting!!!!!!!!! My frankincense creativity has been limited to a drop of frankincense water in my tea, but ice cream? Oh yeah! Can't WAIT to try it. I'll let you know when I hear more. Read the Times of Oman article here.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Uhhh.... despite the cyclone warnings for Dhofar, NOTHING HAPPENED. Sheesh. Not one drop of rain.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

more weird weather

forgive me for i am again laptop-less and unable to use proper punctuation on this wretched phone. just wanted to let you know that there are still storm-warnings out for the whole of oman this week. the north of oman is still being affected by the storm from iran and it was raining in sohar and muscat. believe it or not, there was even a hail warning. hail in this heat?!
meanwhile, the second tropical cyclone out in the indian ocean is expected to affect the sharqia and dhofar regions in the next three days. anything from light rain to thundershowers. the police have sent out warnings to all fishermen to avoid sea at all costs. i hope they take the warning seriously, and goodness' sake please please please stay away from wadis. i'm sure most of last week's deaths (were they 14?) could have been prevented if people just stayed away from the wadis.
that's all for now folks. a little more eid visiting then yours truly is going to collapse for a couple of days.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Saturday in Taqah

Good Evening & Eid Mubarak! If you're in Salalah this week, go check out Darbat waterfalls just outside of Taqah. Despite all the Ministry of Tourism advertisements, the waterfalls only run every few years, so it's a real treat to see them come alive after random rainstorms.


more crappy iphone typos! my laptop is away being formatted, so until then bear with me.

according to the ministry of climate (i know the name is longer), there are two new storm activities that may affect oman in the next few days. the one we've had these past few days is now weak and moving towards yemen. there's a new cyclone moving from the north of iran towards oman and according to the official statement from the government, we should expect rain in oman on the second day of eid. as for the third weather issue, there is a cloud formation off the western coast of india that may develop into a cyclone in the next 3 days. they promise to keep us updated! what a week for oman, eh?

Friday, November 4, 2011


more updates on the weather situation:
1) according to authorites approximately 20 minutes ago, the danger is over and rain is expected in dhofar in the next 24 hours. the storm is weak and life can go back to normal.
2) it rained last night and this morning in salalah until 11 a.m.
3) the waterfalls at darbat are running (first time in years). for some incredible photographs, check out faithful mahfaif at tahyati.blogspot.com (see my blogroll)
4) the flight situation yesterday was insane. my cousin (in the dhofar football club) was stuck with the team for 7 hours yesterday at muscat airport. the 10 am flight took off for salalah, arrived in salalah then turned around and came back without landing. the 2 pm flight was delayed and they still didn't know whether they were going to salalah at 9 pm (8 hours in the airport!). the 3:30 flight was delayed until 8:35 pm then delayed again. the 7:20 flight was delayed then evidently took off and landed safely as well. all those people were stuck at muscat airport. not many left the airport because then they'd lose their bookings and may not be able to find another flight before eid. thing is, all of them were checked in before they heard their flights were cancelled. and no, oman air did not send our text messages to passengers nor post information on their website. in fact, the 2 pm flight wasn't even on the flight information screens. those poor passengers.
5) the reason my punctuation sucks today is because i'm typing thjis on my iphone and it won't let me blog using capital letters. forgive me.
cheers, nadia

ps (his majesty freed 156 prisoners tonight)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

More news

it's official folks. 11 people are dead until now and there are several people stuck in wadis. ... all flights to salalah were cancelled today and there are hundreds of frustrated passengers in departures roaming through duty free. evidently a plane landed roughly yesterday at salalah airport during bad weather and damaged the runway. does anyone have more information about this?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Weather Update

(The Aftermath: Al Nahdha Hospital in Muscat this afternoon)

Wow. Well, it's been raining non-stop in different parts of Oman today (heavily in Salalah and Muscat). Unfortunately there has been bad flooding in Muscat. Most of you may know already that Al Nahdha Hospital is under water and that all patients were evacuated and transferred to Khawla Hospital & the Royal Hospital. Apparently several parts of Ruwi are flooded as well.
As for Dhofar, it has been raining heavily in town and in the mountains. The road to the town of Sadah east of Salalah is blocked and the coast guard had to come to the rescue (same situation in Mahoot, where over 100 families had to be evacuated due to dangerous flooding). Apparently a girls' school has partially collapsed in Hadbeen, a tiny village east of Sadah. Rumor has it that six people have lost their lives (the info was given on an Arab channel but we have yet to hear an official statement from the ROP, and I doubt we'll ever hear one even if there were deaths). According to students in Salalah, a young man from Rustaq drowned in a wadi last night. They gave me his name, so I'm inclined to believe them.

The question is .... why wasn't the government prepared for this?!!! Why weren't people forewarned? People following Wunderground and Tropical Storm Risk knew it was coming and knew how bad it was days ago, so why didn't authorities prepare people? It's embarassing what happens to this country after a little rainstorm! There wasn't even any wind in Muscat today and you can see the damage a day of rain can cause!

PS (On a more positive note, Darbat Waterfalls in Dhofar have come back to life!!!!)

What in the world....

I haven't seen sheet rain like this in Salalah since the last cyclone hit!! Be careful. According to authorities, the current weather situation is going to continue to affect Oman (all areas except Musandam) for the next 24 hours, then it's supposed to calm down. Fishermen have been warned to stay away from the ocean and the wadis (valleys) are already running. Problem is, it's Wednesday afternoon. Everyone's driving home to their village for Eid holidays. Not to sound pessimistic but I fear car accidents and endangered lives. Some people just don't understand the danger of driving through wadis. The police have sent warnings out but that won't stop people from going home to their villages and towns. I hear it's pouring heavily in Muscat as well. What's it like wherever you are?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Weather Update

Folks, the weather down here in Dhofar is awfully strange this week. Yesterday and the day before we had heavy winds and dust. Suddenly last night there was one clap of thunder and it started to rain. It rained throughout the night and this morning the winds are strong again, there's garbage blowing around everywhere and the sky is rather dark for a November morning at 9 a.m.

Monday, October 31, 2011

It's Raining!!!!!!!!!

Mini update: it's raining in parts of Salalah now, and evidently there's been heavy rain in Al Shuwaymia. Eek.

Dust Crisis in Salalah

Right, so instead of the rain we were expecting this week, Salalah has been hit with the worst dust winds I have seen in a long time. There are leaves and branches and thousands of plastic bags blowing around. Our palm trees look like they're going to topple over. People think it's a storm coming.

Anyway, be careful when you're driving through town today and tomorrow. Don't speed because the wind will try to push you off the road. I've seen a couple of accidents already. Also, be careful on the highway. A couple of trees fell down between Rabat Palace & Um Al Ghawarif roundabout. And most of all, if you wear an abaya, stay inside. I 'tried' to go outside and my scarf ended up blowing 'up' and my abaya was blowing all over the place. Sheesh.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Holidays Announced!

Eid Al Adha holidays for the public sector start on Saturday November 5th and end on Wednesday the 9th. We get the whole friggin week off!! WOOHOOOO!!!!!!!!!! .... as for those of you in the private sector, you get four days off and work resumes on Wednesday the 9th.

On another note, check out Muscat Muttering's post on the new labor law amendments. Very interesting.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

In Thesiger's Footsteps

Salalah is buzzing with rumors of a British adventurer Adrian Hayes ' plan to to closely follow the route of Wilfred Thesiger's first crossing of the Empty Quarter, travellig by foot and camels from Salalah in Oman to Abu Dhabi in the UAE, via the Empty Quarter of Oman, Liwa and Al Ain - a distance of over 1500 kms. These are not rumors. Their journey commences tomorrow morning, 30th Oct 2011 and ends (Inshallah!) approximately 45 days later. Adrian will be traveling with two Emirati army officers.
from his website:

Footsteps of Thesiger Expedition 2011
It's been an idea for nearly 20 years since I served on secondment to the Sultan of Oman"s Armed Forces in Salalah in the 90s; taken 2 years of detailed planning with infinate challenges; and I'll only believe it's 100% happening when I mount my camel in 3 weeks' time, but the "Footsteps of Thesiger" expedition and project has finally been officially announced. The expedition is a re-inaction of the journeys of late British Explorer Wilfred Thesiger, otherwise known as Mubarak Bin London, who crossed the Arabian Desert (Empty Quarter or Rub Al Khali) twice between 1945 and 1950 with his two Bedu companions, Salim bin Kabina and Salim bin Ghubaisha of the Rawashid tribe. Our expedition will also comprise of one Brit and 2 x bedu - myself together with Saeed Al Mesafry and Ghafan Al Jabri, who were selected from a trawl of nominations in June. We aim to closely follow the route of Thesiger's first crossing of the Empty Quarter,travellig by foot and camels from Salalah in Oman to Abu Dhabi in the UAE, via the Empty Quarter of Oman, Liwa and Al Ain - a distance of over 1500 kms, commencing 30th Oct 2011 and finishing approx 45 days later. The expedition and accompanying TVdocumentary, filmed by award winning documentary makers. TwoFour Productions from the UK, has 3 pillars as follows: * A historical look at Thesiger and his travels * The modern day re-inaction expedition journey and challenges * The culture, heritage and changing lives of the Bedu of the deserts of Oman and the UAE. There are no records, no longest, quickest, highest, furthest attempts on this journey and it's not even a first - Canadians Bruce Kirkby and Jamie and Leigh Clark admirably did this in 1999 with 3 Bedu guides and 12 camels for which I take my hat of
f for their even managing to even get to the start line! Our objective, not least mirrored in the make-up of the team, is to attempt the journey with a much smaller party and authentic means of travel integral to Thesiger's journey's as much as physically possible. It is a totally different desert and World in 2011 than it was in the 1940s, of course and that is part of the objective of the documentary and book which I am presently writing. And finally, on the subject of integrity, I am not claiming to do this for any charity, the environment or any other cause. It's a commercial historical re-inaction through and through which I both love doing and is part of my job. My quest and work on economic, social and environmental sustainability continues unabated, but this expedition isn't directly part of that cause. Many thanks to Abu Dhabi Culture and Heritage and Abu Dhabi Media Company for making this happen and to the Ministires of Tourism and Information Oman for their partnership on the project. More thanks and news to follow shortly

Back in 1999, 3 Canadians attempted the same adventure (and I had the honor of meeting them and their camels!). According to my sources Al Baleed road from Haffa to Dahariz is closed right now because Adrian and his companions are at Al Baleed Museum (official event). I'll update you if I get hold of more information. In the meantime, say a little prayer for them. You can follow their journey on their website 'In Thesiger's Footsteps'.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Onken in Salalah!

Dear Readers,

Take note that Lulu Hypermarket Salalah is now selling Onken yoghurts. The day has come. I am truly blessed. I'm sharing this with you because sharing is caring.

On another note, beware. Frantic Eid shoppers are on the loose. AND it's payday for most people. Take my advice and stay home.

Yours Truly - Gucci

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

NACA Cancer Walk

Mornin' Folks! If you're in Muscat today, PLEASE go out of your way to join the 8th annual NACA Cancer Walk. The walk is scheduled for 4 p.m to 6 p.m today. Meet at the Ministry of Justice in Al Khuwair. Do it for the people in your life who've had cancer or who died of cancer. And a nice walk with other people who believe in the same cause will probably inspire and motivate you. If I were in Muscat, I'd go (pink grill shades and all!).

Sunday, October 23, 2011


I'm in a better mood today, I promise.

(1) Feminism: to all the Omani males who read/commented/ and emailed me about my last post, I understand what you feel and I agree that women play a vital role in their own freedom... however, you need to empower, encourage, show them what's possible. And to all the open-minded sensible men out there, you rock!

(2) Oman: The New Explorers: I watched this video yesterday from Brand Oman and thought it was awesome. I'm not 100% sure what the story is behind it, but I love it anyway. Read the description below the video. Filming is amazing.

(3) Royal Decree: many of you may have heard of Dr. Abdullah Al Harrasi. He was the head of the Oman Encyclopedia project and teaches at SQU. He's also a blogger, and simply an incredible person. I think he's on a sabbatical now, but yesterday he was appointed as the new chairman of the National Authority for Television & Radio in the position of minister! Congratulations!!

(4) Tackiness: if you're in Muscat, check out Oman's latest movie "Search for the Impossible". Tacky title, tacky PHOTO. Salim Bahwan, you wrote the script, directed the movie, produced it AND get to hold the gun? Jeez. I have no faith in Omani television. Nuff Said. If you have better reviews, post a comment and I'll publish.

(5) Politics: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton paid a visit to our tiny country (according to every single article on the visit). I'd link you to Muscat Confidential's analysis of her visit, but his blog appears to be blocked. (?)

(6) Junk Food: the old (sniff) Pizza Hut on Salam Street shut down last week and the new two-storey Pizza Hut opened up next to Baalbeck Restaurant on 23rd of July Street. I went there last week with my sisters and was impressed with the decor and ambience. HOWEVER, although it was the day after the grand opening, half the stuff on the menu wasn't available. There wasn't even any lettuce in the salad bar. The pizza we ordered took 47 minutes to arrive. The waiter who served us didn't speak Arabic or English. We asked for mayonnaise three times, he went to the kitchen and then came back and stood at the salad bar daydreaming. We ordered Diet Pepsi and he brought Mountain Dew instead. We ordered a large salad and he brought a small plate. He dropped a fork on my sister and smeared her abaya with French salad dressing (orange) without apologizing. He almost knocked my drink over when he put the pizza on the table. I left there feeling like a nervous wreck. Serves me right for eating junk food. Never again.

(7) Gaddafi's death was disturbing. The videos of his body being dragged through Serat and him begging for mercy and being killed were just too upsetting. Why run those same shots and videos again and again and again? Seriously, media, get a life. I know he deserved it, but does that justify those horrible acts of murder and torture? No. We're not any better if we do that. There's just something wrong with the whole thing. Kill him and get it over with. God can deal with him afterwards.

(8) On a more cheerful note, Wednesday is only three days away and Eid holidays are coming up in a couple of weeks. If my calculations are right, Saturday Nov 5th is Yom Arafa (a holiday, the last day of Hajj) and the Eid would be Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Thankfully, we have a generous and wonderul Sultan who will probably give us Wednesday off as well. So, I'm hoping for the whole week. Please pray with me. I really really really need a holiday.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Omani Women's Day

Mornin' Everyone! His Majesty Sultan Qaboos declared October 17th 'Omani Women's Day'. Today and everyday I'm proud (naturally) to be an Omani woman living in this country. I complain a lot (I know I know), but to be honest I live a much better life here than I ever did abroad. Legally, Oman rocks for women. We can work, drive, vote, and pretty much do (and wear) what we want. There are no laws controlling how women live their lives. Last week the first sailing program for Omani women was launched.. we have female ministers, doctors, professors, entreprenuers, and ONE female in Majlis Al Shura (our version of parliament). 43% of private sector jobs apparently are held by women (according to today's Muscat Daily). All in all, Oman is a great place for women.

My rants have always been about how 'society' controls women, not the government. Our government gives women every chance to excel if they want to, ....... and if their fathers, brothers and husbands want them to.

If you live in Muscat and you're a female in yours 20s-30s, that means you probably work, drive, meet your friends for coffee, and make your own decisions most of the time. If you live outside of Muscat, the situation is different. When people read about Oman, they are more likely to read about women in Muscat. Their achievements, their privileges, their opportunities, and the awesome lives that they live. Women's sailing clubs? Why not! Afternoons with your friends banana-riding it at Sawadi resort? Bring it on! Female bikers? Sure! Gyms? Shopping? Businesses? Hobbies? Sports? Swimming pools? Everyone loves Muscat!

I can't speak for the rest of Oman, but in Salalah life sucks half the time for women. I'd like to think that everything is just fine, but I have to be honest. Men still control most of the women here. Women are chaperoned, controlled, and told what do do most of the time. Sure, tons of girls go to college or university but the moment they graduate, men control where they apply for jobs, and whether they can work or not. You work hard at college, get your degree, then your 'man' tells you that you are only allowed to work in a school or any place where your colleagues will be women.

He can tell you to 'cover your face' when you're with him in the car because some passerby might see you. He can tell you to not sit in the garden because the neighbor's twelve year old son is on the roof. He can forbid you from visiting your friend (who lives up the street) because she's not related to you and it's therefore inappropriate. He can tell you to hide in your bedroom becuase the plumber is coming in to fix your toilet and he shouldn't 'see' you. He can force you to tint your car windows so people don't see you when you're driving. He can pop into your office at any time to 'check up on you' and make sure you're behaving. He can demand a portion of your salary every month because your'e a 'woman' and you don't need it whereas he does. It can be your father, husband, distant cousin or even your 16-year-0ld brother. As long as he's a man, he can control you.

I hate to sound pessimistic but I can't lie. This is the case with a large percentage of females in Salalah. Things are changing rapidly but it'll be years before your average Dhofari young woman can apply for her dream job without consulting her family, or sit in the public section of a cafe or restaurant with her friends, or even throw off her face veil without causing World War III in her tribe.

As many of you know, I spent five years abroad. FIVE WHOLE YEARS on my own. Cooking for myself, living by myself (almost), and taking care of myself. I ran the MSA (Muslim Students' Association) by myself and traveled halfway across the world twice a year on my own and believe it or not, I lived without the abaya (please distinguish between abaya and hijab. I would never ever take off my hijab) for five years. Scandalous. (no one cared though, as long as I kept it all to myself and far away from Oman)

When I came back for good, I felt like an outcast. I made my extended family nervous. My aunts and uncles were nervous about letting their daughters hang out with me because I may lead them down the path of sin (for real?). I quit going to family weddings because people stared at me and whispered. It's not that I look different, but people just looked at me and assumed that I was a wild thing. Until this very day, three years later, my female cousins have never been in the car with me. Too scandalous for their families. Going out with me may - heaven forbid - encourage people to talk about them. Remember, 'people' control how you live your life here, so you have to follow their rules.

When I bought my adorable car, about 1633 distant male cousins openly objected. My father humored them when all I wanted to do was tell them to sh*ve it! For years he's been telling me to just relax and humor the so-called 'people' who feel it's their duty to tell you how to live your life. I've become accustomed to humoring them most of the time, but every now and then I lose my patience.

For the past two years, people have been approaching my family regularly about my 'situation' (i.e. unmarried and way too independent for their taste). According to them, I'll be a spinster forever unless I get married now. Also, according to them, no one wants an independent female so it's better to accept any man who comes along and thank my lucky stars that someone agreed to marry such a wild thing.

People still see me driving in the street and feel the need to report to any man in my family that I was 'seen' in 'public'. If I'm at a restaurant (hidden in the family section with my sisters), I text my brother and bet 5 rials that someone is going to see my car and call him and tell him I'm at the restaurant. He thinks it's hilarious.

After endless discussions about this with my independent female peers, we've come to the following conclusion: "In Salalah, if you're a female, you can work and drive and go out and live your life .... as long as you're not 'seen' by anyone". Basically, try to remain invisible. My friends have come to accept this as an unwritten rule, but my question is ... WHY accept? Why conform? What's so wrong about being out there? WHY can't I give the plumber instructions instead? WHY must I cover my face when we're driving through a crowded place? Why can't I join a committee at the handicapped children's centre? WHY can't I talk about Female genital mutilation with anyone? (why the hell is it still practiced in the first place?) Why does it make my male cousins uncomfortable to think of me working with men? Why does it upset you so much that I drive? Why must I tolerate you marrying a second wife? Who gave you the right to inform me that 'it's time' to get married? Who gave you the right to demand my salary because I'm a woman and I don't need it? Why the hell is it taboo now to fly to Muscat on my own when I spent five years flying across the planet alone? Why?
I struggle on a regular basis because I'm a woman in Salalah. Along with my peers and friends, we've agreed to slowly work together to push the boundaries. People tell us to just go along with the society, because it'll never change. I refuse to believe that. We will continue pushing boundaries until we can pave the road bit by bit for Dhofari women to live the life they choose. Along with fellow female Dhofari bloggers Susan & Mimi, I will fight against discrimination and I will win. I believe that. I am able to see how women have progressed in Muscat and I am able to envision how I can help to bring about change in Dhofar and I can help to empower women.
On the occasion of Omani Women's Day, I will renew my determination to make change happen. If you're a woman, belive that you can do anything. Throw a pebble in the water and watch the ripples. Even the smallest person can make a change. I have faith in Oman and I have faith in Omani women. We can do SO MUCH if we just set our minds to it. Anything is possible. Do not give in to society's demands. You are beautiful, you are smart and with a little empowerment you can do anything. Believe in that.


Nadia (your self-proclaimed feminist)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Results of the Elections

So, from 7 a.m to 7 p.m yesterday tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands?) of Omanis went to place their votes for Majlis Al Shura 2011-2015 (closest Oman will ever get to having a parliament). I did not vote because elections in Salalah are driven by tribal power and at the moment, there's no point. None of the my peers voted either. According to Twitter, 24,074 people in Salalah voted for 2-seats out of 32 candidates. Looks like a protest leader got the highest votes. Quite interesting. In Taqah (a town east of Salalah), the winner was also a protest leader who was in jail for 52 days after the army took over Freedom Square Parking Lot on May 12. I'm impressed. I thought you weren't allowed to step forward as a candidate with a criminal record.

So, winners in Dhofar are:

Taqah: Salim Mohammed Salim Al Mashani (protest leader)

Thumrait: Salim Said Salim Ghawas

Salalah: Salim Suhail Al Sum Bait Said + Salim Ali Ahmed Al Kathiri

Rakhyut: Mohammed Salim Issa Al Amri

Sadah: Ramis Amer Al Mahri

Mirbat: Salim Mohammed Faraj Al Shahri

Shaleem & Hilanyiat Islands: Maktoom Al Mahri

Maqshan: Saleh Al Shashai

Dhalkut: Ahmed Salim Ali Rafait

Mazyoona: Salim Said Al Harizi

As I anticipated, no women won in Dhofar. One of them walked away with over 100 votes, but that's about it. For Salalah, Salim Bait Said walked away with around 5000 votes according to my sources, but I'm waiting for official information. The second person had over 2000 votes. Said Saad Al Shahri (former Shura member) almost won again, but Salim Al Kathiri beat him by 170 votes. Keep in mind that tribal committees counted voters ages ago, and could calculate who would win. No surprise for Salalah. If you want to see the total list of winner from Oman, here's the link. Only one woman made it to Majlis Al Shura in Oman even though there were 77 female candidates. Tsk tsk.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Shura Polls!

Mornin' Folks! If you're voting tomorrow, here's useful information for you:

(1) Voting starts at 7 a.m and will continue until 7 p.m

(2) Bring your ID card.

(3) In Salalah the two voting centres will be Al Saada School (girls' high school in Saada, near the colleges of techology and applied sciences) - if you're not voting, avoid that area. Bound to be hell. The 2nd voting centre is Khawla Bint Hakeem high school (near the hospital). Also avoid that area if you're not voting.

(4) Tomorrow was declared a paid holiday for any voting Omani. If your employer demanded proof, the voting centres will be providing a voting slip to anyone who asks for it.

(5) Authorities have announced that tomorrow will be a 'historic' day for Oman. Excuse me? It's just Majlis Al Shura. I enjoyed this article in Muscat Daily by fellow blogger Susan.

(6) For info on other voting centres in Oman, read here.

May the best men win! (highly doubtful that any Dhofari female is going to win, since they're completely unqualified in my opinion.... gym manager? frankincense shop owner? Give me a break and take Majlis AL Shura a little more seriously, will you?)
Cheers - Gucci & her mug of bold coffee

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

New Decrees.

Morning Folks! Two days ago, this was in the newspaper:
"His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said has issued Royal Decree 95/2011 amending some provisions of the Publications and Publishing Law.
Article one: Article (26) of the said Publications and Publishing Law shall be replaced with the following;
Article (26) "It is prohibited to publish anything which may prejudice the safety of the state or its internal or external security, all that is related to military and security apparatuses, their bylaws and internal regulations, any documents, information, news or official secret communications whether the publication is through visual, audio or print means or through Internet or any of the information technology means unless permission is obtained from the respective authority. It is also prohibited to publish the text of agreements and treaties concluded by the government before they are published in the official gazette.”

Bad new for Al Zaman newspaper trial (see Muscat Confidential's post here) .... and I wonder whether this means we're allowed to continue blogging about Wikileaks concerning the Sultan or the government? At this rate, it looks like everything and anything is illegal. Were the photos of the army arrests during the protests illegal? What about spreading rumors about when Eid holidays will be? Is that considered confidential information? Jeez.

In the meantime, it looks like Saturday is a holiday for any Omani who is going to vote. I haven't decided yet if I'm voting and whom to vote for, but what I know for sure is that Saturday = beauty sleep. Happy Weekend Everyone!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Woohoo! Ban lifted on abalone fishing in Dhofar!

Sooo... I was really pleased to see this in the newspaper a couple of days ago. Abalone means a lot to us Dhofaris. It may be expensive (despite what the newspaper says, I've watched people sell one kilo for 100 OMR) but it really is a treat.

Muscat Daily - 3/10/2011
The three-year ban on abalone fishing in the country has been lifted. With the decision, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MoAF) has once again allowed harvesting, selling and exporting of abalone, a shellfish that commands good prices in the Far East.
Before the ban was enforced, abalone fishing was a strictly regulated activity and permitted only in November and December, when the mollusc was thought to be fully grown. But with the new rules, the fishing season has been restricted to less than a month. “The ban is over, but fishing is allowed only from October 20 to November 15,” said an MoAF official.
With the highest yield per kilo among all Omani fisheries products, abalone was targetted by local fishermen using free diving methods, leading to a sharp decline in catch. Over-exploitation of the species’ habitat was also reported, resulting in an overall decline in population.
To check over-exploitation and streamline fishing activity, the new rules prohibit catching abalone with a shell less than 90mm long. Catching the species from a depth of less than three metres is also not allowed. Other regulations include a prohibition on possessing, selling, purchasing, transporting or exporting abalone during the ban period. Fishermen and companies dealing in abalone need to register their catch with the ministry within 15 days of the end of the season.

The use of diving gear like oxygen cylinders and spotlights is also not allowed for fishing. Fishermen can only catch abalone during the daytime, with fishing between sunset and sunrise prohibited. To preserve the habitat, they cannot overturn rocks in the process of fishing.
Abundant in the Dhofar regi-on, mostly in Mirbat and Sadah, abalone sells for as much as RO60 a kilo when dried and exported to international markets. Most fishermen who depended largely on abalone because of the high returns had to turn to other avenues when the ban was put in place.
“The new regulations allot priority to fishermen from Mirbat, Sadah, Shalim and Halaniyat Islands, where abalone is concentrated. While new licences are available to fishermen from these areas, others interested in fishing abalone should have had a licence issued before the new regulations were passed,” said the official.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New Blogger!

Finally someone in Nizwa! I found her blog through Andy's this morning. With Dan & Jillian in Sohar, a few of us in Salalah, a few more than a few of you in Muscat, and now our new Cat Bird in Nizwa, Oman's English blogging community just gets better everyday. Ladies & gentlemen, a hearty welcome to Nomad in the Land of Nizwa!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

$1 Billion Medical City planned in Salalah

Oman Observer - MUSCAT - October 01, 2011

A Saudi based business house plans to establish a Medical City in Salalah with an investment estimated at $1 billion. The project will be promoted by the Apex Medical Group (AMG) whose founding president Dr Abdulla Aljoaib, President of Aljoaib Holding, said it would house the region’s first multispecialty organ transplant and rehabilitation centre of excellence.
Regional media quoted Dr Aljoaib as stating that the project will be integrated with a 530-bed multispecialty hospital and a state of the art diagnostic centre, healthcare resort and healthcare educational complex. The massive development, which Dr Aljoaib said, has the backing of the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Health, will be established on an 800,000 sq metre plot overlooking the Arabian Sea.
According to AMG, Medical City Oman — as the project is dubbed — has the potential to have a major impact on the range and quality of medical and surgical services provided in the Middle East & North Africa. “We firmly believe that the Medical City Project will bring significant benefits not only to the healthcare sector in the region, but also to the economic and social development of GCC countries.

The GCC is currently facing a gap in secondary, tertiary and specialised care and in rehabilitation services. There are various factors that influence the need for a multispecialty hospital and transplant centre in the GCC. Furthermore, there has been a tremendous increase in life style diseases which require specialised high quality organ transplant services within the region,” Dr Aljoaib stated.
The Medical City Oman promises to be a world-class medical education, research and development facility with internationally recognised strategic partnerships will facilitate academic and service excellence in the Mena region. In addition, The Medical City will also have a Healthcare and Education Complex, Healthcare Resort with Upscale Hotel, Wellness & CAM Center, and several other support services establishments.
With a strong commitment to exceptional healthcare, the project’s AMG Endowment programme will also offer free medical and educational community support services to poor and needy families who would not otherwise be able to afford such services and treatment.
Dr Aljoaib also mentioned that the Academic Medical & Research Centre of this project would be managed and operated by a most renowned North American Hospital Group. Similarly the AMG will collaborate with the world’s best Transplant & Rehabilitation centre operators and managers for the operation of their world-class organ transplant and rehabilitation facility.
Dammam-headquartered Aljoaib Holding Aljoaib has business interests spanning: Oil and Gas, Healthcare, Project Management, Fabrication, Water Treatment and Environmental Services, Electro-Mechanical Components, Agriculture and Irrigation Systems, as well as QC, Geotechnical and Engineering Consultancy Services. The company also has branch and regional offices throughout Saudi Arabia, as well as in Dubai and USA.

Note from Me: (Organ transplant centre?! Creepy, since I just finished reading the novel "Never Let me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro')

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What the hell happened to freedom of expression?

WTF, Ministry of Justice? What the hell. Shutting down an entire newspaper and sending an editor and journalist to jail for 5 months doesn't speak well for Oman's justice system or its reputation as a 'peace-making' nation. I can't say more than that. If they can shut down a newspaper for a pathetic little article, goodness knows what would happen to a humble little blog. It's as if our protests earlier this year never happened! Back to the same old crap.

Taken from Muscat Daily (yesterday's issue):

Nearly 30 human rights activists held a demonstration before the Ministry of
Justice in Al Khuwayr on Sunday in protest against the court verdict in the
Azzaman newspaper case. The court had ordered closure of the newspaper and
sentenced its Editor in Chief and reporter to jail for five months for insulting
the Minister of Justice and his undersecretary.
“This is a complete violation of human rights. We are seeking freedom of expression and are protesting against misuse of power. We are also holding this demonstration to express our solidarity with the employee of the Ministry of Justice, Haroon Humaid al Muqaibli, who was also sentenced to five months in jail by the court,” said Habiba al Hinai, an activist.
“We want the government to understand our feelings as citizens. That is why we held this demonstration in front of the Ministry in Al Khuwayr,” added Said Sultan, another activist. “The media in Oman has been a silent spectator for years. Now, they have started reporting the actual events happening in the country. Jailing an editor and a reporter will send the wrong signal to the media community. ”
The appeal by the defendants will be heard in the Court of Appeal on October 15. Oman News Agency reported that an official source at the Public Prosecution said that the primary court judgment is not final and that the Court of Appeal has the authority to affirm or reverse the judgment in favour of the defendants. He added that the trial procedures have been according to the laws and legislations of Oman and in a way that secures the rights of all litigants.