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')