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.