Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Depressing Tuesday

Another rainy day in Salalah. Kids happily playing in puddles, and others mourning their parents. Yes, more horrific accidents yesterday in this town. Our roads aren't ready for this kind of traffic and most so-called 'adults' out there aren't qualified enough to be sitting behind a wheel in my opinion. Omanis blame the Emiratis. Emiratis blame the Omanis. I blame everyone.  

The number of accidents in Oman this year is just horrific. From January 1st to August 24th, there were 5562 car accidents in Oman, resulting in 740 deaths. That doesn't include the dozen people (at least) who've died in Dhofar since August 24th with the insane tourist rush.

Yesterday a horrible accident near Al Mughsayl in Dhofar killed at least 9 people, 7 of whom were UAE nationals. From the photos, it appears that four vehicles were involved in the collision, a UAE car, an Omani car, and 2 trucks. How fast were these people going? Who was the one irresponsible idiot who caused it? (some say it was the truck drivers, others say it was the UAE driver - in either case the person who caused the death of all those people is either dead himself or will suffer the rest of his life from guilt I hope)

How many dead bodies do you need to see before you realize just how irresponsible and dangerous your driving is?

You being a good driver means NOTHING. It doesn't justify speeding, driving while talking on the phone, not wearing a seatbelt, zooming in and out of lanes without indicating. One TINY mistake and your life (along with the lives of others) is gone. Does life mean nothing to you?

"Inshallah everything will be fine" is complete BS. God is not going to help you if you dont' help yourself. Why should God care about you if you are unable to care about the wellbeing of your fellow humans? Every single time I leave my house, I prepare to die. I drive on the right lane and never go above 80 or 90 Km/per hour. I am constantly checking my mirrors and mentally bracing myself for a collision. Is the driver of that little silver Camry going to be my murderer? What about the young guy in the brand new Toyota Land Cruiser who is tailgating that poor old Indian man? Look! There's an ARMY officer in uniform driving without a seatbelt and holding two phones, each in one hand while trying to manage the wheel with one palm. Surely he's going to kill someone today.

Am I paranoid? No. I've just seen enough dead bodies to remind me that my life is in danger the minute I get on any road here in Oman. Shameful but true. If you are one of those animals who doesn't give a damn about the lives of others on the road, F*** you and your attitude. You are worthless.

Pissed off Gucci.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Invasion Part 2

Salalah is CRAZY. Traffic is insane. It's been raining everyday. Mud everywhere. Tourists everywhere. 94, 713 tourists arrived last week. NINETY FOUR FRIGGIN THOUSAND. (Reminder: Salalah is a SMALL town).

I'm moving to Alaska.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Invasion

Salalah has been invaded. I am not kidding. Ramadhan was quiet in this town and suddenly on the second day of Eid (for some odd reason), thousands of tourists from the UAE, Qatar, Saudi and the North of Oman decided to drive to Salalah for a holiday to enjoy the rainy weather.
Tourists are good, but this is just insane. It took me ONE AND A HALF HOURS to drive from Dahariz to Centrepoint. The traffic was backed up all the way to Saada and we were 'inching'. If anyone is concerned about the state of my right foot after keeping it on the brakes for 90 minutes, thank you.
UAE tourists are even worse drivers than Omani drivers because they're not used to the fact that Salalah doesn't really have a proper highway and speeding in the rain doesn't really work! The number of horrible accidents I've seen in the past five days is just frightening. Police are controlling traffic going into the mountains and other major areas. UAE license plates are everywhere. This isn't even taking into account all the Omanis who've driven down from the North.
The photo above shows what the road into the mountians looks like these days! ROP have been brought in to control the traffic (even in the mountains!)

The weather is cool and beautiful. It was raining all morning today. The beach road along the Corniche in Al Haffa is broken at the Husn end because of the monsoon waves.  
Salalah is out of rented cars, accomodation (people are renting out their living rooms to homeless tourists). And as for the commodities crisis, Salalah is out of milk, bread, barbecue equipment, coconuts and petrol (and was out of petrol at Haima). Rumor has it that 700 cars were stuck in Haima on the second day of Eid because the petrol stations were empty along the Muscat-Salalah route. For a photo of the amusing petrol lineup:
The UAE invasion is so hilarious that many Emirati cars have "We're Not Leaving" painted across their back windows.
Advice to anyone living in Salalah over the next two weeks? STAY HOME. And if you're thinking of coming to Salalah in the next couple of weeks, I advise you to re-think unless you're a fan of traffic and chaos. And for heaven's sake, book your car and accomodation in advance.
Flustered Gucci.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Tribute to Bin Askar

Bin Askar بن عسكر passed away yesterday. Every single Dhofari knows who Bin Askar is, and every single expat as well who knows the old market area. A few decades ago (at least 40 years) a man named Abdulqawi Bin Askar started up a little shop in the old market area in Salalah to sell Dhofari 'necessities'. Slowly, the modern world came knocking at our door and brought with it electricity, television, trade, telephones, cars, etc .... but one thing remained the same; Bin Askar and his shop.

When you drive into the old market area at Al Husn, you'll notice a little shop on the right with pale green wooden doors and a bunch of old anchors out front. It hasn't changed for at least thirty years. One step into Bin Askar's shop takes you back in time. It smells like old Dhofar.

He sold anything and everything exclusively Dhofari. I used to visit his shop as a child. To me, he sold treasures. Lots of them. What are Dhofari necessities you may wonder? Well, traditional fabric for the wizar and for women's thobes and shawls. He sold our traditional indigo wraps that turn us purple in the monsoon. He sold shrouds and other funeral necessities. He sold white Hajj wraps for Mecca. He sold traditional old kohl. He sold frankincense, traditional old perfumes, leather, spices, trunks, locks, chains, rat traps (yes), lanterns, teapots, fishing equipment and tons of other treasures. He raised 16 children from the profits of his little shop. You can see him sitting happily in his shop in the photo above. He was content.  In a rare interview a few years ago he said his mission was to "Keep traditional Dhofar alive". Indeed he has.

I tip my hat to you, Bin Askar. Your legacy will forever live on. Rest in peace.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012



(1) I wish you all a happy Eid and I also hope some of you are coming down to Salalah for part of the holiday. It's beautiful. It's been raining everyday for the past week.

(2)  I just found an email in my junkmail from a company that works with the Oman Football Association (damn Gmail for bringing junk into my inbox, and real mail into my junkmail ) and I remembered the friendly match between the Omani National Football team and Egypt TONIGHT in Salalah at Al Saada Sports Stadium at 9:30 p.m. Get there early if you want a good seat.

(3) More efforts by Saudi Arabia to pretend women don't exist. Saudi is building a women-only city. What do I think? It's shameful.

(4) It's official. Horizon Fitness is opening up a branch in Salalah in the new HUGE hideous salmon pink/orange building on Al Nahdha Street. This makes me very happy. Now if they'd only open a running track for women......  

(5) My favorite Halwa shop (Ahmed Safrar Halwa) opened up a new accessible branch on Al Najah Street. This also makes me very happy because their old branch is deep in the old market area and very hard to access by car.

(6) My thoughts exactly. Except I have to add that I'm not going to miss the insane afternoon drivers.

How are you spending Eid?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Holidays & More

Ahh... .let the holiday season begin! Eid Al Fitr next week (celebrating the end of Ramadhan), Eid Al Adha in ten weeks (celebrating the end of the Hajj in Mecca), National Day, Islamic New Year, etc, etc. His Majesty the Sultan has announced that the public sector get the whole week off whereas the private sector gets Saturday-Tuesday off.
Wednesday evening saw 11 people convicted for what the government is referring to as "illegal gathering" and what sounds like the right to assemble peacefully to me. Anyhow, three of them are well-known activists who have been through enough hell already in the past 18 months (Saeed Al Hashmi, Basma Al Kiyumi and Basma Al Rajhi). One year in prison and a 1000/- fine for "illegal gathering and cutting the road" according to one local newspaper that needs a new translator. Complete BS.
Naturally, we've also made international news. Yahoo News had the audacity to put His Majesty and Muammar Gaddafi in one sentence in their piece here. The Petition Site is calling for Oman to stop denying people their basic human rights here. The Arab Network for Human Rights Information report is here. The Washington Post published a piece on Thursday here. Legal news here.
Overall, embarrassing.
On a brighter note, I was really pleased to read this piece in Gulf News here. Take the time to read it.
Oh, and somehow Dhofari Gucci ended up in The Week's piece "To Say or Not To Say" last week with Andy & BluChi (best known for his activity on Twitter, his food review site Omani Cuisine, and his column in Muscat Daily). I'm not entirely satisfied because my words were played around with a bit (when did I EVER write about domestic abuse? I was just listing topics that could create controversy).
And finally, 11 reasons why you should never touch soft drinks ever again.  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Even More Sentences!

Eight more people have been convicted for their 'negative and defamatory writings' (I believe that means lèse majesté). One year in prison and a fine of 1000/- OMR. Full names, photos in prison uniform, year of birth and place of employment or study were published. A ninth female detainee has been proven innocent and was released. Source: Oman News Agency.

"Justice is paramount, so, justice is taking its course. Does any one have a problem with that?" ~ Mti (one of my favorite readers ;)

Monday, August 6, 2012


Oh how I crave my morning cup of coffee at the office. Ramadhan, Day 17. Thirteen more to go! (or perhaps 12?).

Today's post is a mix of serious and no-so-serious. Humor me:

1. Do you realize Salalah Airport road (the busiest walking area for exercise nerds) now has exercise equipment? For all to use? I think it's hilarious and wonderful. Read the Times of Oman piece here. I'd love to know whose idea it was and whether any brave female is going to attempt using the equipment.

2. Movement on building the bridge over Al Rabat highway in Salalah towards Dahariz. Salalah's first bridge! More here. I hope it helps with the traffic problems we have. I remind you of the failed project to install traffic lights at the fountain roundabout in central Salalah. That was embarrassing.

3. I know plenty of people have been analyzing the blogger/arrests/crackdown/freedom of speech situation in Oman over the past couple of months.. and I've written bits and pieces about it before, but I'm still unhappy. I've been following trial and hearing updates and several things are bothering me.

First of all, in early June it was announced that a group of individuals had been arrested for their 'negative online writings' and that others would be prosecuted if they were caught spreading negative writings or rumors online. For a while back there it wasn't clear exactly what constitutes negative writing nor what triggered the announcement. Nevertheless, the online community was up in arms. Lots of bloggers were nervous and a handful even shut down their blogs!

Slowly it became apparent that most of the individuals arrested – poets, bloggers, writers, and a few naïve college students - were convicted of insulting our beloved head of state, a crime otherwise known as lèse majesté. Most of them were sentenced to between six and eighteen months in jail. Naturally, the writings that got them into trouble vanished off the internet before the public could judge whether the punishments were reasonable. Through the grapevine, I managed to read some of what was written including a particularly stupid Facebook status update by a naïve female college student from Salalah who got sentenced to 18 months in prison.

You all know her chain of derogatory insults had me fuming, and despite calls for freedom of speech, I think such insults deserve some form of warning. There is no complete freedom of speech anywhere in the world. In Oman, we're pretty lucky in many ways. However, despite wanting to murder anyone who insults His Majesty I still don't think a young student's rant on Facebook equals 18 months in prison and a fine. It's a little harsh. Another young writer was sentenced to six months in prison and a fine for holding up a poster that may have indirectly referred to His Majesty although no one can ever prove that. The ambiguity involving their arrests and the details of their crimes is unsettling.

Another incident that has caused fury across the Sultanate and Dhofar in particular is the rather unbelievable publication of the detainees' photographs in prison uniform in local newspapers as well as on television. After seeing those photographs make the rounds on social media platforms, I went from being horrified to being angry. You see, Oman has a history of pretending crimes never happen. On the rare occasion that a photograph of a criminal is published, it's usually for a minor crime and the eyes are almost always blotted out. Furthermore, full names are never mentioned. To our horror, clear photographs of the recent detainees were published in addition to full names, year of birth, hometown and place of employment or study. To most Omanis, this was completely unacceptable. Is it even legal? (a much wiser person than I said it is legal)

Looking back, dare I wonder why the identities of the Omanis involved in the UAE spy network not revealed a couple of years ago? Weren't they the real traitors? (the much wiser person than I said you can't question matters of national security) What about all the murderers and rapists and drug dealers? Why aren't their photos plastered across newspaper pages and broadcast on the evening news? Is it just me or is there something fundamentally wrong with this whole situation? Where are the real criminals? If it's legal to reveal the identities of criminals in Oman, then reveal them.

An interesting detail that may have been overlooked is that a prominent member of the Oman National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) requested to be relieved from her duties because she publicly disagreed with the commission's policy on several issues and referred to the statement made by the NHRC on June 19 justifying the arrests as 'the straw that broke the camel's back'. I tip my hat to you, Dina.

Yet another issue that is bothering me is how the government is referring to all detainees as 'instigators'. I'd like to point out that among the detainees were indeed some activists who were arrested on their way to the oil field strikes to interview workers. How can you compare them to creators of offensive online content? On the other hand, international human rights agencies are referring to all the detainees as 'human rights activists' or 'online activists'. Again, not everyone who posts offensive content online and gets arrested for it is an activist. Beware of labeling. I found Saturday's article by Dhofari columnist Awadh Baqweer rather interesting. It's called "Human Rights Organizations with Hidden Agendas". I'm not saying I agree with everything he says, but I think there is some truth in it.

Naturally, human rights agencies are keeping tabs on all Arab Spring countries and their occasionally biased reports make Oman looks like the next Syria when it’s not. Some of the reports on Oman in the past two months have been downright embarrassing. But who is the international media community going to believe? Not us. Oman has worked so hard to build its reputation as a peaceful and stable nation. It’s sad to see that hard work go to waste because the government couldn't handle a group of outspoken individuals. I'm not a fan of offensive writing but I think the heavy handed approach by the government has triggered the opposite effect. Your thoughts?

4. The US State Department's International Human Rights Report is out. Click here for the report on Oman.

5. Linoleum Surfer is back.

6. I'm still not quite sure what to think about this. Oman never fails to baffle me. Dhofar robbers given 90 year sentences?!!!!

7. I was rather amused yesterday when I received two different reports from SABQ (Oman News Agency SMS Breaking News Service). The first message came at 11:38 a.m "Researchers at Loyola Chicago have proven that drinking iced tea can lead to permanent kidney stones". The second set of frantic messages arrived at 5:25 p.m assuring citizens that Omani meat is safe after Saudi banned it after a Foot in Mouth Disease scare. For more on the meat situation, read lazy Linoleum Surfer's post here.

And finally, come to Salalah. The weather in Muscat wasn't meant for humans. It's cool, breezy, green and even occasionally rainy here!