Monday, September 30, 2013

Salalah Gardens Mall


So, Salalah officially has a mall. A decent shopping mall with good lighting and a nice layout. Interior in some parts is like MGM in Muscat. I'm not a huge fan of shopping malls (claustrophobia), but I did enjoy my 8 a.m. coffee last week when it was practically empty:
My thoughts on the mall:
1) I love the layout. The mall is built around a huge courtyard with fountains and a lovely seating area with plenty of tables and chairs that are packed in the evenings.
2) Around the courtyard are several entrances to the mall including a direct entrance to Home Centre and City Cinema
4) WE HAVE HOME CENTRE! Farewell gaudy hideous Salalah furniture. Hello, decent stuff.
5) Food court is pretty small right now.. there's a McDonald's, an ice cream shop or two, Subway, and I think Harvey's . Haven't been yet so can't confirm.
6) Cafes... ahhhh. Unlike malls in Muscat, the cafes at Salalah Gardens Mall are all lined up next to and opposite one another. There's Costa, Papparoti, Crystal Coffee, and Nestle Toll House (not available in Muscat!). I've been to Nestle twice. They have awesome cookies and bars, soft serve frozen yoghurt in various flavours,  and really good decaf coffee.
7) Restaurants: until now there's Pizza Inn (not recommended until they stock up on ingredients and train their waiters on serving) and Dalas Steak House (a little local eatery owned by someone obsessed with cowboys who can't spell Dallas).
8) Shops: plenty and some international brands that aren't even available in Muscat like Nose and Carpisa. Lots of shoe shops, watch shops, jewellery, makeup, Capital Stores, Smart Diet, abaya shop, fashion stores, pharmacy, hmmmm.
9) Services: several bankshave opened up branches at the mall and Omantel also has a branch. I'm not sure whether Nawras does too.
10) Carrefour.
11) Fun Land or Fun City for the kids.
12) Salalah Gardens Residences (the hotel above the mall)
13) One thing about this mall that I love is that there are plenty of benches inside the mall. I think it's the only mall in Oman with benches in the mall to take a break from shopping.
Overall it's a pretty decent selection for Salalah and there's more to come. I love the idea of the open courtyard in the middle of the mall with seating and fountains/trees. It's perfect for Salalah because we do have lovely weather.
So, it has earned Dhofari Gucci's stamp of approval. I don't see myself going there regularly but I'm glad Salalah has a mall. It's nice for the women and children who don't have places to go to. On my second visit to the mall I was pleasantly surprised to see Dhofari women sitting in the cafes. I thought they'd chicken away from that or their 'male relatives' wouldn't allow it. Apparently not.
Have you been to the mall? What do you think?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Black Widows: Ze Update

Well, thankfully the government issued a statement last night denying that they 'confirmed' the existence of black widows in Oman. They haven't denied the existence of the spiders (that would be stupid), but they haven't confirmed anything yet. So, no reason to panic quite yet :)
On another note, it RAINED for like 4 seconds this morning. Khareef is still very much here (the mountains are beautiful) and I found a slug in my backyard.
Back to baking ....

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Black Widows: Fact or Fiction?

So.... anyone on social media will have seen the nation-wide panic these past couple of days concerning the possible sighting of the deadly black widow spiders in Oman.
Knowing how things work in Oman, it may be a complete rumor. However, the spider in the bottle looks a lot like a black widow, particularly the red marking on the back. I've been doing some Google-ing to find out more about black widows. Fortunately, I haven't had to think about them at  all since I'm not south American.
My Jebbali friends here in Dhofar tell me these aren't black widows and that they are seen regularly in our mountains after the monsoon. Every online forum has been discussing them these past 48 hours and the photos have been going around on people's phones.
So, my two cents (literally)... the government should issue a statement ASAP about the exact type of spider that has been located and how locals should handle it.
As for me, I'm terrified of all types of spiders so you won't find me anywhere near them.. red-backed or not.
Your thoughts?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Outsiders: Update 2

And..... as per an SMS received now from the Oman News Agency, the author and the editor of the article (see below) are being referred to public prosecution and will have to go to court. The Week's website has been shut down. Sigh. Oman, get over it and get a life.
After crackdowns around the world recently on LGBT individuals (Russia, anyone?), Oman is bound to hit headlines soon enough. We've already made it to the BBC twice this week and our human rights reputation has been tainted enough recently.
Fifteen years ago, people were up in arms about journalists even 'suggesting' Oman had an issue with drugs. Now look at the amount of media coverage is dedicated to drugs. We have a hard time being realistic about our issues here in Oman if they don't fit in with the "Peaches and Cream Renaissance" portrait of Oman that our government has been trying to maintain since 1970.
By sending that message out to the public, the government has chosen to make a big deal out of one petty article. Everyone I know is trying to get their hands on the piece. Is this really the right course of action?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Outsiders

A very interesting and controversial episode occurred on Thursday with the publication of an article titled 'The Outsiders' in the weekly magazine The Week.
The article briefly discussed Oman’s ‘gay community’ and how they are ‘findings ways to live life the way they want to’ or something to that effect.’ I looked at the cover page with bulging eyes and the first words that popped in my head were ‘ouch’.
The piece was a brave introduction of the word ‘gay’ to the Omani public in official print, but to be honest I found the piece to be poorly written. The Week can always be counted on to introduce controversial topics and I applaud them for that. However, the topic of LGBT issues is extremely sensitive.
If you’re going to introduce it to the public for the first time, it has to be done with great care and tact. The article failed to do that and it appears to have backfired. This morning I found a big apology on their website and the article appears to have disappeared.
As a Muslim, religious scholars and interpretations of religious texts tell me that homosexuality is a disease. As a human, I respect all humans regardless of their religion, race or sexual orientation. I have gay friends from my time abroad and they are some of the nicest people I know. Reconciling faith and my view of humanity is not an easy task, and I continue to think, struggle, accept, and question constantly.
Regardless of what I believe, I don’t think Oman was ready for the piece. It was a bit graphic and it’s worth noting that Omanis in general are not comfortable with discussing their personal lives in public, let alone their sexuality. When you ignore all this and introduce a piece on same-sex relationships, you can only expect readers to get offended. We are a tolerant country, but then again we are a Muslim one. To suggest that 6-10% of the Omani population is gay was pretty stupid, even if it’s simply a suggestion. Anyway, I hope the author of the piece is safe and that Apex publishing doesn’t suffer too much because of this. My overall view? Oman wasn’t ready.