Saturday, August 29, 2009

The great unwashed of the Omani Sabla - Blasphemer 'exposed'

A nice post on Omani Legal Eagle BlueChi's blog, highlighting the recent experience of Omani blogger Muawiyah Al Rawahi and his post suggesting Omanis who wanted to, should be able to buy alcohol in an off-licence or booze store, in addition to the (currently legal) practice of Omani's being able to go to a pub and drink there. (unfortunately Muawiyah blogs and comments almost entirely in Arabic, but he did try in English here).

As Blue Chi says (reproduced here without license)

The Arabic community was outraged by Muawiyah’s public discussion of a social and religious taboo: drinking alcohol. Though previously celebrated in forums and other blogs for his commentary and criticism of public figures and government practices, Muawiyah has been criticised and personally insulted on a number of online discussion boards for his “unislamic and immoral opinions”. A single thread dedicated to criticise and attack Muawiyah on had more than 12 pages of comments AFTER deleting all the ones which were regarded by the staff members as ones that violate the rules of the forum. An Omani member of over a 1000 posts who claims to be currently in Australia asked the administration to ban Muawiyah completely from the forum because of his suggestions to disobey religion.

The outrage in the Arabic community is bizarre to some extent, mainly because the sale of alcohol is legal in Oman. Yet it remains socially unacceptable for most people, and it is of course prohibited by religion. The majority of commentators in Arabic forums cannot seem digest the idea that alcohol has always been legal in Oman. This reminds me of how I always tried to explain to my classmates earlier this year about different social norms in Oman, and how things could be legal, yet socially and religiously unacceptable (e.g. drinking alcohol), or legal and religiously permitted, yet socially no longer acceptable (e.g. having four wives)....

LMAOFOFL - and well said Blue Chi.

The sabla in Oman are - it seems to me - dominated by the very young (essentially unemployed students), with little in the way of true adult life experiences, and almost all the Omani members are typical products of the 'brains off' religious brainwashing that has been successfully applied to them.

It's like being lectured about smoking by your 12 year old sister.

Poor Muawiyah as been threatened with banning from the Sabla ('oooohhh!'), and accused of being non-religious, a traitor, evil, that he should be punished, etc etc. As if the act of having a few drinks is, by definition, Un-Omani, unpatriotic, or even, dare I say it, an idea worth considering.

And what he says makes A LOT of sense. Afterall. Who is making the money from the vast sales of illegal alcohol to Omani? [Because don't try to tell me it ain't happening kiddies, you SQU Pollyannas!]

And it is basically legal in Oman anyhow, even for Omani!!! (Its not like he's suggesting being an atheist, ie an Apostate, or something else that carries the death penalty to those religious wackos that unpatriotically follow diktats from Iran or Saudi instead of the Law of the Land).

His point was essentially that either it should be totally illegal and banned for at minimum all muslims, or that the authorities should get real and loosen up a bit, and not just allow the wastafarians and the rich to get access.

Man, what an uptight bunch of preachers these commenters are! (And funnily enough, the root cause is something that wouldn't let most of the female members even study in the first place, and certainly not overseas!). You'd think we were in Sudan, or Somalia, Pakistan or Saudi perhaps, rather than tolerant Oman.

Fascists everywhere would approve of such anti-free speech stuff. And especially the tactic of immediate personalisation of the issue, rather than debating in on the actualité. 'Playing the man, not the ball'.. as it were. "You are accused of being Un-islamic, and we shall therefore banish you but we're totally incapable of holding a civilisaed discussion based on facts, rational arguments", etc.

Unfortunately, these nutters have a lot of company. Even in the UN. (and it takes a lot to make me agree with the infamous right-wing nutter Lou Dobbs - America's own Essa Al Zedjali!!! But Chris Hichens is a star):

George Orwell would laugh too - well, he would have laughed in an artistic, ironic, sort of bitter sweet, tuberculosis way.

Muawiyah. Keep it up. You are a star too. I don't agree with some things you say, but I support your right to say it, and the fact that you are brave enough to even ask some questions has been highlighted by this episode. Maybe you'll see the humour in this video ...

Cheers. I'm having a Ramadan G&T and toasting you.

For info, Here's a typical rant from the sabla: apologies for the autotranslate... Basically, I understand the argument is that by suggesting such a thing, he's polluting peoples' minds with ideas that are un-islamic and therefore must be banned.

وجدت أنه من الأنسب التعقيب في موضوع منفصل -تسهيلا للقاريئ- على ما جاء من المدعو معاوية أدناه في موضوعه الاخير والذي نقله وأعاد تسويقة في سبلة عمان المدعو ليت لي جناح ، ومما لا شك فيه أن أي مادة تنشر هنا هي قابلة للنقد والرد والأخذ فأرجو ان الجميع يتقبل الأمر بصدر رحب . Found it appropriate to comment on the subject of a separate - convenience to the reader - it came from a certain Maaouya below last theme which was quoted and re-marketed in Oman called Ubuntu Refer me, there is no doubt that any material published here is subject to criticism and rejection and the introduction, I hope that everyone accepts it with an open mind.

أركز على الفقرة أدناه بعدما تجاوزت عدة فقرات لي أيضا تحفظ كبير عليها بيد أني تجاوزتها لضيق الوقت ولأن هناك إخوة آخرين قاموا مشكورين بالرد عليها . Focus on the paragraph below, after more than a few paragraphs I also significant reservations, however, I am overtaken by the time constraints and because there are other siblings have thankfully responded.

الكاتب أعلاه يعاني من تخبط في طرح أفكاره التي يدعو إليها ..فهو يرى أن كل فرد في المجتمع ..سيئ أم حسن طالح أم صالح فاسد أم مصلح ملتزم أم فاسق عاقل أم مجنون لص أم مؤتمن صادق أم كاذب شاذ أم معتدل مدمن أم صحيح قليل أدب أم مؤدب وضيع أو رفيع ..يجب أن يعبروا جميعاً عن أفكارهم وسلوكهم وأن يفتح المجال للجميع أن كل يغني على ليلاه ، إنها نظرة قاصرة ونظرة فعلا تنبئ بالخلط في فهم أن الخير والشر لا يلتقيان أبداً والخبيث والطيب لا يختلطان إطلاقاً ....معاوية هنا يشير بصورة غير مباشرة ويحتج الى الاخ العزيز موسى الفرعي عن رفع موضوعه الاخير والذي استقبل به رمضان وهو يطالب بتخفيض سعر الخمر !!! Author above suffers from confusion in putting his ideas advocated by .. he felt that everyone in the community .. good or bad or wicked or favor corrupt or committed to a reformed punk sane or insane thief or honest or trustworthy false anomaly or moderate true addict or a few literature or polite and wasted or thin .. must express all their thoughts and behavior and open space for all that each sing own fancies, they look inadequate and look really predict confusing to understand that good and evil can never meet and the good and bad do not mix at all .... Maaouya here refers indirectly to protest and dear brother of Moses to lift the sub-theme of the latter, which was greeted by calls for Ramadan, a rate cut wine!!! وحينما رصع موضوعة بصور آنية الخمر وحدد أماكن تناولها وأشاد بالخمر العُماني الأصيل أسقط دموع التماسيح على المساكين الخمارين والسكارين في البلد من فئة الفقراء والغلابا ...وصورها كأزمة يعاني المجتمع في اطار معالجته لمشاكل المجتمع في فلسفته الموسومة (الجدد) فكل شيئ عنده جدد (الشواذ الجدد ، المطاوعة الجدد ، الكتاب الجدد ، الوطنيون الجدد ، الخمارين الجدد ....الخ من قائمة الله العالم متى تنتهي ) لذا وجب القول ، أن موسى ليس هو المسؤول ...إنما هذا المجتمع العماني الاصيل الذي أسلم طوعا وحبا لرسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم منذ أكثر من 1400 عام ونيف يلفظ شواذ الفكر وشطحات النفس الخبيثة ...يلفظها لأنه مجتمع متحضر متجذر لا تصادر معتقداته وعاداته وتقاليده وغيرته بجرة قلم ...سيظل هذا المجتمع حائطاً منيعاً بإذن الله لكل من يحيد عن الطريق ...صحيح أن المجتمع ليس معصوما من الخطأ ..وصحيح أن هناك من يسرق ويفسد ووو...لكن الأصح أن المجتمع يبقى أصيل بعقيدته الاسلامية السمحة ...يحب الله ورسوله ...يغار على أبناءه ...والأهم يغار على عرضة ..لا يشرع الافساد أبدا ويسعى للصلاح والاصلاح دوماً ..فأبناء سبلة عمان هم ليس كلهم مطاوعة -إن صحت التسمية-...لكن هم كلهم يرنون الى طاعة الله عزوجل وقادرون على طرد الخبيث الذي يتغابى عليهم يكتبون ويتناقشون ...جميعهم ينتمون لهذا المجتمع فخورن به راغبون في تطويره وتحديثه ولكن في الاخير هناك حدود وهناك لقاء مشترك على مسؤولية الكلمة وأمانة الحروف لا عليهم إن قيل عنهم صبية فقد قيل أيضا عن صحابة رسول الله-صلوات الله عليه- صغار وصبية ..المهم يعكسون الشخصية العُمانية ..بكل ما تحملة من قيم ...وكل ما تحملة من إرث وبكل ما يؤرقها اليوم وتتطلع إليه في المستقبل ...أبناء سبلة عُمان سيظلوا أبدا ودائما ما يميزهم في الواقعية التي تنبض من مجتمعهم وليس ممن يريد تغير المجتمع وإحلال الفوضى مكانه ويصارع في ذلك طواحين الهواء ....بحثاً عن بطولة مزعومة وحرب موهومة ... When placed pictures of real-studded wine and select the locations covered and praised the wine, authentic Omani dropped crocodile tears for the poor and Alchmarin Alscaren in the country and category of the poor ... and pictures Algba society suffers a crisis within the framework of its treatment of society's problems in the philosophy of tagged (new), everything has a new (gay neo-neo-plasticity, new writers, new national, Alchmarin new .... etc. from the list of God, when will the world), therefore, must say, that Moses is not responsible ... but this authentic Omani society in which Aslam voluntarily and love for Allah upon him for more than 1400 year and a bit of thought and utter gay exaggerations Malignant Self ... uttered, because civilized society is rooted not confiscate his beliefs, customs and traditions and jealousy stroke of a pen ... This community will remain an impregnable wall, God willing, both deviate from the road ... It is true that society is not infallible .. It is true that there are those who steal and spoil Wu ... but rather that his faith community remains a genuine Islamic tolerant ... love God and His Messenger ... jealous of the children ... and most importantly for his jealous .. not prescribed corruption never seek for righteousness, reform always .. sons Ubuntu Forums are not all compliant - if correct name -... but they are all eager to obey God the Almighty and able to expel pernicious Itagaby write and discuss them ... all of which belong to this community are proud of the willing development and modernization, but ultimately there are limits and there is a joint meeting on the responsibility of the floor and the Secretariat of characters are not they told that their boys it was also on the companions of the Messenger of Allah - peace be upon him - and young boys is important to reflect the personal .. Oman .. in every sense of the values .. . and everything carries the legacy and all haunted by the day and looked forward to in the future ... people will continue to be Ubuntu Forums never always distinguish them in realistic pulse of society and not for those who want to change society and establish a place of chaos and fighting the windmills in search of .... Championship alleged illusionary and the war ...

فأي منتدى أو صحيفة أو أي ناشر إعلامي لا بد أن يتحلى بخط أخلاقي بما يمكن نشره ، هذا الخط يعتمد على القوانيين والاعراف وعادات وتقاليد وعقيدة البلد أو المجتمع (وفي حالتنا المجتمع مسلم والتشريع الاساس دين الاسلام ) ولا يمكن جعل هذا الخط فاقد البوصلة بلا حد أو حدود ، إن نشر أي مادة في منتدى ما لا بد أن يحقق عناصر النشر من حيث الهدف والمضمون والفائدة ، ان مادة النشر يمكن أن تتحول الى مادة غير صالحة للنشر إن هي خالفت ما أشرت اليه من قوانيين وعقيدة وذوق وأخلاق الشارع العام ولم تحمل لا هدفا ولا مضمونا يفضي الى شئ كما وهي غير موجودة في نظام أو إطار ما لحوار أو مناظرة أو نقاش ما ينتج علاجا أو حلا أو يوحد خلافاً ويتقيد به جميع الاطراف فيه بالحجة والبرهان ، إذا تأتي هذه المادة لتشكل فقط أداة هدم وهي بالتالي بذرة فساد وإفساد What kind of forum or any publisher of a newspaper or media must possess a moral line as it can be published, this line depends on the laws, norms, customs and traditions and the doctrine of the country or community (in our Muslim community and the legislation basically the religion of Islam) can not make this line lost without a compass or extent limits, the publication of any article in the forum do not have to bring elements of the deployment of where the aim, content and interest, a substance that publishing can be transformed into a substance not fit for publication if it is contrary to what I have referred and the doctrine of Guanyin and taste and morals of the street did not take an objective and content lead to something as it does not exist in the system or framework for a dialogue or a debate or discussion or the resulting treatment solution or otherwise unite and abide by all the parties to the argument and proof, if you come this article is only a tool and therefore the demolition of seed of corruption and corrupt

فهناك إذا من يعاني من خلل ما وخلط واضح وتناقض في تحرير المادة المنشورة ويتعامل معنا وكأننا نعيش في مجتمع ملحد أو علماني أو مادي أو بلا قيم ولا غيرة ولا قانون ولا دين ...وأن كل سفيه (المخاطب ليس معاوية لكن التسمية موجودة في أدبيات القرآن والسنة ) مجبرون على تقبل سفاهته وتطاوله على الاسلام والمسلمين بدعوى الفكر تلكم الشماعة التي يُرفع رايتها لتكون بردا وسلاما على نشر هؤلاء بضاعتهم الفاسدة التي تفيئ قيحاً وصديداً من نفوسهم المريضة التي هي أحوج للعلاج من التنظير لها على أنها فكر ..إننا بهذا نغتال الفكر ونحدده بسخف القول وبذائة المنطق وانعدام الذوق ...الفكر أسمى من ذلك والفكر يقبل الاختلاف ..لكن لكي شئ آدابة وأخلاقة وحدوده بما يشمل الفكر نفسه ..وإلا الفوضى هي المنتج الحاصل إن نحن شرعنا وقبلنا بمبدأ كل يغنى على ليلاه ، واعتبرنا ما نشره سلمان رشدي أو نشرته تسليمة نسرين أو رسام الرسوم الكاركاتورية عن الرسول فكراً واعتبرنا المواقع الاباحية وما تنشره فكراً ، واعتبرنا تفسير المصحف على أيدي الصهيونية فكرا ويجب الافساح له بين أوساط مجتماعاتنا وأبنائنا وإلا نكون منغلقين متطرفين متحجرين ، والاسلام دين السماحة والقبول بكل شئ !!! If there is to suffer from the disorder and confusion and clear contradiction in the liberation of the published material and treats us as if we live in a society or a secular or an atheist or non-material values or any other law and not a religion ... and that all impertinent (Interlocutor Maaouya but the name is not found in the literature of the Qur'an and year) are forced to accept Svahth and profaning Islam and Muslims under the pretext of thought that telecom Chandler championed to be coolness and peace for the deployment of these wares corrupt complies with pus and pus from the sick souls that are most in need of treatment from theory to them .. they thought we assassinate this thought, we identify Wackily obscenity of speech and the lack of logic and thought of my taste ... and thought it accepts the difference .. but nothing to etiquette, ethics, and its borders, including the same thought .. and chaos is the only product we started winning and if we accept the principle of all sing own fancies, and we consider the publication of Salman Rushdie or published by Taslima Nasreen or artist fees Rkaturip thought about the Prophet, and considered pornographic sites and published in thought, and we consider the interpretation of the Koran at the hands of the Zionist ideology and to clear him to be among our children and Mojtmaatna otherwise be locked Tjerin extremists, Islam a religion of forgiveness and acceptance of everything!!! هذا التنظير الخطير الذي يحاول البعض هنا التأسيس له على الرغم من أنه لا يقوم الا على هزيمة نفسية داخلية سيؤدي الى أخطار كارثية حتما إن تم التساهل معه ، إن سياج الايمان مهدد الآن ليس من الاعداء فحسب ..بل ممن يفترض أن يكونوا في الصفوف الأولى لحمايته في وقت فعلا أشبه ما نكون بالقصعة التي ينهشها الجميع . This dangerous theory that some are trying here Establishment him, although it is not based only on the internal psychological defeat would lead to catastrophic risks that inevitably been lenient with him, a fence is not of faith is threatened by enemies .. but only those who are supposed to be in the first row to protect him at a time really like what we Bakassap stricken everyone.

إنه لمن الخلط الواضح أن ندمج النقاش والحوار والفكر مع فحش القول وبذائة الكلام وسوء الخلق تجاه ما يعتقده المجتمع وما يحمله من إرث وحضارة طوال قرون خلت ومضت ليأتي من يأتي مثلاً من به لوثة عقلية وانفصام أخلاقي وعقائدي لا ليطرح قضية ما وإنما ليطلق الاحكام بالتخلف والرجعية ويعمد عن السخرية والتطاول على الله عزوجل والرسول والقرآن والسنة والمذهب وعلماء المسلمين . It is clear that combine to confuse the debate, dialogue and thought with the obscenity of speech and obscenity and bad manners to speak about what society thinks, which encompasses the heritage and culture for centuries and proceeded to come from, for example, comes by the psychic mental and moral and ideological dichotomy is not to present the case, but called for sentences backward and reactionary, and the packers the ridicule and insulting the Almighty Allah and the Prophet and the Qur'an and Sunnah and doctrine and Muslim scholars. وهو بهذا لا يتجاوز أسس وقواعد الحوار فحسب بل ويستغل هذا الخلل لتعميم هذا الشذوذ والمرض مستخدما ملكة الكتابة والتعبير في محاولة لاستقطاب من يعاني من ضعف الايمان وغياب الوازع الديني ، إذن هو لا يبحث عن جدال أو نقاش أو حوار أصلا ..لأنه يعلم خواء الافكار التي يعمل على طرحها وضعف منطقه فيعمد على المراواغة ويلطش هنا وهناك ، ليواصل هكذا سبره وغيه دائما ليلقى بضاعته الفاسدة وينشرها لا أكثر ..وبالتالي من يقبل هذا على أي منتدى سيتحول المنتدى بالتالي إلى وعاء حافظ وناشر لهذا النوع الذي يطلق عليه اجحافا فكر وسيجري على تصوير الامر على أنه تيار ايضا اجحافا للمجتمع المسلم الذي نحيا ونتربى فيه ، فيزيد الامر سوء على المجتمع أصلا الذي بحاجة الى التقويم والاصلاح ..فضلا عن توطئة أقدام المفسدين والمخربين بدعاوي الفكر والحوار ، لهذا حينما نقول على أن إدارة أي منتدى يجب عليها تفرق ولا تخلط الامور ولا تعمل على تطويب هؤلاء المرضي المفسدين ولا تحاول أن تفرغ المجتمع من خط دفاعه الداخلي ليتقبلهم كأفراد عاديين ، لأنها بهذا تعتبر شريك في جرم الإفساد ولا يمكن بحال أن يتساوى الفرد الصالح مع المفسد والا لما اختلف الخير عن الشر ، نعود فنقول أن الفكر موجود إن وجدت الاليات التي ترعاه وتنظم أطره ومساحاته ليكون نقاش يفضي الى نتيجة يستفيد منها المجتمع وليس دجل بيزنطي لا يعمل الا على تهيئة بذور الفتنة والشقة والعداوة أو نشر الفساد والافساد ومحاولة خلخلة المجتمع من قيمه والباسه لبس غير لبسه فقط لرسم نرجسية حالمة تعاني من ارهاصات نفسية أكثر منها فكرية وشطحات أكثر منها رؤى موضوعية تحاور وتناقش وتنقد ذاتها ولا تخجل أو تأخذها العزة بالاثم من الاعتراف بالحق وتصويب الخطأ This is not to exceed the principles and rules of dialogue, but also exploit this flaw to have this abnormality and disease using the talent of writing and expression in an attempt to attract to suffer from weakness of faith and the absence of religious faith, then, is not looking for debate or discussion or dialogue at all .. he knows the emptiness of ideas that working to put forward and the weakness of logic and scale up to Alemrawagp Iltc here and there, to continue so Sabrah and relapse is always to deliver his goods corrupt and published no more .. and therefore accept this on any forum Forum will turn to the pot thus maintained, and publisher of this type, known as the thought and would be unfair to portray it that the stream is also unfair to the Muslim community in which we live and where Nterpy, increasing it's already bad community who need to calendar reform .. feet in anticipation as well as spoilers and saboteurs claims of thought and dialogue, and for this when we say that the management of any forum must not confuse the separate issues and does not working on the beatification of these patients is not trying to corrupt society to complete the line of defense for internal accepts them as ordinary, because it is a partner in this offense can not in any corruption that even the individual with good spoiler and it would not have differed good from evil, we return, we say that thought is, if any, mechanisms which is sponsored and organized frameworks and Messahath to be a discussion lead to the result of the benefit of society, not hanky-BE does not work, but to create the seeds of discord and hostility or apartment and the proliferation of corruption and corruption and trying to undermine the community values and wear clothes that is worn only to draw a dreamy narcissism suffering from the beginnings of a psychological rather than intellectual and the vagaries visions rather than substantive dialogue and discuss and criticize itself and not be ashamed or guilt, take pride of recognition of the right and correct the error

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

'Ask an Omani' - Ramadan eating in Oman

We've all seen the rice, ghee, biscuits, Vimto, and various sugar/High Fructose Corn Syrup products piled high in the supermarkets, ready for the food frenzy that is Ramadan. (Dhofari Gucci also had a great post about the Salalah Ramadan feasting experience and the outstanding leaning tower of Creme Caramel).

One of my contacts in the food distribution business here assures me they do 3 months worth of 'normal' business in just the one month of Ramadan. Urban legend has it that most Omanis actually gain weight during the month of 'fasting', but I have no idea if this is true... Occasionally there are even reports of deaths due to over-eating!

Our resident 'Ask an Omani' Omani Dreamer adds to the topic with this week's special edition: "What is the deal with Ramadan and all that eating?"

Food in a Typical Oman Ramadhan Day

Many people look at the extent of shopping that happens in Ramadhan and wonder.. What do these people eat!?

First, I will have to explain the regular food we eat in a regular month:

Here, in a typical Omani family house, the day starts out with a cup of milk and Omani bread. (Omani bread is very thin and you dip it in the milk before you eat it). The day goes on and people might drink coffee at work and housewives might eat some fruits. In the afternoon, the typical lunch is rice with meat and some salads.. (Don't forget the watermelon)! Then, people don't eat until its dinner, which consists of either some soup or a western/eastern dish. Whichever it is, it's just either one or two smaller dishes.

On Ramadhan, we fast, but in reality we eat more! Here is my average day in Ramadhan:

The day starts out with sohoor (breakfast before sunrise). Now, to get the maximum food in your stomach that would digest slowly you would have to eat rice and yogurt. Some people eat rice and meat! But which ever... it is a heavy meal -Of course its a bad idea to sleep right after that, but we need to reserve energy! - Then, we wake up late and go to work. Since we only work for about five to six hours a day -its actually less, remember we are tired and can't concentrate much- we get home early. At 2pm, I would go into the kitchen to help out with the cooking -actually, I'm usually hungry and want to make sure that what I'm in the mood for will be served! - Today I made some sweets (including crème caramel of course!!).

Creme caramel: Recommended Ramadan eating!

At the Iftaar table (sunset breakfast), the whole family would gather around the food and stare at the watch. We all want the guy in Oman tv to stop reciting the Quran and call for prayer! The food consists of samboosa, 3 kinds of pastries, about 3 or 4 kinds of sweets, dates, fruits, juice, water, more juice..etc. Once the Imam calls for prayer I start grabbing everything I see in front of me: drinking a bit of juice, then a samboosa, then a pastry, then some sweets.. all at once and before the call for prayer is over! Then, barely able to stand up, I go to pray with a full stomach.

After prayer, we gather at the table again. This time, more food starts to come out. We would have the soup of the day along with more samboosa and pastries. We eat more and more, till our bellies hurt. Then, we take some rest. The men go to prayer (its about 8:15pm by now), and us women clean and try not to eat more. Once everyone is back, we are back to serving dinner. It would be about 10:30 to 11pm. The regular lunch that would be served in a regular month would be served as dinner. So we eat more.. take some zantac or tums, and eat more. Stuffing more food in your stomach than what you can handle, but all you think about is how hungry you will be the next day if you don't!

Is the picture clear now?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

New sex positive link for Muscat Confidential, Internationalsurvey, and thank god we bailed from Gulf Air

I don't know who got us out of Gulf Air for free, but well done that man. Or woman.

Photo: Do you have to add feathers when it's so obviously a turkey?

We got dragged into this disaster some time ago. The old CEO bought some pricey new planes, and it was downhill from there.

Whoever got us out of owning this airline, well, I think they deserve a medal.

We would have lost 100s of millions by now, with more to come, if not for that bold act of disposal.

Gulf Air 'may renegotiate plane orders'

Bahrain's Gulf Air may renegotiate plane orders with Airbus and Boeing, the carrier's recently-appointed chief executive Samer Majali said.

The struggling airline, which is fully owned by the Bahraini sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat, also said it was open to merging with other airlines, but is not in talks yet.

Speaking to Reuters in a telephone interview, Majali said the company would "honour the terms of the contract" with manufacturers but may negotiate amending airplane numbers and sizes. Gulf Air has 35 Airbus and 24 Boeing aeroplanes on order.

Majali said passenger numbers were down 3 percent in the first seven months of 2009, while yields were 15 to 20 percent lower, compared with the same period last year. Capacity deployment is "very tight", said Majali, who hopes to achieve results close to last year's in the second half.

"Yields are still quite low and I'm not sure anything, globally speaking, has put major brakes on yields," he said.

The airline has seen three chief executives attempt to turn its loss-making operations around since 2002, cutting jobs and realigning its network as previous shareholders Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Oman gave up their stakes in the ailing carrier.

In 2007, the airline cut jobs and trimmed its network after reporting losses of more than $1 million a day. - Reuters

Fasting? look away now

I signed up Muscat Confidential with the simply drop-dead sexy

Violet Blue

Photo: Cute.

and her new, amazing URL shortener

So now, if you type

you should end up here!

Note: You may be unable to go to her blog from the country you happen to be in. Either way, I'd be interested to know what countries do allow access and which don't. Try and go to and report back via comments the country and either yes [Violet's blog accessible] or no [blocked].

More swine flu deaths in Oman. WHO updates H1N1 Advice. Oh, and do not take asprin for H1N1!

Another 2 deaths from H1N1 reported, bringing the official Omani total after the weekend to 4.

The best website on H1N1 I've come across so far is from the CDC or Centre for Disease Control in the US: "What to Do If You Get Flu-Like Symptoms".

Symptoms of H1N1
Similar to the symptoms of seasonal flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. A significant number of people who have been infected with H1N1 also have reported diarrhea and vomiting.

Emergency Warning Signs
If you become ill and experience any of the following warning signs, seek emergency medical care.

In children, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
Fast breathing or trouble breathing
Bluish or gray skin color
Not drinking enough fluids
Severe or persistent vomiting
Not waking up or not interacting
Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough

In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
Sudden dizziness
Severe or persistent vomiting
Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough

Something I didn't know before was to AVOID TAKING ASPRIN- especially children under 18. There is a chance of a nasty side effect that is untreatable and can lead to brain damage called Reyes Syndrome. Instead use paracetamol or Ibuprofen.

Aspirin or aspirin-containing products (e.g., bismuth subsalicylate – Pepto Bismol) should not be administered to any confirmed or suspected ill case of novel influenza A (H1N1) virus infection aged 18 years old and younger due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome. For relief of fever, other anti-pyretic medications are recommended such as acetaminophen or non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. For more information about Reye’s syndrome, visit the ' National Institute of Health website

Here's the updated advice from the World Health Organisation [WHO]. Its a good news/bad news story.

Good news: Early treatment with Tamiflu seems to help those in higher risk catagories - children less than 5yrs old, the elderly, pregnant women, immunocompromised and chronically ill (diabetes, for example).

The bad news: Tamiflu works best when given early at first onset, but about 40% of those that get super sick on day 5-6 are 'normal', ie not in the at risk catagory. Hmmm.

This is why the CDC do not recommend attending a 'Swine flu party', as lots of otherwise normal people have died from H1N1 (even if the odds are low).

What is CDC’s recommendation regarding "swine flu parties"?
"Swine flu parties" are gatherings during which people have close contact with a person who has novel H1N1 flu in order to become infected with the virus. The intent of these parties is for a person to become infected with what for many people has been a mild disease, in the hope of having natural immunity novel H1N1 flu virus that might circulate later and cause more severe disease.

CDC does not recommend "swine flu parties" as a way to protect against novel H1N1 flu in the future. While the disease seen in the current novel H1N1 flu outbreak has been mild for many people, it has been severe and even fatal for others. There is no way to predict with certainty what the outcome will be for an individual or, equally important, for others to whom the intentionally infected person may spread the virus.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Ramadan Mubarak! News. Belated 'Ask an Omani' on Polygamy

Yes, it's Ramadan (and luckily in line with Saudi and Iran too!). The office is always so beautifully quiet in the afternoons at this time, sometimes I wish it could be Ramadan all year...

For a local summary of Ramadan and what it means, I recommend Dhofari Gucci's post today.

We've also had our first 2 official H1N1 deaths, although (as pointed out by Muscat Mutterer) Dhofari Gucci reported 2 deaths some time ago as being due to H1N1, this was subsequently denied by the Ministry of Health as the young woman refered to by DG tested negative. So officially, only 2 deaths so far, and both people with existing heath issues. So keep washing hands, etc, etc.


Oman Air new plane almost ready
Oman Air are finally getting FAT [Factory acceptance testing] completed for their brand new Airbus A332 plane. Here's a pic of it in the air ripped from plane spotter central commandJet Photos. Presumably they will have already fixed the dicky airspeed system...

Photo: Oman Air's new A332 flys in the blue sky of France

Ministry of Tourism change tack in the battle for Capital Area Yacht Club
The MoT have apparently changed their mind about wanting to grab the beautiful bay currenly occupied by CAYC for yet another OMRAAN Integrated Tourism Development. Now the MoT are apparently saying they want it to be turned into a public beach, due to the high demand. Of course, that the high demand for public beaches may be related to the many public beaches already requisitioned by MoT in the first place.

A key driver for the continued MoT pressure seems to be the repeated attempts to shanghai the current CAYC members off to the next door Marina Al Bandar, and thus boost the marina's profitability... But I must be mistaken: how could there be a connection between the actions of public officals at the Ministry of Tourism and the profitability of the Marina?

Blue City takeover attempt
No updates on the attempt - supposedly by investment brokers in the UAE - to buy the Blue City bonds at a hefty discount, so we must assume they were not successful in getting control, at least not yet.

Belated "Ask an Omani" - Polygamy
I also neglected to post the latest in our "Ask an Omani" segment on time last week, so here it is (although, I know, she already posted it on her own website ages ago). Remember, if you have any questions, email me here at Muscat Condifential.

My Second Wife… NEXT!

The Qur’an states that a man can marry up to four wives. There are many restrictions and conditions for polygamy in Islam. However, here I will talk about polygamy that has been taken out of its religious context into –my favorite of all – the cultural context. Yes, there is a difference.

Polygamy in Oman is, well, acceptable by most men and rejected by most women. You might find the practice common to some families and rejected by others. Personally, I would love it if it were illegal. But –and that’s a big but – you cannot ask to change God’s laws. So, how do we women manage to work around that? Well, women really don’t, or better.. they can’t other than ask for divorce. So, let me tell you what happens in this culture.

Many men, here, believe that it is their religious right to marry more than one despite their wives feelings. What some do –many of them- is marry a second wife in secret. The whole thing goes on for months or even years. Some men dare to take money from their first wives to pay the expenses to marry the second one. Build a new house under their names, dowry, wedding expenses.. etc. Once the scandal is out, the woman either tries to divorce the husband or lives with him for her kids’ sake.

Why do men marry more than one? Well… because they want to. Some of the excuses that you might hear is… “There are too many unmarried women in the country and we just want to do a good deed”, or “I felt sorry for the girl, she was unmarried”, or “just because –the only honest one”. So, how do first wives feel…. Hurt, stabbed in the back, regret, and all other emotions that go in your head once you find out that someone cheated on you!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Isn't it Ironic? Journalist erased from Omani Newspaper, questioned and deported for ... criticising press freedom in Oman

I'm not very happy writing this blog post, dear readers. Not at all.

I didn't think this would ever happened here. Not these days. And maybe it hasn't.

But... I must offer you the facts. You join the dots.

Here's the story.

A few days ago, I was told anonymously that a newspaper reporter in Oman, a Mr. Arun Solomon, had apparently been summarily arrested, questioned, and deported, along with his family, for [allegedly] writing an opinion piece for a foreign newspaper that was (so we are told - no one can now find it) somewhat critical of Oman's general media performance standards-wise; mentioning at the same time such descriptive phrases as 'the Middle Ages'.

Yeah, right, I thought. (I get this stuff all the time, and its usually false.)

I did, naturally, google Mr Solomon, as you do, and in the process read many of his totally acceptable and harmless opinion editorials here in Oman, and news reports, via the web. I could do that only thanks to his newspaper of employment for some significant duration it seemed, The Oman Tribune.

I didn't find anything a fraction unsafe or political.

yet, I asked around. Why not. Follow through.


'Yes' was the answer, 'it's true, but shhhh'.

I still didn't believe it. No way. For mouthing off in an overseas paper? Under what law? About how crap our media is? How can that be seriously considered a state secret? LMAOFOFL

But, now,... when I go back to google and do the same searches for Arun's stuff, and follow the links to the Oman Tribune, I get
'ERROR page not found'.

And if I now go to the index page of the 'Opinion' section of The Oman Tribune, surprise surprise, no mention of Mr Arun Solomon.


It was rather spooky.

Go on. You try finding Arun on the Trib's site now by doing a simple Google Search. Follow any link.

See? Zip. Nada. No one home to the name Mr. Arun Solomon at the old Oman Tribune. Like, I'm sorry, Who?

Even if the Tribune has had an attack of what one might call the Essa Al Zedjali's Alzheimer's; fortunately, the web has a memory of course.

Those and Google spiders and servers are out there surfing the web 24/7, gobbling up it seems even the uneventful web publications of The Oman Tribune.

And funnily enough, they still remember Arun Solomon, and the stuff he wrote for the Tribune!

There's more of his stuff there... you just have to ask Google or Bing for the "cached page" instead of actually going to the link. And there he still is, gainfuly employed at the Tribune as of a few days ago. Its almost like a spooky, virtual previous life/alternative Universe.

You can even still (until they read this and fix it perhaps) do a search on the Tribune's own website for "Arun Solomon" and get a zillion hits.... but try finding the words Arun or Solomon in the links you're offered... and there's nothing.

Which, you know, rather disappointed me. Because, surely we wouldn't deport someone for that? And even worse, try to erase him from history? Its soooo,... Kim Yung Il guys.

And - damn it! - I still haven't even seen what he wrote that was apparently so illegal, ... or if he even did!

And that's sort of weird.... seeing as I'm told he was, as they say, 'assisting ISS with inquiries' non-stop for a week.

Arun has, apparently, now left the country. Maybe. If he was ever here...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Breaking News: CEO of the Wave, Nick Smith, 'resigns'

In Breaking news last night now confirmed, I’m very reliably informed that Nick Smith, CEO of The Wave development, has ‘resigned’ with immediate effect, and that several more senior management ‘resignations’ are expected very soon.

Photo: Nick Smith ex-CEO of the Wave Development

Nick seems to have done a great job at the Wave. The Wave is the country’s first Integrated Tourist Development, explicitly backed by the Oman Government - Waterfront Investments and National Investment Funds Company (representing Omani Pension Funds) - and the UAE-based Majid Al Futtaim Group. They've won countless awards, actually delivered properties, and were early enough to sell a fair few.

Presumably, now that the first phases are completed, and things are generally in order, the shareholders (who coincidentally had a shareholder meeting in Muscat yesterday) figure they can cut costs and get rid of the expensive Expats.

More news to come on this as it happens...

Maybe there's a job for Nick at Blue City... they could do with the help!

Here's his recent interview with Dossier Magazine.

CEO Nick Smith Speaks Candidly with Dossier Magazine

You last spoke to OER Dossier in September 2008. Since that time what progress has been made at The Wave, Muscat?
Construction at The Wave, Muscat is well underway with over 800 homes now under construction in different phases which have already been launched. We currently have nearly 5,000 men working on the con¬struction site. The main access way into the development has been completed allowing our first customers to move into their prop¬erties. Over 70 handovers to customers have been completed to date and by the end of 2009 we expect to have completed over 300 properties.
The outer arms of the marina have been completed allowing the start of the marina walls to be placed in the near future. The outer reef has also progressed with 100m of that now visible above the sea. Lakes and waterways excavation is also underway and lake lining is in progress. Accumulation of materials for the golf course is in readiness for commencement of construction.

What has been the impact of global financial crisis on The Wave, Muscat?
The current global economic climate does pose a few challenges for us. However, the situ¬ation in Oman is different as prudent financial policies by the government coupled, with lim¬ited international investment in Oman have helped ease the situation. Our banks continue to grant some mortgage loans to our custom¬ers, which is an excellent sign of commitment to the real estate market in the Sultanate and confidence in our project. There is no doubt that more mortgage funding will be needed as the tourism projects develop.

At The Wave, Muscat our attention will be focused on building our strengths and in the timely delivery of our units which have already been sold. We have invested heavily in our customer service to home owners, right from the moment of purchase and also to those who have already moved into their homes at The Wave, Muscat, ensuring customer confidence and satisfaction is of paramount importance to us. We are backed by strong investors, the Omani Government (Waterfront Investments and National Investment Funds Company (representing Omani Pension Funds), and the UAE-based Majid Al Futtaim Group. Their unwavering support to create a master planned community for real people to live, work and visit is a vision which shall move steadily towards fruition. We have already established our leadership position in the market and we are currently positioned to become the new heart of Muscat. Real estate investments are still the safest investments and The Wave, Muscat is simply the best location to buy a home in Oman.

Some residents are already settled in their new homes. What has been their feedback of life at The Wave, Muscat?
The Wave, Muscat has recently been accorded the ISO 9001:2008 certification for excellence in customer service making the company the first property developer in Oman to win ISO accreditation for adherence
to high quality management systems in customer services. This service has been embraced by our homeowners and a recent survey has revealed a 95% customer satisfaction rating. We are acting on customers’ feedback. It is their home and we need to listen to what they say, whenever we can.

The Wave, Muscat recently won a number of awards at the CNBC Arabian Property Awards and Homes Overseas Awards. What do you believe was the key to these achievements?
Our recognition on the international and regional real estate platforms can be attributed to the company’s commitment to adopt best quality practices in building a world-class tourist and residential development which respects the culture and heritage of Oman. The judges often refer to this. We have continued to exceed the expectations of our customers whilst optimizing the financial, business and social returns for our stakeholders. Our proven delivery track record and construction moving according to the schedule has established our position as the market leader who promises a sound investment. Our home designs combine the best in contemporary design with traditional Omani flair thereby creating a truly multicultural community living experience. To win the Best Architecture in Arabia award in Florida in November last year was a huge accolade. Homes Overseas gave us Silver in the Best Development Worldwide in 2008. This is a true comfort for us and our customers – we are going for Gold this year!

Are there any sales releases planned for this year?
Compared to other GCC countries, real estate market in Oman is still in its formative stage. The demand for quality housing still remains high. There is a large segment of the Omani and expatriate population based in Oman who still have a huge appetite for quality real estate products. Our business achievements confirm that we are significantly ahead of the competition. We do have some apartments and villas for sale now. But the current economic conditions cannot be overlooked. We shall continue to keep a watchful eye on the market conditions. We will release more units if conditions are right for us and the purchasers.

As the project is now well established, how do you in your role ensure that employee motivation stays up given the duration of such a large project?
For me, employee motivation in a real estate development like The Wave, Muscat, which is continuously changing everyday, is ensuring that our employees love what they do, enjoy coming to work everyday and thrive with the challenges of being part of the first ITC in Oman. It is our recruitment strategy to encourage people who are looking for a workplace that will treat them well, give them a happy work environment, excellent opportunity to enhance their skills and a career path which is in line with their own ambitions of growth. At The Wave, Muscat conscious strategies have been put in place to ensure that employees remain enthusiastic. They receive unlimited support and encouragement to face and conquer their challenges. Their achievements are recognized and rewarded throughout their career path with us.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Week hacked, Crime on the rise, Minister of Higher Education caught giving wastafarians state scholarships

The Dragon is now back in Oman, and found it has pleasantly cooled down since I left!

Crime on the rise
But meanwhile Muscat seems to be enduring a big increase in crime of late (not reported in the rose-tinted media, obviously). Al Ghubra, Azaiba and Al Khuwair especially are experiencing house break-ins, car vandalism and car thefts. I've also been informed of organised gang rapes again happening in Oman.

So, take care not to leave your doors open, even during the day. The teenaged thieves will try to enter to steal car keys, wallets, handbags, etc.

And women - especially Asian and Subcontinent ladies - should take extra care when walking alone, particularly in and around Azaiba beach and Ghubra. It seems gangs of young Omani men are again getting the idea that they can rape vulnerable women and get away with it.

Anyone noticing anything suspicious should note the car reg. number, take a photo, and inform the ROP, who do take these things seriously if pushed.

A few tidbits:

Omani Minister of Higher [thx Muscati!] Education Scholarship scandal
After being on the Arabic sablas for a couple of weeks, the recently leaked documents of the Ministry of Education scholarship scandle are being discussed on Oman Forum. I would post the state audit documents here, but after the recent Ali Zuwaidi internet trial, I'm a little wary of publishing leaked Government documents!

I note Muscati [Oman Forum administrator and grandee of the Omani internet] also removed the names of the lucky wastafarians who got the scholarships... Article 61-phobia is not uncommon in the Omani bloggosphere!

What I find most interesting is that the arabic posts have been left up by the authorities. This is itself generating conspiracy theories about who and why the documents - from a State Audit investigation - were leaked at all, and why action seems absent. Its probably just that everyone's on holiday...

What's clear (if the documents are true, and they seem authentic) is that the children of several senior Omani Government officials were given scholarships paid by the Omani state to attend University overseas, despite not qualifying for them on their own merits. Tsk tsk. It'll be interesting to see where this ends up.

Muscat Mag The Week website 'Hacked'
Earlier this week local free-mag 'The Week' had their website hacked by an Iranian anti-Arab hacker.

Pro-Iran hacker vandalises Oman tabloid's website
By Sunil K. Vaidya, Bureau Chief
Published: August 15, 2009, 22:30

Muscat: The website of a Muscat-based weekly tabloid - The Week - was hacked on Saturday by DarkLOrd - a hacker who claims to be an Iranian.

The hacker "took over" The Week, published by the Apex Press and Publishing placing a message that spewed venom at Arabs as well as the world in general. DarkLOrd also threatened bloodshed in his message.

"We noticed at around 8am that our site was hacked and within a couple of hours we restored the site," Mohana Prabhakar, the Apex Press and Publishing CEO, told Gulf News on Saturday.

Personally I just wish The Week would stop publishing all these photos of Omani body-building narcissists wearing nothing but a teeny-tiny pair of budgie smugglers. Presumably the jaguar-loving editor Mohana Prabhakar (newly promoted to Apex CEO!) approves of the scantily clad muscle-bound bodies...

Meanwhile...In glorious Dubai,
the cracks are again starting to show, and its not just the collapsing of almost completed buildings.

Photo: New Dubai building for rent or sale, as is where is...

Residents of Emaar's development 'The Springs' were finding their man-made "lakes" becoming stagnant fetid algae ponds.

In response, enviromentally friendly Emaar seem to have had the lakes dosed with large quanities of sodium hypochlorite, and leaving the containers lying around as well. In the process the muppets put so much bleach in the water the poor ducks and birds have been slowly and painfully killed by chemical burns and poisoning. Emaar, of course, responded with the standard Gulf 'we have excellent rules and so by definition we didn't do anything incorrectly' non-answer.

Stale waters: Acid lake at The Springs

The mysterious deaths of a number of birds on the banks of man-made lakes in The Springs have raised fears among residents that a toxic chemical may have got into the water.

People living there say they noticed ducks losing their feathers, unable to fly or walk, with bloodshot eyes and swelling around their heads a week ago. They said they had seen the bodies of “dozens” of dead birds scattered in and around the lakes.

In a statement, a spokesman for Emaar Properties said the lakes undergo regular inspections by maintenance teams led by limnologists. “As per best practice, low doses of algaecides are periodically used to reduce the yearly natural growth of algae. These algaecides are environmentally friendly and used in doses that do not affect fish or birds.”

No animal fatalities have been seen over the last couple of years, due to the use of the algaecides, the statement said.

“Emaar has stringent measures in place to ensure adequate and timely maintenance of the lakes in compliance with Dubai Municipality requirements. We are looking into recent activity at our community lakes.”


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Swine Flu update in Muscat Oman: What to do

Lots of chatter on the web about Swine Flu in Muscat, Oman.

We have at least 500+ reported cases so far based on latest trends I'd guess, but all seems under control so far. Mainly affecting expats plus jet setting Omanis. But we are seeing the outbreak kick in at a bad time: summer.

Summer means lots of AC, recirculated air, and people crammed inside to escape the heat. It's our equivalent 'germ season' to the European and North American winter.

What to do:
1/ Not yet sick?
- don't panic. So far it seems to be just like ordinary flu even if you succumb - it's bad, but hardly deadly (for most people).
- wash your hands. A lot. Avoid touching your face. Stay away (if you can) from crowds of coughing people and the airports.
- beware mistaking an ordinary cold for swine flu. Rapid onset, big fever and aches in flu. A runny nose, sore throat but little if any fever is just a cold (and also misleadingly known as 'Man Flu'). Don't take Tamiflu except under Drs orders. Side effects can be nastier than the flu.
- don't wear a mask. they don't really help if you're not sick.

2/ Already Sick?
- Stay away from me and everyone else. Treat your body fluids as toxic waste.
- Wash your hands a lot. Wear a mask in public (it does help to stop you from passing it on).
- Keep close family members in quarantine for 3 days somewhere else. Maybe they didn't catch it.
- Enjoy the time off work. Drink lots of fluids, including occasionally whisky.
- If you are old, young, immuno-compromised, super-duper sick, go to a clinic (free?) or Doctor.
- Don't take Tamiflu except under Doctors orders. Side effects can be nastier than the flu.
- Stay away especially from the old, young, and immuno-compromised.
- ring a little bell when out and about, making pig noises.

Photo: Oh, Try to avoid H1N1 testing labs. Leave that stuff to the professionals! [geek prize to anyone who can name the TV series this image is from]

Khaleej Times
Swine Flu Cases Cross 300 in Oman

13 August 2009
MUSCAT — The count of Swine Flu cases in Oman has swelled by nearly 90 in the last three days to cross 300, officials of the Health Ministry said, adding that they expect the figure to rise rapidly in the coming weeks. The ministry also clarified that there had been no deaths from H1N1 in 
the country.

“Eight-nine new cases have been reported from around the country. The total number of affected people (in Oman) now is 323,” a spokesman for the ministry told Khaleej Times on Wednesday after a meeting of the H1N1 Control and 
Follow-up Committee.

He said the authorities were bracing for a steady increase in H1N1 patients in the Sultanate as the outbreak spread to more and more countries around 
the world.

The condition of all the patients, including six in hospital, are “stable,” he added, urging the public not to be misled by rumours and “take information only from the right sources.”

He was referring to unconfirmed reports in recent days that a Swine Flu patient had died in Oman.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Watch the skies this Wednesday night for a free show

I love shooting stars.

It's one of the great things about camping in Oman, especially in the Wahibas, because the sky is so dark not only are there lots of fantastic stars, but you can always count on seeing the occasional meteor.

But this Wednesday night should be extra good, as the Earth is passing through a patch of comet debris (the comet is called Swift-Tuttle). Unfortunately the moon will interfere somewhat with the spectacle, but still worth watching out for.

Full story in BBC News.

Skywatchers set for meteor shower.

Skygazers are getting ready to watch the annual Perseid meteor shower, which peaks on Wednesday.

The Perseid shower occurs when the Earth passes through a stream of dusty debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle. As this cometary "grit" strikes our atmosphere, it burns up, often creating streaks of light across the sky. This impressive spectacle appears to originate from a point called a "radiant" in the constellation of Perseus - hence the name Perseid.

"Earth passes through the densest part of the debris stream sometime on 12 August. Then, you could see dozens of meteors per hour," said Bill Cooke of Nasa's meteoroid environment office.

No special equipment is required to watch the sky show. Astronomers say binoculars might help, but will also restrict the view to a small part of the sky.

The Perseids can appear in any part of the sky, but their tails all point back to the radiant in the constellation Perseus.

In the UK, the best times to see the Perseids are likely to be on the morning of 12 August before dawn and from late evening on the 12th through to the early hours of the 13 August. This year, light from the last quarter Moon will interfere significantly with the view.

The rock and dust fragments which cause the shower were left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle when it last came near the Sun. The comet orbits the Sun once every 130 years and last swept through the inner Solar System in 1992.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Its a Raid! Omani cops move in on shady financial dealers

Oman Health Authorities are 'discussing' the H1N1 situation with the Indian School Muscat as it seems there is a major outbreak of swine flu amongst students there. Expect a temporary shut down.

Breaking news:In a timely move, Omani regulators and ROP raided the Muscat Offices of ShareKhan, a Mumbai based stock broking firm that ran a share broking outfit focused on NRIs (non-resident Indian), and have detained 2 of the staff.

This is probably related to the recent complaints of illegal investment schemes in the Sultanate (one of which recently turned out to be a classic Ponzi scheme). The recession and collapse of the stockmarkets have caught out a lot of dubious practices, and people who believed promises (promises they never should have trusted in the first place!) are now complaining.

Its always amazing how the usual pyramid schemes regularly do the circuits of the NRIs here too.

Anyhow, see the story in the India Times

Oman police raid Sharekhan’s Muscat office

10 Aug 2009, 0102 hrs IST, Shailesh Menon, ET Bureau

MUMBAI: Muscat Securities Market Regulator, along with Oman police, conducted a raid on Sharekhan premises and arrested two officials allegedly for
selling investment products without proper licence. While confirming the raid and subsequent arrest, Sharekhan officials maintain that they have not been chargesheeted by Oman police as yet.

“We have not been told why they have detained two of our officials. We operate in Oman — as per their laws — with proper licences; the authorities there are not telling us what more regulatory approvals we require to operate there,” said a Sharekhan spokesperson.

According to brokerage officials, the Muscat office only executes broking orders on behalf of clients (non-resident Indians only). The firm has not received licence to sell or distribute investment products in that country.

“From what we hear, the Muscat unit of Sharekhan was under police surveillance for over two weeks. The police could be acting on some investor complaint or directions from the ministry,” said the high-ranking official of an Indian brokerage firm, which has operations in the Gulf.


According to sources that have experience doing business in West Asian countries, law enforcement agencies and the judiciary are particularly harsh against Asian individuals or business groups violating financial laws in Gulf countries. The governments of leading Emirates like Dubai, Qatar and Oman have begun crackdown on financial services companies that are functioning without proper licences. The risk aversion among regulators is so high that ESCA banned financial services firms and banks from selling structured investment products to its citizens.

“Much of it is because if investors have any complaint, they approach local police or courts with reparation charges. If government officials (in Dubai) are to be believed, complaints involving financial frauds and product misselling have become rampant in the Gulf,” said a broker. Reliance Money, Kotak Mahindra, Geojit Financial Services, Religare Securities, JRG Securities and Karvy, amongst several others, have operations in the Gulf.

Much more than ensuring presence, brokerages are keen on taking aboard Indians, also persons of Indian origin (PIOs), wanting to invest in domestic markets. Such a link-up with the diaspora not only helps broking firms diversify their revenue streams and strengthen distribution network, but also beefs them up with a large chunk of long-term investible funds.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Saudi Businessman purchases solid gold penis enlarger... no, really.

Just can't resist sharing this one... Good Old Saudi...

Saudi businessman orders solid gold penis enlarger

Wednesday, August 5 10:48 pm APF

A Saudi businessman has purchased what is being described by the Canadian seller as the world's most expensive adult novelty item -- a solid 18-carat gold penis enlarger worth nearly 50,000 dollars.

A general view shows the Saudi capital Riyadh in 2007

X4 Labs, a Canadian manufacturer of medical devices, received the unorthodox request and recruited a Montreal custom jeweler to help with its design and construction.

"This male health accessory is the most expensive traction device ever produced and will likely become a historical benchmark for the adult novelty industry," the company said in a statement.

Little is known about the buyer, except that he lives in Jeddah.

His glitzy new penis enlarger, however, is being encrusted at his request with 40 diamonds and several rubies and is to be delivered by armored car in October, said Rick Oh, X4 Labs co-owner.

Saudi law bans the import of adult sex toys, but the company insists its product is a US government certified medical device.

Such devices normally retail for less than 400 dollars. But this custom order is expected to cost about 47,000 dollars US, Oh said.

"It's an unusual request," Oh told AFP. "We didn't take it seriously at first, but once he sent us a deposit, we had to agree to it."

"Obviously, there were giggles initially when we presented our project to a jeweler and asked him for help."

But the seemingly lavish device was actually conceived for a practical purpose, Oh explained. "We were approached by the customer who insisted on a solid gold version of our product because he claimed to have a severe skin allergy to stainless steel."

Later, the buyer asked to add diamonds and rubies to it.

The company intends to now offer all customers custom designs for their male novelty devices, although it states it is "uncertain as to whether this will become a trend."

Product coordinator Matt West said he "is convinced that there is a demographic that is willing to pay for lavish medical devices for their private areas... to pay good money to spoil themselves."

"There is something tremendously selfish about the male ego, and subsequently 50,000-dollar orders may become the norm for companies like X4 Labs," he said.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

'Ask an Omani': What's with all the black abayas lately?

Here's another installment from our resident Omani in the new 'Ask an Omani' feature here at Muscat Confidential. This time a question about the increase in the number of women wearing Abayas.

Dear Omani: I’ve seen photos of Muscat from 15-20 years ago, and most of the local women are wearing nice, colourful western-style clothes. Now its all black abayas. What happened?

Photo: Covertress blog.

Abaya’s in Oman

Alright, the image everyone has about the Middle East and mainly the Gulf area is that an Abaya is very essential and women HAVE to wear it. Then, they open one of those “Before & After 1970” books for Oman and realize that women in those pictures are not wearing black. Shocked and confused, they start wondering… “Black? Why? They used to look very beautiful in those colorful clothes?

Well, let me give you the whole story.

A very long long time ago (25 yrs ago), Oman started to open up to other countries. Television came along and people started seeing all the good civilization stuff. People started seeing that Women in Saudi Arabia and Iran wear black, “not sure which started it first”. As anything else that seemed new and “cool”, women started importing Abayas. I remember when I was 16, my first Abaya was from Bahrain. It was cool and hip. Now, of course people would tell you that the main reason in wearing black is because it does not attract attention from guys – as usual, its about guys. Of course that is not the case anymore. Now, black attracts more attention than any other color since it symbolizes a human being with female parts…

So, what is an Abaya in the 21st century?

Well, there are two types of Abayas. Some that are for conservative women that truly believe in it, and others (majority) that view it as fashion. Every season we have a new design, the main purpose is to look elegant and “very” attractive.

Many women hate it, but wear it because it is so very convenient. As far as people are concerned, you can look very elegant no matter what you are wearing inside. Even if it was your pajamas or just your underwear!

Omani Dreamer.

Hmmm. Fair enough Dreamer, thanks! (By the way readers, you can find Dreamer's excellent cultural blog "Reality in Oman" here.)

I can't help but think its a bit more insidious than just an imported fashion trend though. I know Omani women who used to wear Western Clothes at work here in the Sultanate (and this is in the past few years) being threatened if they don't stop and wear an Abaya. And this was not just during Ramadan.

Personally I've always found abaya's to be pretty sexy, thanks to the stories of expensive french lingerie hiding just beneath the steer black of the abaya (and confirmed by Dreamer I note) and the occasional flash of ankle... But maybe that's just me.

Any reader comments?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Obama needs to spend more time with this guy... The Sultan of Oman

Our own diplomatic Zen master - HM Sultan Qaboos

today arrived in Iran to a flurry of fawning official Iranian press releases about how great everything is between Iran and Oman.

I would recommend President Barak Obama pay us a visit here in Oman soon and get a debrief, and some good advice...

Sultan Visits ,

Sultan of Oman in Iran on landmark visit ,

Ahmadinejad Welcomes Sultan Qaboos in Tehran ,

Iran, Oman eye joint security cooperation ,

Iran Ready to Start Gas Exports to Oman ,

Iran, Oman Underline Expansion of Cooperation ...

Timing is pretty near damn perfect for Oman. Iran is increasingly isolated and desperate in the region and the world - except for China and Russia, who aren't exactly what I'd call 'true' friends of Iran. (Oh, don't forget Qatar).

Oman and Iran share the straits of Hormuz and have a long history (The ex-Shah supported Oman's Government with troops during the civil war and we have lots of Shia emigres from Iran)...

For HM to dignify Ahmadinejad and his overlords with such a heavy hitting visit on the very day of his controversial inauguration, given recent history, should be costing Iran a big, big favour in return.

They have a gas field we could use, if the price is reasonable (anything less than $4/Mscf would be great) and we can get Chinese financing (in exchange for say, some LNG cargos).

And there are lots of other nice issues that could be co-operated on: security (see pirates, straits), economy (see gas, trade, screwed Iranian economy), region (hey; why not stop trying to get Gulf Islands, Iran).

Lets see. But Iran must be feeling pretty grateful.

Glad to see HM is also using his beautiful boat too, arriving a the Southern Port and then just flying up for the visit to Tehran.

That's so cool.

Ask an Omani! Women and Queue jumping

OK readers. Here's our first installment in our new series: "Ask an Omani".

Please feel free to comment and add to the views, or email another burning cultural question to undercover(dot)dragon(at)gmail(dot)com.

Why do Omani women get to push to the front of a queue?

During your stay at Oman, there would be some unusual scenes that raise many questions. One of those scenes is Omani women pushing to the front of a queue. Many foreigners who are used to “first come first serve” are astonished and sometimes offended (depends on how many times it happens to them). Since I am a woman, I must say… I don’t complain. It is convenient after all… However, you will find these days that women started thinking that this is their birth right. Sometimes they even start pushing in front of other girls “never happy with it”.

I’m not sure when this phenomenon began, but you mainly see it in groceries and banks. These places are usually crowded and mixed. The act of women standing in a queue between men hovering behind their backs and sometimes hearing them inhaling and exhaling, and being pushed slowly to almost touching the one in front of you is very uncomfortable. Because many Omanis respect their women – holds some truth to it – they started offering women to go in front. (Of course there are the few men that do this on purpose to check women out…)

Others would hope other men do the same to their sisters and mothers.

All I can say is if I need something done at the attestation office in Shatti, I send Ms Dragon while I wait outside. She gets to go to the front of the queue and I avoid 2 hours of a scrum to get to the counter...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Blue City snapped up by Abu Dhabi ... and crazy UAE Drivers

In a post by new Muscat based blogger Sythe in his blog Muscat Mutterings, he highlighted the recent move to get the Blue City bonds at a discount by the well connected UAE company Essar Capital.

Further details in the story (see below) by The National.

Not a bad deal. The bonds are secured not just on Phase 1 but on the land for the entire Blue City project. Essar's cunning plan is to spend just some $300 million buying the required % of key secured bonds to control the whole deal. Thus they would be in a position to acquire the significant $1.5bln ITD that's already underway, plus get the cash and all the land, and the added value of lots of free Government infrastructure. All for $300mln. This is not a 'high risk high return' strategy as they try to say, its clearly a low risk high return investment.

The Dragon notes there are rumours that the real money behind the move is actually... Omani Government, and that they are effectively underwriting the UAE company as a front-purchaser to keep the price down on their purchase of the bonds. Makes a lot of sense if true. Essar provide the finance, and get a fat fee, plus I guess a share of the difference between any bonds that trade at less than 70%.

Meanwhile I got an email from an apparent purchaser of a Blue City apartment. He says the expected completion date has been moved to the very end of the contract period in 2012 (as far as it can without triggering deposit refund clauses), and that BCC1 staff bonuses due at end of contracts were accelerated and paid to staff this month? Maybe getting the most out of the last big pre-purchase $20mln deposit cheque??? Any comments from the BCC1 lurkers?

Blue City/BCC1 is turning into our main domestic AIG/GM story... except there's no actual news or investigations reported publicly. We need someone in Government to take control of this critical strategic project and provide the key backing and commitment to save it, along with a lot more sunlight on what's been going on at BCC1.

Meanwhile the UAE youth are also screwing us over with their SUVs...
UAE Drivers accused of rampaging over Oman’s wadis

Aug 02, 2009

With waterfalls, wildlife and temperatures as low as 18C, the wadis of southern Oman are an appealing destination for tourists looking to escape the summer heat.

But when they get there, drivers from the Emirates are not treating the lush, green land with the respect it deserves, complain the local authorities.

They accuse young drivers, especially, of cutting across the soft ground in their four-by-fours, pulling stunts that scar the vulnerable grassland during the area’s khareef, or monsoon, season.

“These youth show an uncivilised attitude,” said Ahmed Salem, the operations officer at the Governorate of Dhofar police command. He said drivers in SUVs with blacked-out windows regularly spoilt the greenery with stunts.

“They do things with the cars that are unacceptable. It’s a widespread phenomenon. They should respect the laws of the country they go in.”

And here's the play for Blue City. Strange that the Essar executive mentions their target discount range in public...

Omani investors shed Blue City bonds

Bradley Hope
August 02. 2009 6:30PM UAE

ABU DHABI // Essdar Capital’s bid to buy bonds related to the troubled Blue City property development in Oman is receiving a “strong response from the market”, with many holders accepting a 50 per cent discount on their bonds, a top executive says.

The fund is trying to obtain at least 75 per cent of two classes of bonds for the project in a “high-risk, high-return strategy”, said Suketu Sanghvi, the senior managing director of Essdar.

“I think the response is coming because for a very long time these bonds have been extremely illiquid,” Mr Sanghvi said. “Many of the investors wanted to get out of this investment.”

The arrival of Essdar Capital comes just weeks after Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings downgraded Blue City’s bonds to near junk status.

Executives at Blue City declined to comment yesterday. The project is the largest under development in Oman and involves building a city about 45 minutes north-west of Muscat.

Under the original plans, the US$20 billion (Dh73.46bn) development would include hospitals, schools and entertainment facilities for 200,000 residents by the end of its 20-year construction process.

With Oman’s oil supplies dwindling, Blue City was part of the country’s efforts to diversify its economy into new areas such as tourism. It was also an attempt to provide locals with more housing, which is in short supply.

But Blue City has been plagued by problems since its launch in 2006. A protracted legal dispute between two shareholders, AAJ Holding of Bahrain and Cyclone of Oman, over the ownership of the company is continuing. And sales have been under the targets set in the original bond documents.

As of August 1, Blue City had sold $53.9 million worth of units, far short of the $639m it expected to have. This prompted the ratings agencies to downgrade the bonds last month.

Moody’s said it was lowering the credit rating on about $399m of senior notes from the company to “Ba1” from “Baa3” because of “worse than expected transaction performance and a less favourable macroeconomic environment”.

Fitch Ratings downgraded four other classes of notes, worth $526m, to “CCC” and “C” from “B plus” and “B minus”, citing the deterioration of Oman’s property market.

“Demand for retail villa and apartment at integrated tourism resorts in Oman appears to have reduced significantly over the last 18 months and has collapsed entirely on the project itself, with no sign of recovery in the short or medium term,” Fitch said in a statement.

The agency said sales were so slow that there was not enough money to pay the construction contractor, AECO, and if “revenues do not significantly increase in the short term, money remaining from the advance payment will likely allow the contractor to be paid for approximately three more months”.

But Mr Sanghvi said Essdar Capital saw a high potential to make a return on the bonds, in part because the Omani tourism sector was growing.

“The good thing about this project is the tourism element,” he said. “We do believe in the story of tourism in Oman.”

The A1 and A3 bonds that Essdar is trying to acquire are also backed up by a cash deposit and land, which could be liquidated in the worst case scenario, Mr Sanghvi said.

The bonds represent about $661.5m of a total of $925m raised in the original bond offering. Essdar is trying to buy the A1 bonds at a discount of between 29 per cent and 50 per cent, and the A3 bonds at a discount of between 37 per cent and 50 per cent.

The goal, Mr Sanghvi said, was to obtain at least 75 per cent of the bonds so that Essdar Capital would have the majority of the voting rights to put it in a position of power when it comes to changing the terms of the bond, or deciding what to do if the company cannot meet its obligations.