Friday, December 30, 2005

Get married another day, will ya!

I've decided that I hate the wedding season. No, I have nothing against the people getting married or their families. I just hate their evil plan invite my wife to weddings every single Thursday night in December and January. As a private sector employee who gets only one day off a week, Thursday is the only night that I can look forward to spending with my wife without having to worry about work the next morning. And yet for the past three weeks I've been spending Thursday night bored out of my mind, driving aimlessly around town, inventing things to do at the ESO office, and eating disgusting junk food.

Men should join together and put their foot down. No more Thursday weddings.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Introducing

1. The Oman Blog Aggregator - If you're an Omani blogger, or an Oman-based blogger, do take the time to register your blog on the Oman Blog Aggregator. The site takes feeds from all registered blogs and aggregates them on a single page.

1.5 iopBlogs.com is a geographic aggregator which has thus far created specific sites for Oman, UAE, South Africa, Egypt, New Zealand, Jordan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. In case you're wondering, iop is I'm On a Plane, a collective blog from the UAE.

2. newsBriefsOman - nBO started out as a news archive, created and run by Sue Hutton. I've been using it religiously for years whenever I need to search for archival news items from the Omani media. Lately Sue has been too busy to update the archive so she's gone and converted it into a blog where she comments on Oman-related news. The depth of her knowledge on Oman, and her strength in research shines through in all her writing. Highly recommended.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Ten Years

Last week I completed ten years since I graduated from university. (and by graduated I mean finished my last exam because I haven't attended my graduation neither for my bachelors in California nor for the masters in Scotland).

Didn't feel like a milestone. And definitely not like when I went to the Sultan's School graduation last June and realized that the highschool graduates weren't even in KG when I graduated there in 1990!

When life gives you lemons..

Monday the week before last my laptop crashed. Two days later the driver at home came to tell me that my car's leaking something. Turned out there was a leak in the cooling system and all the coolant from the radiator flooded out. A couple days later the buttons on my phone stopped working. I couldn't unlock it. It had happened to me before and worked perfectly fine when I shut it off and turned it back on again. Except this time when I did that the buttons still didn't work and I couldn't enter my PIN code to get it started. Life, that's a whole lotta lemons for a guy to handle in one week.

Long story short, after a lot of tinkering about and diagnosing at the shop it turned out that the computer's crash was caused by a faulty RAM slot on the motherboard, so now I'm down to just 512mb of RAM. Luckily they managed to salvage most of the hard drive and I didn't lose too much of my stuff but it took me days to download all the programs again. Hope Apple comes out with those Intel Macs soon.

As for the car, it turned out that it was the plastic coolant expansion tank had ripped open. Nothing wrong with the radiator itself. I tried to fight the dealer for a few days to make them do it on goodwill. I lost the battle and paid for it myself.

The phone is just over a year old. It's a Nokia 7610 which I've hated since the day I bought it. It's not under warranty anymore. I took it to a shop for fixing and they said only the dealer can fix it. Went to the dealer and whaddya know, it worked perfectly fine with them. So I took it to a phone shop and asked them how much I can get for it if I sell it. Quite incredibly they said 80 rials. SOLD. Paid 60 on top and traded it for a brand new 6680- which I am now convinced will zonk on me any minute because the bad karma's gonna get to me for selling a defective phone.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Poor fella

My sister's tailor was the victom of some very unfortunate circumstances recently. When my sister and her husband went to his shop a week or so ago, he told them his story.

Him and a couple of his friends went swimming at the beach during the weekend ( about 2 weeks ago I think). While peacefully splashing about in the water, one of them brings his camera over and starts taking pictures of his friends.

Then, KABOOOOOM, out of the blue, they were ambushed by policemen and guards who arrested them and took them to the police station.

You are probably wondering why, ha? Well, the unlucky chaps had the misfortune of swimming and taking pictures infront of the American embassy :)

"Ana mafee maloom hatha feeh american embassy hnaak!!!" said the tailor.

Hehe, I feel so bad for laughing so hard when my sister told me the story, but I couldn't help it.

There is a happy ending however, the tailor's sponsor bailed them out that day, and when my sister went to see him a couple of days ago, he told her that the file was closed and that the police believed that it really was an honest mistake.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Tipping at the gas station

I was at a gas station and the dude filling my car actually offered to clean my windscreen! It must have been the first time ever that it happens to me here in Oman. Omani gas stations are the last place on earth where you can expect value added services. Inzain, so I came to tip the guy (he was an Indian) and he flinched. He wanted nothing to do with it. Cool with me, the guy's pride won't stand for it. I understand.

I'm always asking people if they tip petrol station attendants. I rarely do but I know a lot of people do it. My mother is probably the number one tipper of gas station workers in Oman. I know for a fact that she once stopped in a station when she didn't even need gas, tipped the guy without filling-up and drove away- she called it a sadaqa. When my mother goes to fill up her car she makes it a point of always asking the Omani guys to come. In fact if the Indian dude comes up to fill her car she waves him away until an Omani comes. And then of course, she gives the Omani a big tip. She says she does it to encourage Omanis to accept working low paying jobs like this. I tell her she's racist. She says it's hard for the Omani live a decent life or have a family on a gas station's salary while the Indian is probably provided with room and board by the station's owner. Dunno, what do you think?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Fast another day?

In Oman we've been lucky that there hasn't been any fragmentation of society among the sects. While the government is ibadhi, the population is probably more sunni than ibadhi and there's a small but prominent shia minority. Other countries have enough problems from just having shia and sunnis. Oman has three sects and yet thank God, we've been stable. This stability is best displayed by the fact that there has never been a fragmentation from following the government in observing the begining and end of Ramadhan. Unlike some of our neighboring countries where we always here news of the sunnis and shia fasting and breaking fast on different days, here in Oman we all follow the govenrment. I have never once heard a shi3i say that they don't believe the govenrnment's declaration for the begining of Ramadhan. We all trust the government and we are proud of the fact that unlike other countries Oman follows its own sighting. We don't just wait to hear if Saudi Arabia has sighted the new moon and then follow it blindly like some other countries do. True, this results in Oman often being a day ahead or behind other countries, but we don't mind because we trust that we're probably right.

A week ago rumors came out that the grand mufti has declared that this year's eid sighting was in doubt and hence he advises everyone in Oman to fast an extra day to compensate. This would be well and good if it weren't for the fact that the mufti himself was involved in the live television broadcast on the night of 29th Ramadhan with live telecasts from various points in Oman in which not one of the remote locations had seen the new moon. And yet despite that the mufti declared the begining of eid due to a few other sitings from off-site locations. And now the mufti says that one of the astronomers in one of those sites has declared a doubt about whether he really saw the moon. So the mufti is basically telling us that even though on the night of 29th Ramadhan he got multiple witnesses with sightings which he believed, he is now willing to ask a whole nation to fast an extra day due to a single doubting astronomer?

Does the mufti not realize the path that he's putting us on by doing this? I would really hate it if next year the sunna, shi3a and ibadha all start fasting on different days. If it happens it will all be traced to this one decision.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Mafi malum

From yesterday's Times of Oman:

"Mafi malum, ustad. This is the one Arabic expression that teachers of English language dread to hear from their students because it effectively means that all their efforts have gone down the drain."

Is mafi malum an Arabic expression? Once again I found myself wishing I could just reach out and bitch slap one of their editors.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Incompetent Omani Newspaper Dude

From here on, the above mentioned person will be referred to as IOND.

This week we sent out invitations to all the Arabic and English newspapers in Oman asking them to kindly send reporters to cover the Bird Flu lecture (which was amazing by the way for all of you people who didn't attend).

So one of the Arabic papers graciously accepts and sends one their reporters: (IOND). IOND walks up to me before the lecture, introduces himself and tells me he wants to do a write-up on the lecture.

Excellent, says I.

To which he replies, can you write me a small paragraph with all of your society's aims and objectives?

No problem I say.

IOND: Can I also get a copy of the lecturer's presentation?

Me: Ummm, I'm not sure the lecturer would agree to that, but please come with me to the front and I will introduce you to her and perhaps you can get the information you want from her now.

IOND: La, la its ok. No need to disturb her before the lecture, maybe you can just write up a summery of her presentation for me highlighting the important points.

Me: *gapes*

IOND: Will you be taking pictures?

Me: *nods head*

IOND: Oh good because I don't have a photographer with me, so can you email me a picture or two to use for my story?

OD: .............................................

IOND: Thans so much OD, I'll call you. Sorry though, I can't remain for the lecture, I have other things to do. *waves*

IOND leaves before I catch my breath and before the lecture starts.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

ESO Lecture December 10th

ESO Bird Flu lecture


We are having a lecture entitled "Bird Flu - Separate the fact from the myth" on Saturday, December 10th. The lecture will be given by Dr. Faryal Al Lawati from SQU. As always, our lectures are open to the general public.

Venue: The American International School Muscat (TAISM)

Time: Doors open at 7pm. Lecture starts at 7:30pm

TAISM Directions: At the Azaiba R/A on the highway, head towards Ghala. Go straight through Mosque R/A and Royal hospital R/A. The entrance to TAISM will be on the left hand side just past the Toyota body shop. Follow the curve around and enter second entrance.

The Muscatis in OER

The Muscati(s) in Oman Economic Review magazine

Oman Economic Review magazine has an "interview" with me in the current issue which is out now. Unforunately you cannot browse the site without registering first. [link]

I thought I was being "interviewed" as part of a bigger article about blogging. I'm surprised when I saw it now and it's just me.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

reBlog: Blog Disparity

Wardat Al Khaleeej writes about the disparity she feels between Omani blogs and the other gulf bloggers that she reads. She says that:
While Omani bloggers maintain a common norm of posting things in general with a reflection towards the country, their daily activities, music or news other bloggers are more daring and venture to discuss issues which we could not conceive of placing on our blogs.
It's a topic I've written about before but it's worth bringing up ahead of the Omani Blog Awards which are coming up. A reporter from TheWeek is working on a story about the awards. I'll write about that more when the story comes out depending on how much of what I said appears in the article. The most relevent question that she asked me was:

Do you think that there’s an adequate sense of community and responsibility between bloggers in Oman? As in, are issues and causes taken up through blogs? Do you ever meet up with other bloggers?

I don't know of any Omani bloggers meet ups, do you? Regardless of whether we know each other or not. Do you feel that there's a sense of community in the Omani blogosphere? At the very least are there any issues which we've taken up together? I honestly couldn't think of any.

Anyhow, read Warda's full post and reply there if you have anything to add about the disparity. Please reply here if you have comments on the question above.

Update:

Mahmood has an excellent post on the same topic. A taste:

The Emirates is more of an expat scene with continuous bitching on how bad life is in the Emirates and how brain-dead Aeraabs are as well as how smelly and uncouth Indians and Pakis are and how oh how mundane and boooaring this expat life is and how they want permaent membership in the "clooob" and have to live in lurvly Jumaira beach area. There are a few more blogs written by locals, but I fail to find a trend really. They are all over the spectrum but seem to be united in their feeling of superiority.

Oman's blogs are peaceful and human and personal and lovely and cuddly! Hardly a controversy but the mundane day-to-day existence and experiences. I read Omani blogs if I want to believe that everything in the world is hunky-dory and relax. [link]

Monday, November 28, 2005

Outta gas!

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Petrol stations have been running out of gas for the past few days. Yesterday I had to drive to three stations till I found one with petrol to fill in. We got a call from someone who works in one of the oil companies about ten days ago warning us that a shortage was coming up and we should't let our car tanks empty. I guess I should have listened to his advice, but a week had passed since he told us and things seemed to be normal till all of a sudden yesterday one station after another started turning away customers.

Apparently the three filling station companies are alloted quotas by Oman Refinery based on orders which they give in advance every three or four months. The last time they placed orders was before the UAE increased their fuel prices and now due to the large numbers of UAE residents in border towns like Buraimi who come in to fill their cars in Oman the petrol supply is running out before the end of the quota period.

I tried to find coverage about this in today's papers but neither the Times of Oman or the Observer had anything. You think maybe their reporters don't drive or are they just out of touch or waiting for someone to send them a press release to publish as if it was real news?

Whatever the reason is behind this shortage, the fact is they knew that supplies are running low and they didn't manage the crises. Who's to blame, the gas companies or the regulators? Are gas stations running dry for the same reason that we're told or is this some engineered scenario to eventually justify a fuel price hike in Oman?

(Related link: Wanna bet?)

Omantel booboo

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So Mux sees an ad in the paper for a position in Omantel which he thinks will suit me. Its for a Health and Safety Advisor. He starts skimming through the details. At first, all seems normal...


Position Objectives:

We are working towards building a strong people-focused organisation that strives to constantly improve. Everything we do is focused on strengthening our relationship with our customers, our personnel and their families, our suppliers and business partners. If you believe that pride, passion and a strong desire to perform, are the attributes which you have, then we invite you to apply for the position Health & Safety Advisor....

Okay, all is good so far. Then you get to the position requirements...

The ideal applicant will possess:

*Professional qualifications (Master or BSc) in any of the HSE disciplines or related fields from a reputed University.

*Proficient in MS Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook) and Windows.

*Minimum of 5 years work experience in a similar role.

*Possess a minimum of 3 years work experience in the Oil & Gas industry!!

*Work experience within the Telecommunications industry will surely be an added advantage.

Ha? Why??? Why would a position in Omantel require 3 years work experience in the oil and gas industry?

So my husband and I put our heads together and came up with two possible explanations:

1. People in the oil and gas sector have lots of experience in health and safety regulations, thus Omantel would prefer one of them for this position.

2. Whoever wrote this ad just ripped off an old ad posted by a petroleum company that was looking for a health and safety advisor and forgot to edit that part.

I think the latter is more likely.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Surrounded by idiots, part II

We finalized our house plans in May. Got the building permit in July. Floated a tender in August. Found a contractor, agreed on price, and signed a contract in September. And decided on a project start date of November 8th, 2005. The first step of the building process is for the contractor to go to the municipality and request for the handover of the land's markings (تسليم العلائم). This is a simple procedure where somene from the Ministry of Housing goes to the building site with the contractor and shows him the exact boundaries of the plot and makes him sign off on it to ensure that he doesn't build beyond the boundary. The paper is then endorsed at the local municipality. It sounds all quick and easy, right?

First of all the ministry said that they were too busy because of the large number of applicants and gave us an appointment one month from the date of application (We applied September 15th). No problem says I, since the construction won't start till after eid. The date came and went. I called my architect to ask what's happening and he says "oh you have a problem, one of your neighbors has built outside his bounds and now the ministry won't handover your markrings".

So I went to the municipality myself and took the engineer to the site and he showed me exactly what's happened. There's only one built house in the whole row of empty plots and its built wrong. It's 1 meter out of bounds in the back and 50 centimeters on the side. It sounded like a very simple thing to me. The guy has illegaly taken land which is not his so force him to tear down his boundary wall and rebuild it within the bounds of his land. Simple, no? The guys in the planning and survey department in the Ministry of Housing tell me that it isn't as simple as that. In fact if they were to order that it might take months. What do I care, says I. He hasn't built into the boundaries of my land. Give me permission to start building and in the meantime you can take as long as you want to make the guy break his walls. No, no, they say. It's simpler to just push the boundaries of all the plots on the left of that house by 50cm. How long will that take, I ask. Oh no time at all, we already have the new plan plotted out and all we need is approval from the head of the department. Two days the say.

That was around October 26th. Since then I've been going to the Ministry of Housing at least once or twice a week and those two days have been stretching forever. On the last day before the eid holiday they said the planning engineer wants to go to the site himself before he signs off on the new plan. Three days after the eid holiday they said that they were done. A week later I go to the department to ask if they're approved it and the dude says: we're almost done with the new plans.

- Hold on.. you told me 2 weeks ago that the plans were already done.
- Oh no I didn't, he says, why would I say they were done when they're not.
- Not only did you tell me they were done, you even showed them to me on the screen, I tell him. And he just looks at me full of contempt.

Finally they were done with the planning on November 15th. Cool. Now we can build?
-No, we're done with them here in the planning dept, but now they have to go a committe that meets every Wednesday and they have to approve them. Once they approve they have go to another department that will make the site plan (krooky) for you.
-OK, today's Tuesday, does that mean tomorrow's committee would look into our issue?

-Nope, we didn't put up your matter for tomorrow's committee.
-Next week then?
-Well we don't know if they'll have any backlog before your thing, and anyhow it's not our job to schedule that.. go to to the committee's secretary.
-Right, so let's say I talk to the dude and get the committee to look into this and approve it, how long realistically till I have a new site plan. Is it possible it might take another month there?
-Well they are quite busy there too...

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Ever get the feeling that you're surrounded by idiots?

Seriously. I don't mean like your family or friends. But don't you sometimes feel like everywhere you go you're just dealing with idiots (like the people OD wrote about a couple days ago)? It's been getting to be a bit much these past few weeks.

10 days ago when Omantel's share price started to nose dive I went to NBO and paid off most of the IPO financing which I had taken from them and signed a sell order to sell 550 shares to cover the remaining amount. On that day the price of the share was around 1.98. If they had sold that day it would have covered my outstanding and left me with about 100 rials cash to spare. Two days ago I called the branch to tell them I want to close the account and withdraw the cash. They told it's not possible to close my account because there's an overdraft still outstanding. How could that be? I told you to sell a week ago? Oh we don't know, our brokerage department didn't execute the sale. By this point the share's price had come down to about 1.84 and the very next day it collapsed to 1.77 which means that if they sell now it won't be enough to cover my overdraft, let alone leave with me 100 rials of profit. In fact at 1.77 I would still owe them about 25 rials. I wrote a complaint to the head of NBO's brokerage. Two days later I still haven't received any word from NBO. No one's called to explain what happened or even to apologize.

To add insult to injury I just got the following SMS on my mobile:

Your Omantel IPO loan with NBO has expired. Contact your branch to repay/renew the loan or sell the shares. For more details call 800770077.


I swear, holding on to your sanity is a full time effort in this country.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Bad Bad OmanTel Shares

I have never ever invested my money. Its not my thing. Actually I wouldn't know how even if I wanted to. I'm more what you'd call, the spending type. So is my husband really. For once, and after ALOT of though, not to mention encouragement from about every single Omani citizen, we decided to invest in OmanTel.

And look what happened.

Day after day, an entire population's dream slowly diminishes.

Maybe we all just had really high hopes.

Maybe it was just wishful thinking.

Maybe its bad luck.

Maybe I'll never ever buy any shares in anything again and be content with my rediculously low government salary.

Then again, maybe, just maybe, the price will go up again.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Bad Bad Business Travels

(This is a semi old story but the ending is relatively new, so here goes)

We decided to go to Al Ain during the eid holidays. Why Al Ain of all places you may ask. Well, its because Mux refuses to take me to Dubai during any official holiday. He claims we end up spending more time in traffic getting from place to place than at the place itself. No argument there.

I call up Business Travels to make a reservation for a hotel room there. Booked one room at the Bustan Rotana for Mux, myself and Faisal. Then my mom and brother decide they'd like to come as well. Then we thought, ok we'll take the nanny also. Thus, we decided it would be more convenient to reserve a furnished apartment instead. I called up BT again but was informed that they don't deal with any hotel apartments in Al Ain . Anyhow, we managed to get a booking through our friends there.

So I cancel the reservation with BT. A week in advance. They said sure, but you have to pay the rate for the first night (RO 66). So I said, but I'm not cancelling last minute, this is a whole week in advance. They said sorry this is our policy, you should not have made a reservation if there was any doubt you would not use the room. To which I said, but I'm not psychic, how was I to know others would want to join us?? Not their problem ofcourse.

Years and years ago, ever since I started booking holidays for my myself and my family, we have changed our plans over and over again. Heck, Mux and I changed our entire honeymoon package from Australia to the Far East. Not once were we ever charged. I can understand if someone charges you if you cancel last minute, because they incur losses because of you, but when its one week in advance, its not fair.

Mux refused to pay on principle. But I begged him to because I know the girl at the agency and because she told me they would cut it out of her salary.

I asked if I could pay by Electron and they said sure but we charge you 2.5% on top of it. Mux hit the roof.

Anyhow, we paid. In cash.

We are not happy.

Never going back to Business Travels again.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Omani Blog Awards 2005



The nomination stage of the Omani Blog Awards 2005 has begun. [link]




Wednesday, November 16, 2005

How much lower?

Michael Jackson's here in Muscat since yesterday on some undisclosed private business. One rumor has it that he's here as a guest of the developers of the Blue City to get home to invest in the project. Another is that he's here to be part of something to do with National Day.

Whichever it is, isn't it proof that the guy's hit rock bottom.

Post #250

Minor milestone: this our blog's 250th post. Who would've thunk, ha?



Monday, November 14, 2005

1991

Staying on a musical theme. Yesterday I was at a music store looking at CDs and the only interesting new release was the new Depeche Mode album which I refused to buy because it has Copy Control. The shop has one of those loyalty cards where you get a free CD whenever you buy 10. I was looking at my card and I've bought 7 CDs since last December. It's not me, it's just that the music isn't as good as it used to be. When was the last time we had a year like 1991? All the following albums were released that year:

Nirvana - Nevermind
Metallica - Metallica (the Black album)
Pearl Jam - Ten
U2 - Achtung Baby
R.E.M. - Out of Time
Sting - The Soul Cages
Massive Attack - Blue Lines
Guns N' Roses - Use Your Illusion
Prince - Diamonds and Pearls
Electronic - Electronic
Michael Jackson - Dangerous
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Primal Scream - Screamadalica
INXS - X
Seal - Seal (the first album)
Simple Minds - Real Life
Spin Doctors - Pocketful of Kryptonite

Was that a great year for music or what. Which year would you choose and why?

Sunday, November 13, 2005

80's music

Why is it that even though we're more than half way through the 00's no one talks about 90's music the way 80's music still has a hold on people? What is it about the 80's musically that the 90's didn't have? I don't think I ever heard anyone use the term "90's music" at all.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Oops

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If you've been to Qurum from the beach road you've probably seen this partially torn down house. In case you're wondering about it, here's what I know. It's the kind of story you never read in the Times of Oman or Oman Observer. If I get any of the facts wrong, please correct me. What I know is based mostly on what I heard from various sources who may or not be biased (though they are from both sides of the story).

The picture above is of the late Sayyid Faisal bin Ali's house as it stands today. Sayyid Faisal was Oman's Minister of Heritage and Culture from 1976 till his death in 2003. He died without heirs and his house, which is located on prime location right next to the Crowne Plaza hotel overlooking one of the most beautiful views in Muscat, was sold last year by a group of investors. I don't know the price but I the smallest price I heard was 3 million rials. After tossing around many plans including either re-selling the land for a profit or developing into a resort, the partners decided to develop the land themselves into a combination of villas and apartments. The properties were snatched up by investors, some of whom quickly flipped their investment by selling again to others. All this while the original house itself was still standing and no development has taken place on the property itself.

Right next to this property there's an old apartment complex which is occupied mostly by European expats who are horrified at the thought of a large apartment building coming up next to them and blocking their view. As the scope of the development next door kept changing and the number of units increased, they began to grumble about the increased traffic in the neighborhood as well as well as their loss of privacy due to having a building overlooking their complex. Soon talk came out of how to stop the development.

At first there was talk of trying to accomodate them and even offering them partial use of the private beach in the new development. Then it became known that there were ancient graves on the Sayyid Faisal's property. These apparently weren't newly discovered graves, they've had been properly excavated by archaelogists in Sayyid Faisal life. The residents get up in arms: "how can the government allow the building of an apartment complex on top of an archeological site?" The story was spun to make it sound as if the archaelogical site was a new discovery. And who is it that owns their housing complex?
None other than the present under-secretary of the Ministry of Heritage and Culture. They've contacted anyone who'd listen to them. Enter Al Roya magazine, which took up their cause and published an article calling for the government to stop the development.

It's become a huge mess and apparently the project's presently on hold. You have investors who've paid millions of rials to buy a property and others who've paid to buy into the development that will come up on it. Is it really about preserving our archaelogical heritage or has it been used simply as an excuse? Who knows, but if you pass by the beach road you will see this eyesore.

Anyone know more?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

reBlog: Drowing is Popular




You know how fond I am of messed up translations on official Omani signboards. This one was taken by Round Peg at Wadi Dayqah. [link]

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Today

Al Muhalab mosque 2

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Couldn't get out of bed this morning. My back was stiff from a combination of a bad bed mattress in a hotel we stayed at in Al Ain and all the driving over the eid holidays. So I stayed in bed pretty much all morning and was finally mobile by noon. Around 1pm I grabbed my camera and a new cheapo 70-300mm lens I bought a couple weeks ago which I still haven't tested and went for a drive looking for things to photograph. By 2pm I had already clicked over 130 pictures and was back home for lunch. I wish I had taken a smaller lens with me as well but I got some nice pics of fishermen at Shatti Al Qurum (right off share3 al 7ob) while they were loading off their catch of sardines.

The pics are in Flickr set if you wanna check them out.

Cinema (mis)Management

Forget censorship, what we need is good cinema managers. Last night my mother in law invited all of us to go see the new Adel Imam movie together at Shatti Cinema. We got there super early because we were told it was going to be a full show. We got in our seats in time. The cinema was full of Arab families. The lights dimmed. And the first movie trailer was for a movie called The Keeper which was definitely not made for showing in cinemas. The trailer was full of four letter words and even slight nudity. You could feel the discomfort in the cinema rise. The trailer ended and a second one began for a low budget straight to video horror flick called Man-Thing. This one was worst. It began with moaning sounds and then there were a couple having sex on a boat in the middle of a swamp. Next thing you know, the woman's boobs were exposed to the extreme horror of a couple hundred people sitting with their families in the theater. People in the cinema were wondering if they had entered the wrong cinema hall.

What's up with this stupid cinema's managers? Except for the nudity, this is quite typical of Shatti cinema. This is the kind of cinema that would show trailers for action and horror movies before a Disney animation so a fuck up like this isn't unusual. How can parents trust an incompetent management like this to enforce film ratings when their kids go to the movies alone if they're willing to do crap like this even with the parents in attendence?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Eid semi-rant

Mattrah family house

First of all, eid mubarak everyone. Best wishes to all readers of this blog. Hope you're all having a great time.

Before I begin this semi-rant let me start by saying that most of what I'm about rant about isn't my own view. The eid holiday has brought some controversy and I'm just blogging about it.

The eid holiday as announced mid-week was a bit unusual. It was a conditional announcement: the holiday for the public sector was to begin on Wednesday and if eid fell on Thursday the go back to work on Monday, but if eid fell on Friday they take the whole next week off. As for the private sector their holiday starts on Thursday and they go back to work on Monday regardless what day eid was. This lead to a lot of ranting on behalf of private sector employees, particularly the lower paid ones who are already fuming at the "makruma samiya" (royal gesture/grant) that Sultan has ordered to government employees on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of his rule.

Come Wednesday night, Oman TV put on quite a show. They had tv crews in all corners of Oman including Jabal Shams and Musandam with astronomers live on the air with high powered telescopes and all sorts of high tech shit. We had all sorts of explanations about how the moon will only be visible for 8 to 12 minutes after sunset and how if no one can see it in that brief window then eid will be on Friday. So there you had it, a live presenter in the tv studio switching back and forth between a bunch of remote locations and no one has seen the moon. After an hour of all that it looked like they were about to throw in the towel. Switch to another tv presenter at the Ministry of Awqaf outside the minister's office and just as he goes on the air someone from the ministry hands him an official announcement to read. He starts reading in a subdued voice thinking he's that the moon was not sited in Oman, but next thing you know he's announcing that the moon was sighted in so many different locations. Hello, was it all a charade? You just explained in ever scientific way how no one could have seen the moon after 5.40something pm and now you're telling us all these people saw it? Oh, well I'm private sector so it makes no difference to me.

Was the eid deliberately announced for Thursday to shorten the holiday? Some people thought so. But conspiracy theorists didn't have much time to build on this because by 10pm the news suddenly came out that HM has announced another royal gesture: the holiday is extended till next Friday for the government but the priviate sector will go back to work on Monday as previously announced. Private sector employees cried foul. "Are we second class citizens in this country?", they said. How come we work two shifts a day, get only a one day weekend, get less annual leave every year, are paid less by our employers than the public sector, we are always short-changed in public holidays, etc. How come the Sultan's ordered a special bonus for all government employees but we get nothing, are we not Omanis? The Kuwaiti government last year paid a bonus to all citizens, it didn't discriminate by giving it to just the public sector, etc etc.

Of course you can't argue with a royal decision, but it appears this issue has widened the divide between the public and private sectors. It has lead to controversy in the middle of the celebration. This will probably die over soon, but since National Day is coming in two weeks it might be a while before we hear the end of it.

Anyhow, we're off to enjoy the holidays. Seeya in a couple days.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

iTrip R.I.P.

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My iTrip's gone kaput. No more iPod music in the car for the time being. Since the new 5th Gen iPods no longer have a remote socket on the top I've decided to wait till the new iTrip which connects on the bottom of the iPod comes out before I buy a replacement. No use buying a new one now and then having to buy another in a couple months if I buy a new iPod.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Omani Queueing System

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Picture taken at the Ministry of Housing this morning. It took 2 hours to go through that mess just to get an invoice to take to the bank to pay for a plot which was already appropriated a year ago.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Ramadhan car shopping

There's a city down there!

I don't know if it's the case in other countries, but for some reason Ramadhan is THE time to buy a car in Oman. Is it because they feel it's a blessed time of the year to buy a car or or is it just because the dealers keep their best offers till Ramadhan.. who knows. Car dealers go crazy, for example the Toyota dealer is giving away a Corolla a day for the whole month. I never understood the appeal of entering a competition when the price of entry is buying car. Why not give some real value to the buyer instead. I don't want to buy a car to win another car.

Anyhow, towards the end of Ramadhan for the past few years we like to play pretend and go car shopping like all our fellow citizens. Two years ago it was for a 4X4 to be used as a second car. The year before it was for a small econo-compact to use for work. Didn't buy either, but who knows maybe this year will be the one I actually bite the bait and actually buy one.

This year I've been thinking what to do about my car. If I were to sell or trade-in my BMW, I probably can't afford to go for another one- not that I like any of the current BMWs (except for the 6 series). I'd want my next car to have 6 cylinders. It should have good resale value which means I can use it for a few years and then sell it without losing too much value. But at the same time it has to be a trouble free car that's actually fun to drive. I'm surprised by how few the options are.

Basically if you want to a car with a good resale value you have to cross out all non-Japanese cars as well as Japanese cars which are considered by Omanis to be of lower quality or those which the dealer's reputation isn't highly regarded, like Mitsubishi. The options are: Nissan Altima 3.5, Toyota Avalon and Infiniti G35. I crossed out the Camry from the list because they're just too common and way too boring. Slim pickings, eh?

The Nissan Altima is a pretty good deal. It has 250 hp with lots of options. It's supposed to be a fun car to drive. The only downside is that the dealer here doesn't bring it with navigation or a premium sound system. The Toyota Avalon is a bigger car with 280hp. It comes out with all the options except for navigation. Say what you want about the Avalon, it's not a good looking car but it's value for money: It has leather ventilated seats, keyless entry and start, for almost the same price as the Altima. The Infiniti G35 is a smaller car, more the size of a BMW 3 series than a 5 series like the others. It's got plenty of power too, 289hp, and lots of options. Best of all it's rear wheel drive, which is a huge plus. Like the other two, it doesn't have GPS navigation. I guess car dealers in Oman think Omani car buyers are idiots who wouldn't know what to do with GPS.

The price of all three cars is approximately RO. 12000. Amazingly, 7 years ago when I bought my car the price of a BMW 523 was 12000 and a 528 was going for 15,500. Nowadays the only BMW you can get for 12000 is a 1 series.

Note: the pic above is from the basement of the new Toyota showroom which might turn out to be one of the largest showrooms in the world.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Ooh that was a loud one, wasn't it?

Listening to Oman FM today the genius deejay had the brilliant idea of playing a Barbara Streisand ballad followed by the latest single from System of a Down. From the sound of it, she hadn't heard the SOAD song before she played it. "Ooh, that was a loud one, wasn't it?" she said.

Can't wait till I don't have to heard that kind of stupidity on the air anymore when private stations start next year. Imagine if when they do they go and hire the same idiots over there.

Deadly Omanization

Is it just me or has the recent "Omanization" of commercial driving jobs lead to an increased risk on our roads?

Sometimes it seems like the bigger the truck, the crazier the Omani driver inside it is driving. Don't these people realize that the dynamics are totally different when they're driving huge trucks and it's not the same as when they are in their Toyota Echos? You see huge fuel tankers overtaking cars on the third lane and gas cylinder delivery truck speeding with their rear gates open and the cylinders being held only with flimsy ropes while the driver has a bunch of his friends next to him with their feet up on the dashboard as if they were lounging at home. Even worse is that these maniacs know that we're scared of them and they use it to their advantage. They don't care about stop signs. They don't even slow down for roundabouts.. They just drive on. They know that you'll stop and give way to them even if the right of way is yours.

Two days ago I saw a school buses zoom through a red light at the busy intersection next to Star Cinema. It was overfilled with kids at twice or three times the actual bus capacity and when the bus got near me I noticed that the driver wasn't even wearing a seatbelt. The dude has no value on his own life and yet he's being entrusted with the lives of about 50 kids on a daily basis. Yesterday OD was almost driven by off the road by a mini bus belonging to a Quran school!

Where are the police in all this? What are they doing about this problem?

Monday, October 24, 2005

Snip snip

Remember this:

Censored

A royal decree came out yesterday that transfers "
the prerogative of endorsing “classified arts”" from the Ministry of Heritage and Culture to the Ministry of Information. In other words all forms of art censorship will from now on be in the same ministry. The people with the big black markers for censoring magazines will now be working with the people with scissors who chop the movies we see in the cinemas.

It makes sense to have one ministry in charge of all censorship. But then again, you presently have people in the Ministry of Information who think that a picture of a woman in a bikini is obscene and try to cover it in black ink. The film censors at the Ministry of Heritage and Culture have been a bit more lenient and merciful with their scissors though they sometimes go crazy and start cutting arbitrarily just to piss us off. However, all the existing staff who do this job in the Ministry of Heritage and Culture will be transferred to the Ministry of Information so we shouldn't expect any radical changes except if the Minister of Information has a mandate to change how things are.

10 years ago the Ministry of Information fought hard to be given control of the internet before access was launched in Oman. They lost that fight because Omantel voluntarily chose self-censorship, which turned out to be worst than imposed censorship.

Let's wait and see.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Did you know .....

That you can pay for gas (or petrol as most ppl say) at Oman Oil using your Visa Electron? I'm so excited by this new and wonderful discovery. I get the feeling that this revelation is probably old news to many, but, I'm excited anyways.

I never ever have any cash on me. If I'm out shopping, then I use my Electron. If I'm going for coffee or to the tailor, etc, then I just stop by the ATM machine on my way and withdraw the amount I want.

Today I was on my way out when I discovered that my car needed petrol. So I call Mux to double check the piece of info I kind of remember him giving me regarding using my Electron at some petrol station (apparently it was Al Maha station that he was refering to). Me being me, I am already at Oman Oil before he has even had a chance to tell me that I have the wrong station. I thought I'd take a chance and ask the attendant. To Mux's surprise, the man said my card was welcome there.

Tada!
Filled my car. I was happy.

Mux was upset. Hates people who don't advertise their services. Insists they should put up a sign.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Charity Fair at City Center

NBO is organizing a charity fair at City Center tomorrow and the day after (October 18 and 19). A bunch of charity organizations and NGOs will be participating. ESO will be there too. We have a stall where we will be selling our items like coffee mugs, t-shirts, wheel covers, and of course our world famous canvas shopping bags. Timings are mornings 10am to 1pm and again in the evening from 7pm till midnight.

Come by if you can. Learn more about the different charity organizations and volunteer groups in Oman. Help out by buying from their products or just by becoming a member and donating your time.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Muscat

A few days ago, I sent an email via the Shangri-La website enquiring about the opening dates of their Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa. I was very impressed when I received a reply from them today (impressed by the immediate reply as well as the detailed email).

So I though I'd post it here for all of you incase you are wondering how much it would cost you to spend the night there :)


Dear Ms. (OceanDream)

Thank you for your email request for information about Shangri-La's Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa.

Currently we are finalising our pre-opening preparations and training and will be welcoming guests to the 'Al Waha' and 'Al Bandar' hotels from the 6th January 2006 and anticipate that 'Al Husn' and our 'Chi' Spa Village will be opening a few weeks later. (Further details of the resort's hotels and facilities can be found on our company website, www.shangri-la.com)

Should you plan to stay on or after January 06, 2006 for either Al Waha or Al Bandar Hotel and after March 01, 2006 for Al Husn Hotel we are pleased to offer our value rate with following benefits to make your stay memorable at Shangri-La's Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa;
  • Complimentary breakfast every morning (maximum two persons)
  • Free buffet dinner or equivalent credit on room service or any of the resorts dining facilities (maximum two persons)
  • Free Laundry Service (excluding dry cleaning)
  • Free non motorised water sports
  • Free broadband Internet access.
  • IDD calls and faxes at cost and free local calls
  • 6.00 pm extended Check out time

Value room rates;

Al Bandar Hotel ( 5 star):

Deluxe Seafacing Room : RO.125.000
Deluxe Seaview Room : RO.145.000
Deluxe Seaview Room with Patio : RO.155.000
Premier Room : RO.170.000
Regular Suite : RO.200.000
Deluxe Suite : RO.235.000

Al Waha Hotel ( 5 star):

Superior Seafacing Room : RO.110.000
Superior Seafacing Room with Patio : RO.120.000
Deluxe Seaview Room : RO.120.000
Deluxe Seaview Room with Patio : RO.125.000
Executive Room : RO.145.000
Premier Room : RO.155.000
Regular Suite : RO.180.000
Deluxe Suite : RO.195.000
Premier Suite : RO 210.000

Al Husn Hotel ( 6 star):

Deluxe Room : RO.190.000
Regular Suite : RO.220.000
Deluxe Suite : RO.280.000
Presidential Suite : RO.350.000
Royal Suite : RO.1500.000

All above rates are per room/suite, per night on double occupancy and subject to 17% service charge and tax.

Okays, so I hope Muscati gets the hint and starts saving for our anniverssary from now!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Moblog

Here's a sampler of the weird, funny or just downright mundane stuff you're missing if you haven't been checking out the muscatiblog flickr photos.

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I had a corn the size Musandam removed from my foot last Thursday. I've been trying all sorts of over-the-counter treatments with no results. All this time I thought it was a wart. Finally gave up on it because it was begining to hurt so I went to the clinic and asked them to take it out. I thought they'd freeze it out with liquid nitrogen but the doc said that's only done with warts, since this one's a corn it had to be shaven out. Sounded easy to me so I told him to go for it. Didn't know that "shaving" it out actually means more like using sharp razors to cut all around it, put a pin through it and then pull it out and cut underneath it. They used a local anasthetic so there wasn't much pain except for the injection of the anasthetic into the corn. But once they were done.. boy that's when the pain began. Hurt so much I couldn't go to work the next day. Oh well, it's gone and I'm all fixed. Doctor says there's a 5% chance the fucker will come back though.

F'in Copy Control

I usually refuse to buy any CD which has Copy Control on it, but I couldn't resist this time. Couldn't boycott the Stones especially with their new album getting such rave reviews (four and half stars in RollingStone magazine). It copied alright into my iPod. All I had to do was keep the Esc button pressed when I put the CD in my laptop and there it was on iTunes.


Moleskine


Back to analog. Forget about PDAs. I've had my share of them begining with the original Palm Pilot almost 10 years ago. I finally found a solution: the Moleskine Cahier pocket notebook. When I ordered mine I thought I was just following a fad and it would join all the other crap I buy and never use. Quite surprisingly, I use it all the time. It's small enough to fit in my pocket and I carry it with my wallet all the time. Keep notes, write reminders, put down thoughts and ideas, etc. I got mine from Mojo London.


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Ok, you either get why this name is funny or you don't. I've been taking a medicine called Zyrtek on a regular basis for the past 7 years for an allergy. The other day I had a really bad allergy rash so I went to the pharmacy across the parking lot from where I work and asked for some Zyrtek. They said they only deal with generic drugs and gave me this one which is identical in composition. It worked fine but wow.. what a name!

In today's mail

This Ramadhan we decided to skip all the stupid shows on TV and we're just watching TV shows on DVD. We're about three quarters through Lost now and when we're done we'll get into Desperate Housewives and then Scrubs season 2.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Brain Drain

I wrote this almost a year and a half ago on OmanForum. I'm bringing it up again because this yesterday a friend visited me at work to say goodbye because he's moving to Jeddah to work for SAMBA at about three or four times his present salary.
1. brain drain (n.) -
The loss of skilled intellectual and technical labor through the movement of such labor to more favorable geographic, economic, or professional environments. (dictionary.com)

2. When the Omani educational system was getting on its feet, many Omanis opted for schools in the UAE and elsewhere in the Middle East. This exodus deprived the country of valuable brains and riyals. Omani students' tuition fees and other expenses were not being invested in domestic institutions, creating a net outflow of educational money. Students that study abroad often stay abroad too, stripping Oman of some of its brightest citizens.

(From the Oxford Group's Oman Weekly Briefing dated July 4, 2004.)
________________________________________________________

Every year more people I know move out of Oman and get jobs elsewhere. At the moment two of my cousins work for multinational companies in Dubai. In the last couple years some of my Omani colleagues at work left and went to work for banks in Dubai. 2 of my closest friends have told me in the past few weeks that they have job offers abroad.

Q: Are Oman's best and brightest talents moving abroad?

Do you think that Oman is indeed suffering from a brain drain and if so what effect do you think it will have on us? (link)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

3aza

I went to give condolences to a friend over the death of his grandfather yesterday. It was really croweded and as usual most people in the 3aza were talking about the same subject: how much they hate the present Omani way of mourning. It's just too tiresome for everyone, especially the bereaved family.

For those who don't know, in Oman when someone passes away the men from his/her family accept condolences for three days in a mosque from morning till dhuhur prayers and again from asr till maghrib. When you go to pay your respects at the mosque, you enter and shake hands with every single person in the mosque begining with the people closest to the door on your right. If the person who's passed away is well known, well loved or had lots of friends, it means that there would probably be a constant flood of people coming in. As a result the people in the mosque never sit down. They will be standing on their feet for the most part of three days. It doesn't get better if there are less people, because they sit on the ground not on chairs or cushions. And everytime someone enters the mosque everyone gets up again. So the routine is constant sitting and standing till your legs go numb.

Some groups in Oman have it a bit different. For example the shi'a have made the process more efficient. You don't shake hands with everyone in the mosque. You enter the mosque and go straight to the bereaved family and give condolences to them. This system is more efficient for the people going to pay their respect, but it doesn't do anything for the family themselves because they're still constantly having to stand up whenever someone enters the mosque. One thing I like about shi3a mourning is that as soon as you sit down in the mosque someone comes and gives a small section of the Quran to read in respect to the deceased. It's better than sitting around chatting with other people there which seems a little disrespectful to me.

I don't know how it is in other countries, but surely there's got to be a better way. I remember reading about it in a Kuwaiti blog last year and it didn't seem any better than it is here except over there it's usually in a diwania and they sit on chairs instead of the floor. But still there's the same aspect of the bereaved family being on their feet for three days.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Traffic part 1

Stuck in traffic last week because when roads were closed because the Sultan was going to address the Oman Council with his annual speech I had a flashback of memory from around 20 years ago. We were stopped at a traffic light by Bait Al Falaj. I looked at the right at the car next to us and I was shocked to find the Sultan driving on his own. The light turned green. He waived and went on ahead of us. I thought I had imagined the whole thing but when I turned back and asked my mom and dad it turned out I wasn't. Back then HM used to go out quite often in public like that. How things have changed.

A couple days later the roads were closed again. This time it turned out that it was because the Tunisian prime minister was in town. Can't they just put whatever visiting dignatary on a helicopter from the airport straight to wherever they're putting him/her up? Must we always suffer the consequences for ensuring the safety of these people. Muscat is a city with just one main highway connecting all its different parts together. You close that one road and you bring the whole city to a standstill.

Monday, October 03, 2005

TV halal, cinema haram?

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Ramadhan's here again, well either tomorrow or the day after, and as usual all the Arab television channels including Oman TV will turn into full-on 24/7 entertainment with wall to wall soap operas. Somehow that's all ok, but watching a movie in the cinema is a big no-no.

As per tradition, the Ministry of Heritage and Culture today issued its order to cinemas that they are prohibited from showing movies before 9pm during Ramadhan. Of course in typical Omani fashion we should always learn to look at those worse off than us lest we wish to improve, hence, I am going to say at least we're better than Kuwait where last Ramadhan the company that owns all the cinemas decided to voluntarily stop showing movies during the last ten days of Ramadhan.

I wonder if someone actually takes this decision in the ministry every year or if it's just happening because one of the past ministers made that decision and it just keeps getting implemented every year without any thought going into it because it really is ridiculous.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

ESO Lecture October 1st

ESO Lecture October 1, 2005

The first lecture of the ESO's 2005/6 season will be held on October 1st at Majan College at 7pm. It will be an illustrated presentation on the Conservation of the Houbara Bustard. This bird is in danger of extinction within the next 20 years due to excess hunting, both by falconers in Arabia and trainers in Pakistan and Iran who use them to train falcons.

This lecture will be presented by Yasser Al Kharusi who is a biologist at Jaaluni (the Oryx project). Should be an interesting presentation which tells a story that stretches from Oman to the breeding grounds of migrant birds in Central Asia. The lecture will be in English.

Doors open at 7pm. Lecture will begin at 7.30pm.

As usual entry is open to the public, you don't have to be a member to come. Please email: membership@environment.org.om to confirm if you are coming so that we can get an idea of the number to prepare for.

More details about ESO (in both Arabic and English): www.environment.org.om

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Aiwa?

I spent about 15 minutes this morning trying to get someone on the phone at a certain ministry which shall remain unnamed. I must have talked with about 7 people as I dialled number after number from the ministry's phone list. Most of them picked up the phone with the extremely annoying greeting "aiwa?" though one or two had the only slightly more polite "na3am?". Not one of them identified which ministry or which department I had called. I had to spend about half a minute with each of them confirming that I had called a ministry, not a house. Hell even if I had called someone's house I'd expect a "salam 3alaikum" or even a "hello" not a stupid "aiwa?".



The man who took OD's change

I went to fill up my car today at the Oman Oil station in MQ. It cost RO 6.800. I gave him a tenner. He gave me back RO 3. Now, I'm no math genius, but, shouldn't the change be RO3.200? When he walked away from my window I thought he was going to get change, and I was going to tell him to keep it, but, he walked away quickly.And never came back!

I was looking at him in my rear view mirror, saw him look at me then quickly turn away and start filling up the car behind me.

He stole my money. Ok so he stole his tip, but he didn't know I was going to tip him, which means he stole my money! Just like that. In broad daylight! I was too shocked. I didn't know what to do. I just drove away.

Now I can't stop thinking about it. Its not the money, cause its nothing. Its the principle. What if he does this to other people? I thought about going back and talking to his manager, but I'd never forgive myself if he lost his job because of me. Plus I hate causing a commotion (hmmm, Madonna moment there..so 80s)..

What would you all have done?

Friday, September 23, 2005

The word on the Dana Gas IPO

Over the past week I've gotten quite a few calls from friends asking my view on the Dana Gas IPO, which is going to be one of the largest IPOs in UAE history. The reason this one's special is because this time subscription is open to all GCC citizens. Since UAE IPO shares tend to double and triple in value on the first day of listing everyone wants a piece of this one. The question is: how many shares can you get? The minimum application is 5000 shares and the company says they hope to give an allocation of about 3000 shares to each applicant. However if the oversubcription is high they will not be able to do that. People have a false comfort that UAE banks no longer give the crazy kind of leverage they used to give in past IPOs. However these same people who tell me that conveniently forget that even without the UAE leverage, the fact that it's open to all gulf citizens compensates for that in numbers. Another thing is that even though the IPO ends early next week, the listing might not happen till January and the IPO prospectus does not mention the refund and allocation period. If you're planning to subscribe you should be ready to lock-in your funds for a long period.

Finally, you might want to read this:
Riyadh : Thousands of Saudis want to go to the UAE to buy shares in Dana Gas, a natural gas resource company, leading to sold-out flights to Dubai.

The reservation department of Saudi Arabian Airlines said no seats were available on its flights to Dubai from Jeddah and Dammam before September 29 and from Riyadh before September 30. The airline, however, has no plan to operate additional flights to Dubai because it would affect services to other destinations, an airline official said. Saudi Arabian Airlines operates four flights to Dubai from Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam, carrying more than 1,000 passengers every day.

"During the last three days, we operated an additional flight daily carrying 300 passengers," the airline official said. "We operate flights to 86 domestic and international destinations. It is not fair to operate more flights to a particular city, ignoring other destinations."

The rush to catch flights to Dubai came after Dana Gas allowed all Gulf citizens to subscribe to its shares during the initial public offering, which opened on September 20. In the largest initial public offering ever in the UAE, Dana Gas is offering shares worth Dh2.06 billion, or 34.33 per cent of the company's capital.

Some of the subscribers told Gulf News that procedures were very easy. They said UAE banks allowed those who could not travel to the emirate to open their accounts with them on the basis of attested authorisation letters and Saudi passport copies. But many Saudis have requested the company to allow them to subscribe to its shares through Saudi banks or branches of UAE banks in the kingdom as Saudi businessmen figure prominently in the list of founders after UAE nationals.

As many as 1,688 Saudis have received investor numbers from Dubai in the past few days, taking the number of Saudi investors to 23,271 out of 268,364. [link]

Update:

saudis bum rush the bank

The picture above from Emirates Today newspaper:

Mass confusion surrounded the 8am opening of a branch of the Emirates Bank yesterday as about 500 Saudi Arabian men attempted to snap up subscriptions for one of the UAE’s largest initial public offering.

“When I came to work this morning at 7.30am, there were as many as 500 men lined up,” said a senior employee from the head office of Emirates Bank who had been assigned to the Mankhool Road branch.

Policemen were guarding the doors of the bank and only letting in a few customers at a time.

“Yesterday we did not guard the doors and the whole bank was filled with people,” said Nabeela Al Shehhi, a female customer service employee who was processing applications.

“Some customers were shouting and pushing our desks. If there had been no men with us, we would not have been able to deal with the situation.” A senior branch employee said: “We had people swearing at us and fighting among themselves yesterday before we were forced to call the police.

“It has been like this for the past three days, but because of the weekend, today is the busiest day we have seen so far. We expect the same amount of traffic until October 3, when the IPO closes,” he said.

It was confirmed that the branch ran out of application forms two hours after opening for business yesterday. [edited]


And in the middle of all this frenzy no one's talking about the negative rumors that the IPO itself might be in trouble. The press mentioned it just once and after that no further coverage.
some fears and questions remain about the IPO launch with the recent disagreement that erupted between Crescent Petroleum Company, one of the major investors in Dana Gas, and the Iranian gas supplier, Iranian National Gas Company.

Dana Gas' newly acquired assets and facilities will initially be supplied with gas by Crescent Petroleum, which is importing substantial gas volumes from Iran to supplement and underpin domestic gas resources. According to MEES, significant volume will be imported from Iran under a 25-year supply contract.

The Iranian National Gas Company recently demanded from Crescent Petroleum Company to increase the previously set and agreed upon prices due to the big hike in the prices of global energy sources.

An informed source, who asked not to be identified, said Crescent Petroleum Company refused in a written response any possible adjustments to the previously agreed prices; therefore, Iranian company threatened to resort to arbitration.

The source pointed that any price hike will be a major dilemma for Dana Gas in fulfilling its previously signed agreements with UAE end users.

Mohammad Bin Dha'en Al Hamili, UAE Minister of Energy, has sent a letter to Crescent Petroleum to inquire about the company's ability to fulfill its commitments to end-uses and provide gas to Federal Electricity and Water Authority (FEWA). However, Crescent Petroleum did not provide a reply so far, which increases suspicion about the situation inside the company.

Sorry I don't have a source for the above, it was emailed to me earlier this week.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-dissisdents


Blogs get people excited. Or else they disturb
and worry them. Some people distrust them. Others
see them as the vanguard of a new information
revolution. Because they allow and encourage
ordinary people to speak up, they're tremendous
tools of freedom of expression.

Bloggers are often the only real journalists in
countries where the mainstream media is censored
or under pressure. Only they provide independent
news, at the risk of displeasing the government
and sometimes courting arrest.

Reporters Without Borders has produced this
handbook to help them, with handy tips and
technical advice on how to remain anonymous and
to get round censorship, by choosing the most
suitable method for each situation. It also
explains how to set up and make the most of a
blog, to publicise it (getting it picked up
efficiently by search-engines) and to establish
its credibility through observing basic ethical
and journalistic principles.

Available in five
languages (English, French, Chinese, Arabic and
Persian) from the Reporters Without Borders website: www.rsf.org.

Ear popper


The hand-held, battery-operated EarPopper(TM) delivers a constant, controlled stream of air pressure and flow into the nasal cavity, diverting air up the Eustachian tube when the patient swallows. This action clears and ventilates the middle ear and restores hearing immediately...
Far as I'm concerned this is a miracle invention. I've had ear problems almost all my life, but in the past three years my main ear problem is that my ear keeps getting blocked because of pressure not equalizing. When that happens I often can't just pop my ears and sometimes my ear remains blocked for days before it pops open again on its own. This has lead to some hearing loss in my right ear. Can't wait till I can get one of these EarPopper thinggies.

Unfortunately for the time being it's available by perscription only. [link]

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The product sells itself

Exhibit 1. ESO is in final prepartions for opening an office. We've found a location and we're working on fixing the place up, etc. I've been asked to take care of the equipment: computers, printer, fax, copier, etc. I spent a couple days going to every office automation showroom in town giving them a list of requirements and requesting their quotations. After that I waited 3 or 4 days but other than one computer shop, no one had sent anything. I had to call companies and chase them for quotations. It took over a week. It was frustrating as hell. "Do you guys want to sell stuff, or do you just have showrooms for show?". Once we had the quotations, except for the guy from Xerox, none of the salesmen bothered to give me any follow-up calls. I had to call them and tell them what I liked and what I didn't about their offers. I had to tell them what they needed to change. And of course I had to chase them again till I got the revised quotations. If I wasn't time-bound by a schedule to get the office ready I wouldn't have done any of the chasing. Anyhow, we went through all the quotations and chose the equipment and ended up buying the most expensive item from the salesman who had done the least amount of work. The poor guy from Xerox who was the most active salesman of the bunch, ended up getting just a small order. It didn't feel good at all giving the biggest sale to the guy who did the least work. Unfortunately the product he offered met our requirements more than the others. His product more or less sold itself.



Exhibit 2. A salesman showed up at our house around 7pm a couple weeks ago and said my brother had asked him to come. I called my brother to tell him that there's a guy waiting for him. He said he had told the guy to confirm to him if he can come at 7pm. Since the guy hadn't confirmed, he didn't come to wait for him. I told that to the guy and asked him why he hadn't confirmed. He said he was out of credit on his phone and couldn't call. Anyhow, I found out he works for LG airconditioners, so I thought I'd take advantage and find out more about them for my house. Turned out he only deals in central A/Cs and I need split or cassette type for my house. He promised he'll get someone from that other department to call me. I'm still waiting for a call. He never will, of course. But unfortunately, when the time comes to buy A/Cs for my house next year I will probably call LG for a quotation. After all, they're the world's largest manufacturers of air conditioners (or so they claim).



Something's definitely not right here. They are the sales people. It's their job to get us to buy their products. We shouldn't be chasing them around and doing their jobs for them. Don't these people care about making a sale. Don't they have any quotas to meet.

When was the last time you bought something in Oman because the salesman was good and convinced you to buy his/her product? More often than not they don't really market their products. They're just their to give you the price and nothing more.