Thursday, April 28, 2005

Just say no

I got a call today from an old college friend who I had lost contact with a while back. The guy's out of town and can't draw money from his account. I called some contacts in his bank and asked around. It turned out that he's guaranteed a relative's loan and that guy has defaulted so now the bank has blocked his account. I begged and pleaded with the branch manager to remove the block from his account because he's abroad and needs the money. No dice. The branch manager was cold as ice and said "in the past whenever I block his account he manages to convince his relative to come in and deposit something in his account. Why should I remove the block? It works."

I wish to say that this is a unique situation, but it's the second time someone complains to me about a loan they've guaranteed this month. In the past, whenever someone brings up topic in a gathering there were always at least one or two people who had similar nightmare stories to tell

I'm not going to go into details. Just one piece of advice: don't ever guarantee anyone's loan. No matter how much you like the person, how much you trust him/her, how much you like em, whatever. Unless it's your father, mother, spouse or kids.. just stay away from it Don't worry that you might appear rude, or that you're in awkward situation. Unless you're ok with paying off their entire loan, just say NO.

Bad things do happen to good people sometimes. The person you guarantee might be a good guy. But I'm sure it won't be ok with you when his loan installment is taken from your account every month. And it's much worse when the person turns out to be an asshole, like the guy in today's situation who's left his job, taken a better job somewhere else and assigned his new salary to another bank leaving his own blood relative to pay off his old loan for him.

Off to Dubai!

We are off to Dubai in a bit (Yahoooo)..

Should be back by Saturday inshallah...

Its not like I've been posting much this past week, but, atleast now I have an excuse :)

Do update us on all the happenings while we are away!

Oh and Kaza, I'll keep my eyes open for a long limbed Libyan girl!!

Take care people!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Al Manahil

Came home yesterday and found an email from Al Manahil Books saying that there's an Amazon.co.uk parcel for me so I raced out again to catch them before they close. It's my first time availing this service and I must say I am extremely satisfied. They charged me 1 rial per book and refused to take anything for the DVD that was with them in the package because the books were quite heavy and the DVD itself wouldn't have added much to the weight of the package. I am definitely going to order my books through them from now on.

Maggie Jeans, who runs Al Manahil with her husband, Bill, asked me how I heard about their service. I was gonna start telling her that someone read my blog post in which I was complaining about books in Oman and told me about their service but decided to keep that story for another time. She was pleased to get a new customer and said that they provide this as a service to book readers in Oman. They supply text books and educational material to schools in Oman and get a weekly shipment from the UK. It doesn't cost them much to add other people's Amazon packages in their shipment so they do it at the token price of RO. 1 per book. If you order your books on Super Saver Delivery, then Amazon will deliver for free to Al Manahil's shipping agent in the UK, and the only additional cost you'll pay is the 1 rial per book. Not a bad deal. The only slight inconvenience to me was that Al Manahil's office closes at 4pm every day and they don't open on Thursday so for most of us it means either leaving work to go get the package from them or going quickly after work to catch them before they close.

I'll gladly advertise their service and recommend it to all of you. For details go to their website.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Guns + Ammo

Guns

The trial of the 31 suspected members of an illegal group which was planning to overthrow the government and implement an islamic imama based on the ibadhi fiqh concluded in Muscat yesterday. The verdict will be announced next Monday.

The prosecution put up a display of the guns, ammunition and cash which was found with the suspects.. How can anyone claim he has a AK-47 because it's an Omani tradition to own a weapon like one of the lawyers said:

اما حيازة السلاح فهي كثيرة ومجتمعنا محب للسلاح وحتى يومنا هذا يأتي الناس بالسلاح في ايام الاعياد فهم لم يقصدوا به التأويل لقلب نظام الحكم

As usual, the only detailed coverage was in Al Shabiba, you can read it here.

The incredible shrinking Comex



Comex is the annual computers and telecoms exhibition here in Oman. It's basically a tiny, pale immitation of Gitex. I've been going to Comex every single year for the past ten years, and other than a demonstration of ADSL by Siemens 6 or 7 years ago, long before it became a standard, I've never experienced anything new.

My friends make fun of Comex by calling it Kotex, because just like the feminine sanitary towels every year it's advertised as being better and with more features but when you go to Comex the first thing that strikes you is how much smaller it is than the previous year. This year they spread out the stalls to fill the same amount of space, but it's quite evident that there are less exhibitors than last year.

There is no big news this year. The two biggest areas are taken by Oman Mobile and Nawras, and neither of them has anything major to show. Omantel announced their wi-fi service which still isn't entirely ready for launch so for the time being the service will be free. Oman Mobile announced a few services which will be "coming soon" such as Push to Talk, Push email (but not Blackberry), and an upgraded EDGE network. Loay announced that they are now Apple resellers and have tied up with a finance company to sell Apple computers on installments. Other than that, I can't recall anything new.

In the Shopper area, it's the same usual shops selling the same items. What's weird is that a lot of them are selling PCs, even branded ones like HP, without an operating system. They sell it just with a disk operating system and then it's up to you whether you want to go buy an original licensed Windows XP or a pirated one.

As usual, I couldn't find a single stall that had a credit/debit card POS machine. All of them operate on cash only. I wanted to buy an iPod Shuffle 1GB, which goes for RO. 67 at the Mac Centre stall, but I didn't have the cash on me and I couldn't be bothered to go withdraw cash and come back. I'm surprised because the first time I went to Gitex in Dubai, which was way back in 1998, most stalls already had POS machines. If you ask the shops they'll give you a million reasons including the standard "our margins are so thin, why give an additional 3% of them to the bank?" I guess somethings will never change. In Oman, we have dinosaurs selling computers.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Blogs too?

There's a Dilbert comic that ran last month in which the pointy-haired boss asked Dilbert to make a print-out of the internet because he wanted to do "some serious surfing." As I read today's news of what the Bahraini government is about to do, all I could think is that point-haired boss exists in real life, and he's a minister in Bahrain.

Read this
Webmasters must register or face legal action

MANAMA: Webmasters face prosecution if they defy new rules announced by Bahraini authorities. All Bahraini websites set up here or abroad must register with the Information Ministry or face legal action, it was declared yesterday.

A six-month campaign is being launched next Monday to register all Bahraini websites, under orders from Information Minister and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Mohammed Abdul Ghaffar.

"The ministry will announce soon the details of how each website owner or supervisor can register," Information Under-Secretary Mahmood Al Mahmood told the GDN.

"If they fail to register then legal action will be taken against them based on the country's printing and publishing laws."

He said websites would face similar laws to newspapers, related to libel, public decency and ethics. Just as a newspaper editor-in-chief is held responsible for what he publishes, so will the webmasters be, he said.

Source: GDN

Talk about a brain fart if there ever was one.

In a statement to the Bahrain Tribune, Jamal Dawood said: “The campaign is part of our efforts to create a better environment for investors and businesses, and bolster social development. It also aims to promote and protect human rights and the freedom of the Press.”

I might be just a silly Omani, but how does this process protect human rights?

Do you think they send copies of their laws to the respective ministries in other GCC countries, as in "hey, check out the latest thing we came up with to piss off our people.. thought you might like it and want to implement it too"?

For more on the story and the reaction in Bahrain read the following blogs:

Mahmood's take: Freedom of Speech my big toe!

Silly Bahraini Girl: The Bahrain Ministry of Information claims ownership of the WWW

Bahraini by Nature: Free Speech Protected Blog

Saturday, April 23, 2005

E18



Our camera suddenly just died on us. We were getting ready to go out to the ESO Ball last week. I took the camera out to change the battery but the camera wouldn't start. It gave an E18 error. We've had this camera since August or September 2003. We've thrown out the manual a long time ago. So for the first time in close to two years, we went out to a party without this camera in my pocket.

Yesterday I decided to look online to find out what this mysterious E18 error is. I searched for Canon E18 on Google and it came up with page after page of links. Apparently this is a very common problem with Canon digital cameras. The error code points to a problem with either the lens or the lens barrel. In the US it costs a couple hundred dollars to fix. In Europe one guy mentions a 260 Euro quotation from Canon. For that kind of money you might as well buy a new camera. You can fix it yourself if you're willing to totally disassemble your camera yourself until all you have is the lens.

And, quite typically, I found some sites that mention that there's a bunch of Canon camera owners in America who are in the process of getting a class action lawsuit against the manufacturer because the error is too common.

Our camera has been good to us and worked flawlessly for about 20 months. We've taken thousands of pictures with it and we've never had a problem till now. It's been with me every single day since we bought it either in my pocket, my bag or the car. I contacted the local agents and they said their technician is on leave till next week but they'll take a look at it after that. Hopefully they'll be able to fix it. If not, I'll be in the market for a compact digital camera as well as the dSLR that I was planning to get next month. dSLRs are well and good, but nothing beats a pocket camera that you can take with you everywhere. Until, mobile phones start getting 4 and 5 megapixel cameras of course.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Photo time again!

ESO Ball pic

Last night we attended the ESO Ball in celebration of Earth Day. It was a charity black tie affair with a raffle and an auction. We had a great time and the event was a huge success. The money raised will go towards setting up our HQ and funding some environmental research here in Oman. The menu seen in this picture was designed by Raed Dawood, one of the founding board members. He designed the ESO's logo and also did the poster for next week's lecture.

ESO mug

Speaking of ESO, we now have coffee mugs. I know what you've been thinking. You've really been wanting to get your hand on this really cool logo but you didn't want to go the extreme of buying a huge SUV just so that you can put an ESO wheel cover on it. Well now for the low, low price of 2 rials, you can have one of these ultra cool mugs. Should I put you down for five? email me if you want any.

sad  mannequin

Could this be the saddest looking mannequin ever?

Rabla

This is part of an official Ministry of Health birth control campaign. The condom is called Rabla, i.e. a rubber! Isn't there an Arabic word for condom, or is the Ministry of Health trying to use a word that connects with the people?

Shelf-ful of teddy bears

A full shelf of teddy bears at a local flower/gift shop.

Please welcome

OIB's new model

OIB's new Mandoos prize draw model. No more scary fingers.

No comment.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The trial begins

accused

The trial of the suspects from January's arrests began yesterday. Here's a round up from today's papers.

The editorial from the Oman daily Arabic paper:
بدأت أمس أولى جلسات محاكمة المعتقلين في قضية إنشاء تنظيم سري محظور، في ممارسة واضحة لمنهج الشفافية الذي اعتمدته الحكومة في التعامل مع قضية حساسة تمس أمن البلاد والعباد على السواء، وكانت قاعة محكمة أمن الدولة شاهدا على هذه الممارسة لعدالة القانون حيث وجد المتهمون محامين يتولون الدفاع عنهم وشهود على أنهم ينالون حقهم في توفر الأمان النفسي لهم لقول ما يريدون قوله أمام عدالة تتوخى منح المواطن حقه في الدفاع.

جاءت محاكمة الأمس لترد على من تشكك في عدالة القضاء العماني وشفافية التعامل مع الأحداث مهما بلغت درجة حساسيتها، وما صاحب مسألة الاعتقالات من تأن جاء لمصلحة المتهمين الذين قد ينالون التشهير في مجتمع صغير يكاد يعرف بعضه بعضا، ولا أدل على ذلك من أن ألسنة عديدة انطلقت لتعطي أحكاما بالبراءة لهؤلاء الذين اعترفوا أمس بكافة القرائن والأدلة التي وجهها ممثلو الادعاء العام إليهم، مقرين بأنهم أعضاء في تنظيم سري عمل طوال سنوات على استقطاب مجموعة من الأشخاص إليه، وشاهد الحضور من أعضاء في مجلسي الدولة والشورى والمحامين والصحفيين مشاهد الفيديو التي تظهر عمليات استخراج الأسلحة الآلية ولم يكن أمام المتهمين إلا الإقرار بذلك، فمنهم من التمس العفو على خطأ ارتكب لجهل وسوء تقدير ومنهم من انبرى منظرا لفكرة تبقى مستهجنة في بلد لم يقم فقط على تسامح ديني بل على مجموعة من العوامل التي أبقته بلدا للجميع كالتسامح القبلي والمذهبي والإنساني. وقف المتهمون أمس ليقولوا بملء أفواههم: نعم كان هناك تنظيم استدعى السرية، لكن السؤال الذي يواجههم: ما جدوى رشاشات الكلاشينكوف لنشر الدعوة الإسلامية وتبصير الناشئة بأصول مذهبهم؟.. ولمن ستنطلق تلك الرصاصات لو قدر لها أن تنطلق من فوهاتها؟
The English Oman Observer:
A special court started here yesterday the final session of investigation and trial of people charged with membership of a banned secret organisation arrested recently. The session was held in the presence of members of the Majlis Addawla and Majlis Ash'shura, representatives of the wilayats of the accused, their lawyers and some of their relatives, shaikhs and local media representatives. The president of the court and judges representing the Public Prosecution Department listened to the charges filed against the accused and accompanying evidence and reviewed the reports of corroboration of the accused.

The president of the court listened to the statements of the accused in response to the charges, interpretation of their legal confessions and the submissions made by their respective lawyers. The hearing was conducted in an orderly manner and the accused and their lawyers exchanged views. The president listened at length to the depositions of the accused, the questions directed to them by the lawyers and opinions of the representatives of the Public Prosecution Department.

Documentary footage of the evidence was screened, including evidence of the accused being in possession of arms. Some of the accused declined the services of the defence lawyers, placing their faith in the integrity of the judicial system and expressing the conviction that the court and judicial proceedings would be fair. A number of the accused regretted having joined the banned secret organisation and asked for forgiveness. The trial started at 9.15 am and concluded at 7 pm. The court listened to the statements of 10 of the accused and it will continue today for the rest of the accused.

The Times of Oman:
A designated court here started yesterday the final session of investigation and trial of people charged with membership of a banned secret organisation who were arrested recently.

The session was held in the presence of members of the Council of State and Majlis Al Shura, representatives of the wilayats of the accused, their lawyers and some of their relatives, sheikhs and local media representatives. The president of the court and judges representing the Public Prosecution department listened to the charges filed against the accused and accompanying evidence and reviewed the minutes of the investigation.

The president of the court listened to the statements of the accused in response to the charges, interpretation of their judicial confessions and the submissions made by their respective lawyers.

The hearing was conducted in an orderly manner and the accused and their lawyers exchanged views. The president listened at length to the explanations of the accused and the questions directed to them by the lawyers and the representatives of the Public Prosecution department. Documentary footage of the evidence was screened, including evidence of the accused being in possession of arms.

Some of the accused declined the services of lawyers, placing their faith in the integrity of the judicial system and expressing the conviction that the court and judicial proceedings would be fair. Some of the accused regretted having joined the banned secret organisation and asked for forgiveness. The trial started at 9.15am and concluded at 7pm. The court listened to the statements of 10 of the accused and it will continue the session today.

Hello?? Same exact article!

To be fair, the Times of Oman did continue with a lot more detail after that, none of which was mentioned in either of the government papers (Oman and the Observer) which you can read here. It includes brief summaries of what each of the defendents was accused of and what his defence was. The best information was in Al Shabiba, but unfortunatley their website's down.

But then comes the Gulf News' article which says:
Omani citizens detained last December for alleged subversive activities against the state went on trial yesterday.

However, human rights activists expressed scepticism over the fairness of the closed trial.

The media was banned from the trial.

According to the defence lawyer's office 10 accused went on trial yesterday, 10 more will be tried today and the trial of 10 others will be held tomorrow.

"In all there are 30 people on trial and we are defending them," a spokesperson for the Abdullah Hamoud Al Qasimi Law Firm told Gulf News yesterday.

Furthermore:

According to Abdullah Al Riyami, a human rights activist in Oman, only one relative of each of the accused was allowed to be present in the court.

Moreover, he added: "The relatives were not given enough notice regarding the date of the trial.

"The lawyer representing them has had only one meeting with the accused prior to the trial," he said, adding that the trial had begun but there were several loose ends and the whole thing appeared like a big secret.

So what do we take from all this?

Well, there was a trial. They finished with TEN people in one day and by now they should be done with another ten with ten left for tomorrow.

They all admit they were part of this secret organization related to the spreading of the ibadhi mathhab and the eventual return of rule in Oman to the imamate system, i.e. no Sultan. Yikes!

Weapons were found, but by the description in the paper there weren't that many other than a few guns with some of them. Maybe more with the other people who we'll know more tomorrow from today's trial.

I will refrain from commenting for the time being.

Updated (April 20, 2005)

The trial continued for a second day and by now the final ten should have also been done with.

Having followed the case in the papers the past two days I am still not able to grasp various aspects of the situation. This much is clear:

- There's been some sort of organization that was formed in 1982 concerned with the protection of the ibadhi sect. I don't understand what it needs to be protected from since ibadhis constitute approximately 45 or 50% of Oman's population and the ruling Al Said family is ibadhi.

- This organization yearns for the return of Oman to a system in which an ibadhi imam rules the country.

- The organization has a ruling council which is referred to as the Council of 8, since it has 8 members.

- The majority of the accused keep repeating the same nonsensical phrase:
إن التنظيم لحماية المذهب وليس للإطاحة بالدولة

However, the newspaper reports do not mention the names of anyone in the case and often substitutes names with just blank spaces. As usual in cases like this, I headed to Sablat Al Arab, and here's what I found. In this discussion the writer claims that the so-called organization was formed by our grand mufti himself, and that's why all names are deleted from the press!

Further, in today's Al Shabiba, which once again published the entire proceedings from yesterday's trial, one of the accused was questioned by a judge who asked him: "since you have left this organization because you disagreed with them and thought they were going to do harm, how come you never reported them to the authorities?" and the guy replied that he believes the authorities have their way of finding out what's happening in the country. This was apparently was also stated by one of the lawyers in the court yesterday who said what basically meant "how can there be a secret organization in Oman for 20 years without the internet security hearing about it?"

Too many questions... if these people didn't think they were doing anything wrong, then why the secrecy in their meetings and organization? If all they care about is their faith then why did they buy guns, even if the numbers were small- I mean what legitimate use could their ever be for an AK-47? And how come if they existed since 82 the authorities didn't do anything about them till now. There's no way they didn't know about them till now. Our mukhabarat is incredibly efficient. There's nothing they don't know. What happened in late 2004 that made the government decide to arrest these delusional psychopaths? Were these guys planning to turn their opposition violent?

I have no sympathy at all for them. I hope they get what's coming for them. I just wish we had some real press in this country and some transparency.

Monday, April 18, 2005

ESO Lecture April 24

ESO Lecture April 24

The Environment Society of Oman presents a lecture entitled: "The Landscape of Oman- Perceptions and Challenges" on Sunday April 24th at the Culture Club in Qurum. The event will be bilingual and includes a slide show by renowned Omani photographer Khamis Al Muharbi (see the photo in the poster above for a sample of his stunning photography) and a talk by David Insall. Doors open at 7pm and the lecture begins at 7.30pm. The event is open to the public. We're expecting a big crowd, so please RSVP to membership@environment.org.om if you want to attend so that we can prepare for the numbers.

Come along for the lecture and you can meet other ESO members and get to know more about the ESO. ESO membership forms and merchandise will also be available for sale.

Hope to see some of you there.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

How to blow off a customer and impress your boss at the same time

Aramex have this really cool service called Shop & Ship. Basically they give you postal addresses in the US and UK and then you can order stuff online or from catalogues and have it shipped to the addresses they give you there. You choose whether you want items from your mailbox shipped to you three times a week, twice a month, or monthly. It's a really great service. Except for one thing: it costs twice as much in Oman as it does in the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar or Kuwait. In all those countries it costs $8 for the first half kg and and $5.5 per each additional half kg. But in Oman it costs $15 for the first half kg and then the $5.5 per each additional.

I've been scratching my head trying to figure why it costs twice as more in Oman for that first half kg while it costs the same for the additional half kgs. From what I know, Aramex's hub is in Dubai and all packages for the gulf go there first and from there they ship them to all GCC countries. So how come they can send the stuff to Kuwait for less than Oman which is right next door. (or maybe the hub isn't in Dubai).

So I emailed them today.

My email:

I was interested in setting up a Shop & Ship account for Oman, but I was really disappointed to note that your shipping rate to Oman is almost double what it is for UAE, Bahrah, Qatar and Kuwait. Is there a reason why they pay $8 for the first half KG, while in Oman it is $15? Don't they all go through the same hub in Dubai, which is closer to Oman than all of them?

Reply not even 10 minutes later:

Thank you for contacting us, and for your interest in Aramex Shop&Ship service.

Please note that the Shop&Ship's shipping rate to Oman is higher that what is it to UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, and Kuwait, because the shipping cost to Oman is higher than the shipping cost to UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, and Kuwait.

Should you need any further information, please do not hesitate to contact us.


Not only did he reply, he CC'd it to three people in his company. I don't know if they're his supervisors who he's trying to impress, or if it's some inside joke to show them how quickly he brushed me off.

My reply:

Thank you for your very prompt reply. I understand that shipping to Oman might be more expensive but doubling the rate sounds a bit excessive to me. You guys are the shipping experts so I can't complain. At the present rate if I do subscribe to Shop & Ship, I can't go for more than a monthly service. If it was the same rate as the rest of the gulf I might have gone for a more frequent service. I think if you try to reduce your rates and make them more competitive you will get many more people in Oman who join the service.


His reply just 6 minutes later:

Your welcome anytime & we will be always at your trust in our service.

Kindest Regards...


Amazing, ha. He just read the first line of my reply and immediately fired up a reply. Of course, once again he copied the others. I bet by now there was a bunch of people falling off their chairs from laughter in Jordan.

How's that for quality service.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

One day weekend just not enough

Every couple of years a rumor pops up that this would be the year the two day weekend is going to happen. I've been working close to 9 years and I've become desensitized to this rumor. It no longer excites me. I've seen it fizzle out one too many times.

I've become used to having just one day off a week. I've never worked in the public sector, so it's the only kind of weekend I know. But then again I'm lucky that I work a single shift 7.30am to 2.30pm. It's easier than the rest of the private sector who work two shifts a day and don't go home till 6.30 or 7pm. The much-rumored two day weekend was going to be only for banks. It was also going to be Friday and Saturday while the government's weekend is Thursday-Friday. If it had happened then while I would have loved having the two days off, I wouldn't be able to use them for weekend trips with my wife, for example, because our days off are different. She'd be enjoying her Thursday off while I'm a work, and then we'd share Friday off together, and then I'd be off on Saturday while she goes off to work. Great if you love having a day off for your own, but not if you want quality time with your family.

3 years ago the Central Bank considered the two day weekend and asked all banks to give their opinions. All banks but one (hint: name rhymes with OIB) were positive. The CBO sent teams to visit neighboring countries which have two day weekends. It conducted studies. It huffed and it puffed. And in the end it blew the whole idea away. Won't be beneficial to the local economy if banks closed two days a week, they said.. conveniently ignoring the fact they themselves have a two day weekend.

I don't get why this is such a serious matter or why no wants to take a decision on it. Why is it that the whole world has built strong economies while taking two days off a week while we think that our economy will suffer if we do. Are we that inefficient? And how come the public sector's has had a two day weekend since the 80's. Is it because they are so super efficient in comparison to us, or is it an admission that they don't do much so it's ok to take longer weekends?

So this year the word came out again that the two day weekend is back on the agenda, but this time not from the CBO. What more, this time even the lone dissenting bank had changed their mind and want to get two days off too. Rumor had it that it's coming from as high as the council of ministers. This time, they said, it was hapening for sure.

Guess what? Word today is that it's been shelved. No two day weekend.

Announcement

My GSM bill for March came, and it's 8.752 rials only. It's my lowest bill ever.. and it includes two days of roaming when we were in Dubai too! Incredible

Thank you


Friday, April 15, 2005

If you want deep, this ain't it

Random thoughts from this past week:

1. We went to see our architect a few days ago to go over certain aspects of our sketches. As we were waiting for the couple before us to leave, I noticed a middle-aged Indian man speaking to another architect. His hair was slicked back with oil, which is very normal. But, it got me thinking, the reason they use oil on their hair is to make it healtheir, shinier, etc, right? But, if they have the oil on their hair ALL the time, when do they find out if the oil actually did its job and achieved its mission? I mean this guy must be 50 and he still goes out with oiled hair, how much longer is he going to wait?

2. I want to say congratulations to G & A on their wedding. I had an exhausting week because of them: 4 parties plus a sabahiya! But, I have to say, I have never seen Bustan look better. The ballroom was gorgeous and the attention to detail was admirable. Mabrook Mabrook!!

3. Congratulations to S as well who just informed me she is pregnant with her third baby.. These days I get excited when anyone tells me they are pregnant because I'm alreay compiling a list of all the kids that will be in the same age group as our baby, hehe.

4. Its so hot. Why is it so hot? How much hotter will it get by the time june comes around.

5. I'm going to be 30 in June. OHMYGOSH!!! Thats two months away. I wanna be 24 again. But still pregnant. 24 and pregnant. My mom had me when she was 19/20. I feel like a dinosaur now. When our child is in school, he/she will think I'm uncool cause I'm so old!! Mux says the kid will think we are uncool even if we were much younger cause thats how kids are (dunno if that was meant to make me feel better).

6. Should have told M-Pac to id3ee in 3umra that our kids think we are cool even though we are old.

7. Mux and I met a nice woman at the reception yesterday who told us she has been sending our blog to her friends all around the world.. *blush*

8. Did I tell you guys I got a raise at work? After working for almost 6 years in the government, I finally got my first raise! Heck, even coming back with my Master's degree made absolutely no difference to them. Oh well, better late than never. Ok I'm so gonna look for another job at the end of this year.

9. I hope my boss isn't reading this.

10. Do you guys check Pink sushi's blog? There is a link for her blog on our sidebar. She is so talented. I love her pictures. She is so artistic. I wanna be artistic!! But its too late for me now. Thus I'm putting all my efforts into making Mux more artistic and a better photographer (basically all I do is encourage him to buy that camera of his). Told him he can practice taking my pics till he becomes even better. I like posing, hehe. We were in Araimi Complex yesterday and two of the mannequins really scared him and he took pics of them. They will probably show up on our blog soon.

The end.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

We got wheel covers

ESO wheel cover

For all you 4X4 owners here in Oman. Here's your chance to reduce the guilt you feel everytime you drive your gas guzzling monster. These gorgeous wheel covers are now available for just RO. 6 each. This is super high quality stuff, it's not your average run of the mill wheel cover. It will not tear or fade. The proceeds go to the Environment Society of Oman, so you know the money's going to a good cause.

If you want one please send your inquiry to: info@environment.org.om or you can even email me.

More ESO merchandise coming soon. Coffee mugs should be available from next week.

Makes you wish you had an SUV just to put one of these beauties on it, don't it?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Get ready to pay more at the pump

This is from yesterdays Oman Observer. I can't link directly to it since the Observer still doesn't archive its pages. The article is titled Steps to Take Diesel Shortage. It includes a statement from Nasser bin Khamis Al Jashmi, the under-secretary of the Ministry of Oil and Gas. I'm not really interested in the diesel shortage, but burried towards the end of the article is:
Al Jashmi pointed out that the government is conducting a study to liberalise oil product prices in the local market with a view to merging with the international oil prices traffic as is the case in many countries. Specifying the prices of oil products is not the concern of the Ministry of Oil and Gas alone, as some other departments, such as the Ministry of Finance, are also concerned with the issue of prices.

The current arrangement regarding the pricing of refined oil products in the Sultanate is by tying them with a specific price according to the type of products. Therefore, he said, the prices of these products will not, for the time being, be affected by the huge hike in international oil prices.
Do you know what this means? They want to increase the price of petrol. You will pay more when you fill your cars.

I've been driving about 16 years now and in all these years the price of petrol has been fixed. No matter how low the price of oil dropped, we in Oman never paid any less when we filled our cars. The price of petrol is controlled by the various ministries mentioned above. When I first to drive in the late 80's the price of oil had crashed. In the late 90's the price crashed even further and reached single digits. How come the government never reduced the price of petrol then?

Now that the price of oil is hitting the stratosphere, the Ministry of Oil & Gas wakes up and thinks "hey let's study liberalizing the price of oil." And what's worse they try to make it look like a good thing. Will they let gas stations compete in price too, or does liberalization simply mean "increase the price and then fix it again at the new price"?

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Ya Rashid

A couple days ago I saw a large Rashid Al Majid poster on the window of a music store so I went in to see if he's released a new album. Indeed he has and it's apparently selling like hot cakes too. I was gonna get myself a copy but alas it was only available on cassette. According to the shop guy, Arabic albums come out on tape and the CD follows a week or two later. I'm not sure if this guy's right, but it would be really pathetic if it's true. Am I supposed to wait a couple weeks, or does the music company expect me to stupidly buy the tape and then come back in a week and buy the same album all over again on CD?

Inzain, ma 3alaina.. so last night I was visiting my mother in law and was flicking through her Zahrat Al Khaleej magazine, and there he was again: Rashid Al Majid. Duuuuude.. the bro's been on an all cheeseburger diet or something. It's like he's been gaining weight exclusively in his face. Oh man, Rashid.. I don't know if it's just food or if you've been partying too hard. I never was your biggest fan but you've got to go easy on yourself.

I actually read the interview. (Yeah, I know I'm pathetic to read Zahrat Al Khaleej, but I have this disease: I'll read anything you put in front of me, even if it's the back sticker of a shampoo bottle). Not a very interesting interview. In fact very boring for the first few pages. And then Rashid all of a sudden says "I really need this album to succeed because I have a lot of debts to pay off." The interviewer asks how can you be in debt when you're so successful and beside your albums you also do lots of private parties and weddings? Rashid replies that no matter how much he makes he still spends more and that now he's now at the stage where's he mortgaged all three of his houses.

We saw Rashid a couple years ago when we were furniture shopping at The One in Dubai. He was with some Russian ho. I don't know if she was his girlfriend or just an interior decorator but the way she treated him was like she owned him. She ordered him around like she owned him. He'd show her something he likes and she'll reply with a short lecture about the item really is, how it's used and what should go with it. And then she'd tell him to go run and bring something else. And he never once complained or objected about the way she was talking down to him. OD wanted to go say hi but I felt so sorry for the guy that I thought it would better to just pretend we don't know who he was. Now in retrospect, it turns out the guy doesn't give a damn.


Slightly off topic: In the interview Rashid said that they've made 600,000 copies of the album for the initial run. It got me thinking, how come we don't have Arabic music charts and no one ever tells us how many copies Arabic albums actually sell.


Note: This post was written about 10 days ago and emailed to the blog. It got lost somewhere along the way. I have bought the album since then on CD from another shop where I found out that it's only in Oman that shops don't get the CDs till a week after the release. Apparently everywhere else they get them day and date. Incidently, the album sucks with not a single fresh song in it. In fact a few of the songs even sound suspiciously like songs from his previous albums.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Apologies

Sorry I haven't been bloggin this past week, but I see you've been doing quite well with OD's posts. I haven't been writing much because there isn't much going on at the moment for me to write about. It's been quite low key lately. Today's post is going to be hodge podge.

We went to see Be Cool yesterday, and damn if it was one of the worst movies I've seen in a long long time. I wrote a review on OmanForum, I won't bother to cut and paste it here. It's not worth it. But if you want, you can read it here.



All of a sudden last week I suddenly had an urge to buy an iPod Shuffle. Unfortunately (or should I say fortunately), Mac Center was all out of the 1GB Shuffle and it will take a week or two to get them back in stock. I think they sell them for about 70 rials, which is about $180. As impulse buys go, it wasn't going to hurt much if I end up not using it at all.

This town keeps getting more messed up. First I started buying my books at the supermarket. Now I'm buying my CDs at Starbucks. My favorite CD of the moment is Jazz Impressionists, which is sold at all Starbucks outlets. It's a great jazz CD with a couple Miles Davis tracks as well as Dave Brubeck, Thelonius Monk and others. But the highlight for me is the full 14 minute version of John Coltrane's My Favorite Things which I hadn't heard in quite some time. It's so amazing. I spent a couple hours just repeating it. I don't usually repeat songs no matter how much I like them, but this is something truly special.

I uploaded a big bunch of photos to my flickr account today. They're mostly pictures from around Oman. I was browsing some blogs today and came across a blog which had a photo album which had a few of my photos from Oman on it. They were all credited to me, but I didn't like stumbling across my own photos in someone else's photo album, so I decided to upload all my photos to Flickr over the next couple weeks.

And finally, I decided to buy the Nikon D70 D-SLR. I went to buy it a couple weeks ago but it was sold out and they said they'll get it before mid April. Now I read on Engadget that Nikon is coming up with an improved D70, probably named the D70s by the end of the month. Which means even if they get the D70 back in stock this week I'll have to wait till god knows when for the newer version to arrive in this part of the world.

Remember Portofino?

Portofino

I was driving around Shatti Al Qurum last week looking at houses to get ideas for the outside design for our house and I drove by Portofino. It's been close to 5 years since this restaurant closed down. It went bust because one of the big shots who lives in the area opposed the issuance of an alcohol license for it. They tried for about a year to survive without the alcohol, but apparently in Oman an Italian restaurant that doesn't serve wine can't make it.

I'm surprised no one's bought the location and tried to revive it.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Sheikh Khalfan Al Aisri.. Thank you!

Last night a group of us girls gathered in my friend's house for a different kinda girls night. We had a very special guest there: Sheikh Khalfan Al Aisri, who was kind enough to accept my friend's invitation. I've only heard him on the radio before and have never met him, so last night I was really looking forward to the whole thing. For almost 3 hours, we were free to throw any questions we had his way. It was great, he made everyone feel at ease and he wasn't judgemental at all.

I have to admit, before meeting him, I never really spent time listening to any of the sheikhs in Oman. I always felt that many of them were quite imposing in a way and that there was always a barrier between us (the general public) and the sheikhs in general. For me, personally, I have always loved and respected Tariq Swaidan, Jasim AlMuttawa and Mohammed AlThwaini. I never get bored listening to any of them speak. Despite their knowledge and religiousness, they don't talk down to the average joe. They somehow manage to bring themselves down to a level that you would understand without compromising their stance. I love listening to them give advice on how to raise your kids in an Islamic way, or how a husband should treat his wife, or about women's rights or even about self improvement. Topics that are important to all of us, and all spoken from the point of view of Islam. Stuff thats mentioned in the Quran but that just flies over your head until someone points it out to you.

I mentioned these people to Sheikh Khalfan and told him that I honestly don't know of anyone in Oman like them (thats just me personally, maybe they are out there and that I just haven't heard of them). He said that the people I mentioned are all educated men who, in addition to their knowledge of Islam, have travelled abroad and studied the art of communication. They are people who know how to get their message across and how to draw people to them.

Many of the sheikhs in Oman are educated religion wise, but have not had the opportunities to travel and study important aspects of da3wa such as communication skills. He also mentioned that now there are many in Oman who are slowly starting to move in that direction and that the Minister himself has chosen men from Sharee3a to travel abroad and study such things. I think thats great, because I know there are many people who have so many questions related to Islam but are afraid to ask because they feel that they would be looked down upon for not knowing the answers.

If there are more people like Sheikh Khalfan, religious men who are willing to take time to answer and explain without judging, then more of our youth would be willing to learn about their religion..

What do you guys think?

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

To spoil one's self

For a little bit of "me" time, my friend and I decided to spoil ourselves a bit today. So off we went to the spa. I had an AMAZING head, neck and shoulder massage.. Aaaaah! Heaven! So intoxicating I could hardly move afterwards.

Mux thinks its so easy to rip women off and that facials in particular are bullshit. His point being, why are you paying someone 20 rials to wash your face for you :)

I know its a bit extravagant, but, it was oh so good!

What do you do when you wanna pamper yourself?

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Phone Cam Bloggin' Again

Here we go again with yet another stream of cam phone pics. Sorry guys, no bogholes this time.


MSM

The Muscat Securities Market (MSM) is booming. The Dhofar Power IPO presently in progress till April 14th, everyone in Muscat is talking about it.

The IPO will most likely be oversubscribed. To get around that people look for others who aren't subscribing so that they can apply in their names.

Stock Depository

Quite often the people who aren't subscribing are people who have never purchased shares before. Before you can apply for shares in their name you have to go to the Depository and register their names as investors and get investor numbers for them.

It's a simple procedure. They fill a form with their details and enclose a copy of their ID or passport. However in the present IPO frenzy people, the rumor is Dhofar Power's allocation might be just 500 shares per application, so people are looking for more and more people to add to their subscriptions. It used to be you can get an investor registered in a day or two. Now it's as long as seven.


Fat Fingered lady will sing

Remember Ms. Scary Fingers? OIB's RO. 100,000 draw will be held on April 6. That's $259,000 going to one single winner who did nothing but deposit 1000 rials ($2600) in an OIB non-interest paying savings account. Will the fat-fingered lady sing for us? I promise I will never make fun of OIB or their scary marketing posters ever again if I win the prize. One last swipe: isn't this the worst website ever?

Meanwhile all the banks have gone crazy with cash prizes. NBO announced they're giving away RO. 100,000 in May and all you need to do is deposit RO. 50. BankMuscat are giving away RO. 100,000 every 2 months (minimum deposit RO. 2,000) and 20 prizes of RO. 1,000 each every Saturday (deposit of RO. 100 only). Bank Dhofar has something big too but the write-up was way too complicated for me to waste my time on.


BankMuscat new sign

Speaking of banks, BankMuscat is experimenting with new sign board designs for their branches. The new signs have marketing pictures and have the bank's website address showing prominently. They're still taking feedback before they decide whether to take this forward or not. For now the only two branches with the new signboards are Qurm and CBD.


Reusable bags

These are ESO reusable cloth shopping bags. They're now available for sale at Turtles in the Intercont and at 3 Al Fair supermarkets. Now you have no excuse to use plastic next time you shop.


Censored

I didn't know belly buttons get the same treatment as boobs and underwear. But now when I see weird stuff like this at least I know who was responsible for it.

Censored 2

I don't know what they were trying to censor here, but I like this new system of covering up by using see-through tape. They should use this for all magazine censorship.

Update (04.04.05)

A/C

This, believe it or not, is an LG 1.5 ton split unit A/C. They call it Art Cool. They come in all sorts of colors and finishes and they cost about 50% more than other 1.5 ton A/Cs. This particular one has Soorat Al Fate7a on it. Unbelievable, eh. How come no one thought about this before and all companies made A/Cs that looked exactly like each other? For all these years airconditioners looked like airconditioners!

Friday, April 01, 2005

Build, build, build!

Someone told me about this a couple days ago but I don't recall seeing it in any of the Omani papers. Regardless whether all these resorts workout or not, looks like the construction business is about to boom big time 2005 to 2007
Orascom Projects and Touristic Development was granted the approval from the Sultanate of Oman to build three resorts on 22 million square kilometers, al-Alam al-Youm reported Monday.

The resorts, due to be built in Muscat, Salalah and Soda Island, would resemble Egypt's Al-Gouna resort on the Red Sea, which was built by Orascom Projects and Touristic Development.

A $50 million joint company was set up in which Orascom Projects and Touristic Development owns 70% stake while the Omani government owns the remaining 30% stake.

Investments in the first phase of the project would reach more than $100 million. The construction of the project is due to start in three months.

Source: Zawya.com
By the way, what or where is Soda Island?

Update:

Apparently the mysterious Soda Island is none other than Sawadi Island. It's still a bit of a mystery though, because Sawadi Island is nowhere big enough to hold a resort.

Further reading from the Oxford Business Group's weekly briefings: Building Big Time

Anonymous Comments

I'm going to turn off anonymous posting. From now on only people with registered nicknames will be able to post replies on this blog. It's not that big a hassle for anyone to go to Blogger.com and register even if they don't want to start a blog of their own, but it is a hassle for me to read anonymous comments not being able differentiate one anonymous person from another.

I haven't changed the setting yet. I'll give it a day to see if anyone has any views on this first. Please give your comments.

Update:

I changed the settings. No more anonymous comments. It shouldn't affect most of you since the majority of posts on this blog are from registered users. Those of you who aren't, it won't take you a minute to register a nick name. Sorry if it's considered a hassle by anyone.