Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Of Ethics..Bloggers in Oman

5 comments:
'Taking perks' and other issues with bloggers concerning Oman has popped up recently in popular blogger posts here in Oman. Most of the posts focused on justifications for accepting perks. Personally, I have noticed that the number of bloggers posting about the 'dinner' they attended or the 'free give away' offered to the readers provided by a local company or restaurant has significantly increased in the last couple of years compared to the earlier blog scene in Oman.

As far as this blog goes, we have intentionally never accepted any perk nor do we expect receiving such and remain anonymous for reasons to feel free from expectations or influence in expression. And, we do our best to respect the laws of the Sultanate.






Sunday, March 1, 2015

Oman Post on Strike

2 comments:
According to someone who tried to mail today at Ruwi location, Oman Post is on strike. They are asking for a salary increment.




Common Scams in Oman

No comments:
Well, to start off I would like to note that Oman is a terribly safe country. If I had to be dropped off in a country in the middle of the night with no money or phone, I would hope to be let off in Oman.

However, I am posting some annoying scams I've found going on here. A lot of them involve trying to make an extra 'beza' (the Omani 'cent').

1. The Water Scam

The large jugs used for the water machines sometimes are filled with tap water instead of drinking water. The delivery person or shop keeper fills and empty bottle with tap water and then reglues the plastic wrap on the lid.

Those with a discerning palate will be able to taste the difference. Otherwise, check the tops carefully before fitting the jug into the machine. Muscat tap water is suitable to drink but most people drink bottled water.

2. The Expiration Date, Redated

This generally happens at the smaller grocery stores. Merchants have been known to 'extend' the shelf-life of their food goods by 're'dateing the expired products to a later expiration date saving the merchant money from having to toss the non-sold items which are potentially dangerous to consume past the expiration date depending on the item.

Some shopkeepers have been jailed for putting kids in the hospital for food poisoning by selling expired candy which was spoiled. This was really low. Check over what your buying more carefully, smell it, inspect the packaging for mold (don't smell the mold) or if the expiration date looks 'fishy' skip it. Call consumer protection on suspected violators.

3. The Swapping of Original Parts for Generic Duplicates
This can happen in regard to vehicles or electronics. Original parts cost more; so, for example, if you leave your car in a repair shop, one scam is to change your original parts (unrelated to the repair job) for generic parts (in addition to fixing the car) and then re-sell the original parts from your car pocketing the price difference. Very annoying.

Take a picture of the mechanic when leaving the shop as a deterrent. When people feel identified, the are less likely to 'try' something. Come to check on your car at unpredicted times or stay nearby the car as they repair it.

4. The Petrol Station Mart Adding a Few Hundred Extra Beza

The classic short-change gig. Either the customer will be overcharged a few hundred beza or will be given the wrong change. A couple hundred beza several times a day adds up over a month increasing the salary of the clerk. Many people here with their trusting natures don't count their change. Sometimes, it could be an honest math error. This scam has been known to happen more often at certain Oman oil or Shell stations.

5. The Taxi Mark-Up According to What Passport You Look Like You Hold

Taxi drivers are not regulated here or metered like in other nations. It is the taxi car that is registered to the person but anyone's uncle (literally) can drive the taxi car for the day/night to make extra money.

Driver quality is really a mixed-bag and I don't suggested women or children ride alone on the off chance you get a 'dodgy' one even if most drivers are professional.

Even Omani men are not immune and have been driven to isolated places or flirted with. Most of the time you can escape by yelling or threatening to call the police.  However, many people make an arrangement with a trusted driver to be on call for them or have set times for pickup and drop off.

Generally, the richer the country you look like you are from the higher your fare will be as the fares are not metered around town. Honestly, if my car is out of commission I don't ride in taxis anymore and would prefer to hitch over taking a taxi.


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Rumour that McDonalds Qurm Shut Due to Food Poisoning is....

1 comment:
False.

Images of Qurm McDonalds being closed by Muscat Baladiyya have been posted around. However, Muscat Municipality tweeted in Arabic that it was closed due to a leak on the roof.


'Red Tape' seals doors. Source: Facebook


Friday, January 23, 2015

RIP Saudi King

No comments:
As of 3am Oman time, it's being circulated that King Abdullah ibn Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia has passed away a couple of hours ago. God bless. MBC - all channels - broadcasting Quranic verses.





Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Pretty Cool App: 'Muscat Guide' from Oman Collective Intel

No comments:
Maurizio who heads up the blog over at Oman Collective Intelligence & team have come up with a new app and guide of Muscat. I am reposting the info below. I think it's just grand and will be quite handy for tourists, expats and even locals. Well done.

To get the app go here: http://www.muscat-guide.com/store/

REPOSTED 

http://www.oman-collective-intelligence.com/2015/01/the-newest-coolest-app-in-muscat.html




Muscat Guide is a new and personalized way of experiencing Muscat and its happenings. It is a free mobile app developed in between Italy and Oman, relying on the latest technology, hosting plenty of valuable info available for both residents and tourists.
Muscat Guide has all the usual stuff such as restaurants, shops, major places of interests, cinemas, etc. as well as a news section, in cooperation with Muscat Daily newspaper. Additionally you'll find a social media section where several popular bloggers and Facebook Groups in Oman can be found and easily accessed.
You can also choose what type notifications you’d like to receive (without annoying pop up ads) and take advantage of the various offers from your favourite outlets in Muscat!
The app design is cool and modern and the engine guarantees a smooth browsing. Check this demo video:


Check the website too for more info. 
Here is the deal; If you're a small business owner and would like to be listed in Muscat Guide for free then send a mail to info@muscat-guide.com. Not bad....is it?
So go for it, download the app for free by clicking hereand don't forget to let me know your feedback. Happy day!

Friday, January 16, 2015

New from ROP - Online Visa Eligibility Wizard -

No comments:
ROP (Royal Oman Police) has launched an online 'Visa Eligibility Wizard'. It's a nice feature and really quite useful. See what you're eligible for here:

https://evisa.rop.gov.om/voa

Sample results:

User 1 - UK, tourist

Visa NameVisa FeeLength of StayDescriptionHow to Apply

26A Tourist Visit VisaOmani Rials 5.00010 daysVisit to Oman (10 days) by a person who is a Group1 national.
Click here to see full conditions.
Apply online here
26B Tourist Visit VisaOmani Rials 20.00030 daysVisit to Oman (30 days) by a person who is a Group1 national.
Click here to see full conditions.
Apply online here
20A Oman / Qatar Common VisaOmani Rials 10.00030 daysVisit to Oman by a person who is on the list of eligible nationalities, and must travel first to Oman before travelling to Qatar.
Click here to see full conditions.
Can be obtained on arrival at an airport, seaport or land crossing in Oman.
36A Qatar / Oman Common VisaFree30 daysVisit to Oman by a person who has a valid Qatar /Oman visa obtained in Qatar. The traveler must travel to Oman directly from Qatar.
Click here to see full conditions.
Can be obtained in the State of Qatar.
21A Dubai / Oman Common VisaFree21 daysVisit to Oman by a person who is on the list of eligible nationalities and who has a current tourist visa which was used to enter the Emirate of Dubai, and now wishes to enter Oman direct from Dubai.
Click here to see full conditions.
Can be obtained in the Emirate of Dubai.

ROP to the rescue.
Source: Muscat Daily

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Brothers behind recent Paris attack smuggled through Oman

No comments:
Just a quickie, international news is reporting that the brothers behind the 'Charlie' Paris attack were smuggled through Oman in 2011 to Yemen for a fortnight of 'training'.

These two brothers arrived in Oman on July 25, 2011, and from Oman they were smuggled into Yemen where they stayed for two weeks," a senior Yemeni security official, who declined to be named, said.

http://in.reuters.com/article/2015/01/11/france-shooting-yemen-idINKBN0KK0GY20150111


Here's a cool video (unrelated to the above) about to Europeans travelling through Yemen from part of the show 'maadventures'. They use camels to avoid check points and travel out into the desert,,,,,


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qtOzftzDo8

Monday, January 12, 2015

'Legal Expert' Drops a Bombshell on Visa Rule

No comments:
I was going to write about something else today, but then I read this in the Times of Oman under their 'legal expert' section. Apparently, if you don't get a no objection letter when you leave employment in Oman other types of entry visa's will be denied alsoThe question I would like to ask 'legal expert' is can you put it in the employment contract that the employer must grant you a NOC and would that be enforced? 

'Please also note that as per the recent clarification issued by the ROP, you may need a no objection letter from your previous employer even if you opt to enter Oman in family visa, business visit visa or even investor visa.

For full text see: http://www.timesofoman.com/News/45602/Is-NOC-from-previous-employer-required-to-enter-Oman-again?-Legal-expert-answers

Well, I cannot tell you the negative feelings that I have to the new reenforcement and new clarifications of this visa ban rule (even though I am in favour of Omanization). Really, I have to hold back as not to be too offensive. But, the number one reason why I think they should abandon this '2-year-ban' rule is that it actually does not accomplish what the intention of the rule set out to do - lower the expat employment rate and increase Omanization in the Sultanate (assuming those are the intentions).  The number of foreign workers is increasing!

The issues are quite complex and this type of rule does not get to the heart of the reasons why Omani employment in private sector or elsewhere is not as healthy as it should be. Ms Hutton has a good write-up featured in Oman Economic Review on some of the issues. Even if the article is over ten years old, it still seems relevant which may be an indicator of lack of sufficient progress on the matter.

"The World Bank report on Sustainable Growth and Economic Diversification for Oman stated, “private sector expatriate employers have revealed a tendency, for linguistic or cultural reasons, to favour their own nationals over Omanis when hiring new workers.” "
(http://www.suehutton.co.uk/articles/omanisation.php)

Five reasons why this rule should immediately be unenforced again.

1. There is nothing to stop employers from not issuing a NOC and bringing other foreign labourers. Thus, the foreign worker rate is maintained. There seems to be a pattern that hiring their own nationals over Omanis is favoured. 

2. Many foreign workers are on  'phantom sponsorships' where the Omani is merely collection a set sum each month to continue sponsoring the expat. The sponsors don't want to give up their source of income of the sponsorships. Many have wasta.

3. This rule creates an employment detractor for the real talent that Oman needs to import for some of their projects. So, if a couple comes and, then, the wife becomes unemployed and does not received a NOC; it seems under the new clarification she will not be able to be sponsored under a family visa. 

This creates a bad scenario where the husband and children can be here but the wife cannot. I say wife here not because I am sexist but because the rule in Oman is only husbands can sponsor wives not vis a versa.  So, this could be a serious detractor for highly skilled workers in their decision to come to Oman or stay in Oman. Oman still is reliant on expat help in some areas and even if not said outwardly some sectors could face some real operational and financial hiccups if many of the expat workers left.

Also, it prevents movement of talent between jobs in Oman. Leaving a NOC up to the arbitrary decision of an employer, keeps the talent already here from taking up a new position in a lateral move. Instead, companies will have to bear the costs of bringing another, training them, etc, and in some cases the now banned employee may have a special skill not easily replaced. Oman and the GCC have a long history of using expat labor and it has become an integral force. To undo it, it is going to take much more strategy than this non-thought-out rule. 

It gives Omani employers too much power over employees to keep them under threat of getting a 'NOC'. Some high level professionals that Oman could benefit from the services of might choose not to work under such conditions and restraints and the lesser skilled workers might have to put up with more difficulties under a 'NOC' blackmail. I thought Oman was moving away from the 'slave-like' employment approach with controls such as holding passports and into the modern employment model - even the Free Trade Agreement with the USA incorporates some labour provisions. Why punish people who travel to Oman to work by then setting up a system that bans them on the arbitrary whim of their employer or employer's interests even if they performed their duties well? 

4. The education and training is still not up to par in producing the workers with proper skills and work attitude. Many Omani are capable and would like to work but they are just not receiving education they need to be successful. There are many reasons for this and it's another issue that 'gets my goat', but they (Oman authorities) need to go in and do a complete overhaul of the system from curriculum, recruiting fees and corruption and the hiring of not-up-to-par faculty. Many of the high level Omani all studied outside.

5. The rule is too convolutedcomplicated and clarifications come randomly and arbitrarily. Omani HR departments are not even able to explain it accurately. 






Monday, January 5, 2015

Tribal Strife Down in Salalah

No comments:
This is a few days old, but a couple of tribes in Salalah had a new year's 'gun brawl' to work out some issues over ¿land plots?. Several people were said to have been injured.








Saturday, December 27, 2014

Oman has blocked the website of the Editor & Chief of Yahoo Travel

1 comment:
Blocking the editor-and-chief of Yahoo Travel may not be the best move for a country trying to promote tourism. ....


Source: Twiiter

Source: Web photos Paula Froelich - Informational purposes only

Ms Froelich wearing traditional mask

Her bio from the blocked website:

'Armed with a quick wit, unique voice and award-winning journalistic chops, Paula Froelich became the editor-in-chief of Yahoo Travel in April of 2013 after a stint as a senior writer at Newsweek and four years as a freelance journalist writing about politics, travel and pop culture. Her unique vision for the page has turned it into a must-read destination for anyone interested in being inspired, entertained, and motivated to engage the world and suck the marrow out of life.  In six short months Yahoo Travel went from primarily a booking site to the largest travel content site in the world.
 Her new video series, A Broad Abroad, is one of the first female-hosted travel adventure series of its kind. In it Paula invites viewers to explore the unknown and discover the unexpected in both familiar and exotic locales around the world. Her motto: Be Adventurous. Be Bold. Be Brave. Reclaim Yourself.
Paula is a New York Times best-selling author of the novel, Mercury In Retrograde. From 1999-2009, she was the Deputy Editor of the New York Post’s highly influential gossip column, “Page Six.” During her tenure she was seen by millions of viewers as a correspondent for Entertainment Tonight and The Insider and appeared as a guest on The View, Real Time with Bill Maher, The Today Show and Good Morning America.'

Compliments of the Season - Shangri-la Christmas Muscat

No comments:
Well at the last minute, our group decided to head out to the Shangri-la on Christmas Day. Thinking we, at least, could not go wrong with the locale by the beach and poolside. We arrived mid-afternoon and after inspecting the brunch offering decided to head to the pool bar due to the fact the food was about to be packed away. The pool bar service was as usual with the staff working inefficiently hard and the slow delivery of entrees and beverages.

About halfway through the meal, someone in our group wanted to head over to the Omani Santa set up in the dhow on the Waha side of the beach lawn.  Unexpectedly, this was the highlight of the day. Shangri-la really put out for the kids. Besides the ability to sit with a real Omani Santa in the dhow guarded by a huge inflatable plastic snow man, free beer, wine and desserts were offered in tables set up on the lawn. The adults were beaming with glee. Santa also rode a camel across the beach.

As an added bonus, each child that visited Santa received an age appropriate gift from ToysRus compliments of Shangri-la. Majlis cushions were formed into square pads laid out along the lawn for guests to relax and play. Parents, grandparents and kids alike were lounging and frolicking. At some point, the tech guy turned off the Christmas music and blasted Stone Roses and Oasis into the crowd reminding me of a college day rock concert. There was definitely merriness going around, and I think Shangri-la was successful in creating an environment where the Christmas spirit was shared by many.

Beach snowman guarding Santa's dhow

Complimentary beer & wine 

Omani Santa walking among children

Lauded as the largest X-mas tree in Oman at Shangri-la Muscat

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Ba Boom ! Old bomb from Jebel Akhdar was found and set off today

1 comment:
In Al Ainah, Jebel Akhdar a bomb was found on a property, Apparently, it's was a remnant from the 1950s during the Jebal Akhdar war. It appears that Oman forces were on the scene.











Monday, December 22, 2014

'Let's Roll' - Chez Sushi opening tomorrow @ the Wave

No comments:
The UAE's Japanese restaurant chain 'Chez Sushi' has a planned opening tomorrow for a new branch here at the Wave Muscat. I can't wait. At times, I have serious cravings for salmon sashimi and tuna rolls.  A 'cool' feature is the custom built rolls where you get to pick he wrap, rice and fish which suits picky eaters like myself. Over the last few years the choice of restaurants available in Muscat has certainly diversified with more international variety.

Sample of their Bento Sets.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Ban Alcohol & Sheesha on 'Land, Sea & Air' votes Oman's Majlis Al-Shura

1 comment:
The vote came in today to ban alcohol in Oman over 'land, sea and air' and to stop issuing sheesha restaurant permits by Majlis Al-Shura. But, keep in mind that Majils Al-Shura has minimal legislative powers and only makes recommendations that are then taken up by high authorities such as the Ministers Council until the final say is with the Sultan.

Some of the Majlis Al-Shura members may be considered a bit 'old-school' and well-intentioned, but many Omanis support the ban; meanwhile, I doubt it's likely (or am hoping not) a full ban on alcohol will be realized in Oman. The ramifications on business and tourism are too great to ignore. However, possibly more restrictions will be put in place as a compromise. Instead of banning, why not raise up the tax on alcohol and collect funds for the government.

Credit: http://www.blueridgeinstitute.org/
Old moonshine operations during prohibition on alcohol in USA.

...envisioning such a whiskey still deep in the Hajar mountains...


Monday, December 8, 2014

Vaseline Oman

3 comments:
'Vaseline goes around the world to find out how its healing properties are used by different nationalities and cultures.' Below is an actual commercial for Vaseline for the Omani audience (note the pic of Muscat Gate in the background). 

This video (Eng subtitles) was featured on CNN (Arabic). Some found the video unbecoming to Omanis; others found the video catchy.  What are your thoughts..........



video




Vintage Vaseline

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Mixed Feelings: Latest Qantab Construction Photos

3 comments:
Saraya Bandar Jissah, the ITC project located in what locals used to call 'Qantab' beach has posted construction updates on their website, http://www.sarayabandarjissah.com/, of which I have poached a few and am posting below. An 'official' description of the project states:

'Luxury residences will lead down the valley to the pristine sands of the natural Bandar Jissah beach, masterfully integrating simple contemporary architecture with the complex mountainous terrain. The masterplan development fits perfectly in to the landscape thanks to the unique approach to community planning which prioritises preservation and conservation of the natural landscape, flora and fauna to create a native and indigenous landscape for resort living.'

After viewing the photos, I am not sure to be excited or to cry as I cannot help remembering and missing all the enjoyable walks I had there, picnics and even the 'beach cats'. But, I may be overly nostalgic. The terrain looks a bit torn up with parts of the mountains blasted away.

The most concerning thing I noticed or didn't notice in the photos was the old cemeteries. I hope that they are still there, was one of the 'prioritizes in preservation' and are not bulldozed and built over; lots of jinni could be there. Qantab was hit by a plague in its history and many villagers died; the main tribe al Qasmi abanonded the area and moved to the Emirates.

The mock-up of the new residences does look stylish and I believe will be a refined place to live once completed. If it was inevitable the beach would be developed, this project's design is a dignified answer.  For those interested in buying in, there is a place to register interest on their website. The project is classified as an Integrated Tourist Complex which allows ownership by foreigners.

Overview - These photos as of Oct 2014. - 
Source: sarayabandarjissah.com

This is where qantab's 'secret beach' was.

New roundabout just after the old turn into to Quantab with new annoying but necessary speed bumps

Construction trailers

Excavation of mountain side

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Avoid Swimming from Sifah to Wave Complex due to unknown contamination in Omani coastal areas

3 comments:
Please refer to forwarded letter below: Also, today, there was a fire at PDO - a gas unit caught fire - , and at least three (some reporting four) persons sustained injuries.

Dear Colleagues,

We would kindly like to bring to your attention that, after a thorough investigation, PDO has concluded that the crude oil deposits, which have recently been recently reported as affecting the local coastline, are not as a result of our operations. PDO has surveyed its facilities and confirmed that it is not related to our tankering operations at Mina Al Fahal. (MAF)

The Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA) is aware of the problem which has affected the coastline from the Wave, Crown Plaza, MAF area down to Sifah and the Dimaniyat islands and have been surveying the sea and coastline since the end of last week. They have, however, not been able as yet to identify the source.  PDO is providing support to MECA to deal with the problem.

For the health and safety of you and your families, we advise you to refrain from accessing the beach for swimming during this period until  we have received the all clear.

Kind regards,

Mohammed Al Salmani (MSEM)
Corporate Health, Safety and Environment Manager

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