Saturday, November 17, 2012

Desert Tourism Camps Oman

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Desert Camping

Source: 1000 Nights Camp
As the weather is finally cooling down, I am posting some options for desert camping in Oman. In Wahiba Sands (a desert in the Sharkiyya region), several desert camps are set-up for visitors who want to experience staying in the desert. Most camps offer Bedouin tents as accommodation (with added bathrooms and other luxuries) and some form of activities such as 4X4 dune bashing, camel riding, or hanging with Bedouins. Desert Camping is best between October and April as the summer heat in Oman reaches 50+ C. 

More Luxurious Camps 

  • Notes: Most luxurious and may be the best camp, swimming pool, conference hall, special 'glass house villas' if one prefers not to sleep in a tent. 
  • Website:  http://www.1000nightscamp.com/ 
  • Activities: Dune bashing, camel riding, horse safari, coffee with bedu, swimming pool, sand boarding and more.
  • See: New York Times: Luxury Camping in the Oman Desert
  • Price range: A single basic tent costs 25 OMR per night (which is quite reasonable and in-line with other camps)






Desert Nights Camp - http://www.omanhotels.com/desertnightscamp/ - Run by the Oman Hotel group - same as Falaj Hotel in Muscat if you know it.  Runs a variety of package deals. Most expensive. Known as the '2nd best camp' after 1000 Nights. Luxury tents and bathrooms. Easy to book online. 

Desert Nights Camp

Sama Al Wasil Camp (Desert Palm Camp)
http://www.desertpalmoman.com/index.html
'Accommodation consists of 10 ensuite chalets (2 rooms in each) and 10 separate rooms, all with generous outside patios.' ..'Enjoy the thrill of riding the dunes on a Quad Bike. Go Dune Bashing in a 4X4 vehicle. Marvel at the beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Get together with friends around a camp fire and gaze at star lit skies. Experience Henna painting .'



More Rustic Camps




Safari Camp - http://www.safaridesert.com/  - Limited facilities, Bedouin style camp.




Al Areesh and Al Naseem:  http://www.desertdiscovery.com/text/dest.html - Closest to turtle watching at Raz al Jins. Camps are pretty basic with generators that are not always running. About 20 OMR for a single.




Monday, November 5, 2012

Municipal Council Elections Oman

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The first ever Municipal Council Elections in Oman will be held soon (scheduled for December 22, 2012). These elections are to create an elected council on the wiliyat level that will be involved with development and service projects. Wilayats are smaller regions within larger governorates (mohfada) areas in Oman. For a complete list of governorateswilayats and cooresponding number of Council members, please see end of post. 

  Highlights

  • Royal Decree No. 116/2011 set out the requirements for the elections.
  • Candidates could self-nominate between May 9, 2012 and (the extended deadline) June 6, 2012.
    •  Open to all Omani citizens. All candidates must be over 30 years old.
    •  Members of the Shura council and government employees are barred.
  •  Number of elected members is based on population in units of 30,000.
  •  There are around 546,000 (roughly 20% of the population) valid voter registrations in Oman.
  • Interestingly, a relatively large number of candidates self-nominated; in Nizwa there are a reported 59 candidates, in Ibri 60 and 1636 in total (49 or nearly 3% women).
    •  The Wali (mayor) from each wilayat recently met with the candidates.
  • Candidacy exposure and news of the election has been quiet thus far; however, one can find posters of candidates around towns and positioned at roundabouts. Government banners introducing the elections have been spotted along major roadways.
  • Election hotline number: +968-2468-6777 

'Municipal Council
Community Partnership'
Local Candidate 

Possible Drawbacks  

  • Tribes: Some are concerned people may vote along tribal alliances. 
  • Goats for Votes: Others worry that votes might be bought even though there are laws in place with penalties to deter such behaviour.  

List of Governorates & Wilayates   

1-:Muscat Governorate (number of council members)

The wilayat of Muscat (2), the wilayat of Muttrah (4), the wilayat of Al A’mirat (4), the wilayat of Baushar (6), the wilayat of A’Seeb (6) and the wilayat of Quriyat (4). ( Total 26 persons)

2-Dhofar Governorate:

The wilayat of Salalah (6), the wilayat of Taqah (2), the wilayat of Mirbat (2), the wilayat of Rakhyut (2), the wilayat of Thumrait(2), the wilayat of Dhalkut (2), the wilayat of Al Mazyounah (2), the wilayat of Maqshan (2), the wilayat of Shaleem and Halaniyat Islands(2) and the wilayat of Sadah (2). (Total 24 persons).

3-Musandam Governorate: 

The wilayat of Khasab (2), the wilayat of Diba (2), the wilayat of Bukha (2) and the wilayat of Madha (2). (Total 8 persons).

4-Al Buraimi Governorate:

The wilayat of Al Buraimi (4), the wilayat of Madha (2) and the wilayat of Al Sinainah (2). (Total 8 persons).

5-A’Dakhiliyah Governorate:

The wilayat of Nizwa (6), the wilayat of Bahla (4), the wilayat of Manah (2), the wilayat of Al Hamra (2), the wilayat of Adam (2), the wilayat of Izki (4), the wilayat of Sumail (4) and the wilayat of Bidbid (2). (Total 26 persons).

6-North Al Batinah Governorate:

The wilayat of Sohar (6), the wilayat of Shinas (4), the wilayat of Liwa (2), the wilayat of Saham (6), the wilayat of Al Khabourah (4) and the wilayat of A’Suwaiq (6). (Total 28 persons).

7-South Al Batinah Governorate:

The wilayat of A’Rustaq (6), the wilayat of Al Awabi (2), the wilayat of Nakhal (2), the wilayat of Wadi Al Ma’awil (2), the wilayat of Barka (6) and the wilayat of Al Mesana’ah (4). (Total 22 persons).

8-South A’Sharqiyah Governorate:

The wilayat of Sur (6), the wilayat of Al Kamil & Al Wafi (2), the wilayat of Ja’alan Bani Bu Hassan (2), the wilayat of Ja’alan Bani Bu Ali (4) and the wilayat of Masirah (2). (Total 16 persons).

9-North A’Sharqiyah Governorate:

The wilayat of Ibra (2), the wilayat of Al Mudhaibi (6), the wilayat of Bidiyah (2), the wilayat of Al Qabil (2), the wilayat of Wadi Bani Khalid (2) and the wilayat of Dema & Tayeen (2).( Total 16 persons).

10-A’Dhahirah Governorate: 

The wilayat of Ibri (6), the wilayat of Yanqul (2) and the wilayat of Dhank (2). (Total 10).

11-Al Wusta Governorate: 

The wilayat of Haima (2), the wilayat of Mahout (2), the wilayat of A’Duqm (2) and the wilayat of Al Jazir (2). (Total 8 persons). 

(www.omanet.om) 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Top News Oman August 2012

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In no particular order...

Aug. 18 - A ROP Brigadier was sentenced to jail and fined for accepting bribes and for misappropriation of public funds. Total fines for the crimes: 91929 OMR; jail time: 4.5 years. Rumored amount of ill-gotten gains 500,000 OMR.

 http://main.omanobserver.om/node/106673

Aug. 15 - A Filipino fitness instructor working at PDO's gym stabbed her Filipino colleague to death with a kitchen knife 
in flat over a dispute. 
 http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/oman/filipina-gym-instructor-arrested-for-murder-in-oman-1.1062287  

Aug 8 - Oman mediated the release of Iranian woman from US prison and received her for transfer.
 http://main.omanobserver.om/node/105631  

Aug - Al Said royal yacht returned from summer tour and docked at Sultan Qaboos Port in Muttrah near Muscat.

Aug 25 - Attention is being drawn to the increasing drug and alcohol use going on in the Sultanate in regard to youth.  In 2011, there were 3000 reported cases alone make that about 1 per 1000 people.* This seems to be a newer problem in Oman, but with serious negative effects all around. 
http://main.omanobserver.om/node/107294 

Aug 12 -  A gas pipe caused an explosion at the apartments Muscat Oasis in Baushar. Four floors were destroyed. Eight people were injured. Questions about safety standards arose.
http://www.timesofoman.com/echoice.aspx?detail=10100 

Aug 3 - Labour camp workers rioted near Azaiba and destroyed property and at least 20 cars upon hearing one of their compatriots had died (of Malaria without receiving proper medical care). The company assured that they provide the best available health care in accordance with the law. This is another tragic episode in the plight of the foreign labourers. 
http://www.muscatdaily.com/Archive/Oman/Workers-go-on-rampage-at-labour-camp-after-sick-worker-dies-1lv0 

Aug 8, 28 -  The  'Lese-majesty ' detainees and activists were sentenced to one year prison time in most cases and a minimal fine. 

Aug - The board members of Oman Football Association (OFA) collectively resigned to avoid sanctions and being suspended by FIFA. OFA board elections have been scheduled for late September. 

Aug. - Oman welcomed many new Ambassadors. 

Aug 28 - Horrible road accidents in Salalah claimed the lives of 7 members of an Emirati family while vacationing. The spotlight has been on this family, but about 55 people died in accidents during Eid vacation in Salalah out of about 95,000 travelers which comes out to about a .05% chance of having a fatal accident during the Eid in Salalah. Driving has serious risks in the Sultanate. Each year a traffic symposium is held to discuss what to do but the statistics show the accident rate is on the rise. 
http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/oman/oman-road-tragedy-claims-7-of-emirati-family-1.1067146 

Aug - The Quantab beach development project kicked off. 

Aug 12 - The US Destroyer USS Porter and a Japanese tanker collided in the Straight of Hormuz.  

Aug 19 - Eid Mubarak






Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Website Popularity Rankings Oman: English blogs higher than newspapers & Ministry of Tourism

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Popularity Rankings in Oman of websites listed by category based on Alexa data. Forums about society, politics and football are extremely popular. The Ministry of Education is the most popular government sponsored website. Egyptian and foreign news outlets are more popular than Omani ones. And, certain English blogs have a higher popularity ranking than major newspapers (including the Oman Observer), the Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Tourism.  Downloading and file sharing also ranks high. I have not included all sites or search engines in the rankings below.

Government Sites
14 - Ministry of Educationmoe.gov.om
21Ministry of Education Forum - forum.moe.gov.om/~moeoman 
30 - Higher Education Admission Centerheac.gov.om 
31 - Sultan Qaboos Universitysqu.edu.om 
77 - Manpower manpower.gov.om
121 - ROP - Royal Oman Police 
181 - Muscat Securitiesmsm.gov.om 
237General Directorate of Traffic - traffic.gov.om 
737 - Ministry of Information Oman - omanet.om
1127 - Ministry Of Tourism - www.omantourism.gov.om/ 

Forums / Blogs / Hobbies
2 - Facebook
5 - Sablat Oman - s-oman.net - Global rank 3,059: Popular online forum all about Omani society
8 - Kooorakooora.com - All about Arab football
17 - Censored Blocked Page Template - block.om 
20 - Hi Kora - hihi2.com - For those interested in Arab football 
28 - Omaniaa - omaniaa.net - Popular forum about politics, economy and society
37 - لبرزة العربية ALBRZH ALARABYA - albrzh.net  - General Arab forum; jobs... 
45 - Cool Binat cooolgirls.com
52 - Goal.comgoal.com - 'Provides soccer news and entertainment'
55 ظفار المجد Dhofari Almajad - dhofari.com - Local forum on affairs of Dhofar region
108alharah2.net - Omani forum
199 - London Olympic 2012 london2012.org 
570Muscat Mutterings - muscatmutterings.com, English blog on Oman
812 - AndyinOman .com - Expat teacher's blog about Oman; nicely done with lots of photos and descriptions

Shopping/Auctions
40 - Ebay - ebay.com 
48 - Apple Inc.- apple.com 
51- Amazon 

Service Providers / Banks
47 - Mazook -  Mozook is the number one mobile service provider in the Middle East and CIS region.
90 - Omantelomantel.om - Phone service provider
92 - Bank Muscat - bankmuscatonline.com
99 - Oman Airomanair.com 
106 - Booking.com 
120 - Nawras - nawras.om - Phone service provider Oman
1132 - Friendi Mobilewww.friendimobile.om 

Media
26 - MBC - mbc.net 
42 - Masrawy, Egyption portal and news site - masrawy.com
50 - Oman Daily - omandaily.om 
61 - Al Jazeera News - aljazeera.net 
74 - Al Arabiya News Channel - alarabiya.net, Arabic Language news station
81 - '7 Days' - youm7.com - Egyptian news site 
95 - Al Watan - watan.com - 'The largest Arab American Newspaper'
98 - Al Watan (Omani)alwatan.com - 'Voice of Oman to the World'
101 - BBC Onlinebbc.co.uk 
135 - India Timesindiatimes.com 
155 - Shabiba Newspapershabiba.com; Local Omani paper 
158 - Oman Newsomannews.gov.om 
176 - Azzamn (Time) Newsazzamn.org - Omani local news
232 - Quds Al-Arabialquds.co.uk - Arabic daily political newspaper published in Britain
255 - Gulf News gulfnews.com 
295 - Times of Oman - timesofoman.com
322 - Muscat Daily 
1047 - Oman Tribune www.omantribune.com 
1251 - Oman Observorwww.omanobserver.com

Downloads / Shareware
25 - My Egy - myegy.com - Place to download games, films and Arab movies
33 -  GulfUp | Free Files Sharing Site :) - gulfup.com 
49 - Arab Seed - arabseed.com - Watch or download Arabic movies, TV shows, music,  games

Other
274 - PDO


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Special Ramadan Programming 2012 - MBC1

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This is a quick summary of  some of the special TV programs produced for Ramadan this year on MBC1 Channel.


Adel Iman in Fareq Naji Atallah

9 pm  (Oman Timings) -  فرقة ناجي عطاالله - Gang Naji Atallah 

Gang Naji Atallah is a nightly series that stars the famous Egyptian actor Adel Imam.
Premise: Adel Iman plays an diplomat working in the Egyptian Embassy in Israel. He is sacked and his assets frozen. So, he forms a 'gang' to rob an Israeli bank of 200 million dollars. They pull off the heist, and now he and his gang are in the middle of escaping back to Egypt through Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. The series is a comedy putting the characters in ironic and surreal situations, but sentiments of the struggles of the Palestinians and conflicts in Sinai, Egypt and elsewhere are weaved throughout the script. Comedy/Drama.

11 pm - Omar

This is a historical reenactment of the story of Omr Khattab who was appointed Caliph in 634 of the Islamic Empire. He was know for fairness and justice. The series takes us through his life; the rise of Islam in Mecca and later its expansion. The series is well-made and was filmed mostly in Morocco. There was some controversy just before the program's release concerning how religious figures were going to be portrayed.

12 am - Khawaja (Egyptian word for foreigner) Abdul Qadir 

This is a story about a British man who first moves to Sudan and then to Egypt in the 1940's. When he arrives in the Sudan, Khawaja is a heavy drinker but soon reverts to Islam with the guidance of his Sudanese friend and finds new peace in life. While in Egypt, he meets the wali's 'mayors' family and falls in love with the wali's sister Zainab. The story focuses on the relationships between the people in the Egyptian town and their trials and tribulations in life. Drama/Romance

1 am - Tariq wa Hayoona

The lively entertainers from Kuwait host a game show where callers can win various prizes and money. The shows format is a bit different this year. Whereas, previously callers searched for items in rooms; this year Tariq and Hayoona compete against each other in various tasks such as hanging laundry, making candy apples, screwing in light bulbs and more. The caller associated with the winner of the task (either Tariq or Hayoona) gets additional prize money. Callers are from all over the Arab world and each caller is serenaded with traditional music from their country. Average prizes are 500 - 2000 Saudi Rials. 

2 am - Haroof Waoloof  'Letters Thousands'


Another game show where callers receive trivia questions where the answer starts with a certain letter in the Arabic alphabet. The announcer is famous for waiving his Saudi sword around. In this year's promos, he is dressed up as Zorro and uses his sword to carve an Arabic 'ح' or 'h sound for 'haroof' instead of Zorro's 'z'. Almost every show a car or two is given away.

Tash ma Tash - This was a Ramadan series that ran for 18 seasons, but was not shown this year. It is a comedy.drama that deals with social issues in Saudi. The actor Nasser from 'Tash' is also a judge on 'Arabs Got Talent'. Below is a translated episode from Arabic into English from last year dealing with the religious police the muttawah.




Friday, August 10, 2012

Pirates of the Arabian Sea

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Check out the markers on the map below indicating actual (in red) and attempted (in yellow) pirate attacks off the coast of Oman in 2012. Oman is in a high risk zone of pirate activity.
2012 Attacks: Source: http://www.icc-ccs.org/piracy-reporting-centre/live-piracy-map/

Samho Jewelry in Port Sultan Qaboos
The map above shows all piracy and armed robbery incidents reported to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre during 2012. One may note a fair share of vessels have been attacked off the Omani coast.

Last year, South Korean press took over the Muttrah Cornish internet cafe by giving the owner a 'gratuity' to stay open during the afternoon 'siesta' period in order to report on the successful military operation of the South Korea navy to retake and rescue the hostages of the Korean ship Samho Jewelry. The ship was docked in the Muttrah port near Muscat after being saved. 

'In most incidents as soon as the pirates / armed robbers know that they have been spotted or feel the vessel has been secured and is a difficult target they will abandon the attack. However Somali and Nigerian pirates tend to be more aggressive in their attacks and hence additional precautions have to be taken.'

Most attacks in the Arabian Sea are perpetrated by Somali pirates and any ship seems to be prey from large oil tankers to fishermen navigating traditional dhow. To deal with pirates attacks, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has put together a bulletin of guidance on preventing and suppressing acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships. 
Dhow hijacked off the cost of Oman Jun 20 / 2012.
NATO rescue ship in background

According to the Best Management Practices for Protection against Somalia Based Piracy bulletin, one of the most effect measures against being boarded is maintaining a nautical speed of 18 knots (which converts to about 32 km land speed) or above despite having machine gun fired or grenades flung on board to slow you down. Another is to hire private security contractor as no ship with hired 'security' has been successfully hijacked so far. Of course, being vigilant and fortifying the ship also helps. Basically, being boarded is bad and anything done to prevent that is helpful in thwarting an attack. 

'The average length of a hijacking of vessel and her crew is over 7 months.'

The motivation of the pirates is mainly money as there is often a ransom demand, but other motivations could be for revenge or pride. Some pirate groups calls themselves the Somali Coast Guard formed by fishermen touting the rational that they were protecting their seas from toxic waste being dumped in their waters by 'greedy' companies looking to dump cheaply and from over fishing of their waters by poachers.

Collecting ransoms may be seen as a form of remuneration for the pirates from being shafted in regard to their natural resources. This reasoning does not 'hold water' for some on the brutal attacks on private yachtsmen and their families including children. It is reported the pirates enjoy local support and encouragement from a majority of fellow Somalians. The pirate groups are known to coordinate and share in the booty. Pirating is a low overhead but high return endeavour for the Somali young men.

To engage in a 'pirate' attack it must be done in international waters; if perpetrated in a countries territorial waters, it is considered theft of a ship in addition to any other crimes which would have taken place during the attack.

More: 
IMO Reporting Centre: http://www.icc-ccs.org/piracy-reporting-centre
Modern Day Pirates Tales / Blog: http://piratebook.blogspot.com/
The Pirates of Somalia / Book: http://jaybahadur.blogspot.com/

Some news articles relating to attacks near Oman:

April 7 / 2012 MERCHANT VESSEL ATTACKED BY PIRATES OFF AL ASHKARAH


Source BPM4 guide: Barbwire fortification to deter pirates

Source BPM4 guide: Water hosing to deter pirates

Pirate boats 'skiffs' 
Military boarding 





LNG tanker shot at by pirates




Article101 - United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982

Definition of piracy
Piracy consists of any of the following acts:
(a) any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed:
(i) on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft;
(ii) against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State;
(b) any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft;
(c) any act of inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act described in subparagraph (a) or (b).