Friday, September 19, 2014

Adopt a pet in Oman

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'The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.'
Mohandas Gandhi

In the spirit of helping animals, please refer to Adopt a pet in Oman, The listings for September are quite active. I have always hoped there would be some sort of official pet/animal rescue organization in Oman. As it is now, most groups are purely self-started and volunteer with lack of proper funding. The vets around town have been known to provide free or discounted care. Certain individuals in the Omani government have given support to environmental and wildlife causes.

Each year, I see some lost wadi puppy roaming around away from his or her pack or a kitten in the trash dumpster Or, an injured dog that needs some care.  There are harrowing stories of police shooting dogs but not finishing off the job leaving them to wander around and suffer until infection or dehydration does it. Truly, my heart sinks when seeing or hearing about these things. Y-magazine put out an article about it last year, It's a tearjerker. Then, there is the wadi dog that does get adopted but then is either abandoned or returned to foster care.

Many wadi dog packs roam in populated neighborhoods. In Hamriya sometimes they overwhelm the street. There is concern from residents about the wandering dogs.

wadi puppies near muscat

Monday, September 15, 2014

Fresh 10 Omani Rials found @ Texas ranch

I was perusing Gulf News the other day and came upon this story, US politician sees Isil 'threat' in Oman currencyBasically, a candidate for US Senate travelled to Texas to get a 'boots on the ground' feel for the border problems. While there, a rancher's daughter found a paper which turned out to be 'freshly printed currency note from the Bank of Oman'. The politician held it in his hand and was very concerned about its 'freshness' and everyone was worried for the safety of the rancher's family after discovering the 10 OMR on the property.  

At first, I thought it may be a parody, but indeed it is a real conversation. Mr. Wade, the candidate, spoke about it on a US radio channel. I'm uploading the relevant part of the radio clip which I can not describe properly in words, but the full version can be found here: Honestly, I couldn't help but laugh through parts of the clip due to how absurd it sounded, but some people obviously take it seriously. This might be considered negligent fear-mongering by some standards. If only, the security issue on the border, were finding legitimate, 'unspoiled' Omani currency.

'A US Senate contender, who discovered Omani currency on American soil, has raised an alarm about the threat of Islamist militancy in his country.
Kevin Wade, a Republican businessman running for a Senate seat for the state of Delaware, recently travelled to the southern border with Mexico to assess for himself some of the problems the “broken border” faces.
Among the issues that caught his attention was the presence of Middle Eastern currency. The aspiring politician took a picture of the 10-rial Omani note, and tweeted: “Omani rials at Rio Grande. Border secure? #DoNothingSenate where is ISIS now?” referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group that has overrun large parts of Syria and Iraq and beheaded two American journalists in recent weeks.
Referring to the note, he added: “I held it. It’s the real deal.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Omani Student Arrested in Colorado, USA ....

Here is the link to the American news reporting:

CU student from Oman arrested on child porn charges

N Al  faces sexual exploitation charges

BOULDER, Colo. - A University of Colorado student was arrested Thursday after investigators said they found evidence of child pornography and lewd conversations on his phone and computer.......


Welcome to America.  Apparently, the police were investigating him for weeks.  It sounds bad from this article, but we do not know all the facts such as how old the girl was or how this Omani became associated with her.  It almost sounds like a honeypot trap.  At least in the USA, you are innocent until proven guilty even if this accusation would be quite shameful for his relations in Oman considering his face is posted on the nightly news. 

Oman  probably needs to hook him up with a good defense lawyer.  He is 19 years old according to reports. He seems like a normal Omani shab on his facebook page, not a pedafile type, but I could be wrong.  In 2006, Mr Turki, also an Arab (Saudi) student in Colorado (again, Colorado),  received a 28 year jail sentence for sexual assaulting his Indonesian housemaid, forced labour and more. Colorado, by the way, is the first state to legalise Marijuana. 

In his defense, I could totally see how a teenage Omani male 'set free' from the Omani conservative society while studying overseas would be naive in how to try to 'meet' girls leading to such an outcome. Considering how much lewd material and 'passes' at women take place  each day in the USA (especially in college fraternity houses); it seems an inordinate amount of police resources (weeks of investigation and search teams) were spent in targeting this teen.   Again, I am unsure of all the facts, if it turns out the girl is like 10 years old, then, it's a total different story. 


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

An evening with...Football Legends, Oct 2 @ Shangri-La

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Aramex - Shop & Ship Current Offer

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I am pasting Shop & Ship's current offer below.  Shop & Ship is a mail forwarder 'powered' by Aramex. You can have several address around the world, and then the mail/packages are forwarded to you in Oman. The rates are more reasonable than most other mail forwarders; however, the local customer service is sometimes lacking. For those of you turned off by their normal lifetime membership fee of $45, it is now $10 for a limited time according to this offer.

Current Offer

Now and for a limited time only, save 35 dollars by using the new coupon ONLYUSD10 to get your lifetime membership with Shop and Ship for 10 dollars instead of 45 dollars.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Muttrah Souk - A few lesser known souvenirs / gifts

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'Souq Entrance'
23°37'13"N 58°33'52"E

Muscat is famous for its traditional souk located across from the Muttrah corniche; it's written about in almost all tourist books & websites about the Sultanate. Most point out to pick up some frankincense, a pashmina scarf or two, a khanjar (traditional knife worn at the waist by Omani men), Arabic headdress or some helwa (tasty sweet made from dates).

Here are some additional finds at the souk:

1)  Maria Theresa thaler ('tah-ler'). Locally known as عملة ماريا تيريزا omlah maria teereza, the use of this silver coin dates from the 16th century and became one of the first 'global' currencies. It was used in Muscat and Oman up until the 1970s as a local trading currency along with the Rupee until the modern Omani banking system was implemented  The word 'dollar' originates from the 'thaler'; where as the word 'riyal' finds its roots in the Spanish currency 'real'. You can find 'thalers' in the sook at silver shops or larger souvenir shops. The price is somewhat tied to the price of silver plus whatever the merchant tries to add on top. 

*Sources & more info:

Harrigan, Peter. Tales of a Thaler, Saudi Aramco World, Jan/Feb 2003

The monetary systems of the principal countries of the world, By United States. Bureau of the Mint 1913

2) Green Frankincense. One will see and smell an abundance of frankincense throughout the souk. The most common sold is a yellowish resin with the distinct Boswellia Sacra fragrance. Frankincense called 'luban' in Oman is grown in Dhofar as most people visiting Oman have heard. The typical merchant will have two types of luban displayed a 'regular' less expensive and then a high quality more pure resin. The more pure resin is edible. 

There are two types of merchants; the Omani merchants from Dhofar and the 'expat' merchant. If you would like 'green' frankincense which is a medicinal grade, one needs to ask the merchant who may have some tucked away and not on display. Green luban can be burned or dissolved in water for drinking,  It is more expensive than the white resins but affordable in Oman. However, outside Oman, I have seen 1 kg of green luban posted for sale for the equivalent of over a thousand US dollars in a British shop which I found a bit disturbing (the price that is). The fragrance is more crisp than the regular frankincense and perhaps with a hint of lime while the shade is iridescent with a light greenish tint. 

3) Gold Jewelry.  The gold souk is to the right of the Muttrah souk entrance if facing the main entrance to the souk. Most gold sold in the shops is 21 or 22 carat with 21 carat being the preferred among locals. The designs are traditional and contemporary.  The deals are favourable and gold prices have been down recently. 

4) Crewel fabric. Crewel is a type of 'freestyle' embroidery on fabric. Please see photo below to get the idea if not familiar with crewel. The fabric is used in home furnishings. One may find it in Kashmiri shops that generally also sell the traditional turbans the Omani men wear. There are many wonderful Kashmiri handicrafts available for sale in Oman. The cost of the crewel fabric is 1/4 to 1/2 the cost found in the 'West'. 

5) Incense burner from Salalah. Hand-painted and from Salalah, these colourful and pretty burners are unique and inexpensive items to be purchased as souvenirs.  To burn luban, charcoal is heated and placed in the burner; then, the frankincense resin is placed on top of the charcoal. 

This charcoal comes in round disks and lights quickly - recommended for burning luban and incense. You can find it in the souk and sometimes in hypermarkets. A roll should be no more than 200 bz ( I have seen merchants ask for a riyal) and a box 1.5 to 2 OMR.  Here's a video on 'how to burn frankincense on a charcoal disk' put out by for those who are new to the process, It's pretty much a given here in Oman that everyone knows how to burn frankincense.

6) Cuff links. These can be found in silver shops.

7) On a side note, I have now become against the sale of antique Khanjars to expats who will take them out of the country and hope that the Ministry of Heritage and Culture would set up a programme to offer to buy the Khanjars from Omani elders who come to the souk to 'pawn' their Khanjar for a fraction of its worth and to set up a preservation method for the khanjar.

Lists for $725 at Omani Khanjar

8) Comment:  In general, it is imperative to bargain down any merchant at the souk for any item one may wish to purchase if one would like a fair price. For non-Omanis or non-GCC tourists, the price is probably raised four or five times what the merchant would accept. When negotiating, the fair price should be 20%-40% of the named price.

Muttrah Souk. Source: Times of Oman

Muttrah Souk. Source: Times of Oman

Muttrah Souk. Source: Times of Oman