Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The proposed Muscat Cultural Center

The proposed Muscat Cultural Center will be built [still looking to find out exactly where to figure out for myself if the plan included required parking and traffic ect...] is scheduled to include a National Library [which I have been waiting for forever] set to contain up to 5 million books, a National Archives [totally required because of the state some of Oman's most important publications and documents were in--- the last five years ago I saw some of the storage premises but I know the Minsistry of Heritage has been working on conservation of late since the old Minister left I guess], and a National Theatre (which houses a thousand seats) [didn't really think we needed this but cool right?].

---I was more hoping for a national museum like the Royal British Museum or the Royal British Columbia Museum, or the New York Museum of Natural History/combined ect... kind of like a Balboa park via San Diego kind of idea for the proposed cultural center (since I heard a national botony park was in the works also somehow). Natural history, archeological history, modern history, and art, housed in one place for central Muscat WOULD be AWESOME for the capital, yes?

However, disapointed as I am for the future career paths of Omani archeologists and anthropologists without a proper Museum, the center WAS the idea of the Ministry of Culture and Heritage (lovely people there), there will also be four other buildings. These will be: a children's library, cinema (yes, IMAX, please IMAX), gallery and workshop, litterary society headquarters (yes), and a lecture hall (as well as retail facilities to target our tourists). To quote the project development company, Mace, appointed to run this development, "Landscaping will comprise the lavish Oasis Fruit Garden which will accommodate 1100 palm trees, 750 fruit trees and 32,500 smaller trees and shrubs." And about the center Mace says "Due to the centre’s high profile it will act as a dedicated vibrant space to collect, preserve and display live and historic contemporary arts and culture in Oman. It will also aim to be a hub that will link local and international knowledge and cultural industries to help develop Oman’s cultural scene."
 So all that is great for Omani writers, artists, conservationists, musicians, and hopefully, traditional craftspersons, and linguists (Oman has some dying languages to preserve--- or at the very least, to document).

The architecture is, I believe, by AS Architecture studio. The project is set to be managed and cost-managed by Mace (hope they are good), but I have NO IDEA who in the Ministry is exactly in charge of monitoring the project (hope HM Qaboos follows this one as well as he did the Grand Mosque and the Opera house). That means I also have no idea when its deadline is, who the construction companies are on it, the contractor, ect... If anyone knows, please let me know, via the comments box of this post or by email.

Well, the architects did a great job didn't they?: So let's hope it gets built {on time and on budget and without scandal ;) }

Baby, it's cold outside!---sweater weather in Muscat---at least for OPNO

You know, most clothing in Oman is overpriced. It is the American price [ex. 10.00 USD---equivelent to like, 4 rial something?] changed to rials. 10.000 OMR is a lot compared to 10 USD flat. But there is one thing to be thankful for.... winter clothing is ALWAYS on sale in Muscat.

Back in Canada, there was never a sweater or coat or capelet left in my size this time of year... but in Muscat I have my pick. And on sale. Which is... awesome.
Yes, I am wearing a sweater in December in Muscat. I am freezing. With the ACs and all, I need it.
The sarcastic, are you really Canadian, I encounter from Omanis, and amused glances from expats, can be brushed aside as I and another fellow Canadian---who has for almost as long as myself, been situated here in the MiddleEast---debate whether fingerless gloves are superior to a piping hot mug for increased typing skills, now that Oman's winter has set in. I suppose, if one is not quite as aclimatized as us too, there's always ski dubai, and funzone skating in Qurum, and vacations elsewhere (Switzerland seems quite popular with Omanis this year) to take advantage of winter sweater sales in Oman.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Work, Blog, Home: perhaps no time for blogger in the next little while

I have so much work to do I don't know why I am on blogger (or pinterest). However, I am currently re-organizing my work office so that I will be more efficient. Apologies to my friend (*who reads my blog and also works with me and is currently sharing the space***---I moved your desk to the other side but you still have net;) . Reorganization means I have come up with a hermes orange, white, brown, and black colour scheme. I have started with binders. And tea cups (I need constant caffiene or tea to write). However, the goal is to infuse a little bit of Oman into the space and still leave optional room for another person to share the space (who knows if my boss will find anyone to place my dear departing friend who will no longer have to deal with meetings lacking agenda but as detailed and precise as thesaurus definitions;) ). I want a carpet, new stationary organizer, to paint (definately after my work-mate departs Oman as the smell of paint would probably bother her whereas I love it), and a way to refinish the blinds and tack board so they aren't so drearilly instituional. A chic table lamp and some wall art wouldn't hurt either.

To blogger, for now, (at least the nest two weeks) I will bid adieu.
 Where I got my colour-scheme inspiration:

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Creativity and the Khaleej---allow me to be cruel

When it comes to business---or what a girl's allowed to wear in terms of abaya fashion--- Khaleejis(Omanis for sure, and I say that with love) just aren't creative.

Now of course, I am generalizing. There are some creative (brave) artistic souls out there but I meet them rarely.

Contemplating business, there are so few brave (Omani) investors. Everyone has to do what has already been done to feel safe (which is why one can buy a chai karak basically anywhere in the country but try finding anything but Pizza hut and chicken tikka in Nizwa, I dare you). Salalah has been worse.

Anyways, this stems even to abayas (which I'd contemplated as a business for a while). What gets an ok from relatives is what other girls are already wearing in the neighborhood.

A style starts by being worn by the slutty ***I don't judge them--I am basing my rant on other people's opinions*** girls. To my region of Oman filled with its own section of highly judgemental people this mean the girls who

a. wear a lot of make-up
b. wear their abaya totally open with scandalously tight or see-through clothes underneath
c. have their hair out
d. probably have high heels or runners (chic ones) on their perfectly pedicured feet

Note again: I don't judge them. I know exactly three women who dres this way who are better Muslims than me and sooooooooooo not slutty.

Then its adopted by the trendy but not religious girls. These girls cover but maybe have some hair out and make up.

Then it is adopted by the girls who cover with no hair out but some (not over-the-top) makeup. They are still not considered relgious (even if they are or consider themselves to be that). I consider myself in here while I am supposed to be here...

...according to relatives and an Omani husband.

These girls cover, where minimal makeup, and still wear new styles (which are, by now, sadly, over 1-2 years out of date).

Then when they are wearing it, it's ok for pretty much anybody else who may not care about fashion or ever wear makeup (or colour).

Creative right?: not.

Anyways, end of that rant for today.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Proposed Alcohol Ban in Oman: expats and Omanis, Muslims and non-Muslims---what should be done


As everybody in Oman probably knows by now, our form of elected government (you have to be 18 years of age and an Omani citizen to vote) the Majlis Al-Shura voted to comepletely ban the sale and purchase of alcohol in Oman. My Omani-husband was like, "as a Muslim this is good, and Sultan Qaboos knows if the Ministers reject it, or worse---he does---Omanis will be mad."

"Qaboos won't do it," I insist. "Unless he really is dying... Oman is not an Islamic Caliphate. And... alchohol isn't the first thing Muslims should deal with ---or a ban how they should deal with it---if they actually WANT a true Islamic government. I mean, look how well all that has worked for Saudi. A ban affecting non-muslims wasn't even done by the Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings be upon him) so it isn't following an Islamic example of how we should go about it. The example from the Prophet only affected Muslims in the ban on buying and selling."

Of course, as written by Oman Coast {here: http://omancoast.blogspot.com/2014/12/ban-alcohol-sheesha-on-land-sea-air.html#comment-form } the "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..." and the most likely outcome of such a recommendation will be "possibly more restrictions will be put in place as a compromise."

Which, perhaps unbeknownst to Oman Coast, is definately more in tune with Islamic example and history, than what is in place in Saudi.

Muscat Mutterings has also done a couple posts { here http://www.muscatmutterings.com/2014/12/will-oman-dry-out-and-gas-prices-set-to.html } and reading the comments, I hear some things I find ridiculous.

Number one, banning alcohol is not a "wahabi/salafi" thing from Saudi. It isn't pressure from Saudi. Saudis (who are bad Muslims, not the good ones) come here, UAE, and Bahrain, to drink---if they can't afford Europe ect.... Banning alcohol for sale by Muslims or drinking it by Muslims, is, in fact, an Islamic thing. Universal to Sunni (Saudi majority), Shia (Iran-majority) or Ibadhi (Oman majority). Most Omanis outside of al-wusta and Salalah regions and sections of Muscat like Mutrah and sections of Barka, are Ibadhi. The majority of Shura members who voted to ban alcohol comeplety?: Ibadhi.

There are lots of screwed up things to blame KSA (Saudi) for, but this proposed ban: not one of them.

FACT: The majority of Omanis in Oman want alcohol banned completely because Islam strictly forbids drinking, selling, or even sitting with a drinking person for Muslims.

However, the majority of Omanis might want it banned comeplety, but actually, in Islam, it is only banned to be sold or purchased by Muslims. Thus, placing restrictions on Muslims (since most resident ID cards have a place for information to be placed about your religion) would be sufficient as a compromise to the populace and would not affect the working expats required to keep the economy as it is now, or affect tourism (except our GCC and local Omani drinkers---which, suffice it to say, as a Muslim, I think Oman can handle).

An argument made by my husband is general tourists in Oman don't come here for fancy cocktails, beer, and hotels (that is more locally based expats ect... and our own Omanis who drink). They come for the nature (deserts, wadis, mountains, or diving), or for the culture and history. I agree, however, a large portion of the economy relating to tourism is local and GCC tourism, and these (I am hoping only non-Muslim but I am a realist) tourists, drink. They come for hotels and cocktails.

I know, as a Muslim I will say, Allah is sufficient for us. Which is true. In Islam when you are doing the right thing, it all works out in the end, usually to the best. That's been my personal experience. However, a ban ON non-Muslims as well as Muslims wasn't what WAS done in Islam. Islam is a religion that states, it can't be forced on other people. If you look at the punishments for drinking in Islam, it was punishments Muslims inflicted on Muslims, not non-Muslims, Christians, anyone of the Judaic faith, or pagans, ect....

As amused as I was to read Oman Coast's comment comparing this proposed ban for Oman to prohibition in the US: "...envisioning... a whiskey still in deep in the Hajar mountains" I smiled to myself. It is actually a historical fact, that wine-making (a whiskey still is a tad unlikely) in the Hajar mountains, from grapes, pre-dates Islam in Oman;).  Another fact: Omanis drink. A compromise of true Islamic reflection would be banning Muslims, not Omani citizens in general, from purchasing or selling alcohol.

A suggestion from non-Muslim expats that would be appear to make good sense is, in the words of Oman Coast:

"Instead of banning, why not raise up the tax on alcohol and collect funds for the government"

...is the simple fact Muslims are forbidden to SELL (i.e. make money from) alcohol, not just drink it. So an economy that benefits from alcohol sales, is dirty and cursed for the majority of Omani citizens. I say, let non-Muslim citizens run this and keep the money. Let them take what comes with it.

As a Muslim, of course, I strictly applaud this attempt, like every Omani I know---however, as a rational human being, and then again as a Muslim, I have stipulations and hesitation. Intentions are great and totally Islamic in this... however, both Islamically and rationally, the ban is not thought out or what is best for Oman or...Muslims. It should be a conditional ban to be truly Islamic, only affecting Muslims, not non-Muslim expats or non-Muslim Omanis. It is less hypocritical then, where we can compare it to Saudi---where alchohol and nightclubs are readily available, supplied by corruption of custom officials and gangsters, and allowing non-Muslim citizens of the country to claim the benefits of a reputation of being Islamic when they are far from. Oman should approach this situation differently.

I say this as a concerned citizen, a former non-Muslim expat, and a Muslim who prefers to be strict with herself, rather than forcing others to the tenents of her faith.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

HOUSE UPDATE: so yeah, the baladiyia said...

So seeking finalaization of our house plans, apparently, although they were initially 'approved' it seems they are not.

Although we were told that we could build up to 60% of our land, apparently that is only if one is building a single villa. For a twin villa one is only permitted by law to build 50%.

Which kind of makes me scratch my head (like laws about where stairs can go and how many domes one can put on their roof) since such laws have nothing to do with safety or aesthetic...

However, as we are buidling in the plan only 52.5% they may make an exception?: again, weird. Why say no then? Why is there a chance of yes?

And if no, where to shave of that 2.5 square meter from in the plan?

Ugh.

So we are not even to the 'digging the foundation stage'.

I just KNEW this would take FOREVER.

...And my landlord raised the rent for the new year. She's really nice but I had planned.... oh well. I love Oman. I can suck it up.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Goodbye, Girl

To all those who regularily read our blog, sorry for not posting. I just had a new baby and thus do not sleep---- like ever. Another OPNO is pretty much permanantly in Sohar with the worst internet ever, and lo and behold, we are losing one of what was probably our long-time readers' favourite OPNO girls:---- to London----of all places.

She decided to become a lawyer and is marrying a Brit.

I know:  :OOOOOOO.

Anyways, congratulations to her (we look forward to the wedding pics) and a long-ago promised post comparing life in London to life in Muscat. I also await her editing of my book (finally almost finished the story [highly dramatized and now a work of fiction completely] of our early days in Oman). I guess lawyers, are like, busy ;p.

This post will be reminiscent about those crazy days in Al Athaiba, wearing niqab, photographing Bedouin races [our flat conveniently located to the Oman Camel and Equestrian? Racing Federation building], and her love of hurricanes and helwa-making, and very bad choice in automobiles for those things.

When I think of her, I will think of Oman Air stewardesses bringing us fresh clotted cream from the U.K.; I will think of Ferraris and [scary] Russian accents; I will see a hundred pairs of black shoes and a row of ten of the same grey t-shirt from Zara hung neatly next to colourful floral shoulder-padded cotton Bedouin-worthy long-sleeved Omani dresses covered in crystals; I will smell Turkish coffee and hear her cell phone getting a message every minute; her bosses' dry-cleaning is hung on the door, and designer stationary covers her plastic garden furniture table, camofaluged as it is with fancy linens from Versace Home. Her bookcase has more books on its shelves than I have ever seen on any expat's bookcase in Oman. Her plug-in tacky insence burner is at odds with the designer perfumes lining the mirrored rim of her bathroom vanity.

Her hair is always done in a million different styles of a pony tale. Unlike me, she thinks before she speaks, and thus, everybody whose anybody in Oman trust her with their secrets. If they are good people, she guards their secrets. If they are horrible human beings trying to impress her, she secretly blogs about them on our online pages. I think, they have guessed now, who she is.

She is generous as an Arab, selfish only that she abandoned us to better herself, seek an education, and marry someone not Omani, and not Muslim.

"But!" she will exclaim reading this, "I married an Omani once. It just didn't last. Completely his fault."

 She carried a Qu'ran with her when she went, prayer beads [a large collection], a minaret topper, and several prayer mats [although she did intend to use them as dog mats---no offense ever intended] when she left via Muscat International Airport.

Of all things that she was, besides friend to few but dear to them blessed with her sincere aquaintence;), she was not your average expat, nor ever indeed, a tourist. She was a traveller, who meant to make home here. But she carries what she learned from Muscat and Oman and the best and worst of Omanis with her. I know her personality, and her outlook on life, are forever changed by the imprint of this place and its people.

Just as I am forever changed, from the imprint of her, brief as it was.