Wednesday, August 28, 2013

RESTAURANTS IN OMAN: Zad, in the Bank Muscat Headquarters Building near the airport

 Zad was one little restaurant that I had been meaning to check out for a while, ever since my husband and I wound up in the Bank Muscat headquarters building to use the CDM machine since every other CDM machine in Oman appeared to be broken, and my husband had consequently snacked on a falafel from Zad and had said to me that it was decent. So we wound back up at zad one afternoon of late, and decided to sample the buffet.
 From the decor one would guess that Zad is a generic Arabic restaurant and one would be right. The menu consisted of side dishes like salad, moutabel, houmous ect....
Before moving on to describe the food I can say, I actually do love the atmosphere of Zad. As it tends to be a place for brunch and lunch, and has primarily a business crowd, it is a calm place for a ladies lunch, sipping back a fresh lime and mint cocktail and having maybe, you know, an Arabic twist on a panini. The day we were in we had a beautiful view of the courtyard outside, and the modern Arabic decor and bright colours seemed quite chic. Generic chic but chic, and relaxed. Service was relaxed but as required. Unto the food...
For two persons, our meal which consisted of mixed salad, a vegetable side, rice, and meat main along with drinks, cost 8 OMR. Not bad at all right, but to me, buffet food never looks pretty, and it isn't REALLY a buffet. It is more like a cafeteria line up where you get a tray, wait for your food, and pay for each item seperately. I liked my lamb rogan josh, and we were both full at the end of our meals, but really, I've had Arabic starters and Indian dishes of the same appeal and taste for a lot less. Our lime and mint cocktails though, were beyond delish, and better than a lot of places I have tried in Oman. I think this place is worth one more try out for this OPNO, next time for a try at the sandwich menu + a cocktail.

After the lunch, we had a stroll along the edges of the fountain of the covered courtyard. Probably, if we had more time, we would have stopped for an espresso and lounged out here a while. It wasn't too hot, even at 12 at noon...Alas, we had no time, so we'll save that coffee date for another post on another day.

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Few Lovely Links: all things wild in Oman

 
AT WORK: I have been loving the new trend in office-decor of using antique tea trays to hold keyboards. I am also loving  this leopard print mouse pad from www.cafepress.com for 6.000 OMR. Omani women clash without care florals and leopard-print all the time. I guess the Gulf is getting to me....
FASHION:--- I have been in love with this pink leopard print Valentino dress for a long, long long long time. Which is why, it has sold out on net-a-porter and is no longer available. Sad that, since it was just so rock-and-roll for a conservative Omani village, and in moments of rebellion against backwards cultural norms, I am sure I would rock it. To my happiness, I have found a very similar fabric in Mutrah (and I intend to go and get it because I saw it before). I will get it tailored myself and pair it with white studded ballet flats from Zara, and a hot pink clutch from Max fashion that ALMOST almost looks like the rockstud version.


....Now, to get it cuffed or tiered with ruffles at the tailor, that IS a dilemna.
BEAUTY: DIY leopard print manicure guide from Oman's beauty blogger, Arwa http://arwasblogpage.blogspot.com/2012/10/eid-leopard-nails.html.
TRAVEL: Go on a safari, see leopards... in Oman. Being it is monsoon season now in Dhofar, one couldn't ask for a better time. See  http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2011/apr/09/oman-wildlifeholidays & http://www.mydestination.com/oman/travel-articles/72303/the-arabian-leopard-in-oman
READING: Lately I have been shopping Dar Al'Attaa (the Omani charity) for great children's books classics. My daughter is just starting to get interested in being read to, so it is time to stock up on a library. I recently got "Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters" and "Where the Wild Things Are" for JUST 400 BAIZAS! Also, all proceeds from your purchases go to charity. For more details see the original post on the event http://www.muscatmutterings.com/2013/08/book-sale-this-weekend.html.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR: The Jungle, Bahja Hall, is hosting a family festival on September 6th 2013 from 11am-10 pm. Entry is free. There are games and prizes for kids, and henna painting for Moms.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

MY OWN PHOTOS: Eid al Fitr day two, a rainy day in the Hajar Mountains

We woke up on the second day of  Eid-al-Fitr to a breakfast of Omani bread and cheese with hot milk tea, seeing pomegranite bloom, banana leaves, papaya trees...surrounded by a swarm of black flies (due to yesturday's cutting of the meat). Above us was a cover of grey skies. With the imminent rain, the flies dispearsed, alhamdulilah (all praise be to God).
After breakfast my neice took us to visit another village, which is my favourite place in the whole of Oman for the kindness of its people. Obviously, my friends live here, right? We sat for coffee and dates, and lunch, and then my neice, excited by the rain took us for a drive to see the roads and wadis flooding.
The kids of course, loved it, no seatbelts, heads out the windows, being pelted by rain. Ah, Oman.
At least, in my mind, I was happy when the sun came out in time for the azwa, which are traditional singing and dances the men do in lines, carrying either sticks, swords, or drums. While this is going on the children buy toys and candy from one another with their 'Eidiyia' money of small change rials and baizas. Usually everyone is done up in the second day's Eid dress and  they are all extra cute. Not me;).
In the evening it is mishakeek (kebab) night and I was soooooooooooo looking forward to it because my husband always grills a nice stick of mishakeek. Alas, sadly, younger nieces were ever so proud of their mishakeek (made by eight year olds) that we had to eat that. After chewing for an hour we gave up and subsisted on a diet of cheese, Lebanese bread, and chips Oman.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

EID GIFT GUIDE: your little Omani princess

1.) Omani traditional girl's dress tailored from Mutrah souq, around12-16.000 OMR depending on if you bring your own fabric or not.
2.) Small traditional silver necklace, 28.000 OMR Mutrah Souq
3.) Small traditional child-size silver Omani bracelet, 20.000 OMR, Mutrah Souq
4.) Small stuffed toy camel, 1.000 OMR, Al Sharikh, Barka Oman
5.) Child-size Omani silver ankle bracelet, 15.000 OMR each, Mutrah Souq
6.) Palm-frond basket 5.000 OMR from Seeb Souq to store all the Eid goodies
7.) Chocolate dirhams in tin 1.000 OMR from Carfour
8.) Fulla Traditions doll from Toys-R-Us, City Center
9.) Giant Chuppa Chup sucker from London Sweets, 9.000 OMR
10.) 10 balloons printed with Eid messages for 1.500 OMR from http://www.almoultazimoun.com/en/muslim-children-clothes-and-games/1846-pack-of-10-balloons-eid-moubarak.html
11.)  Toy cellphone, .300 baiza from Omani Eid grounds, sold by other children
12.) Jelly Belly halal jelly beans for 2.000 OMR from Carfour
13.) Pistachio candy from Al Fair, 1.000 OMR per package.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

EID GIFT GUIDE: guest in a green mountain village

Tradition reigns supreme here. Women will wear their gold and have their henna done, and it is polite to immitate that. Visiting friends and relatives is the mainstay of the Eid, so wearing shoes that are easy to take on and off, but can also handle steep and less than even terrain, is a must, as is perfume.

1.) Red enamel bamboo bracelet, available from J. Crew, 50.000 OMR each, www.net-a-porter.com
2.) Set of two costume bangles for 5.000 OMR from www.tajonline.com
3.) 'Aloha' nail laquer from Dior, available from Areej in Muscat City Center
4.) Henna tube, 0.450 OMR each from Lulu
5.) Smoked Oud oil from Abdul Samad Qureshi www.asqgrp.com
6.) Palm-leaf i-phone cover for 7.700 OMR + shipping from www.juicycouture.com
7.) Gold leather sandals, 43.000 OMR from JACK ROGERS - Hamptons Classic Navajo Sandal
8.) Bukhoor from Al Habiba Perfumes, Ruwi, 6.000 OMR-25.000 OMR
9.) Camel-milk chocolate from Al Nassma, available from http://www.al-nasma.com/

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

MY OWN PHOTOS: Eid al Fitr day 1, somewhere in the Hajar mountains

Belated Eid mubarak lovelies. InshaAllah your Eid was a safe and happy one. I am going to post some photos of my Eid Al-Fitr here in Oman, and explain our traditions a little. First off, Eid-Al Fitr is the Eid that happens after all the fasting of Ramadan. It means to start everything off pure, and good and new, and hopefully, keep all those good behaviours people committed themselves to during Ramadan. You could think of it like our New Year's and Christmas all in one;).
EID FOR ME STARTS LIKE THIS: As most Omanis are not originally from Muscat, a mass exodus occurs from the capital region, where ALMOST everyone works. Families pile into cars. Children are jammed onto laps. Occasionally you will spy a bull (Eid-sacrifice-that-got-away) leap off the the back of the pick-up where he was badly tied, and freak everyone out on the freeway. It is not odd to see the occasional goat in the backseat of a Range Rover on the highway to Nizwa. On the way, all Omani relatives who forgot something in Muscat, or Rustaq, or Nizwa, will call you to pick stuff if you are the last one to leave, so OPNO TIP: avoid this if grocery lists that include tailoring shops, bullets, fireworks, grass for animals, and other peoples' drycleaning, at all annoy you.
During the drive, people are still fasting the last day of Ramadan, but a lot of bathroom, Mosque, and gas station stops colour the way. Children, pregnant and menstrating women, do not fast, and a lot of last minute Eid supplies are picked up. Apparently, gas stations stock up on cheap perfume Oud knowing this. {OPNO TIP: Nizwa has a Lulu, a big kind of grcoery/goods store, and the souq usually stays open selling  banana leaves, and coals for cooking Omani "shuwa" meat, which I will get to later}. Like our cake, pictured above. It says "Eid Mubarak" in Arabic. Now, try juggling a cake, and a baby on your lap, all while driving. This is the scary drive from Muscat to the Interior during Eid. Usually, that plus some random freak rainstorms (I have met with hail), mudslides, and rockfalls. Alhamdulilah (thanks-be-to-God) this Eid, the flooding was so minimal that only the slowest Porsche ever in front of us was even bothered by the puddles.
After we arrived in our village, we of course, exchanged the necessary greetings (if you are Omani, this can take all night). As I am not, after having finished with that, I could get out to stretch my legs a little. We went for a walk down the falaj (ancient Persian-engineered irrigation system) to see the Shuwa cooking area. In many places in Oman, during each Eid, goats, cows, and occasionally sheep and camels, are slaughtered for their meat, and then cut up, slathered in a spice mix, wrapped in banana leaves, put into palm frond woven sacks, and buried on top of hot coals to cook under the ground for 1-2 days. Below, is the area prepped for the next days' shuwa cooking. Palm fronds, stuffed into the hole to burn down in coals for the cooking of shuwa. I only like goat shuwa. No offense Oman, but cow shuwa kind of sucks. That's just my opinion.
As it was still Ramadan, many people in the village were still busy with praying, reading Qu'ran, and fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) books, and visiting relatives that they hadn't seen in a long time. Then, dinner is served. Usually in our village we sit on the floor along the rim of circular mats, with sheets of plastic arranged on top before a large serving bowl laden with rice and chicken and vegetable sauces is strewn over it all. You eat with your right hand, wash in a bowl of water, and brink at least 1 cup of Arabic coffee if offered to be polite, 10 if you are me, and people already think you are crazy.
After dinner, there isn't much to do besides visit, and, do henna. Henna in our village is a big deal. Women have favourite kinds. Women dislike different styles. The older women prefer the traditional style of just colouring the nails and palms of the hand and feet. The younger girls obviously like to match their flowers and spirals and paisley motifs to their dresses.
Henna is made from a powdered paste derived from the bark of a tree, and applied wet, to the skin, from a tube stiffened with tape, and then cut for a small opening for application. Henna takes patience, as one must wait for the wet mixture to dry before removing it. Patience, is something I lose a little more of in Oman, everyday. Anyways...Omani henna is orange/brown in colour, black henna is actually not henna at all, and red pakistani  henna is my favourite, because brown just stays orange on my white skin, and looks dumb. Below, some designs typical from my village:
After the henna dries, we usually go to bed, in order to wake up in time for the Eid gathering before Eid prayer. Which this year, was around 4:15 a.m. Sadly, we slept in, but when we did wake up, the kids enjoyed their Eid gifts anyways. Usually Omani kids get money, or candy and nuts, from relatives on Eid mornings, and then they buy toys sold later in the day, with their Eid money. This money is called "Eidiyia". Our Eid gifts included everything we would wear for the Eid days, Omani traditional dress, toys khanjar dagger, ect..... Some lucky little girls get gold.
I got perfume:
First part of the morning we put on new or our best clothes. My Eid outfit this year sucked because my tailor was a thief. Anywaysssssss, so after we got ourselves and the kiddies done up in their best and brightest (and in many cases blinged out) we met and mingled, shaking hands, and taking a traditional meal of harees (wheat and chicken) and then, saffron tea, coffee, Omani helwa sweet, nuts, and fruit. This seems to be all I eat during Eid+ chocolates.
Our "Eidyia" gifts for the village munchkins
During all the handshaking, giving out of Eid gifts...
...we all head up to the Eid grounds for Eid prayer. I honestly find it too hot in Oman to enjoy this. But the kids in their little Omani dress and dishdashas ARE precious.
After salat, the men go down to slaughter the Eid sacrifice, and the women will later change into less nice clothes and cute the meat into kebab-lie chunks and the shuwa meat portions. Everyone sits together and helps, and the kids run around playing with eachother and new toys. I don't do very much as I am "not from the tribe" or the "family" and the men don't "feel comfortable" around me, which is a purely cultural and not religious things, which bugs me a little, but Islamically, I guess I shouldn't care. I watch MBC action, and don't have to do a lick of work. I got to keep wearing my neat little bracelets.
 And, as for the Eid cow, that's probably the last photo of it you want to see....