Monday, February 28, 2011

Unrest in Oman

Ok, This is just a quick post for family and friends, to assure them that we are safe and well.
Here is a status of the situation as provided by International SOS, who are tasked with keeping us safe in an emergency, (medical and security)

Two killed, several injured as police break up pro-reform demonstration in Sohar (Revised 14.28 GMT)

At least two people on 27 February were killed and at least ten others were injured after the police fired rubber bullets at protesters in the northern city of Sohar (Al Batinah region). The incident occurred after around 1,000 demonstrators, who had assembled for the second consecutive day at the city's main square to demand political reforms, became unruly and threw stones at security personnel, while some attacked a shopping complex and attempted to storm a police station. The security forces also used batons and tear gas to quell the unrest and troops have been deployed to secure the protest site. Reports also indicate that roadblocks have been set up on a main thoroughfare linking the city with the capital Muscat, though it is unclear whether these are being manned by demonstrators or the authorities. In addition, rallies have also taken place in the southern town of Salalah (Dhofar province), where pro-reform protesters have remained encamped near the office of the provincial governor since 25 February.

Comment and Analysis

Protests are traditionally rare in Oman, where levels of discontent and anti-government sentiment have until recently been low. However, several hundred people recently rallied to demand higher wages in Muscat, and the latest developments in Sohar and Salalah underline how rising unemployment and inflation, coupled with the recent wave of protests and unrest across the region, have the potential to inspire further bouts of unrest in urban areas the coming days. While the numbers of demonstrators have so far been relatively small, recent events indicate that the security forces will not hestitate to employ tough measures to quell disturbances. In Muscat, protests are likely to occur at or in the vicinity of important government buildings in the district of ministries (Medinat Qaboos), or in the Ruwi business district.

Such gatherings are likely to remain focused on demands for economic and political reforms rather than regime change; however, the killing and injuring of demonstrators could serve to harden attitudes among some protesters, especially if the authorities refuse to offer concessions. Nevertheless, most gatherings should remain relatively small and peaceful; any unrest is likely to be swiftly contained and widespread disturbances are not anticipated. Heightened security and associated traffic restrictions in the vicinities of such gatherings can cause localised traffic disruption, especially in the event that protesters or the authorities establish roadblocks on key thoroughfares.

An estimated 300 protesters on 18 February rallied peacefully in Muscat in response to rising prices and to demand improved pay. The police did not intervene in the rally, which took place in Ruwi and lasted about an hour. Earlier, several people on 17 January gathered in Medinat Qaboos in connection with the same issues. Head of state Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Bu Saidi on 26 February reshuffled his cabinet and announced some limited reforms, including improved stipends for university students; the moves followed a salary increase for public sector workers earlier in the month. However, the demonstrators in Sohar have called for the sacking of corrupt ministers and for the 84-member Shura council, which provides only advice to the monarch, to be granted legislative powers.

Travel Advice

* Avoid all demonstrations as a routine security precaution.
* Anticipate disruption to overland journeys in Sohar and between the city and Muscat, and allow extra time to complete journeys.
* Monitor local media and our website for further updates on the situation.

Just to let you know that we are all happy and well and there is no reason to worry.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

On The Lam

The Evil Dr Rabbito has gone AWOL.

He may be living it large in Dubai or made a break for freedom at the border, we don't know for sure.

Our scouts are out trying to track him down, but if you see this bunny do NOT attempt to approach him, just let us or the authorities know.

And whatever you do..........................don't call him cute!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Mind Your Language

Sorry about the lack of posts recently, I have and continue to be stupidly busy. Once I gain a little breathing space I will knock out several posts bringing everyone up to date on the comings and goings of family life in Muscat.
In the mean time I would like to take this opportunity for a shameless plug for my Arabic Language Teacher, Said Al Busaidi, who persevered with my attempts at butchering his language and has given me a solid foundation in spoken Arabic for which I will be forever grateful.
Said is planning to run another course, details below, and I can heartily recommend it to anyone wishing to learn to talk to Omanis in their native tounge.


There is an Arabic Basic (Spoken) Course run this summer for 2 hours a week. (Every Sunday)

The Course commences once the minimum number of students has been achieved.
(Each Group has 8 - 14 x students)

Date (TBC): (June – July 2010)

- Time: 1630 - 1830
- Fee: Only 100 OMR per student
- Duration: 12 WEEKS
Previous Students Quotes:
- "Plenty of practice and getting more confident in practicing Arabic outside … Lovely instructor, taught us in a friendly and fun way – kept it light hearted."

- "The course is pitched at the right level, we have a good workbook … and a great teacher. He makes the lessons enjoyable."

- "I came to the lessons knowing no Arabic whereas now I feel I have learnt the basics which would mean I could speak basic Arabic with some more practice."

- "There has been a complete change in my comprehension giving me the competence to continue with developing my language skills."

- "Basic skills for greetings etc. Now much better; some better understanding of the language as well. Good Start. Now need more practice."

Mobile: 00968 92170574
- Said:
Mobile: 92370833

Sunday, May 09, 2010


I have today stumbled across this blog. I absolutely adore it. It has crystalised for me some thoughts that I have been having for a while with regard to fashion.

I have for some time now been reading quite a few "fashion" blogs, the main one of which is The Women's Room. This regular activity has helped me come to the conclusion that I hate mainstream High Street fashion. I cannot abide looking the same as every other Tom, Dick and Harriet roaming the streets. If I do buy High Street fashion - as I must here in Oman - I try my very best to wear it in an unusual way, or with an interesting accessory that somehow gives it a lift and makes it different.

I love how the older ladies and gentleman on Advanced Style, are just that Advanced Stylists. I would love to have their unique abilities - to mix and match styles in such an eccelectic way. Most of all this blog makes me yearn to go to New York and meet all these fabulous people who have had amazing lives and through it all have remained stylish and most of all unique. I love that they are unafraid to be themselves, some of them at over 90 years old and still look wonderful.

I lament the fact that the height of style here is Marks and Spencers, or maybe even Zara. Don't get me wrong the High Street shops do some good stuff, but it's just all the same - it bores me stupid - I want unusual, unique, unrepeatable clothes that express who I am, not who the designer at Zara is. Sadly - Oman is not the place to yearn for such things, there are no second hand boutiques here, no independant sellers - apart from the lovely Totem, who do some great stuff if you are 20 years old.

Now shopping on line - mmmm good idea, apart from the fact that I need to feel the fabric, see the style on me and fall in love with a piece. I have recently been looking for a dress for a wedding that we are going to in the Summer. I thought I had found the ideal one, ordered it and well - lets gloss over that and just say that it wasn't the dress for me. So comes to an end my idea of buying something unusual online. So I trawl, Monsoon, Boden and Coast websites - some nice bits but nothing that says "I am the dress that is destined for you" I long for a Horrockes Dress in an outrageous print (I hear they used to do them in a lobster print, just fabulous), unfortunately they aren't exactly easy to get hold of and I am not sure that I could squeeze my ample waist into one even if I could get hold of one.

So my question is, what does one do, when one is stranded in a clothing wasteland with nothing to support you but Marks and Spencer ? Should I risk Etsy, or will it just be another disappointment when nothing fits and I can't send it back - should I try to learn to make clothes ? the thought makes me shudder - smocking at school has left me scarred for life !!!

Just some thoughts.

Becky x

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Getting Down and Dirty in the Garden

A couple of years back, whilst working for a different company in Muscat, Jacob spent a couple of hours with me in the office. It couldn’t have been that exciting for him and he amused himself hunting for errant paper clips and elastic bands, but he loved it none the less and has reminisced about it on numerous occasions since then.
I’m not sure where the whole bringing your children to work tradition has come from, I think it is big in the States with formal days set aside, but I’m not so sure about the UK and Europe.
My father was self employed and mainly worked from home, but occasionally he would have jobs to do at an old Victorian(?) factory in London and, occasionally I got to go with him (before the days of health and safety).
I have vivid memories of the place throughout my childhood, all happy, although the last, after it had been shut down was tempered with sadness, the end of an era.

Well Jacob had been asking to come with me to work for a while now, but being site based there were obvious safety restrictions. I broached the idea of a family day with the company, and we received the green light.
So the much anticipated day arrived with our respective families turning up and being ushered into the visitors centre. A quick visit to daddy’s desk, just to check for itinerant paper clips and elastic bands before an introduction to the Oman Botanic Garden from Sarah, the head of education for the Garden.

From there we had a walk around of the Nursery facilities, where the 1200 species of native plants of Oman are being cultivated for the Garden. Oscar, was of course into everything and frequently disappeared off into the undergrowth. Most of my time was therefore spent corralling him and making sure he didn’t kill any plants or hurt himself whilst swing off parts of the greenhouses.
Due to a slight confusion over a loo break we discovered the site tour bus had left without us, so we jumped into our 4wd and headed into the garden for a private and exclusive tour with commentary supplied by little old me.

Oscar was of course besotted with all the excavators, dump trucks and payloaders, whilst Jacob wanted to know what exactly was being built where and, what it would be used for.
He certainly enjoyed himself and is in Sarah’s good books for wanting to bring his classmates for a visit.

So a big thank you goes out to all involved for hopefully making it a day to remember, hopefully Jacob’s childhood memories will be just as good as mine.

But what’s all this about a Botanic Garden??? I have no idea how many people know of its existence or the scale of the project. It is not as if it is a secret but when I first heard about it, I thought “a garden, big deal”, it wasn’t until I travelled around the project that I realized how big a deal it really is.

The OBG is a project of his Majesty, Sultan Qaboos, as a showcase for the diverse Omani flora, of which there are one thousand two hundred species, and eighty of which are found no where else in the world!
The site is four hundred and twenty hectares in size and we are busy recreating the different environments found in Oman, from the heights of Jebal Akdar to the deserts of the empty quarter and the lush greenery of Dhofar.
Some of these environments such as the Dhofar region will be housed in Biomes, buildings that allow us to recreate seasons throughout the year that are ideal for the regional plants. Imagine being able to see the effects of the Kareef in Muscat!

One snippet of useless information is that the site, near Al Khoud, was the first place in the whole of the Arabian Peninsula where dinosaur bones were discovered!

Currently construction is underway on the visitors centre, research centre, educational facilities and heritage village. The heritage village will be a showcase for traditional Omani arts and crafts showing how plants have been an important part of Omani life and how they have influenced the world.

We have a couple of years left before the Garden is finished, but you can keep up to date with the news letter. Recently the OBG team have been out planting the first of the habitats, the Northern Gravel Desert, and different groups, such as the Womens Guild of Oman, and American Womens Group etc, have visits to see how the work is progressing.
When it is finally finished, it will be a very special place in a very special country.

One last thing, I should point out how the OBG has changed my life……

Yes, I finally did some gardening at home. You really didn’t need to see that did you.

Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head

Seem like we might be in for stormy weather!

Must mean there's an Irish woman arriving.
Looking forward to seeing you Jo!!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

iPad Killer


Those of you that know me will have by now understood that I am a bit of a techie, quite happy to take things apart, understand how they work and fix them if they are broken.
Well I have always had an interest in the replacement of paper printed media since I got the chance to play around with e-ink some eight or nine years ago. So I was happy to see that the inventors had been turning it into a commercial product, the latest offering being under the guise of the Que from Plastic Logic.

Pretty darn good, sunlight readable, very low power consumption, ultra portable and capable of storing thousands of documents. My only criticism is that even after all this time, the promise of a colour version has still not materialized. IMHO a colour e-reader (preferably but not necessarily, capable of video support) could be the catalyst for society to move away from printed media in the same way (Dare I say it) that the printing press brought literature to the masses.
A sad day in many ways, but an exciting one none the less.

So when Apple announced that it was launching the iPad, I thought, “Could this be it????”
Sadly the answer was a resounding “No!”
For all it’s bells and whistle, the apps, the cool functions and the hype, it had a flaw, a fundamental one at that……,the power hungry, sunlight Unreadable and eye straining lcd screen.

Thanks, but no thanks Apple, I’ll stick with the Macbook Air and printed books (Which I absolutely and always will Love).

But all this flurry of activity with tablet computers and e-readers left me wondering, “Who would solve the big problem by finding a replacement for the LCD screen for mobile devices (The iPad isn’t alone, just try using Google Nexus One in the sunlight (Sorry for your loss Sythe) or any other smart phone for that matter).

Well it might be here sooner rather than later, thanks to some Dutch guys and a company called Liquavista, who have taken a century old principle called electro wetting and reinvented it for the digital generation.
Essentially, it involves coloured oils that react to a small electrical charge, set out in individual pixels very much like the existing lcd screen technology. More importantly though, (Drum roll please!) it harnesses rather than fights sunlight. External light passes through the oil and is then reflected back at the person reading the screen (in low light it utilizes a traditional backlight), the brighter the sunlight, the more vivid the screen becomes. Voila!
And if that wasn’t enough, a key benefit over competing technologies such as mirasol, is that because it is so similar to lcd in manufacture, existing lcd factories would only need to be adapted (instead of being built from scratch) in order to start manufacturing the displays!

Could this be the perfect sunlight readable display for our mobile gadgets? Liquavista hope to have them in devices and on sale by mid 2011, and are already working with Liquid Plastic to produce a colour e-reader.

I just wonder how long it will take the likes of Apple (or one of their competitors) to finally dump the lcd screen and have an iPad worthy of the Apple name.

For all of you nay sayers out there, just take a look at what Sports Illustrated dreamt up for the iPad and tell me, can your book or magazine do this????

Monday, April 05, 2010

Learning to Fly

Not a lot to report this week. Biscuit has a sore leg, Oscar’s swimming has come on leaps and bounds and Becky had the boys to herself for most of the weekend whilst I was off camping and driving through another part of the Wahiba Desert. Bit of a long trip this time as you can see from the map.

I thought I would share this little video I made of one member of our camping party, though I should point out that the flight wasn’t intentional. Enjoy :o)