Sunday, May 24, 2009

Catching Up

So April and May have been and almost gone without a peep from us on the blogging front…ooops.
In may ways it has been a time of lowering blood pressure and the stress of the first quarter of the year and getting on with life in general.
At the beginning of April we had the welcome distraction of a two week visit from my sister and her family. Whilst a lot of relaxing by the pool was on the cards, there was also the obligatory big trip. Temperatures had decidedly risen of late and, whilst desert trips and camping at the beach were considered, it was pretty apparent that even a veteran of the summer heat would be melting.
It was Becky however, that had come up with a cunning plan (considerably better looking than Baldric, I might add), a road trip to Dubai!! Not only would my sister’s family get to see this much talked about part of the Middle East, but also have the opportunity to meet up with a old friend, Julie, who had relocated there about a year ago. There would also be the chance for a little bit of shopping as well as fun for all at Wild Wadi and Ski Dubai, and also the chance to see how the global downturn had effected the place. 
The trip in two cars was around four and a half hours, a great way to see the enormous differences in landscape between Oman and the United Arab Emirates. The children were brilliant on such a long journey, although it must be said that they were plugged in to dvd players and gameboys for most of it.
It is not often realised that even though you have passed through the border post between the two countries, the road still dips in and out of Oman. It was at the final UAE army checkpoint that Oscar charmed the soldiers to such an extent that they wanted to get him out of the car for a play!

After such a prolonged journey it was only fair that our first port of call would be Wild Wadi.

Much fun was had by all and even Oscar had a go shooting the rapids in a big rubber ring, I can’t say that he was impressed by his parent’s judgement skills by the end of the ride. 

As the evening arrived we packed ourselves back into the cars for the short trip to our accommodation. After a little mix up, (regarding who was following who) and a few cross words, the GPS told me that we had reached our destination……. One slight problem, no Star Metro apartment block to be seen!
Tired and ratty is not a good mood to be in whilst navigating Dubai, but eventually, thanks to a very nice convenience store employee, we had a guide to take us to the front door of our rented apartment. It later transpired that the hotels website map was completely wrong!!!
This did not bode well, and it was definitely not the end to our problems. We had booked a three bedroom apartment with only to be shown two adjoining single bed apartments. It should be noted that it singularly impossible to argue with hotel staff when there are clearly only two bedrooms, yet they maintain there are in actual fact three (you are just too stupid to visualise the third).
The solution was for me to go into ballistic mode with a complete overdrive bad cop/good cop routine, with my brother in law Mark taking up the appeasing role.
Eventually the staff were bullied into action, wheeling in two additional beds and turning one living room into the mythical third bedroom.
Julie came up trumps, with delicious take away pizzas and a bottle of blue sapphire gin, cans of tonic and a bag of ice, soothing not only the angry stomachs but also the exhausted brains.
A good night was eventually had by all and the following days were a mixture of shopping, sledging (the snow variety) and a trip to the Über new, extravagant and expensive Atlantis Hotel. Just a quick hop up on the soap box, no matter what the marketing department might say, they are not helping the environment by incarcerating wild dolphins.

“The £950 million Atlantis hotel, which officially opens on Thursday, has been built by Sol Kerzner, a South African hotelier, on the Palm Jumeirah island in Dubai. 
It boasts that its dolphin facility – Dolphin Bay – will be the first rescue and rehabilitation centre for injured or stranded dolphins in Dubai. 
But the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) has claimed that 24 bottlenose dolphins, used to stock the pools, were bought from a dealer in the Solomon Islands. 
The WDCS claim that the dolphins, which had originally come from the waters surrounding the Solomon Islands, will now be used to entertain guests, who will be able to pay to swim with them. A 90-minute "shallow water interaction" experience with the dolphins costs visitors from around £75. 
The row follows an order issued last month by the government of the United Arab Emirates to free a 13ft whale shark from a huge tank in the lobby of the 1,539-room hotel, after an international outcry. 
Environmentalists claimed that the owners of the Atlantis hotel had disregarded international permit laws after capturing the shark in shallow waters off the Gulf coast in August and then used it as a display for hotel guests."

I was surprised by Dubai, not so much by the reduction in cars and people which must be said was a welcome relief, but the way business was carrying on regardless. Unlike Muscat, there didn’t appear to be any major sales, or price reductions, and the shops, restaurants and hotels seemed unbothered by the downturn in business.
In all honesty, the more I go to Dubai, the less I like it, and with Ikea announcing their immanent arrival in Muscat, I find there are fewer reasons to go. Now, if they would only build a Wild Wadi here, we would never need to go to Dubai again!
All said and done, it was good for my sisters family to see Julie as well as experience Dubai and we all had a lovely time just getting away from ‘it’ all.
Back in Muscat and after three and a half years of being resident here, we finally made it to the Grand Mosque, and it was well worth it.

The main prayer hall in particular is stunning with inlaid mosaic, gold and marble, as well as a chandelier that could have come out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Flashbacks to Rodney, Del and granddad from Only Fools and Horses gave you a shiver down the spine.

The remainder of the holiday was taken up with trips to the pool with panic tanning for the adults and copious amounts of splashing around for the children (There was also great fun for all on the diving board – although I’m not allowed to show anyone). A quick trip to the Souk, a session with henna for the ladies and a couple of nights out and in the blink of an eye the two weeks were over.

For those of you who remember The Life of Brian, I would just like to say, “He’s not the Messiah, he’s just a very naughty boy!”
Farewell to the Evans for another year!

So I went back to work and the boys went back to school, but it was not long before Jacob and Oscar were off again.
It was Jacob that started it with a fever and a cough, a trip to the doctor followed and a throat infection identified with a course of steroids prescribed. Oscar’s turn next with an on again off again fever, laryngitis and a course of antibiotics. Back to Jacob again, raging fever and a sinus infection. Then just as Jacob had finished with his medication, he picked up a stomach virus(As a result, we suspect, from a trip to McD’s, as a treat after his medically induced incarceration). The poor mite had a raging fever and couldn’t keep down a glass of water. A good portion of Friday was spent at Muscat Private Hospital. As it was the weekend, I was on duty, which was a good thing given that they decided to take a blood test. Jacob has the same phobia of needles as Becky, but with the right coaching and jokes, he pulled through with only the smallest amount of tears. As a reward he got a Power Rangers communicator and some Battle Brawlers for being such a brave boy. 
Our one noteable night out (excluding a lovely dinner at a friend’s house) was at the Crown Plaza for the Craic Attack comedy night. As with all comedy, it is an acquired taste, Becky enjoyed herself immensely where as I found the second act more to my liking. The two points of interest was firstly the cost of beer (RO15 or £25 for six small bottles of Budwieser, criminal!) and that Becky got to meet and talk at some length with Nabil al Busaidi

“Nabil al Busaidi has become the first Omani to walk to the North Magnetic Pole. He wrote history when he reached the North Pole on April 29 at 7.45am Canadian time.

Nabil planted the Omani flag on top of the world with the following words: “My name is Nabil al Busaidi, I am the son of Riadh and Salma al Busaidi and I am calling from the North Pole. 

“I am the first Omani and the first GCC national to walk to the North Magnetic Pole. I want the sultanate to be proud of my achievement, so today my name is not Nabil, it is Shabab Oman.” The Oman North Pole Expedition team also won the entire Polar Race competing against four other strong teams. It was a close race, especially between Team Oman and its nearest rival. What made the marginal difference was sleep – or lack of sleep. 

The rival team stopped to get a few hours’ sleep, but Nabil and the Oman North Pole Expedition team kept going for 27 hours straight, only taking short breaks for food.

The lack of sleep resulted in Nabil and his two teammates, JP and Claire, hallucinating and literally falling asleep while walking, but they reached their ultimate goal and came in as number one. 

On his journey from Resolute Bay to the North Pole, Nabil walked over 650km, carrying 50kg of equipment with no support from skidoo, dogs or sledges. The weather conditions have been harsh, with temperatures down to -81°C and winds of up to 100km/h. Nabil fought polar bears, frostbite, large rubble fields and thin ice on his way. There were times when he was uncertain if he would make it back alive. But he conquered every challenge and is now writing history as the first Arab to walk to the North Magnetic Pole.”

Darren Short tried to take over the conversation but was suitably ignored!
So with that final note I would like to say congratulations to Nabil and bid you all adieu until next time.