Friday, August 17, 2012

Democracy in Oman?

There has always been a culture of reverence for Sultan Qaboos amongst locals (and most expats) in Oman. Most see him as being a leader who can do no wrong. This veneer of perfection was cracked slightly last year when the Arab Spring arrived in Oman. Although the riots and protests were not directly aimed at the Sultan, the fact that he is the head of government and, to all intents and purposes, a dictator, meant that any criticism of the government was a criticism of him.

The door or dictatorship in Oman was cracked open and democracy was allowed to briefly raise its head in the form of  protest and free speech. The ability to criticise anyone within the bounds of slander or libel is a fundamental right of democracy.

Alas, the door has been firmly shut again ...

How sad that a country which has so much going for it, led by a leader who has done so much good for his people, cannot take that final step and allow the people to think and say what they will without fear of reprisal.

Look around at Oman these days and you see a brand new, shiny 21st century country. Scratch the surface and the old medieval one still lurks beneath.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Olympics Fever!!

Well, what a two weeks this is turning out to be....

  • I watched the Opening Ceremony and thought it was brilliant.
  • Saw the mens cycling live. Madness and great all at the same time. Those guys are heros.
  • Saw Andy Murray become Olympic Champion at Wimbledon!
  • Was in Hyde Park watching the greatest night ever for British althletics as Team GB brought home three golds in the space of 45 minutes. Watching with 40,000 fans was amazing. The noise was deafening!
  • I'm off to the wrestling on Friday.
  • Then I have tickets into the stadium to see the Para Olympics in a couple of weeks.

Such a special time here in the UK. We're all sports mad! I cannot ever remeber watching clay pidgeon shooting on TV and being enthralled; or watching a triathalon and being nervous as hell! Bloody marvellous!!

How is it being broadcast in Oman? Are they even interested? Haven't seen any Omani athletes in action yet but did see them at the Opening Ceremony.

Go Team GB !!!!!!!!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ramadhan Kareem!

Ramadhan kareem! As the first week of Ramadhan is now well underway and, I'm sure, you're all still very "enthusiastic" about fasting, spare a thought for your more northerly brothers and sisters who, in the case of the UK, have to endure 18 hour days right now .... surrounded by indfidels like me supping my coffee and having lunch! Talk about stress! You've got it so easy out there!!

With respect to the meaning of fasting and my experience of seeing so many who fast for all the wrong reasons, the message in the picture at the top of this thread says it all for me.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Oman's drug problem - action at last

I first came to Oman in 1995 and even back then I found the drugs problem amongst young men to be frightening. There was no awareness of the dangers and problems drugs cause and the attitude of these young guys was to "have a good time" and not think about tomorrrow. I saw several friends of mine be systematically destroyed by drugs to the point where they could not cope any longer. Two of my friends died. There was no support system for people addicted to drugs. They became "outsiders" in society.

I've just read in the latest edition of The Week that the drug problem in Oman is finally being addressed (Issue 487 - Cover Story) by the proposed provision of 50 beds at an Amerat detoxification clinic and the conversion of a section of Ibn Sina Hospital into a rehabilitation centre. A good start, but not enough. The drugs problem in Oman is large. Unemployment, boredom, a feeling of not achieveing anything all contribute to young guys (and, most likely, women) falling into a drugs habit which they cannot get out of. The ROP response to drugs trafficking, focussing on high profile cases but not having a comprehensive approach, does not help either. But at least this is a start.

Perhaps the next step would be for the Omani Government to fully recognise the HIV problem they have on their hands and tackle this with some seriousness.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A British Summer

The view outside my widnow on a lovely summer's day in the UK
I understand it is hot in Oman right now. OK, well that's a bit of a foregone conclusion really as it is basically hot there every year in the summer. Well I wish you could send some sunshine and heat over here to the UK. No doubt those vaguely interested in the tennis at Wimbledon have been watching the miserable conditions at the tournament.

Since the first week in April (yes ... April) it has been raining virtually every day, except for a brief respite in late May of about a week. Yesterday, and we're talking July here, the mercury reached the dizzy heights of 14 degC. midsummer and it is colder than an average november day in London!! The Diamond Jubilee celebrations were a cold, rainy and miserable affair (and that's not even taking into account the fact that the organisers wheeling out relics such as Paul McCartney, Elton John and Cliff Richard), Wimbledon is a mess, the cricket is washed out and I cannot see anything changing before the Olympics.

What a summer!!!

Sorry.....that's a lie; there's been no summer, just a slow progression from early spring to late autumn.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Euro 2012 - Are you watching?

I don't know about you but I just don't get why people like football. It's such an inaccurate game. Ninety-nine percent of the plays end in failure. Now take tennis for example; once a point has started someone is going to win it and someone is going to lose it. Same with a game, a sett, a match. Football, however, sees 22 guys run around a pitch for 90+ minutes and still manufacture a 0-0 draw. I've tried to watch - alone and with friends, at home and in a pub. But I still don't understand the allure of the game.

Am I missing something? Can anyone tell me just what is so interesting about it?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Rumour has it ........

This from the Oman Observer on 6th June, 2012:

Rumours deplored

Wed, 06 June 2012
His Majesty is the pride of the nation — By Zainab Al Nasria — MUSCAT — The Majlis Ash’shura has condemned recent rumours circulated by electronic media and mobile phones that targeted His Majesty Sultan Qaboos. The Majlis, at a press conference here yesterday, expressed its strong rejection of the abusive allegations made against His Majesty the Sultan, who, the members said, is the founder of modern Oman and the pride of the nation. This came in response to the statement issued on Monday by the Public Prosecution Department.
The Majlis Ash’shura had already deplored the rumours during its session on Sunday and called for action to penalise the perpetrators. During the press conference, a team of the Majlis Ash’shura agreed that there is serious defect in the laws that organise how rumours should be dealt with. The team voiced support for the Public Prosecution Department in its legal stance, particularly as the perpetrators had the audacity to target the pride of Omani citizens.
The members said they would propose revision of the laws so that rumours targeting individuals can be tackled more firmly. The members said that they are not against freedom of opinion and the use of solid fact to support views, but they wish to see action taken against those who spread rumours. They added that the Majlis Ash’shura is there to represent the citizens and it always welcomes the opinions of citizens. However, the members said, no one should be allowed to fiddle with the country’s political, security and economic stability.
Citing an example, they noted that rumours were behind real estate market instability in 2007. The Public Prosecution Department earlier said that it observed a rising trend in offensive writings and inciting calls by some individuals who target personal life under the pretext of free expression of opinion. It advised all citizens and residents that it will take necessary legal action against the perpetrators of such statements or acts, as well as those who promote or provoke or assist them.
It considers such behaviour as a blatant violation of the sanctity of personal life and warned that with such rumours on the rise, the national interests can be put at a stake. The Public Prosecution Department also pointed out that these verbal or written insults are contrary to our religious teachings, rich traditions and noble morals that are deeply integrated in the Omani society.

So what were these rumours about? Anyone know?

If it is that he's rumoured to be gay, well  ....... yawn! Old news!!

God Save The Queen - Good Old Liz turns 60!

Well, I did have a good time last weekend. Firstly, it was a 4 day weekend which, if you've ever lived in the UK for any length of time, you'll understand is a rare event! We get 8 public holidays a year. Oh how I think back fondly to the time when I got what seemed to be about 50 public holidays a year in Oman. It only took someone tenuously connected to the Sultan to pop his clogs for us all to get 3 days off in mourning! I did most of my grieving at the beach.

Back to this past holiday weekend - a Jubilee Weekend, no less! Good old Liz turned 60 on the throne. Of course, she's much more ancient than that. I think she is 86 years old and what a good old bird she is. Stomping around the festivities with that "old woman grumpy face". It was great. We love her to bits! If her Mum's anything to go by, we'll have another 4 day holiday weekend in 10 years time for the Platinum Jubilee and perhaps one after that. I'm not even sure what you'd call an 80th Jubilee - a Geriatric Jubilee?

All of this makes poor old Qaboos seem like a bit of an upstart for only being sat upon his throne for a mere 42 years. Get a move on mate! :-)

Google Blogger Changes Its Interface - and it is confusing!

So here I am, coming back on to write a post oafter a few weeks and I find the Google Blogger page updated out of all recognition. I don't like change (well not when it comes to IT). I like my / their old-fashioned templates. I'm used to them. I hate reading "Using our new ......" help pages. It's all so confusing. Has anyone else felt like this?

Thankfully, my posts look the same. You really don't want to konw how many hours it took me to set up a boring page format like that!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A long year

It's been a long, long year and it's only early April. I've been back to Oman for a couple of weeks and loved it - seeing old friends again and showing my partner where I lived for so many years was great and fulfilling. The holiday was both relaxing and filled with activities. Lots of time was spent at the beach (mainly Qurm and Shatti Qurm as they're my "home" beaches). I played golf ... on grass ... at the Wave! Nice. Wadi A'Shab was a disappointment - so dirty and devoid of character now. I guess it was badly affected by Gonu. The Chedi is great for an evening out. Almost got to go to the Royal Opera House but a screw up in timing meant we couldn't. Still that's something for next time. Shangri-la was a bit of a disappointment. It has no character whatsoever - just vacant opulence. Still, the beach cafe was nice. The Grand Mosque was awesome. Overall - a wonderful escape from the UK winter and a fabulous return to Oman. It's a pity it went so quickly.

Sadly, my Mum died in February. No matter how much you prepare for something like this it still comes as an awful shock and you grieve terribly. Two months later and I still find myself grieving. The process is long and difficult but I'll get there in the end.

Spring has come to the UK. We had 24 degC a couple of weeks ago. Now it is snowing in Scotland. Typical spring - there's not a better place to be at this time of year.

So a lot has happened in 3 short months.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! I hope 2012 is good to you.

I spent the New Year with my partner viewing the London firework display from a private balcony immediately opposite the London Eye ... very nice. Then there was the 2 hour queue to get half a mile to the nearest tube station ... not very nice. Still, it's only once per year!

Back to work tomorrow. At least I'm back in Oman by the 30th!! Very nice :)

I'm hoping that 2012 will continue in the same vein and be a good year all told. I'll let you know!