Sunday, December 30, 2007

Live flight information at the click of a mouse


MUSCAT — Oman Airports Management Company (OAMC) SAOC has relaunched its website www.omanairports.com with a new look and feel. The main features of the new website include a live flight information menu and a flight timetable (plan your trip).

The live flight information product features an updated interface, with the airport flight information system which incorporates real time flight status that displays live arrival and departure details for all domestic and international flights operated from/to Muscat International Airport. (more)

UAE launches electronic immigration link with Oman

In order to ease immigration process between UAE & Oman, on 26 of December 2007. UAE has launched electronic immigration link with Oman IN Order to reduce process delay and ease commute as Thousands of passengers cross the border between the two countries daily.

The electronic immigration link is now on trial base in border checkpoints between Ras Al Khaimah and Oman and after a while it will be lunched in the other border checkpoints between UAE & Oman.

Community IT Training

IT skills is almost like a normal reading and writijng skill these days. Soon we will be digitally illiterate if we do not know the following:
- How to prepare a word doucment
- How to use spread sheets like Excel to make basic number calculations
- How to browse the websites and of course blogs
- Have and email account: receive and send emails

Is there a way to measure what part of the society is digitally literate? Just postin to invite useful and practical suggestions.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Road deaths, injuries up despite safety measures

Despite the wave of new security masures like speed cameras etc, injuries and road deaths in Oman have been going up, according to an article published in Times of Oman...

"data released by the Directorate-General of Traffic, the Royal Oman Police (ROP), show 635 deaths on Oman roads in the first 10 months of 2007 compared to 566 in October last year, an increase of 12.2 per cent."

The report also added:

"During the period (January-October 2007) under review, the number of Omanis died on roads stood 9.8 per cent higher at 471 (382 men and 89 women), and the number of expatriates died stood at 19.7 per cent higher at 164 (148 men and 16 women).


Further, the number of people injured rose by 16.4 per cent to 6,742 in October 2007 compared to 5,792 in October in 2006. The number of Omanis injured increased by 18.1 per cent to 5,663 comprising 4,079 men and 1,584 women. The number of expatriates injured increased by 8.4 per cent to 1,079 comprising 925 men and 154 women."

However, the net number of road accidents has gone down:

"Statistics, however, show a 7.5 per cent fall in road accidents at 7,124 compared to 7,705 in October last year, thanks to the stringent government measures. "


The full article can be accessed by clicking on the title of this blog entry.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Expat forum added on Oman Forum

We've added a new forum called Oman Expat Info forum on Oman Forum. This new forum was added to accommodate the recent increase in posts from expats who are either newly arrived in Oman and need information or advice on schools, clinics, where to buy stuff, etc; or people outside who get job offers in Oman and are looking for advice on whether the offers are competitive and so on.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Admin Note

Dear OCB members,

We kindly request you when copying news items or press releases to keep the copied material to a minimum. Please try to quote only the most relevant lines or paragraph from the item and add a link to the full article for those who want to read it. There's no need to copy the full article unless the source is not accessible by the members (i.e. subscription only).

Oman Community Blog is a place for your thoughts, comments and ideas. Let's keep the cut and paste stuff to a minimum.

Thanks.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Oman Mobile launches BlackBerry in Oman

From the press release:

On the occasion, Dr Amer Al Rawas, managing director of Oman Mobile said: “BlackBerry is a unique and powerful tool that provides seamless connectivity for our customers, even while they are travelling. Business users can readily appreciate the importance of staying in touch while on the go anywhere in Oman. Oman Mobile customers can also use their BlackBerry internationally for data roaming with 37 operators in 20 countries such as the AGCC, the UK, India, Malaysia, Pakistan and many more as well as the normal roaming facilities for voice in 142 countries with 325 operators. This reinforces the fact that BlackBerry is the must-have business tool for mobile email and communications. BlackBerry can help businesses outperform their competition by increasing user productivity and efficiency, and enhancing customer service. We are delighted to be the first to offer this brilliant service to our customers.”

Designed for corporate customers, BlackBerry® Enterprise Server tightly integrates with Microsoft® Exchange, IBM Lotus® Domino® and Novell® GroupWise® and works with existing enterprise systems to enable secure, push-based wireless access to e-mail and other corporate data.

...............................

Oman Mobile will be offering various solutions for the corporate users including the BlackBerry® Enterprise Solution which is a complete wireless platform to extend the benefits of a company’s messaging and collaboration environment and other tools to mobile professionals. The BlackBerry Enterprise Solution provides push-based access to e-mail; calendar, contacts, tasks and notes; instant messaging; web-based applications and services and enterprise applications.

The BlackBerry® Enterprise Solution is also built with corporate data security in mind. It features an end-to-end security model designed to seamlessly protect your corporate information from attack as users send and receive email and access data wirelessly. It safeguards the integrity, confidentiality and authenticity of your corporate data with a strong encryption scheme that keeps data encrypted while it is in transit between the BlackBerry® Enterprise Server and BlackBerry® smartphones.

Additional features of the BlackBerry® Enterprise Server include:

Ability to download a variety of image formats (JPEG, GIF, BMP, TIFF and PNG) and store them on the handheld

Image manipulation controls (pan, zoom and rotate)

Ability to search the address book, calendar, memo pad, tasks and messages applications simultaneously

Support for additional fields and categories within the address book, memo pad and task applications

Cradle-free wireless sent items synchronization between a user’s BlackBerry handheld and desktop PC

Ability to tentatively accept calendar appointments on the BlackBerry handheld with or without comments and be notified of meeting conflicts

Oman Mobile also offers BlackBerry® Internet Service for individuals and smaller businesses. The BlackBerry® Internet Service is activated with an Oman Mobile subscription tariff. With this solution, you can be up and running in just a few steps, regardless of e-mail account type — and without IT support. It’s the easiest way for individuals and small businesses to start using BlackBerry smartphones.

BlackBerry push technology allows receipt of email effortlessly because messages are automatically pushed to a device. Customers can access up to 10 e-mail accounts be these for work or personal use, plus an optional, new BlackBerry e-mail address that comes with your BlackBerry smartphone. Browse websites and instant message on your BlackBerry smartphone just as you would on your desktop browser. Stay organised with access to your latest calendar, address book; task and memo pad information and access contacts from your existing desktop organizer.

[link]
____________________________________________________________

Good to see Omantel picking up the pace...(but when will they speed up this net?)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

ITA Journey Across the Sultanate

Tuesday, December 11, 2007 1:23:29 AM Oman Time

MUSCAT — The noted IT expert, Tariq Hilal Al Barwani, yesterday announced the first of its kind initiative in the Sultanate branded as “ITA Journey Across the Sultanate”.

This Information Technology Awareness journey across the country is a move set to digitise and promote the use, benefit and career of technology in the community.

In a statement here, Tariq said: “The Information and Communication Technology medium is a potential engine to empower everyone from poor to rich, student to professional, and private to government sector as well as to increase their access to quality education. Everybody should know what this rich medium holds in store”.

The main objective of the “ITA Journey Across the Sultanate” initiative is to educate the public, nourish the innovation to the community and promote digital literacy across the country.

The project will be carried out in two phases, starting from Muscat and then the next in Salalah. The initiative is being sponsored and supported by Tariq’s father who has been coaching and guiding him since childhood.

Tariq will be travelling with his father’s 4WD throughout the Sultanate during his annual leave at work in Nawras. Initially, he will be visiting Nizwa College of Technology to conduct a presentation on IT Security, Careers and the Future on December 16.

He is also scheduled to visit Musannah College of Technology and Sohar Unversity in January to discuss about the several aspects of software development and innovation, Oman German University of Technology in February and the Middle East College of Technology in Rusayl.

Tariq was invited by several schools, colleges and companies several times to conduct presentations and seminars at Deslie Training Institute, Oman Training Institute, Indian School Al Ghubra, Muscat Private School, Muscat College and Shatti Qurum School for Girls, on different topics under the umbrella of ICT. His last presentation on IT careers and technologies at the Sultan Qaboos University two weeks ago had received tremendous response from the audience which triggered the idea of “ITA Journey Across Oman”.

The ITA initiative that I am set to embark on this week is from the northern most region to the southernmost region of the Sultanate, ensuring that I solidify His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said’s Progressive Vision to transform the Sultanate into a Knowledge Society and build a knowledge-based economy,” said Tariq.

Oman has all the root stocks to become the Gulf ICT (information and communication technology) hub, Tariq said.

Apart from this initiative, Tariq has also introduced, along with the Ministry of Information, the first and only information technology programme called ‘CyberTalk’ for the Oman Radio FM 90.4. The programme is aired live every Thursday from 4-6pm where it presents the latest local and international IT news, best of breed topics, quizzes and question and answers session. A similar programme called ‘Raqmyaat’ for the Oman TV Channel 2 was also introduced for the local TV.

Tariq is currently pursuing his doctorate of management of organisation with specialisation in Information Technology.

Monday, December 10, 2007

PEIE OMG Seminar on Value Stream Mapping

PEIE will hold the last of its Oman Manufacturing Group seminars next week on Sunday the 16th of December at 7.30pm at the Crowne Plaza. The seminar will discuss value stream mapping and lean manufacturing processes, two techniques used to reduce manufacturing bottlenecks and increase organizational efficiency. Attendance is open to all and dinner will be served.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Domino’s debuts in Muscat


Location: Al Khuwair service road (between Omantel and Al Jadeed stores)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Digital Nation seminar on Dec 9

The Knowledge Oasis Muscat's forthcoming Digital Nation seminar will be held on December 9, 2007.

Time: 7.30pm

Venue: Knowledge Oasis Muscat, Building 1, first floor, Muscat Hall


Supported by Ericsson, Nawras, Microsoft, HP, Infoline, SAP Arabia, Infocomm and Omania e-Commerce, Digital Nation seminar is entitled “iGeneration: Embracing the Digital World” which will look at “Millennials” - youngsters born between 1980 and 2000 - and their use of the Internet and the communication tools that the public and private sector need to use to reach this tech savvy generation.

The Digital Nation seminar is open to all and free of charge. To register, e-mail your name and contact co-ordinates to: info@kom.om

Two Omanis conquer ‘Roof of Africa — Kilimanjaro’

By Hamdi Essa
Saturday, December 01, 2007 1:19:18 AM Oman Time

MUSCAT — It’s 8am on Sunday, July 22. A special and extraordinary moment of pride for Oman, and of course, for two brave Omanis — Hamad bin Hamoud Al Harthy and Salim bin Humaid Al Mahrooqi.

Exactly at 8am on Sunday, these two gentlemen conquered Kilimanjaro, the peak of Africa, with the Omani flag fluttering. The 5,895-metre above sea level, Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa, and the world’s highest freestanding mountain, the Roof of Africa.

Kilimanjaro is located 205 miles south of Equator and stands on the Tanzanian’s northern border with Kenya. Times of Oman and Al Shabiba were the media sponsors for this fabulous story of mountaineering, an unprecedented Omani adventure. Hamad bin Hamoud Al Harthy, aged 46, has four children and works as director of projects department at banking major BankMuscat.

Salim bin Humaid Al Mahrooqi, aged 37, is a member of the board of Al Maha Company. The two adventurers’ relation began since childhood, and they share the love of adventures and challenges.

The idea of climbing to the top of Kilimanjaro began in 2005 in Tanzania while Al Harthy and Al Mahrooqi were on their way from Arusha to Darussalam, where they had an amazing view of the giant mountain.

“To prepare ourselves well for the climb, we practised climbing several mountains in the Sultanate, and attended a sports programme for improving physical fitness,” proud climbers said.

“Our mission to the top of the mountain cost RO12,000, which was borne by us. We made contacts with a company specialised in organising journeys to Kilimanjaro. The company had provided us with a team to accompany us to the Kilimanjaro.”

Speaking on being on the foot of Kilimanjaro prior to the climb, they said, it was a journey to the unknown; “we were full of enthusiasm and encouraged by the well preparations for the climb”.

On the climb, they walked 8-12km every day before they had a break for lunch. “At six in the evening, the team accompanying us prepares the camp and lunch, and we rest and prepare our daily report to Times of Oman and Al Shabiba. The climb to the peak took us seven days.”

Speaking on day seven of the climb, they said it was dark and freezing while approaching the peak. Speaking on their new adventure, they said they were planning to be the first Omanis to reach the peak of Mount Everest. “But this requires finance,” they added. “Now, we present the issue of reaching the peak of Mount Everest to all authorities and companies for possible sponsorship and financing the journey,” Al Harthy and Al Mahrooqi added.

Though mount Kilimanjaro was familiar to the local tribes, it remained undocumented for the rest of the world for many years till the early sightings by Rebman in 1845 to the successful attempt in 1889 by German geographer Hans Meyer and Austrian mountain climber Ludwig Purtscheller who till date are regarded to be the first to climb Kilimanjaro.

Kilimanjaro structure is composed of three volcanoes — Kibo standing at 19,340 feet, Mawenzi at 16,896 feet and Shira standing at 13,000 feet. Till date there has not been any last known recorded volcanic eruption from any of the volcanic peaks. Kilimanjaro supports five major eco-zones including rainforest, heath, moorland, alpine desert and glaciers.

<<>>

Monday, December 3, 2007

Is UNDP’s ranking system biased?


(Infographic: Kishor Cariappa)

The Human Development Report for 2007-08 has been released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Oman continues to be dubbed a country at high level of human development. Here are a few surprises.

# Oman’s human development index (HDI) of 0.814 puts it just below Antigua and Barbuda (0.815) and Trinidad and Tobago (0.814).

# Oman’s life expectancy of 75 years is clubbed between Qatar (75) and Argentina (74.8), while South Africa and Lesotho have higher adult literacy than Oman.

Will this kind of ranking give the true picture?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Does this sound promising?

Council of Ministers reviews increase in prices of commodities

MUSCAT — In the light of the great attention given by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said in ensuring the welfare of all the citizens and in a bid to cope with the current global economic developments and their direct impact on the prices of some commodities in the local market, the Council of Ministers yesterday held a meeting to study the different aspects of these phenomena. The council discussed the possibility of identifying some practical solutions that could alleviate the impact of such phenomena on citizens and expatriates. The Council of Ministers also reviewed the external and internal causes for the price rise in some commodities and how to deal with them in the near future, taking into consideration the interest of the consumers, traders and external forces.

While the government follows with concern the global economic changes, it assesses the positive and negative impact of such economic changes. The cooperation of the citizens with the government in understanding the nature of such developments is an important step towards handling and alleviating the impact of such changes. In this connection, the Council of Ministers has decided to set up a ministerial committee to be headed by the minister of national economy and deputy chairman of the Financial Affairs and Energy Resources Council with the minister of fisheries, the minister of commerce and industry, the minister of agriculture and chairman of OCCI as members to alleviate the impact of these phenomena.

- ONA

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Joint meeting of Council of Ministers and Shura Council

In response to the royal directives of His Majesty the Sultan of Oman about strengthening communication between the Council of Ministers and the Council of Oman, a joint meeting between the Council of Ministers and the Shura Council members was held today morning in the presence of His Highness Sayyid Fahad bin Mahmoud, Deputy Prime Minister of Council of Ministers and Sheikh Ahmed Al-Esa'i, president of the Shura Council.

Following the meeting on TV when it was aired after 5pm news, I can tell that lots of things were discussed between the ministers & the members of the Shura Council. Other than that, apparently different views were exchanged between the ministers & the members of the Shura Council which is pretty nice. It's more of an open session between the Shura Council & the ministers, where all the members of the Shura Council are free to stand with any minister & the Deputy Prime Minister, question him/her about various things and also exchange views with them.

The meeting was aired on TV with both video & audio, and following it gives an expression that it would be a fruitful meeting and also the upcoming joint meetings between the Council of Ministers and Shura Council would be fruitful inshAllah.

Dinner Party Suggestions

I am playing the role of party planner at work to organise a dinner in celebration of a PHD graduate, several officials and a minister will be attending the event. This is not an official event. Expected attendees are about 75, we will have the dinner after Eid, probably in January.

I would like to gather ideas and suggestions on where and what I could do for this dinner party. I am not interested in Shangri La - it is way too far.

Hotels, restaurants, and celebration halls suggestions are welcome.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Ladies & Gentlemen .. It's My Pleasure to Announce



Hint : Look under the network signal bars.

It's fast. Boy, is it fast.

Screenshot : TI3GIB's Nokia N73

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Happy 37th National Day

Today, November the 18th, the Sultanate celebrates the 37th National Day. Happy National Day to the entire country and Happy National day to His Majesty the Sultan Qaboos bin Said, Sultan of Oman and the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces & Royal Oman Police.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Omantel - Smoke and Mirrors

1. The company held an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) of shareholders on November 12th to amend Article 22 of its Articles of Association. I didn't receive anything in the mail to inform me of this EGM or what exactly Article 22 says and why it had to be amended. Does anyone here know?

2. The company's new chairman is the undersecretary of the Ministry of Heritage. Wasn't there a royal decree about 10 years ago which forbids ministers and undersecretaries of holding such positions in publicly traded companies?

3. Omantel has been playing the press for the past few months about their plan to buy a Pakistani telecom company, WordCall. This week it finally announced that the deal is coming through. They'll pay $204 million for 65% of the company. Every single mention of this in the press, obviously through Omantel press releases, includes a paragraph or two about Pakistan's relatively low mobile phone penetration which makes it an attractive market. Putting the two together you'd naturally assume that WorldCall is a mobile telephone service provider, right? Wrong. According to WorldCall's website, the company has the following:

Wireless Local Loop (WLL) through CDMA 2000 1X technology in over 40 cities, nationwide presence of long distance & international (LDI) network with 44 POPs, over 70,000 payphones, largest broadband HFC networks in Pakistan providing triple play (CATV, broadband internet, telephony), the pioneer prepaid calling card "Hello" and rights to dark fibers in a national long haul network being built across Pakistan.
In other words, WorldCall does provide wireless services, but they are WLL telephone and data services, not mobile phone.

Isn't Omantel deliberately misinforming their shareholders by implying that they are buying a mobile telecom company when they're not? And what about the company's financial performance? A quick glance at the WorldCall's financials shows that the company's 2007 results show flat sales and lower profit. Anywhere else, Omantel would have to explain whey are buying the company, but in Oman no one asks, so they don't have to play spin. And, by the way, WorldCall's majority shareholder is an Omani individual who owns about half of its shares. I wonder if he's offloading his entire stake to Omantel. If so, most of the $204 million will be going into his pocket.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Market the car, not the boss



Automobile companies have a decent budget for ‘Ahlan Wa Sahlans’ of biggies visiting Oman. In a month you can find at least five to 10 of such ads, and above one is from Zubair Automotive in today’s newspapers. Nice way to keep biggies and their cronies in good humour.

Talk of internal marketing!

Buying a Used Car in Muscat... concluded

Unfortunately, The article that the week published has had no effect whatsoever on the practice of importing previously flooded and salvaged cars to Oman. There are literally thousands of them, and they can be found at every single small dealership in Muscat, as well as parking lots where they are being passed off as a slightly used family car.

Know this: The dealers will lie outright to you about the history of the car, and the repairs made to it. Even if you ask specifically, and show them where the problem is, they will adamantly deny any problems with the car, and it's history.

While a flooded car can be repaired to a state of working order, two of the wrecked and salvaged cars I saw were potential death traps. Engine mounts cracked, Chassis twisted, Airbags removed and not replaced, bending or cracking where the seat belts mount into the frame. You would not want to be in one of those for your own personal head on collision. It's a safety issue, plain and simple.

Anyway, I never really finished the series on the wrecked cars that are flooding the market here. The final chapter ought to be a quick primer on how to know if your "new" car is actually salvage. And how to tell a legitimate American import (we own three) from a Salvage import. There are lots and lots of legitimate American imports available, or ones that were imported through Dubai from US auctions because they were seized in a drug raid, repossessed, or failed Emissions standards. And they can be really great cars! My Beloved "beast" was seized and auctioned in New York, found it's way over here, only to be drowned in Gonu.

  • If you have a friend living in the states, have them use thier credit card and buy you a subscription to Carfax. Check all the vin numbers, on everything you look at. This covers ALL cars, regardless of make, as long as they were at some time registered in the states. Sadly, there is no equivalent service here that reports on salvaged cars from Europe, the far east, or Australia.

If you don't have access to Carfax, then do the following, in the following order.

  1. First check the wing mirror on the passenger side. If the writing is in English, then you have found a car which is American Spec, but could still be legitimate.
  2. Check for stickers that reveal the cars original whereabouts. "Louisiana state troopers association" "New Orleans city council parking" etc...
  3. Check the the Odometer. All legitimately imported cars that came here direct, without a stop off in Dubai will have had the odometer switched to measure Kilometers, not miles.
  4. Get on the highway, look for a sign telling you a shell station is 1km away, and calibrate against that. If the car measures in miles, it's very likely salvage or flooded.
  5. Now that you are suspicious... Check the cigarette lighter, and beneath or behind the ash tray, check the ones in the back seats too. If you find rust, it's likely flooded, if not, it's maybe salvage.
  6. Look for over spray from where it's been repainted. Good places to check are the rubber around body panels, under the wheel wells, door jams, inside the trunk where the spare tyre goes. Ask yourself if a car of that age really needed to be repainted.
  7. Climb in and lay upside down in the drivers foot well. Look up, waaay up, into the fuses, and behind the dash to where the steering column goes through. See rust? I bet you Do! With an unflooded car there shouldn't be rust anywhere inside.
  8. Make friends with a mechanic you trust in Wadi Kabir. Take the car to him and have him check the alignment on the frame, and check the engine mounts and seatbelt mounts, check for the actual presence of airbags, and that they haven't just been cut out. Have him Put the thing up on the lift and scope out the undercarriage and drive train carefully.
  9. Lastly, ask yourself why someone would go to the trouble of importing a car all the way over here. If the car is one that could be easily bought from a dealership here or in Dubai, it's likely here for all the wrong reasons.

And that's it on the cars. Next week, something new and different.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Customer service

You call a company and the person who picks up the call simply says "hello", doesn't make you think maybe you misdialed the number of got someone's house instead? Why can't they say the name of their company in their greeting?

You go to a shop or a showroom and you can't tell the sales people from the shoppers. While you're browsing someone comes up and stands next to you and hovers. How in the world are you supposed to know that this person is actually a salesperson who's there to help you and not another shopper who's stalking you?

What the hell is wrong with customer service in this country? I mean, how hard is it to put on a name tag?

Examples:

Last weekI went to both the OTE Chevrolet showroom in Wattaya and Omasco's Panasonic showroom in Qurum on the same day. In both showrooms I was approached by Omani salesmen who were simply wearing a white dishdasha just like any other Omani male. There was nothing to identify them and differentiate between them and the shoppers inside the showroom. In fact one of the salesmen wasn't even wearing a cap. When he approached me and asked if I needed any help, I actually had to ask him if actually works there. I had to restrain myself from giving him a lecture about how he could go to work not even wearing a cap. I'm not sure if I'd blame the guy though. I blame his management that didn't even give him a name tag to wear. Or maybe they gave him one but they don't even monitor their staff to ensure that they are adhering to a minimum acceptable appearance.

These sales people are the companies' first line of contact with their customers. Their appearance and behaviour are crucial. If they aren't trained well it results in missed sales opportunity. I asked the Chevrolet salesman, what's the difference between the Chevy Tahoe and the GMC Yukon. He replied it's the same car but some people prefer Chevrolet over GMC, or vice versa. Nice answer. I asked if there were any differences at all other than the front grille and he said none at all. I'm not entirely convinced it's true. I saw two identical looking 42" plasma TVs at the Panasonic showroom, but one was significantly cheaper than the other. I asked the salesman what's the difference between the two and he said this one's made in China and the other in Japan. For real? Yes, that's it. Otherwise the same TV. Hmmm. OK, what's the difference between HD and HD Ready? He was stumped. At the same time an Indian sales guy came in and explained that there was a difference in contrast ratio, number of inputs, type of speakers and a bunch of other things. (Note: The only reason the Indian salesguy knew the answer and the Omani didn't is because the guy has been working in Panasonic since forever and actually cares about his job).

Monday, November 5, 2007

State Council members appointed

If both Adam & Eve let down Eve in the 6th term of Shura Council elections, as Mr. Essa Al-Zidjali - Editor in chief of Times of Oman newspaper - claims in his VIEWPOINT journal, then MAWLANA His Majesty the Sultan will never let Eve down.

Yesterday His Majesty issued a royal decree appointing the 70 members of the State Council, and out of the 70 members appointed, 14 of them are women. And since I'm good enough at Maths, I guess that makes it 20% of the council's members.

Having some women appointed in the State Council is not something new. But the thing which caught my attention this time is that Mrs. Raheelah Al-Riyamiyah, whom was previously a member of the Shura Council in the 5th term of the council and one of the 21 women who were candidates in the 6th term of the Shura Council elections and did not win or simply "let down", is now appointed by His Majesty in the State Council. So, if she was let down by both Adam & Eve, now she is appointed by the head of the state himself in the State Council.

For the list of the 70 members of the State Council appointed by His Majesty yesterday, you can check this article on the Times of Oman newspaper, today's issue. [Link]

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Economy expands 8.3 per cent in H1

MUSCAT — The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of oil and non-oil sectors in the Sultanate at current prices has reached about RO7,266.4 million during the first six months of this year, against RO6,708.1 million during the same period in 2006, constituting an 8.3 per cent rise. Initial statistics issued by the Ministry of National Economy attributed this to a rise in the oil activities.

The GDP, which includes crude pumping and its related subsidiary services and the extraction of natural gas, stood at RO3,407.7 million at the end of June 2007, showing an increase of 0.2 per cent against RO3,401.4 million during the same period in 2006.


Domestic product of oil pumping and subsidiary services related to oil pumping and gas extraction fell by 1.1 per cent to reach RO3,145.4 million by June end 2007, against RO3,181 million during the same period in 2006.

Domestic product of extracted national gas rose by 19 per cent to reach RO262.3 million during the first six months of the year 2007, against RO200.4 million during the same period in 2006.

The increase of the GDP was also attributed to the increase in the domestic product of non-oil activities by 16.9 per cent to reach RO3,983.5 million, against RO3,408.2 million by June end 2006.

The increase was attributed to 17.9 per cent in industrial activities to reach RO971.3 million against RO823.8 million.

The increase of the GDP was also attributed to a 5.7 per cent increase in the domestic product of agriculture and fisheries sector during the first six months of this year to reach RO89.2 million against RO84.4 million during the same period in 2006.

The increase in GDP was also attributed to a 16.9 per cent rise in service sectors, domestic product reached RO2,923 million, against RO2,500 million during the first half of 2006.

_______________________________________________________

Some good news from the economic side...I am posting after a long hiatus, as I'm busy with exams...Apologies for that...

(Click on the title to go to the original article in Times of Oman).

Cancer Awareness Walkathon

Everyone out there is invited to participate in the 5th annual National Association for Cancer walk. It's going to be next week on Tuesday, November the 13th, from 4.00pm to 6.30pm in the Ministries area in Al-Khuwair, starting from the Ministry of Housing (starting point), passing by the Ministry of Health, then back to the starting point through the ministries road behind the Ministry of Health.

The registration is only for 2 Omani Rials including a t-shirt. Extra t-shirts will be on sale for those whom are interested.

This walkathon is organized by the National Association for Cancer Awareness. For more information, you can contact them on the following numbers:

Tel: 24498716
Fax: 24498726
Toll Free: 80077477

Or you can e-mail them on ocancer@omantel.net.om

Even though there is no information regarding this walkathon put on their website, here it is anyways. [Link]

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Apathy

Incredible.

This country just went through an election and except for Um Qusai the day before the election, and Sleepless in Muscat the day after, no other Omani blogs that I know of wrote anything about it until today.

If this ain't apathy, then I don't know what is.

Update 31/10/07:

My views on the election are on my blog. [link]


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I need your help

A friend of mine is doing a research on the youth habits in GCC and in this respect he needs the following details:

1. Who in your opinion the youth in GCC see as “popular” in the media, entertainment and sports sectors of society?

2. What is the reason/source for the popularity of these people or groups?

Sorry to trespass with this post. I didn’t have any other option to get genuine data.

Thanks a ton!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Oman Mobile sets new SMS, calls records during Eid days

MUSCAT — Subscribers of Oman Mobile set new records during the Eid Al Fitr days by sending 88 million SMSes and making 24 million voice-related services during October 12 and 13, 2007 only, without experiencing traffic congestion or failures. This clearly reflects the high performance of the Oman Mobile network and dedication of those who spent 24 hours observing the service in the interest of the valued customers.

- Times of Oman
The number of SMSes sent & phone calls made on those two days is indeed shocking. Though, I personally admit that I was impressed with not facing any network problems while making phone calls & sending SMSes during Eid days. I thought the service would at the very least be busy like hell, if not go down like what happened the night before Ramadhan. But, things went very smoothly instead. I admit that.

Oman Web Awards Scam 2007

ABS made a press release today via the Times of Oman newspaper to announce its acceptance of entries for the new scam Oman Web Awards of 2007. This is the third awards in which they make up random awards to give out to big companies in a big dance and music event held in a fancy hotel. There is no transparency in the judgment process and nobody knows on what basis anybody wins. This 'web' creativity, innovation, and excellence competition does not ever mention the names of the designers or developers who actually make these websites. It is a scam in which they take extortionate amounts for entry fees and get tens of sponsors to give out NO PRIZES. Don't waste your time or money on the Oman Web Awards, there is just no point.

  • Read how I fooled them last year to make me a validator and uncovered how their judges pick winners - (Link: Oman Web Awards).
  • Read what happened when I went to the ceremony of the first Oman Web Awards.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Interesting Stuff


Recurring in today's newspapers' front pages, is what appears to be a teaser-like news article titled "Internet In Oman". It definitely is NOT a newspaper headline considering the fact that it only goes on for a single paragraph talking about the benefits of the Internet, and it's growth here in the sultanate. All 'pinned' down by a red pin that says " I heart Internet ".

I've seen it in today's Shabiba, Al-Watan and Oman. Don't know if it's in any of these newspaper's English affliates, but to say the least, this definitely is very very "interesting stuff".

A new provider in the horizon ? .. Thoughts anyone ?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Oman's Arabian Oryx sanctuary becomes the first site to be removed from UNESCO's World Heritage list

Christchurch, New Zealand, 28 June - The World Heritage Committee on Thursday took the unprecedented decision of removing a site from UNESCO's World Heritage List. The Arabian Oryx Sanctuary (Oman), home to the rare antelope, today became the first site to be deleted since UNESCO's 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage entered into force.


The World Heritage Committee deleted the property because of Oman's decision to reduce the size of the protected area by 90%, in contravention of the Operational Guidelines of the Convention. This was seen by the Committee as destroying the outstanding universal value of the site which was inscribed in 1994.

In 1996, the population of the Arabian Oryx in the site, was at 450 but it has since dwindled to 65 with only about four breeding pairs making its future viability uncertain. This decline is due to poaching and habitat degradation.

After extensive consultation with the State Party, the Committee felt that the unilateral reduction in the size of the Sanctuary and plans to proceed with hydrocarbon prospection would destroy the value and integrity of the property, which is also home to other endangered species including, the Arabian Gazelle and houbara bustard.

The Committee expressed regret that the State Party failed to fulfill its obligations regarding the conservation of the Sanctuary as defined by the World Heritage Convention. from the UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE web site


Arabian oryx were hunted out in Oman, but reintroduced in 1979
1994 - official sanctuary is set up and added to UNESCO's World Heritage list Population rises to 450 in 1996, drops to 65 in 2007.

Park struck off UNESCO list after being opened to oil prospectors. from the BBC News, Fact about Oman


Oman's Arabian Oryx sanctuary becomes the first site to be removed from UNESCO's World Heritage list after the rare species dwindled and the government cut the park size by 90%. from the BBC News, Fact about Oman





Links:

BBC - FACT(http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/country_profiles/2448259.stm )

NATURE - WILDFACTS(http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/wildfacts/factfiles/618.shtml)

UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE (http://whc.unesco.org/en/news/362)

-----------------------------------

I know this news is few months old, but i only got to find out few hours ago, when i was reading through the update page of Fact about Oman on the BBC web site. The truth i was shocked when i read abou the removal of Oman site from the UNESCO list.


Because only a week ago i was talking about how conservative and sustainable Oman is towards animals and environement with my line manager and the director.

  • Did any one know about this removal?

  • What is the reaction of the Omani Environement Group/Organization in regards to this removal?

  • Is HM happy about what happend and the decision made behind securing the oil site and excluding 90% of the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary from the orginal 100%?

  • Is there any futures plans in regards bringing such treasure back to Oman?

If you have any other infromation about this, then post it in here.

I know i might sound paranoid and making a big issue about this, but the truth it is a big issue in my eye.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

OCB Template Errors

Have anyone else noticed the empty areas that take place whenever someone holds a post on the OCB? If you have no clue on what I’m talking about then have a look at those set of images that have been taking recently.

Those red boxes are placed to exhibit the error. However, that screen shot was taken while browsing through Firefox whereas on IE you get an error page mark.

Could it be a problem within the template itself?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Renewing the Omani Passport?

Hello,

Can some one please update me with the process of renewing the Omani passport in the Immigration and Passport Royal Police Department?

I need to provide the information to some one who requires renewing their passport and they have been away from the country for sometime...

Thank you.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Eid in Sohar

Here in Oman we decided to be cooler (?) than everybody else and fast one extra day just for the sake of it. Eid was celebrated today Saturday the 13th of October. I've gone back home for the holiday, we are getting a whole week off.

We had the regular program for Eid this year, prayed Eid prayer in the mosque near my grandfathers house, went to his house, had some '3irsiyah' (Arabic dish made up of rice finely mashed served with butter oil and and fine shreds of meat), then went around to greet friends and relatives.



I also went along to greet the Wali of Sohar (Omani term for the mayor of town), who interestingly set up a huge tent in the Fort of Sohar to receive the locals. The habit was that that he received people in one of the rooms of his office opposite the Fort from which many people complained saying that it is as small as a little storage room that got so crowded making people queue to get in. The new temporary tent was large and luxurious, the guards of the Fort played meeters and greeters and all the staff of the Wali Office attended as well. I think that everyone liked it for the space, the view from the fort as you leave the tent, and just the fact that you entered the Fort on Eid. They will probably start having this every single Eid from now on.

I also visited several of my relatives who still lived in little old houses right in front of the beach. You literally have to walk on the sand of the beach to enter one's house. Imagine yourself right on the beach every time you went out of your house, sounds amazing for a life, but I am sure that the people that live there do not find it special at all when they had it for their entire life.

The really sad thing is that many of these people, my grandfather included, will have to evacuate their houses and move to a new place as the Sea Road project will go over their property. It is true that they will be compensated, but the majority of those people lived by the sea in this neighbourhood for their entire life, and their parents before them lived in this same place for their entire lives as well, changing houses is a life changing event for many and money might never be a good enough compensation.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Etisalat wants a piece of Omantel

This is from MEED.com

Etisalat seeks Omantel stake
TELECOM OMAN
12 Oct 2007

The UAE's Etisalat is considering making a bid for a stake in Omantel, after Muscat announced plans to sell shares in the company.

"We would like to see the detail of that auction," says Jamal al-Jarwan, chief executive of Etisalat International Investments. "It is something that we would like to find out more about."

Oman's government will sell part of its 70 per cent controlling stake in the company, which is the country's largest mobile phone operator and the monopoly fixed-line operator.

However, the government will need to provide more details about the sale if it is to attract bids and avoid some of the pitfalls of other phone privatisations in the region. Algeria and Iran, the other governments in the region that have announced plans to sell stakes in their state-run telecoms operators, have been criticised for allowing bureaucracy to delay the privatisations. "Very little information has been disclosed so far," says Al-Jarwan.

A ministerial committee led by the minister of national economy, Ahmed bin Abdulnabi Macki, is looking at what the government can do with its stake in Omantel. Up to 19 per cent of the company could be sold immediately.

Rumors are the Kuwait's MTC (AKA Zain) are the most likely takers.

Hi FM on 95.9

Hi FM, a new private FM station began test transmission on the 95.9 frequency. It's Oman's first English private station following on the launch of Hala FM earlier this year. Both stations, as you can tell from the name, are owned by the OHI group.

I haven't had a chance to listen yet, but I'm happy to finally have an alternative to the horrible Oman FM.

Have you had a chance to listen? Tell us what you think.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

No lunar vision this Eid!

Surprisingly, it has just been announced that Eid Al-Fitr in Oman will be on Saturday the 13th of October, inshallah. It's the first time they announce the Eid's day on the 28th of Ramadhan. The lunar vision committee usually holds a meeting on the 29th of Ramadhan and then declares if the next day will be the 30th of Ramadhan or the 1st of Shawal (Eid). However, this year, it's a bit different. The committee has just announced that this year they are not holding a meeting on the 29th of Ramadhan (tomorrow) and they are not going to receive any statements from citizens regarding the lunar vision. Why? Because some astronomers said that the new moon of Shawal will disappear before sunset on the 29th of Ramadhan and as a result, it will 100% be invisible & impossible to see. Hence, the committee of lunar vision will not receive any statements regarding this so that they don't get any statements contradicting with what the astronomers have stated. That's a bit weird & unusual.

In short, tomorrow after Iftar don't wait for the committee's final statement on Oman TV like every year, because this year the statement has already been announced a day earlier than usual, and even without holding the usual meeting they hold before Ramadhan & the two Eids. Happy Eid everyone!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Bloggers meet coverage on ‘The Week’


(Click on the image for better readability)


For me, “turn-out poor” in the headline is a bit harsh. Nobody claimed 50 bloggers would attend the meet!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Are you on Facebook?

Its amazing how many people are on Facebook. I got to meet people I have not seen since my childhood.

Just wanted to know who is on facebook here? I bet everyone.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

With new buildings springing up every other day…

…it looks like safety measures are disappearing into thin air. Seen below are workers working in Ruwi without protective helmets/headgear.
A new building under construction in Ruwi.

A portion of the building zoomed-in.

Oman Buy Local Survey (Omani Products)

The Public Establishment for Industrial Estates (PEIE) is carrying out a survey on buying local products. It's pretty short and won't take you 5 minutes. Please download the word file here, and send it to mulkie@kom.om when you are done.

My biggest problem with Omani products is their quality, what is yours?

Friday, October 5, 2007

Election Day...

hi comunity...
I would like to know more about election day (election of parlament members) in the Sultanate... can u help me in somehow?
Thanks!
P.S. ...this is a call for a post about opinions, facts&figures, news, stories, remarks comments... ;P

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Road permit for UAE

While reading this week's issue of TheWeek, I found a letter from a reader in the "Letters to the editor" section inquiring about the necessity for expatriates to get a road permit in order to travel to UAE.

The reader mentioned in his letter that he has been hearing from different people that he doesn't need a road permit to travel to UAE, while other people tell him that he DOES need a road permit to travel to UAE. So he was asking if is a road permit really needed for expatriates to travel to UAE?

The editor's reply was so simple, which is yes, you do need a road permit to travel to UAE and that you can request your employer to get one for you. Well, I have a better answer than the one given by TheWeek's editor.

Needing a road permit to travel to UAE depends on your "job title". If you are a lawyer, doctor, engineer, or in other words a professional, you do not need a road permit to travel to UAE by car/bus. My father heard of this law that expatriates with certain job titles can travel to UAE without needing to get a road permit from ROP, so he thought of asking his employer - SQU - if he falls under those "certain jobs". My father's employer informed him that he can travel to UAE without a road permit. However, his wife & children cannot do so. A road permit has to be issued to his family. If he is going himself without his children, he can travel without a road permit issued by ROP.

In short, expatriate Lawyers, Doctors and Engineers can travel to UAE without a road permit. However, their families cannot. If you aren't a lawyer or doctor or an engineer, and you are not sure if you can travel to UAE without a road permit or not, the best thing to do is to ask your employer whether you need a road permit to travel to UAE or not.

Bloggers meet

After a couple of posts and dozens of comments, finally, three of us made it to the Oman bloggers meeting yesterday night. Al-Maawali dropped in first, I was next, and Amjad followed suit. A couple of guys, who had promised, did not turn up. We discussed some issues on blogging in Oman, forums being more popular than blogs, etc, over some delectable cinnamon rolls and coffees.

Nonetheless, this was a new concept in this market, and I hope many will turn up for the next meets. It was nice knowing Amjad and Al-Maawali from close quarters or rather one-on-one. One surprising element though was the presence of a reporter from an English weekly. Like they say in journo parlance, his ‘nose-for-news’ trait had brought him to the meet. On the whole, it was a nice experience for me personally, and I wish we meet at regular intervals henceforth at a much quieter place next time.

Amjad, are you listening?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Omantel - In Play

Omantel issued a disclosure statement to the market earlier today containing the following:

  • The government has agreed to reduce the royalties the company pays from 10% on fixed line and 12% on mobile revenues to a flat 7% effective on 2007 revenues.
  • Omantel and Oman Mobile will be merged.
  • The government is planning to sell part of its stake in the company to a "strategic shareholder with vast experience in the field of telecommunications." While the exact percentage hasn't been announced, it could be as high as 70% of the government's share in the company, giving the new strategic shareholder just under 50% of the company.
The royalty reduction is a huge deal for the company. It would result in a significant increase in the company's net profit. The royalty is taken on the company's gross profit. In other words, the company gave 10% and 12% of gross fixed line and mobile revenue respectively to the government. This is taken right off the top before the company deducts its expenses. Of course, this change in royalty will also have a positive effect on Nawras, which had not reached break even yet. The recalculation of Nawras' income for 2007 based on this lower royalty rate will probably result in an earlier break even. (They had announced last month that October might be their first month to achieve break even). Royalty is not the same as tax. Royalty is paid from gross revenues, and tax is paid from net profit.

The decision to sell part of the government's stake to "strategic investor" is a biggie. The big question here is who this mystery investor is. Are we talking someone with global experience? The are rumors of a big European operator being interest, I can't recall if it's O2 or Orange. Plus Omantel had initially entered the bid for Qatar's second mobile license with Belgacom, so it too could be a possible partner. Other possibilities include regional companies like Etisalat, Kuwait's Zain (previously MTC Vodafone), Oger, or even Egypt's Orascom which is already heavily investing in tourism projects in Oman. Question is why anyone would want Omantel and how much would they want to pay for it?

Don't get your hopes up too high. With our luck in Oman, we'll end up selling our second rate telecom company to a second rate operator.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

‘Borders’ opens at City Centre


Voice Over IP (VOIP) Banned in Oman


A piece of news that not many have taken note of is the recent Ministerial Decision issued by the Telecommunications Regulation Authority regulating the provision of Internet service in public commercial venues. While it has been rumoured for long that Skype and similar services are banned in Oman, this is the first time I come across an actual piece of legislation that explicitly prohibits the Voip and renders it illegal.

The Decision was issued on 12th of September and has only been published in the latest issue of the Official Gazette that came out yesterday. Article one of the Decision defines (in Arabic) Voip as a service for delivering audio conversations via the Internet using Internet Protocol instead of the Public Switch Telephone Network (PSTN).

Article 9 later prohibits an internet service provider in public and commercial venues from offering VOIP services or offering any help or guidance on how to use this illegal service. Punishment for violating this Decision include the right to close the internet cafe for a month and revoking its license if the breach is persistently repeated.

I think that the definition of Voip is lose, any audio conversation on the internet is carried over IP protocol and it is done instead of PSTN. When you have a voice chat over MSN you are using Voip, when you talk over Google Talk, Yahoo! Messenger, and all those services you are using Voip. It is clear that they are targeting services such as Skype which let you call regular phones using Voip, but that definition goes way beyond that.

The TRA does not understand that there are loads of Voip services out there, it is possible to use an instant messenger on a mobile device to make an audio conversation with another using the same instant messenger using another mobile device, so that we are using Internet voice chat but on a mobile device with no Skype-out like functionality.

I think that banning Voip services is unfair, we as consumers should have the right to use the Internet that we pay for in whatever way we choose. We do not care if it is bad for the business of Omantel, Oman Mobile, or Nawras. All of those three companies offer data services (whether cabled or otherwise) and promoting Voip is a promotion for using their services.

The use of Skype is rumoured to be unofficially crippled by Omantel to stop home users from making use of its service.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Corruption on the rise?

2007 Report

2006 Report
Transparency International, the Berlin based organisation, has released its annual computation of corruption across the world. Oman has dropped down the order a bit. It is ranked 53rd among the 180 nations computed by Transparency International, against 39th among 163 nations last year. Accordingly, Oman’s integrity index has marginally dropped to 4.7 from 5.4 a year ago.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Bloggers meeting (update)

This post is an update to my previous post about the Bloggers meeting. Since we agreed on the venue & timing of the meeting, here are the details & confirmation.

Venue: Cinnzeo Café - Al-Massa Mall
Date: October the 3rd, Wednesday
Time: 9.00pm to 11.00pm

Every blogger out there is more than welcome to attend the gathering. Hope to see as many bloggers as possible! :-)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Starbucks can’t handle the peak

For the first time in my life I get disappointed with Starbucks’s service at Muscat City Centre.

Yesterday my cousins and I went to Starbucks at Muscat City Centre and ordered three coffees, looking forward for the tasty flavoured coffee, after the first sip we got disappointed, as it was warm and closer to cold, one of my cousin returned it and asked to be warmed again but the result was the same, we all ended up to drink it vary fast and didn‘t enjoy the coffee. It seems that Starbucks can’t handle the peak at Muscat City Centre, specially at Ramadan season, by trying to serve the maximum number of customers that they started to mess up the coffee’s quality.

On the other hand, we saw that the mugs were cracked from the bottom, it just reminded me of Guno. They really need to replace those mugs.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ramadhan Kareem?

I love Ramadhan. Without a doubt, it's my absolute favorite month, bar none. I love breaking bad habits, Iftar with friends and family, the peace and quiet in the early evening, and the bleary early morning breakfasts. The thing I love the most though, is the fact that everyone is genuinely trying to put thier best, kindest and most charitable foot forward.

Ramadhan is the month when everyone smiles back at me on the streets and in the stores. When we all make an effort to be more genuine in our enqueries about the welfare of another's family. When we try to give more to charity, and to do charitable things for others without being asked, or thanked. This month gives me hope that maybe everything is going to be all right when the oil is gone, and that we are truly a nation of generous, kind, team players.

BUT (you knew there was a but) I have to avoid driving during Ramadhan. Because the way we drive during this month makes me think that we're all a bunch of fakes, and that our truest nature (Local and expatriate alike) is one of absolute self interest and greed. The concept of a fair and egalitarian society goes right out the window the moment we hop in the car and crank up the AC.

I've driven in both New York and Los Angeles, New York being the place I learned to use the word Jackass with appropriate authourity and inflection. But our behavior on the roads during Ramadhan makes New Yorkers look like a bunch of soccer mommies queing for tickets to Celine Dion concert.

Take for example the Ministries road toward Seeb at about 14:45. I spent 45 minutes patiently queing there yesterday while ministry employees drove up the emergency lane on the right to cut in, or drove up the road on the side of opposing traffic to cut in. The bahavior may have saved each of them some time, but it caused even greater delays because the 5 lanes they had created had to merge into two at the round about.

Last Year, I was queing near AL SArooj / Shatti. I was at the time, 9 months pregnant, in my Non-airconditioned Abu Shenab, decked out in a BLACK abaya. Some guy in a white jeep with a three digit number platecomes flying up the emergency vehicle lane on the right overtaking a mile of traffic, hoping to cut in at the front of the cue. Except I'm half way over, taking up both lanes. He blares his horn, shakes his fist, curses me in four languages. I get out of the truck, waddle over, and ask him if there is some emergency. He's late, he says. So am I, I inform him. So curses me some more. Not what I would call exemplary behavior, on either of our parts.

What I'm wondering is, does Ramadhan not count when you are inside your car? Has there been a ruling that good bahavior and generosity are to be forgotten during the commute? I'd love it if Sk Khalfan could address this issue during his drive time show.

Ladies, Gentlemen, what do you think?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Bloggers meeting

As suggested before by more than a blogger in the previous post, here is a separated post to see how many bloggers are interested in the idea of having a gathering sometime soon, probably after Eid.

It would really be nice if we had a bloggers gathering to get to know each other in real life and spend an hour or two with each other. So what about organizing one after Eid? Is anybody out there interested in this? This is definitely not limited only for the contributors of Oman Community Blog, but every blogger in Oman out there is more than welcome to attend the gathering if it took place...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

KOM seminar

The ‘Digital Media’ seminar organized by Knowledge Oasis Muscat a couple of days could have been made much better with the inclusion of local bloggers in the panel. The best part was a young blogger defending credibility of blogs versus traditional media, that too in front of a minister. That was truly heartening. There is one more seminar as part of the ‘Digital Nation’ series that will be held in December. Mark your calendars; worth attending for bloggers/new media enthusiasts.

PS: Overheard at the conference: Expect good news on VoIP services in Oman soon!

Ramadan bonanza

A report says:

MUSCAT –– The Council of Ministers yesterday decided that rent for properties should not be increased by more than 15 per cent of the current rent value during the next two years.

This will provide citizens the much-needed respite from mindless rent hikes happening for the last one year. The rent cap of 15 percent holds good for existing tenants, but what will happen for people who want to move/shift to new premises wherein a new lease agreement will come into effect? I am sure the landlords will find some loopholes to beat the system. It so happened that recently a person changed his flat from third floor to second floor in the same building with same dimensions, and got his rent jacked up by RO 35 in the new agreement!

Who will bell the cat?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Qalhat LNG clinches ‘Energy Company of the Year Award!

Qalhat LNG has yet again snatched in front of the world energy giants a magnificent international accolade of ‘Energy Company of the Year 2006’ at the highly acclaimed Petroleum Economist Awards conference in London recently. This prestigious award recognizes world energy organizations that have made significant contribution to the industry through demonstrable improvements and successes in multiple areas. These successes, driven by long-term vision and strategic planning, include expansion into new revenue-generating areas and overcoming challenges to maintain excellence and security and well-being of employees.

hmm thats impressive! so do you think we deserve such an award?

sours Oman Daily


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Basma Card


I am sure that all of you have seen the Basma Card campaign all over Bank Muscat, Oman Oil, Nawras, and Lulu hypermarket outlets. It is a very lame reward card scheme we have in this country, if you check their leaflets, their website, or any of their information packages anywhere, you never actually get to know what you can do with the points you collect using Basma. I've got my card when I applied for a credit card from Bank Muscat, which automatically credits me a Basma point for every Rial I pay using the credit card. I've been using my credit card for a while now and I was really curious to know what the hell I can do with these points I am collecting, I called up their helpline and was told that each Basma point I acquire is worth 1 Baisa at any of the partner shops.

This means that when I spend a 1000 Rials on my credit card.... I get 1 freaking rial to spend at Lulu. There are different point rates for different partners, but the majority of them are just as ridiculous as this one, if you buy jewelry worth 1000 Rials from Damas.... you get to spend 2 Rials at Lulu. There are a couple of better deals at Basma, but the majority of them are just as lame as these, even at Lulu itself, when you spend 1000 Rials at lulu, you get 5 rials in return, I remember that Al Jadeeda stores ages ago had a voucher scheme which was WAY more rewarding as this, Basma Card is such a waste of time, the physical effort to get it out of your wallet, swipp it, and the put in your PIN code is certainly not worth the 5 baisa's I get per rial at Lulu.

What do you guys think, am I the only ungrateful fool who does not appreciate the fact that getting 5 baisa's per rial is better than not getting anything at all?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

D-Day is nearing


Read the story here.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

OmanMobile apologizes for the inconvenience caused yesterday

In response to the last post by muscati about OmanMobile's network being down yesterday night, here is an official apology from OmanMobile which was published in today's issue of Al-Watan newspaper:

عمان موبايل تعتذر عن عطل طارئ بأحد الانظمة

تعتذر الشركة العمانية للاتصالات المتنقلة (عمان موبايل) لمشتركيها الذين تأثروا جراء العطل الطارئ والذي أثر على أحد الأنظمة في الشبكة بسبب الضغط الشديد لحركة المكالمات الممررة عبر شبكتها مساء أمس.
وقد اتخذ الفريق الفني بالشركة اجراءات سريعة وفورية لتحويل حركة المكالمات للمشتركين المتأثرين الى النظام البديل مما أعاد الحركة على الشبكة الى طبيعتها.
واذ تؤكد عمان موبايل التزامها بجودة خدماتها فانها تعتذر للمشتركين المتأثرين عن اي ازعاج قد حدث جراء هذا العطل الطارئ والخارج عن ارادتها, ويسرها أن تبارك لمشتركيها قدوم شهر رمضان المبارك أعاده الله على الجميع بالخير والبركات

I just want to note that I had no network till 1:00 after midnight. The network was actually not busy, but it was completely down. My phone kept giving me this message till 1.00am: "No access to network"

Raman Kareem from Oman Mobile

Oman Mobile celebrated the announcement of the beginning of the holy month of Ramadhan with a network blackout. Service was down on both my mobile phones from around 7.30pm till around 11pm. Others with me at home had their service return earlier, but on the whole for most of us there was no service at all for about 3 hours.

Way to go Oman Mobile. And thanks for not even putting up an explanation or apology on your website.

On the positive side: it must have cost you millions in lost revenue when your network went down just as over a million Oman Mobile users wanted to call or SMS their friends and loved ones to congratulate them and wish them well on the start of Ramadhan.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Qurum beach is suffering

After a longtime, I went to Qurum beach last Friday only to find the place had lost most of its pristine glory at the hands of the devastating cyclone, Gonu. There are the usual crowds, children playing, families chit chatting, but you get a feeling that something, somewhere, is amiss. I shall let the pictures to talk for themselves.
The damaged main road. A small rivulet around the vicinity is making the re-building process tougher I guess.

Families enjoying their weekend.

The beach is littered with small stones and pebbles making it uncomfortable to walk.


This is how the Qurum beach looked in August 2006.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Car Shopping; The Test Drive

Back to cars this week, Because I just can't get enough of them.

We are still shopping for a replacement for the our beloved "beast" which bit the dust during the recent cyclone (or unusual weather, as the papers are spinning it). To say that I am having limited success in finding the perfect car would be an understatement. Some days, it feels like I am swimming an ocean of brainless, sleazy car salesmen, who circle around me like starving great white sharks, except they are starving great white sharks who are also pathological liars and chronically late. Oh yeah, and more aggressive.

Anyway, poor me right? Thank god we are fortunate enough to be able to buy a replacement car. I know there are some who can't. Two recent (and totally shark free) highlights form an otherwise boring week follow.

Car#1) 2007 Dodge Caliber, 2.4 litre engine. You can get one from Zubair Automotive for a mere 8,800 RO... Available in any color as long as it's metallic burnt sienna.

I would rather gnaw off an arm than buy a car from a dealership, but in the interests of fairness I thought I might stop by Zubair and see what they have on offer. Also, Zubair opens at 08:30 in the morning, which is a distinct advantage when you have a perky infant who has been up since 05:00 and a few hours to kill before nap time.

As someone who likes her cars big, old, and cheap, it didn't take too long to realise that I was in alien territory... The salesmen began to circle, proffering help in the form of pointing at things and mumbling. I was really there to see about a Dodge Charger, which I think is one of the sexiest pieces of machinery to roll out of Detroit in a long time. As I walked toward the object of my lust, I was distracted by a funny looking, orange colored, compact car that looked like something someone had made out of Lego's using a doodle from my highschool notebooks. It was... Amazing... It was The Dodge Caliber (insert Star wars theme song)

It may have the aerodynamics of a brick, but there was something about it that I really liked... The styling, the way the gear shift slots out of the console. The ground clearance looks good, and it has a sporty, wide stance that appeals. give it a turbo and all wheel drive and it would make an interesting rally car. Dodge has taken some risks with the styling, and I think it has paid off in dividends. It's not beautiful, or sleek, but it's.... weird. Not an unpleasant weird, but an eye catching weird that made me stop in my tracks, set the baby on the floor, and walk over and climb in.

Inside, the Lego theme continues, almost to the point of pain. It's all plastic. Even the doors slams so lightly I suspect they are made of plastic. the speaker covers are molded injected plastic, the dash is plastic, the console is plastic. The seats can be color coordinated to match your choice of interior.... Plastic. None the less, I am intrigued. I ask the sales guy if I can schedule a test drive.

Suburban: Would it be possible to schedule a test drive?
Sales Guy: No.... Not in this one. You can drive the 2 litre version. It has a Constantly Variable Transmission (CVT). Very Nice
Suburban: Hmmm... Nothing personal, but I sort of dislike the CVT.
Sales Guy: 2 litre only comes with a CVT.
Suburban: You'll have to forgive me, but I don't see much point in test driving a different car than the one I am interested in buying.
Sales Guy: This car has a rechargeable flashlight built in!
Suburban: Okaaaay...
Sales Guy: This car has speakers that flip down when you open the boot, Like a party anywhere you go!
Suburban: Neat. So about the test drive?
Sales Guy: sorry madam, not possible.
Suburban: OK, Thanks anyway.



Car#2) 1995 GMC Safari, conversion van. V6, 4.5 litre engine, kitted out like a private jet on the inside. Yours for only RO 2,000. Black.



We saw this one parked next to the shell station in Qurum. Passers by on the street could hear me yelling at my husband to Stop! the! car! Right! Now! Because! look! Look! Look! It sat there like a 800 pound gorilla. Hulking, black, and making no excuses for it's presence. Ugly as hell, with blacked out windows and a for sale sign in the window, it was just begging me to take it home.

Let me be clear here, I honestly thought this might be the car of my dreams, the car that could fix the near suicidal sadness of not having my beast, and take away forever the ignominy of driving a borrowed BMW. We stood outside of the van, peering into the windows. Leather seats, cd player, TV, VCR, a bar, and a thousand other bell and whistles just begging to be played with. Oh! And a bed in the back that reclines at the touch of a button. Yeah, you heard me right... there is a bed in the back. How awesome is that?

So, we called the number, and arranged to meet the next day for a look and a test drive. Here is the Test Drive, with the seller's comments in parentheses:

  • The guy shows up 45 minutes late (was at prayers)
  • He fires it up, and oil blows out the tail pipe (has been sitting for six months)
  • the AC doesn't work (needs just a little gas, has been sitting for six months)
  • None of the electrics work inside (just fuses needed)
  • Brakes sound funny (no! they are supposed to be like that.... Very special car)
  • Engine has barely enough compression to get us to the top of Fahud street (very good engine!)
  • Pulls hard to the right
  • the odometer reads 45,000 miles, I suspect 1,045,000 miles. (yes, driven very carefully only 45,000 miles)
  • Here's the kicker... we're driving back down Fahud street, and I can smell something burning. we get out of the car, and the right front brake is smoking. Like, black, acrid brake smoke kind of smoking. Which explains the pull to the right, and the funny brakes... I guess.

So there is another car we won't be getting. The price really was too good to be true. I don't begrudge the guy for the car's condition, though I perhaps would have had it serviced before trying to sell it. The thing that drove me bonkers was that after we listed each thing that wasn't ok with the car, he would say

Al humdulilalh! this car is good! Al humdulilalh!

Far be it from me to dictate what God himself supervises, but I don't really know if a beat to hell 1995 GMC savannah is really on top of the Almighty's priority list. Also, If there has indeed been divine intervention in this particular van, I am rather disappointed with the results.

More from here next week.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Government changes

Big government changes in Oman today. His Majesty The Sultan has issued 9 royal decrees with the following changes:

The Ministry of Regional Municipalities, Environment and Water Resources has been split in two, a ministry for Regional Municipalities and Water Resources, and a Ministry for Environment and Climate.

Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has been split into separate ministries for agriculture and fisheries.

Al Sayyid Humoud bin Faisal, previously the Secretary General of the Council of Ministers is now the Minister of Environment and Climate.

Al Sayyid Khalid bin Hilal Al Busaidi takes his place in the Council of Ministers.

Sh. Salim bin Hilal Al Khalili remains Minister of Agriculture.

Sh. Mohd Al Qatabi, previously minister of state and governor of Dhofar, is now the Minister of Fisheries.

Sh. Mohd bin Marhoon Al Ma'mari, previously ambassador in the UAE, is now the minister and governor of Dhofar.

Sh. Mohd Al Harthy, previously Minister of Transport and Communication, now the minister of Civil Services.

Dr. Khamis Al Alawi, previously minister of Housing, Electricity and Water, is now the minster of Transport and Communication.

Sh. Hilal bin Khalid Al Ma'wali, previously the minister of Civil Services, now a member of Majlis A'Dawla.

Sh. Saif Al Shabibi, previously undersecretary of the ministry of housing, electricity and water, is now the Minister of Housing.

Electricity and Water departments from MHEW are now split from the Ministry of Housing, and made into a Authority for Electricity and Water.

Sh. Abdulla Al Qatabi, previously president of Majlis A'Shura, is now a state advisor.

Sh. Ahmed Al Eissa'i, who was the minster of labour in the 90's, is now the president of Majlis A'Shura.

(all above translated from Arabic decrees. The official English names for all the ministries and posts will be in tomorrow's English papers).

Oman Air to launch daily flights to London from Nov.

Sorry for having two posts in a row just being copied/pasted from a daily newspaper, but this one is also an interesting news, and actually I'm expecting to hear similar news in the coming days; about Oman Air launching more daily flights to more destinations.

According to this article on Times of Oman newspaper, Oman Air will launch seven flights a week to London starting from November of this year.

MUSCAT — Oman’s national carrier, Oman Air, will launch its maiden flight to London this November. The daily non-stop — seven flights a week — scheduled between Muscat and London Gatwick will be a milestone in the history of Oman Air.

The carrier can now offer passengers seven flights a week between Muscat and London.

Full story

Since Oman has pulled out of Gulf Air ownership last May, I was expecting that Oman would add more airplanes to the fleet of its national carrier and will also have flights to more destinations. Waiting for the day they launch weekly flights between Muscat and Khartoum. I'm quite sure that many Sudanese expatriates in Oman would be delighted to fly to Sudan by the national carrier; Oman Air.