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Culture Shock


FUTURISTIC FOOTBALL: Meet The Man Revolutionising The OFA GET UP & GO: Sporting Gadgets To Run With LUSH LANDSCAPE: Wadi Darbat


Your top guide to the best of Oman, every week











SEP 12 - 18 • ISSUE 286 • WEEKLY









BLING BOUTIQUE A new store has just rocked our world. We are of course talking about the new Swarovski boutique in Salalah Mall. And my-oh-my it’s beautiful, especially the bling. The latest collection is called Secret Treasures, inspired by the legendary Silk Road route. HOME SWEET HOME Escape from blandsville with the uber cute collection of Pip crockery that’s just arrived in Boutique Muscat’s newly launched home section. Think shabby chic with an extra dose of chic.

Welcome to the new look Y Magazine your indispensable guide to everything modern Oman has to offer.

Fast forward



BIG BAGS Someone call emergency services. There’s been a toting accident. She has shoulder strain and a broken bottom. Thank heavens for Jibreen. Their bespoke clutches are just what the doctor ordered in that they have enough room for the essentials (phone, gloss and rials) – not the kitchen sink. Best of all we love the little Omani touches like the khanjar. BEING MISERABLE Smile - Oman ranks among the top 25 happiest countries in the world, according to a new survey (see page 10 for more).

lato once said that music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm to life. So why have live performances been virtually stopped in the Sultanate’s hotels and bars? Of course, rumours about the new rules have been rife since Ramadan. Would they ban bands that had more than three members? Would Oman’s nightlife really be stripped to the bone on the basis of one venue being a bit sleazy? Speculation is widespread and industry experts have become scared. Without live entertainment, profits will go down and people may go to Dubai where the laws seem less draconian. Separating fact from fiction has become difficult. That’s why in this edition of Y, we investigate the truth of the matter. While no one particularly wants to experience unsavoury shenanigans whilst out, there’s a bit of a difference between a professional band playing in a respectable venue and a line of half-naked women moving to music in a seedy one. What are your views? Tweet us @y-tabloid.


THIS WEEK… Team Y has been frow-ing it at the Ladies Á La Mode fashion show, loving Chedi’s long pool and visiting late night bars in the name of journalistic research.

Ways to get your Y fix Online: Visit for even more inspiration. Smart device: Catch up with Y on the go at

EDITOR IN CHIEF Sayyida Iman bint Hamad bin Hamood Al Busaidi CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER Eihab Abutaha MANAGING EDITOR Penny Fray SECTIONS EDITOR Kate Ginn

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Y Magazine is published by SABCO Press, Publishing & Advertising LLC /Y is a SABCO Media product. We’d love to hear your news and views. For editorial enquiries, please email

Write to us at Y Magazine, SABCO Media, PO Box 3779, Ruwi 112, Sultanate of Oman.

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contents SEPTEMBER 12 2013

Your Oman

06 The Big Interview Sultan Ameen al Zadjali 08 Your Oman Ali al Balushi 1 0 News Be Happy, You’re In Oman


This Week

14 This Week Verdi at 200 16 Movie Listings Intersections


18 The Big Ban When The Music Stops 21 Studying Abroad An Awfully Big Adventure 24 Freezing Omanis Only The Brave Gallery 25 Jungle Jam

21 Business & Career 26 Kiss & Tell To Shake Or Not To Shake

Food & Drink

28 Trend Fauchon 30 Food Review More Cafe 31 Food Afternoon Tea

Cars & Outdoors

14 Health & Beauty


32 Fashion In The Pink 34 Beauty Hot New Show

37 Destination Wadi Darbat 40 Indoors Amouage 42 Postcards From Montreal 44 Y-Fi Modern Sports 46 Car of the Week VW Golf GTI








FOOTBALL REVOLUTION S ulta n Ameen al Zad jal i, I T D irector at the O man Football Association

Words: Kate Ginn Image: Jerzy Wierzbicki

Sultan’s Tips for good project management:

To kick off, take us through your career journey so far: • People. Make sure you have the right people in the right jobs. After being educated in Oman, I did a Master’s • Communication. It’s the most degree in management and information systems and support Real Madrid and Barcelona. They important thing. If you are at The University of Manchester in the UK. are always watching Cristiano Ronaldo, and now communicating well, it will be a Everyone talks about London being the place to Gareth Bale, on YouTube. successful project. go but I loved Manchester, it’s a great city. My Tell us about your work with the OFA. • Involvement. Keep everyone, such first job was with the Oman Housing Bank as a I am project managing the introduction of a as the stakeholders, involved at all loans officer. Within two years, I had been moved Football Management System, funded by FIFA, times. That way, everyone knows to the IT department. I stayed five years in total what is happening and where for eight countries – Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi before taking a government job as a systems analyst the project is. Arabia, Yemen, Iraq, Palestine and Jordan. It’s a big at the Ministry of Defence. I eventually became IT responsibility on my shoulders. The system will digitalise project manager and spent 12 years there, before switching the whole registration process for clubs. Instead of having last year to Bank Muscat as IT Portfolio Manager. While still to physically come down to the OFA office, it will all be done at the bank, I was approached by the Oman Football Association (OFA) electronically. The system will appoint the venue and the referees for to help on a voluntary basis with plans for a new management system. I each game, and all results will be on the database. It even takes prayer joined the OFA full-time in May this year. times into consideration for fixtures. The media will have access to all the So you were juggling two balls, so to speak, at once? information too. FIFA is meeting the cost of $106,000 (RO40,810) per Three actually. I would go to my regular job at Bank Muscat between country. Our challenge is convincing clubs in Oman that change is good. 8.30am-4.30pm and then from 5pm-7pm, I would be working with the We hope to have it up and running by 2015. OFA. Then I would be working on a FIFA project for a new football Anything else? management system until 10pm at night. It was hard work but very I am implementing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), which will rewarding. change the OFA’s business process from finance to human resources. Moving from banking to football is quite a change. What’s it It will make life easier for staff. It will be fully operational by January been like? 2014. There was nothing in place so I have had to build everything from Coming from the government and banking sector, working with Sayyid scratch. I am also working on a customer relationship management Khalid (Sayyid Khalid Bin Hamed al Busaidi, the OFA chairman) has system (CRM), a database of contact details for everyone from sponsors been a pleasure. He is a visionary man and I’m so glad to be here to work to fans, to create efficient ways of communicating, and a document on achieving his vision. With this job, I am representing the country not management system, moving to electronic archiving. just the organisation or myself. Wow. Sounds like you are revolutionising the OFA? But do you actually like football? Sayyid Khalid’s vision is for a paperless office. For us, it’s like moving up to Yes, I do. I played defence for Al Ahli club when I was younger. Every Formula One. Friday, we play football with the family. I have three sons and one How would you describe yourself ? daughter. The whole family likes football. Everyone gathers at my father’s I really love a challenge. When you enjoy what you do, it makes a house to play. difference. It sounds like you’re a very busy man? Which team do you support? I’m a Manchester United fan, from the days when I lived in the city. My Football is the sort of environment where you work evenings and weekends. I have four children too who need my attention. I did book two eldest sons used to follow the English Premier League and were big family time at the Shangri-La recently, but my laptop came too. Luckily, I fans of Chelsea. We were at the Emirates Stadium in December 2009 have a very understanding wife. when Chelsea won 3-0 against Arsenal. Now the boys are into La Liga


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Better Homes 20.5x27.5 E.indd 1

5/19/13 3:13 PM

The Voice of Oman

Ali al Balushi on enlarging your circle of influence

correspondence music ban a big step backwards Dear Editor,


s human beings, we have a wide range of concerns including work, education, health, relationships and financial security. These things worry us and keep consuming our time and effort. However, we might be worrying unnecessarily and wasting our energy on things we can’t change. This tendency was highlighted by Steven Covey in his bestselling book, ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’. He defined the ‘circle of concerns’ as things that we have no real control over but cannot do anything about, and the ‘circle of influence’ as things that concern us and we are able to change. Proactive people focus their time and energy on the circle of influence where they can directly control the things they are worried about – unlike reactive people who focus on things they can do nothing about. In fact, the latter inadvertently shrink their own circle of influence by blaming the surrounding environment and the weakness of other people in justifying their attitudes. To be proactive and positive, you need to enlarge the circle of influence by setting priorities, defining things you can really influence and focusing your effort towards these things. By enlarging this circle, it means you have control over the surrounding environment from the inside out, not the other way round. All of us can list our life concerns and start dividing them in terms of influence and concern. We can then enlarge our circle of influence by being effectively responsible for our problems and circumstances.

Next week: Jane Jaffer 08

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I recently became aware of a new law in Oman, which supposedly came in effect after Eid, quite suddenly and without warning or much apparent deliberation or discussion. Although the exact details are foggy, apparently there is now a severe restriction or a ban on live music acts in hotels, pubs and restaurants across Oman. This has already caused the entertainers who had been contracted to come over to have their contracts and visas cancelled. So should we no longer expect any live rock, jazz, or Salsa when we go out in Muscat? According to other rumours, those groups that will be allowed to perform shall be limited to three musicians. Once again, the details are not clear, but

the musicians are certainly talking about it, and this has already resulted in many of them seeking greener pastures. If this is indeed true, isn’t this a major step backward for Oman, especially at a time when it is supposedly trying to develop its tourism industry? And what exactly is the law trying to accomplish, besides limiting our entertainment options and decreasing the revenue of the hospitality industry? Best regards, Yuri Lipkov, Muscat Editor’s reply: Dear Yuri, as you can see from our cover, Y decided to look into this important issue and clear up some of the confusion around the new restrictions on music entertainment. Read our full story on page 18.

reminding us of our blessings Dear Editor, Once again you have tackled a difficult and relevant subject with your in-depth report on the tragic situation in Syria (‘The Agony from Afar’, Y 285). We are so lucky to be living in Oman, which remains an oasis of community harmony and peaceful progress, while maintaining good relations with neighbours and other countries in the region. We have to hope that somehow the US and Russia, and both of their allies, can find a way to bring an end to the bloodshed and suffering of the Syrian people. Meanwhile I hope that alongside all your great reviews and fashion features, Y will remain fearless in looking at the more serious stories, to keep us informed and alert of what is happening here in Oman and further


afield. We should, as you suggest, all pray for peace. Best wishes, Noor al Maliki, Al Khoud

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SEND US YOUR letters, photos, news and views to / @ytabloid / /ytabloid. Impress us and the winning correspondent will receive a Grand Hyatt voucher. Guests may redeem gift vouchers from the hotel’s reception. For the rest of the terms and conditions see voucher. Contact person



Debate of the Week WE ASKED:

‘The Ministry of Tourism has banned dancing bands in Muscat’s bars and nightclubs. Do you agree?’ Steven Darwish

When in Rome... I chose to live in a Muslim country. I therefore agree to follow the rules of that country. It is wrong for me to expect them to adapt and change to suit me. This is something Britain needs to learn. Oman has far more to offer the tourists than dancing bands. You have awesome mountains to trek, a vast desert to dune smash; a precious history to uncover. You can sail the mighty Oman Gulf, go fishing with the locals

or simply relax on the amazing beaches. Oman is not a clubbing, party destination – it’s a country of culture and adventure. Visit Dubai on a Friday afternoon and you can see the results of bad decisions, with drunks everywhere. Maybe if we as tourists or expats learn to embrace the culture of others, then maybe our own countries would not suffer as they are. My only advice for the Ministry of Tourism is to fit taxis with a tariff meter. That would support tourism!

Agata PalyskaHanefioui

Have you seen tourists staring at these half naked ‘performers’? They didn’t ban dancing. They banned the bands that not only sing but also ‘dance’ half naked.

Rachel Fox

They are building a fantastic airport to encourage tourism into Oman yet they step backwards in time. When




tourists come on holiday they like to enjoy themselves within reason and Oman will soon have nothing to offer.

Saud Al Lamki

Dancing bands are forbidden but you can go night clubbing. And what do they expect tourists to do when they visit the bar? Drink heavily, listen to the radio and act civilised?

Feroz Ahmed

It’s a good decision to allow dancing bands only in five-star hotels. There are many instances of middle-class guys addicted to these bars and bar girls, losing their whole life earnings. Many newspapers have printed stories of street fights breaking out outside these bars, so I really appreciate the decision to ban the bands.

Shaidul Ikram

I agree with this decision. Tourists chose to visit Oman for its natural beauty, its culture and the amazing places that no one should miss out on – not for dancing bands which they can enjoy in their own country.

Prabhat Chandrashil

Possibly, the type of tourists who come to Oman are not keen on such distractions and some misuse may have been noticed. Keeping this in mind, it may be the right step in the long run.

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8/20/13 5:13 PM



Oman ranked 23rd happiest country in the world

If you’re not reading this with a smile, then you should be. For the country you’re living in is among the happiest in the world, that is according to a global survey out this week. Oman came 23rd out of 156 countries, one below the UK but one ahead of Brazil, in the World Happiness Report 2013, published by the United Nations. If that isn’t reason enough to be happy, then feel elated at the news that out of the GCC, the Sultanate is the second happiest behind our near neighbours, the UAE. Oman scored an overall total of 6,853 points compared to the happiest country, Denmark with 7,693.

generosity and being free from corruption, were taken into account for the study. While being a useful guide for those looking to move country, it has a far more serious purpose: giving decision makers ideas about how to improve life in developing countries and build a sustainable future for the next generation. The factors in happiness, such as money and a stable relationship, are also a key issue. Where did the 6 GCC A good Unsurprisingly, countries come? standard happy people UAE – 14th (out of 156) of living live longer, earn Oman – 23rd and clean more, are more Qatar – 27th air helped productive and Kuwait – 32nd Switzerland are generally wellSaudi Arabia – 33rd come third. rounded citizens. Bahrain – 79th Australia came “More and 10th, ahead more world of the United States at 17th, leaders are talking about the France at 25th and Germany importance of well-being as a at 26th. guide for their nations and the Spare a thought for those who world,” said Professor Jeffery live in the West African country Sachs, a special adviser to the of Togo squeezed between UN Secretary General, who was Benin and Ghana, which sadly involved in editing the report. came out as the unhappiest It’s not the first time Oman country in the world. scored well in happy studies. It Factors like life expectancy, was ranked among the happiest freedom to make life choices, in the region in a MENA report having someone to count on, in July.


Dead mammal found on beach No one knows where it was going and how it ended up washed up in Oman but seeing this magnificent Sperm Whale dead on the shore was a sad sight. Fishermen found the 10-metre long mammal on the beach at Al Rida village in Saham, in the northeast of the country. From the photographs, it appears to have a large gash on its side, perhaps signs of a collision with a boat, to which whales are vulnerable. Large pods of Sperm Whales are regular visitors to the Sultanate’s seas. With mature males growing up to 16 metres, it would suggest the dead whale was young. Experts from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs took skin and tissue samples from the carcass in a bid to discover the cause of death, before the whale was removed and buried. A taskforce from the ministry and other bodies is studying reasons behind sea mass sea mammal mortalities in the region to see if there is a common link. A database and annual report detailing deaths will be established, along with a contingency plan for dealing with similar tragedies.


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Words: Kate Ginn





WELSH WONDER No, we’re not talking about our editor (who is also from Wales) but Tom Jones. Get ready ladies, he’s coming to Muscat next week If you missed him last time round and still regret it, now is your chance to finally make amends. Tom Jones, the international singing star, is heading to the capital for one night only. It’s been over three years since his last appearance and the boy from the Valleys is ready to rock Oman again. At the age of 73, Sir Tom is still wowing crowds and receiving some of the best reviews of his remarkable 46-year career for his live performances and albums. As part of his Greatest Hits world tour, the man with a big voice will be taking to the stage at Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort & Sport on September 20 for a one-off concert. It was Sir Tom who asked to come back to sing for Muscat again. “Tom Jones’s performance blew us all away last time he was in Muscat,” said Gordon Mackenzie, managing director

Alive Entertainment, who is staging the event. “It is an honour to have him back in Oman. What a gentleman and what a voice. Don’t miss out on another opportunity to listen to the legend that is the voice.” With over 100 million records sold, Sir Tom is almost royalty when it comes to showbusiness. Discovered singing in a working men’s club in a Welsh mining village, his distinctive singing and dancing style catapulted him to worldwide fame. His ardent fans got the reputation for throwing underwear on the stage to capture his attention. He was knighted in 2006. During the set, the audience can no doubt look forward to Sir Tom belting out some of his classic well-known hits such as ‘It’s Not Unusual’, ‘Kiss’, ‘Delilah’ and ‘What’s New Pussycat’. Tickets are on sale now priced at RO25 and RO50 for VIP. A bus service to the venue is available

for an extra RO5. Doors open 7pm and the show starts at 9pm. Tickets are on sale now, check out Alive Entertainment at www. Or

buy at MacKenzies Café & Deli in Madinat Qaboos (MQ), OUA Retail Outlet MQ , Bose QCC, Connexions Seeb CC and other outlets.

LETS GO! BARNEY Chance to join the fun

When Barney takes to the stage next month with his debut in Oman, it will be to the great delight of younger audiences. But it is not just for the little ones. There are lots of ways for adults to get involved too with exciting partnership opportunities for the private sector to be part of the fun. Complimentary tickets, marketing exposure and onground branding are among packages being offered. The purple and green dinosaur is performing exclusively in Muscat with four shows of 60 minutes each for what promises to be a unique show never before seen in the country. Joining Barney for fun and games will be his special friends Baby Bop, BJ and Riff. Tickets for the shows on October 25 and 26 at the Qurum Ampitheatre are now on sale. Buy online at www. or www., or sale points in Muscat Grand Mall opposite Happy Land, Desert Bling in Muscat City Centre, the SABCO Commercial Center in Qurum, Busy Bees at Madinat Qaboos, SABCO Art in Madinat Al Ilam and SABCO Media’s office in Seeb, home to Y. Corporations interested in partnering with Barney as sponsors should contact SEP 12 - 18 / ISSUE 286





Campaign starts with new school year

Drive carefully and keep our children safe. That’s the message of a new road safety campaign launched to coincide with the start of the new school term across the Sultanate. The ‘Road Rules for After Schools’ programme aims to raise public awareness of traffic safety and reduce the impact of accidents on the roads. Earlier this year, it was revealed that road crashes are the leading cause of death of children aged between one and four in Oman. Younger ones, aged between four weeks and a year, are also vulnerable according to a Global Burden of Disease report: the Sultanate is ranked third highest in the world for deaths due to road crashes in this age group. More than 120 children lost their lives in accidents on the country’s roads last year alone – 60 of whom were aged six or under. Y has been fighting for a law to make car seats compulsory in Oman for children under six, in line with other GCC countries. Currently, there

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Words: Joe Gill

TEDx Muscat announces speakers



Keeping Kids Safe on the Roads

Words: Kate Ginn

Omani and global pioneers set to spark ideas


is no law requiring parents to use any kind of safety precautions for children travelling in cars. Bank Sohar announced the new child safety initiative this week as part of its ongoing ‘Be Safe…Be Responsible’ campaign running during the month of September in partnership with Oman Road Safety Association (ORSA). “Studies show that most traffic accidents where children are involved take place around schools,” said Dr Mohamed Abdulaziz Kalmoor, chief

If you’ve ever experienced the giddy sensation of listening to a mind-blowing lecture by a world expert from the comfort of your computer, chances are you were watching a TED talk. If you’ve never encountered TED, then you could have an opportunity to expand your mind on October 2, when TEDxMuscat opens its doors to a host of international and Omani speakers sharing ideas and sparking connections. The non-profit organisation began in California in the late 1980s, and since then the network of local TEDx events has spread to 95 countries. Since it started, more than 150,000 people have attended TED talks globally. As with all TED forums, a live audience of 350 will be joined by thousands watching it around the world via a live feed. This year’s event at the Bait Al Zubair will be the third to be held in Muscat. Speakers include Bruno Maisonnier, a French robotics pioneer; Ralph Simon, a world authority on mobile entertainment; Kurt Wenner, the groundbreaking 3-D architectural artist; and Matthew Spacie, the founder

of the Magic Bus sports development programme in India. Guest speakers from Oman include 3-D graphics prodigy Anwar al Asmi; Firas al Musafir, the leader of the Omani Inventors group; Safiya Al Bahlani, a rising star among Omani artists, who will be appearing alongside her mother Sabah al Bahlani, a communication specialist working for UNICEF in Jordan. “We at TEDxMuscat have a passion to learn, engage and inspire with ideas that have the potential to make a difference in our life. We connect people who love and value ideas,” said organiser and host Satyabrata Acharya. “Everyone of these speakers has important ideas and experiences to share with an audience, but what makes TEDx unique is bringing such a diverse range of personalities together under one roof to share and learn from one another.” Sabco Media is the media partner for TEDxMuscat 2013 alongside sponsors including Qatar Airways, Omran and PAIPED. For more information visit

executive officer of Bank Sohar. “Road safety awareness, in general, needs to be spread through the community and there should be more emphasis on the safety of school zones. We hope this message will reach out to all drivers, parents, school staff and children.” Shaima al Lawati, CEO of ORSA, stressed the importance of adopting safe habits while driving in front of schools, travelling on school buses and crossing roads. “Parents should take a few minutes to make sure their kids understand road safety, and the rules and regulations,” she said. Tips include making sure their children are always on time, never run to or from the bus, always stay in their seat while in the bus, wait for the driver’s signal before crossing and always cross at least 10 feet in front of the bus. On the other side of the coin, drivers need to be road aware around schools. At 100 kph, the average car will travel over 70 metres from when the brakes are applied until coming to a complete stop. The advice is to be extra vigilant around schools and stick to the reduced speed limits to avoid a tragedy.

TIME FOR OPERA New season starting

The summer is pretty much over, which must mean it’s time for the new season at the Royal Opera House Muscat. After a lay-off of three months – the last season was extended into May – it opens its doors for business again on Saturday (14) to begin three performances of The Barber of Seville. Brought by Teatro San Carlo of Naples, Italy, this will be the first time Rossini’s opera has been presented in the region. September will also see A Verdi Celebration (19th), The National Ballet of Uruguay (25th & 26th) and one of Africa’s most influential musicians, Senegal’s Youssou N’Dour (29th). For more information and tickets, go to



Work Matters


Registration for Women’s Guild Oman is taking place at Almouj Golf, Sep 16, from 6pm to 8pm. The American Women’s Group will have their registration day at the Grand Hyatt ballroom on Sep 13, 11am to 4pm.

Star Turn Malayalam star Mohanlal is the topline guest at the Laalettant Onakazha show at the Qurum Ampitheatre. He’s taking the stage alongside Mamta Mohandes, Meena, Harisree Ahokan, Mukesh and Siddique. The show will also feature live music from young star Sayoonara Archana, and young talent from Oman. The show is hosted by VJ Shanu Suresh.

Verdi Good



What to do. What to see. What to hear.

As part of worldwide celebrations of 200 years since the birth of Giuseppe Verdi, Muscat audiences will be treated to an evening of his music performed by Teatro di San Carlo’s orchestra and chorus. The evening will feature selections from Ernani, Macbeth, Rigoletto, Il Trovatore, La Traviata, Un Ballo in Maschera, La Forza del Destino, Don Carlo, Otello and Falstaff. For Tickets visit


Irish Breakfast The new season has begun for the Oman Irish Society and a welcome back breakfast has been organised at the Marina Bandar Al Rowdha. For more information, please contact


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Sept 27

Back in Town


For all the latest in interior design, office services and technology, business managers should head to the Oman Office Show at the International Exhibition Centre, Hall 1, Seeb. For more info go to



Sept 19

Movies September




Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, as the saying goes. Well, The Oman Gift Show at the OIEC will showcase a wealth of exhibitors offering opportunities for traders and those who just need something a bit special for a loved one.

Women United The Art of Living has joined forces with the Oman Chamber of Commerce to get behind an Omani women’s empowerment project. Come to the ladies-only night at the Copacabana Club, Grand Hyatt Muscat from 9pm and lend your support. Please call Krupa Khimji on 96119911, Sangita Rachh on 96063261 or email Krupa@mosaic. com for invitations to this soft drinks only, nonsmoking event. Donation per person RO10.

How to Do it


Gifts Galore

MuscArt in Ghubra is offering classes on the Basics of Photography Practice and Photo Walk on Sep 13 from 5-8pm (RO40) and the Basics of Photography Editing in Adobe Photoshop on Sep 14 from 10am-2pm (RO40). Sessions are led by Efiad Ahmed al-Shukaili. Call 24493912 for details.

Sept 13-14

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For more information and times, go to: City Cinema: Al Bahja Cinema: Star Cinema: Tel +968 24791641

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

Intersections A wealthy man and his beautiful wife are on holiday in the Moroccan desert, but things are not going well between them. She meets a man in their hotel and persuades him to kill her husband. During a chase across the dunes, the two cars crash into a bus, killing several innocent passengers. Here they encounter Roschty Zem, a ruthless killer, in the first of many surprising plot twists. The characters, played by an international cast, have nothing in common but find themselves obliged to cooperate. Meanwhile the audience is kept in the dark about the real motivations behind the unfolding events, each hiding more secrets than you can imagine. Writer-director David Marconi is able to lead us into his world and keep us in suspense until the next twist, even though each new revelation is more improbable than the last. The set-up of the accident bringing



SEPT 12 - 18 / ISSUE 286

together a diverse range of odd characters recalls the excellent 2004 movie Crash. But where that was an intense psychological study of broken lives, this is a baffling thriller that keeps digging bigger holes for itself. Just when you think the filmmakers can’t throw in any more preposterous revelations, they do. The dialogue is often unintentionally funny or just plain ludicrous. On the plus side, the international cast led by Zem, Frank Grillo, Jaimie Alexander and Marie-Josée Croze almost save the film, and for the first part at least build a solid foundation, which is then squandered. Seeking to surprise the audience at all costs, the writers have forgotten to work on the consistency of the film, or to develop the psychology of the characters. The final twist plunges the project into the depths, where violence is the only thing that can disguise the stupidity on display. Review by Joe Gill

The Butler Forest Whitaker plays Cecil Gaines, who served as butler to eight US Presidents, in this epic historical biopic with a cast including Oprah Winfrey, Mariah Carey, John Cusack and Vanessa Redgrave. Lee Daniels, director and producer, who made his name with Precious (2009), uses the story of Gaines as a doorway into the African-American civil rights struggle from the 1950s to the election of Barack Obama.

Based on a series of fantasy-adventure novels by Rick Riordan, Sea of Monsters is the second outing for tweenage demigod Percy (Logan Lerman). This time he is hunting for a golden fleece that can bring peace to his Olympian home but must get past a heap of mythical beasts to find it. The script is witty and sharp, however it is weighed down by a lot of exposition and mythology. Percy’s early onset teenage angst soon becomes wearisome – in fact Logan does not appear to be enjoying himself in the role this time round, which makes the arrival of various monsters and secondary characters a welcome distraction.

Planes 3D Most American cartoons these days seem to have the same theme of a central character dreaming of escape from a

mediocre existence through releasing their inner talent. Triumph over the odds and ultimate acclamation are the prize, and via various challenges, we ultimately know they will get there. After all, that’s the American Dream. Disney’s latest effort sees a cropdusting plane entering a round-the-world race. Will he win? Is this a merchandise vehicle? Yes and yes.

Getaway Ethan Hawke finds himself in a real car crash of a movie. The plot, such as it is, sees him playing a burned-out race car driver who is forced into a deadly mission in Bulgaria after his wife is kidnapped. His one hope of saving her is to follow the orders of the mysterious voice (Jon Voight) who’s watching his every move. Then a young hacker (Selena Gomez), decides to try to steal the car. Why? We don’t know. The mind-numbingly repetitive stunt driving and collisions probably caused brain damage to the film makers as, by all accounts, they’ve done to audiences. Exhausting.

Nazareyet Amity A famous talk show presenter gets into a number of farcical scrapes because of his fame and growing female fan base. He decides to get away and travel abroad, while his aunt (Lebleba) becomes increasingly involved in his personal affairs. Arabic comedy directed by Islam Khairy and starring Lebleba, Hassan El Raddad and Horeya.

Bollywatch Zanjeer

In this remake of Amitabh Bachchan’s 1973 hit Zanjeer. Telagu heartthrob Ram Charan stars as honest, streetfighting cop Vijay, who is battling a underworld mafia boss Teja (Prakash Raj). He is transferred by his corrupt superiors for pursuing the hoodlums and ends up overseeing a case in which the key

eyewitness, Mala, has seen a murder by Teja’s Gang. Vijay falls for the girl, and manages to convince her to give a statement, leading to a showdown between the cop and the mob.



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A ban on live bands in hotels lower than 3 stars and restrictions on others has silenced nightlife. Should we let the band play on? Kate Ginn reports


t’s 8pm on a Monday evening in one of the upstairs bars at the three-star Al Bahjah Hotel in Seeb and it’s surprisingly quiet. Until recently, at this time of night, people would be starting to drift in and settle down to wait for the evening’s performance. Instead, the stage is empty and the tables are vacant. There’s an eerie silence. A waiter, keeping himself occupied by cleaning the television screen, says: “Before it was more busy. Now it is a little quiet. There is just drinking now, no dancing.” With that, and a rather forlorn glance at the unoccupied seats, he goes back to cleaning. Across the city, at the four-star Radisson Blu Hotel, business is not much better in O’Malleys, the Irishthemed bar, which usually does a brisk trade on a night when a live band would ordinarily be entertaining customers. Except tonight, there isn’t live music. There hasn’t been one since the start of Ramadan and no one quite knows when, or indeed if, the band will strike up again. “Usually at this time, we would have a live band playing and the place would be jumping,” says Ruwan Fernando, assistant bar manager at Radisson Blu Hotel. “Now look at it. We have some customers but nothing like we used to. We’ve put taped music on but it’s not the same. Business is down. I don’t know what we’re going to do.” Silence has fallen here and across the city ever since the Ministry of Tourism announced severe restrictions on live music acts in hotels, pubs and restaurants across Oman. Any live music was banned in all establishments with a three-star rating or less. However, four- and five-star hotels did not get off scotfree either. Only professional musicians would be allowed to perform and the band can only have three members or less. The music also has to stop at midnight, lest perhaps we all turn into pumpkins like Cinderella. Unlike Cinderella, however, breaking the curfew will not incur the wrath of the Ugly Sisters but the men at the Ministry of Tourism. Suddenly, overnight, the plug was pulled without warning. Contracts and visas have been cancelled for performers who were due come to Oman or are already established here. The Ministry said it was forced to take such drastic action after a number of complaints about ‘dancing girls’ entertaining men in some of the lower-class bars and the repercussions in the local neighbourhood. While there’s no doubt that some bars were flouting the rules, others argue that the restrictions are unnecessarily strict and punishing the higher-class hotels, many of who view live entertainment as an important service for their guests. Others warn that the ban will inevitably result in bars and clubs shutting down. “It’s a bit of a ridiculous situation,” says a general manager at one of Muscat’s five-star hotels. “At the moment, we don’t have any live music and we have no real idea of what we are allowed. “One of our bars is doing better than ever but we are down at one of the other bars.” Implementation of the ban is difficult. Some bars are closing down, while others are staying open. There also seems to have been a slightly haphazard approach to relaying details of the new rules to hotels and bars. The manager at the five-star was informed about the restrictions in a printed memo from the ministry. Another bar manager only found out after asking the Royal Oman Police, while yet another had to go to the Ministry offices to get the information.

There also seems to be an enormous amount of confusion about what is and isn’t allowed. Rumours circulating include that any band must be made up of one woman and two men, that Omanis will not be allowed to play, music is banned outside in hotel grounds and that the restrictions are only until December – none of which are true, by the way. “I’ve asked for a meeting with the Ministry of Tourism to try and clarify the regulations,” says the manager at the five-star hotel. “I’ve been told that we can’t even have a pianist in the lobby, which is ludicrous.” One can understand his sense of frustration and mounting sense of irritation among some quarters of the hospitality community at what is seen as an overreaction. Thuwainy Harthy, coordinator of the Oman Salsa & Zouk Group, which organises dance nights at hotels across Muscat, says: “12 o’clock is impossible – it means the night is over before it starts. “Our life here is different, people tend to start their night after 10pm. If everything closes at midnight, what are we supposed to do? “After midnight you normally have bands playing in four- or five-star places for tourists. These are professional bands under contract – they are brought from places like Colombia or Cuba and do a really good job. They’ve been playing for years and years. “They cannot be compared to the small, unprofessional bands you find in Ghubra or Al Khuwair in the two or three-star hotels and bars.” No one would argue, of course, that inappropriate behaviour, which offends families, religious sensibilities and potentially tourists, should be allowed to continue unchecked. Bars and clubs in areas like Ruwi and Al Khuwair were advertising live music with ‘dancers’ from India, Yemen, Morocco and Africa. One bar in Seeb had ‘performers’ miming to a tape while girls danced on stage, clearly not meant for music purists. It was these places that prompted complaints, and rightly so. But as one bar manager at a five-star put it to Y: “Why not just ban the ‘dance groups’ and any live music in the bars where the problems are happening? It doesn’t make sense to punish us as well.” Fall-outs from the restrictions are already happening, rippling out from Muscat and beyond. Nicholas Chrisostomou, events guru and owner of London music and hospitality consultancy Coco Latté, had been working with the Grand Hyatt Muscat to bring high quality entertainment to the capital. This year, he has already staged several successful events, including The Crystal White Party, Wig Party 2013 and a concert with jazz and swing singer Matthew Vankan. This has all come to an abrupt end. “All Coco Latté events at Grand Hyatt Muscat hotel have been cancelled with immediate effect,” says Nicholas. “We are allowing the situation to settle down for a period of some months before deciding when, if ever, to stage events in Muscat again.” Back at O’Malleys, the atmosphere is as low-key as the business in recent weeks. “Our takings are down already,” says assistant bar manager Fernando, sitting on a stool at the end of the bar.

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“When we had a live band, we could take as much as RO3,000 in a night. Now, it is less than half. “I have brought a DJ in but it didn’t go down well. My clientele are older; they The Ministry of Tourism’s view don’t want that sort of music. “We are a hotel, we have guests and Y spoke to Sami al Salhi, head of we need to offer entertainment. It’s what media at the Ministry. This is what he had to say: they expect.” At another bar, the atmosphere is similarly subdued. It once pulsated to “Only four and five-star hotels are allowed the sound of live bands, a big draw to have bands but no dancing, only classical to get customers through the door. music and no more than three musicians “We aren’t sure whether we can have performing at any one time. The rule is very music or what sort of music is allowed, clear on this. so we’ve stopped everything at the “It is a permanent ruling. This was moment,” the manager told Y. implemented after a lot of demand from the “The first few weeks, I didn’t notice a Shura Council and families. They don’t want difference in takings but I am now. I am dancing with bands. It represents the country hoping that the Ministry changes their badly. mind. It is not good for the city.” “The Ministry of Tourism is responsible for It’s not good for groups like The organising and enforcing these rules. It will T-Band either. A regular fixture on the work to organise this with the hotels. live music scene since 2009, the popular “In our view, it won’t affect business. They four-piece was in demand at different have enough income without having to do hotels around Muscat and had built up this sort of entertainment (dancing groups), a good following for their rock, blues especially since there are exceptions to the and R&B sound. Under the new rules, rule, e.g. classical music.” they cannot play. “Nobody is able to perform any more,” says Tarek Khourshid, a Lebanese guitarist and the band’s lead vocalist. “We are not professional musicians. All of us have jobs; this was a hobby for us that became more. “It’s actually very sad for us. We have a few private gigs booked but we cannot play in public again.” Chrisostomou says that his business has also been hit by the restrictions, as have others. “The new legislation has greatly affected the ability of my company to stage interesting and exciting events in Muscat,” he states. “It has affected a considerable number of businesses in Oman, and in due course the country’s tourist industry will also most likely be damaged.” Which brings us to the question of navigating the tricky minefield that is Oman’s tourism. How to balance the need to offer visitors to the country expected attractions, such as live music, while maintaining the delicate cultural harmony. The ban has become a hot topic among customers, discussed over drinks in the bars and hotels where live music We also asked him: used to play. One disgruntled expat said: “Muscat wants to be a modern, progressive city but then bans live music. Q. Does the band have to be one woman What’s that all about? and two men? “They are building all these hotels A. No and a huge airport to attract tourists. This seems a backward step to me.” Q. Can a one-man band play, i.e. a pianist Omani customers are rather more in a hotel lobby? sanguine with one saying: “We don’t A. Yes, no problem. mind about the bands. It is not in our culture.” Q. Can the band be Omani or have any Chrisostomou of Coco Latté makes Omani members? his point a touch more vociferously. A. Yes, they are welcome! “I believe that the new legislation is way too extreme. Q. Does the band need a licence from “Rather than introducing a ban, the their embassy or the Ministry? government could easily have imposed A. They need to be professional musicians. tighter controls on the entertainment The hotel will arrange a licence with the elements in hotels and nighttime venues. Ministry for them to perform. “This may have been more labour intensive to implement but it would not Q. Is a band allowed to perform outside? have affected the livelihoods of so many A. In the grounds of the hotel is okay but not people who live and work in Oman.” outside there. All performances to finish at At the Al Bahjah Hotel they haven’t midnight. got round to removing a sign outside one of the bars advertising ‘Arabic Q. What do you mean by classical music? band, Pakistani band, Indian band.’ A. It can be all types, such as traditional It would be optimistic to assume that (Arabic), rock and pop. services will resume. Whatever happens over the coming months, the loud protests about the new rules are likely to continue. Just the sort of uncontrolled noise that the Ministry wanted to stop. 020

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ADVENTURE Omani students share the joys and fears of starting a new life at a foreign university. Joe Gill reports


t was a momentous day as Ahmed Brazilly said goodbye to his family and stepped onto a plane to the Netherlands. He was 18, and starting a new chapter of his life, studying international business in Maastricht and living abroad for the first time. “I felt sad and happy at the same time,” says Ahmed. “It was sad to say goodbye to my family and friends. But I was happy because it was time to start a new life for me, my university life.” Ahmed’s journey to the other side of the world is one that an increasing number of young Omanis are making. The mixed feelings of trepidation and excitement are common to many Omanis who have left home to study abroad. “I had this strong passion for travelling and experiencing new things,” says Lamiyah al Abri, who also studied in the Netherlands, and is now back in Oman. “Studying abroad offered me these opportunities. Both my parents had the privilege of studying overseas and they have encouraged me to follow this path.” “I wanted to study abroad because it gives me the opportunity to meet people from around the world,” says Ahmed. “Maastricht is an international university and you get to know about different cultures. “After I won a place in the Netherlands, every member of my family was happy for me. Even though my dad didn’t agree at first, he told me it’s my choice and wished me good luck. He has always supported me in my decisions.” The desire for a superior degree from a respected international university is a major factor for all students applying to foreign universities, and is also the reason why the government of Oman funds scholarships for more than 1600 students each year to study overseas (see box overleaf). “Students will gain experience in scientifically advanced countries and they will bring this back to Oman,” says Salim al Amri, a spokesman for the Ministry of Higher Education. The Ministry also offers advice to students on life in SEP 05 12 -- 1811 / ISSUE 286 285


their host country. “We got some guidance from the Ministry before travelling here, about accommodation, transportation and about the lifestyle here,” says Brazilly. “I also got some guidance from my supervisor about Maastricht when it comes to trains and the university itself.” But nothing could quite prepare him for what it would actually be like when he arrived. “My first day in the Netherlands was really tiring because of the long trip to get here from Oman. “I called one of the people who work in the embassy of Oman to come and help me with the trains and to give me some instructions or guidance. “I had a lot of heavy luggage with me and had no-one to help me carry it. Still, when I sat in the train, I contacted my family to tell them that I had arrived safely. I told them I was fine – just to calm them. “On the train, I met a Dutchman who was very friendly, and we got talking and he helped me with the bags. “He offered to help me by giving me his phone number and email, which was very kind of him. “Then I reached my apartment. I was happy. The place was good although some items were very dirty. It was surrounded with markets, shops, restaurants and the university.” Oman’s student scholarships cover all expenses including housing, transport and health insurance. “The next day my mentor showed me the place and we walked around the city and I got to know about her culture (she was German),” says Ahmed. Still, a certain amount of adjusting to a very different society is inevitable, as Ahmed discovered. “There are very few halal restaurants here, so you have to cook, or learn how to. “The third day I had my introduction day at the foundation programme and met my classmates, who were mostly Thai and one Omani.” Ahmed missed his family, and had to get used to living independently without parental support. And yet he quickly made new friends. “When I came here, I didn’t know anybody, but now I’ve met a lot of people and I always hang out with my new friends. I don’t feel homesick. I feel that my fellow students are like my new family.”


Ahmed Brazilly


tudying abroad helps to make me independent and perhaps change and broaden my personality. Studying abroad makes a person much more openminded. Moreover, it helps to upgrade my skills, employment opportunities and the value of my degree.

‘They were the best five years of my life’


usam al Lawati, 23, spent five years studying computer and network engineering at La Trobe University, Melbourne. He returned from Australia nine months ago. “From when I was young it was my dream to study abroad and I got the chance, so I did it. “My family was very supportive. They were all guiding me in a positive way to get good marks to win a place. “When I first got the scholarship I was excited and afraid at the same time.” There was an eight-month wait from getting the scholarship to leaving. “On the day of travel you get twitchy. I am very close to my parents, so it was very hard to leave them. My brother was getting married too so I was not able to attend the wedding. Husam had been abroad before, to America, Syria and Iraq with his family, but this time was different. “I was alone and I would be going for one year with no chance to go home. I was going to a different continent. “It was a long flight, 15 hours. I was waiting to land in Melbourne, I was curious to see it. When I arrived it was rainy and cold. I will never forget that day in my life. “I had some friends and cousins studying in Melbourne. They came and picked me up from the airport. To begin with I had to stay with family because I was under age. So this is what I did. I was supposed to stay one and a half months, but we got on well so I stayed the full year. “If you are going for a long time, for three-


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four years, it is best to live with a family for one year or six months. If you don’t come from an English-speaking background, it’s a good way to learn the language. They were speaking English and were half Italian, so I learnt to cook 13 types of pasta. “One of the best things I experienced with the family, besides enhancing my cultural knowledge, was participating in their religious life. I am a Muslim but I attended religious events like Easter. I always tried to participate. It’s good to know different cultures and to share my culture also. I was accepted – they were not racist toward Muslims or Arabs. “That was my start of the journey. “In the second year, I moved with two mates from the same course. We rented a house together and stayed there until we graduated. We ended up like brothers. In the years between 17 and 23 you get to understand life and be mature. Maybe they know me better than my own brothers.” Now he is back in Oman working as a sales executive for a French company. “Honestly, if it wasn’t for my family, I don’t think I would be back. I was lucky to go to Melbourne – it is the most ‘liveable’ city in the world [according to the Economic Intelligence Unit’s Liveability Survey]. That’s one of the reasons I loved being abroad, enjoying, learning. I didn’t feel homesick. It is such an easygoing city, and a much easier lifestyle. “I regret coming back to be honest. I am looking forward to going back to Australia or another country. They were the best five years of my life.”

Lamiyah Al Abri, 23, studied international business at Breda University, The Netherlands


tudying abroad was like a dream come true. I was overwhelmed with mixed feelings – happy and anxious at the same time. It was my first time travelling alone. Once I arrived at Amsterdam airport I tried finding my way around. The university arranged for someone to pick me up along with other students. We traveled by bus from Amsterdam to Breda, which took a while. First, we were given a tour around the university and I was impressed with the design. It was huge and colourful with a positive atmosphere, and I felt a big relief. After that, we were taken to our apartments. I was stunned that most Dutch houses had big windows that allow you to see the whole room, which was the case in my apartment too. I didn’t like it because of lack of privacy. I was sharing the apartment with a roommate but she wasn’t there at the start. I suddenly felt lonely and depressed and started to miss my family. So I called home and fell asleep. It was a strange for me to see everyone riding a bicycle from the youngest to the oldest. I thought it was very cool. Everything was completely new and different. I had to be independent and be responsible. It took me some time to overcome all these changes, but eventually I got used to it and started enjoying my new life.

Why Study Abr0ad? Husam Al Lawati


he value of the degree, the education you receive, it’s 500 steps ahead of what you can get here. There are also a lot of majors available that you can’t find in the Gulf. Plus you are living in a different culture, which adds a lot of value. I didn’t go abroad just to study, I went there to get a better life experience – where you will learn a lot and change positively in yourself. You don’t go there just to party. Going abroad is about the totality of everything you experience. You will meet people from lots of cultures. I took a lot of part-time jobs and volunteer work. I was involved in an Omani community association – the Omani Students Society of Victoria. We helped put on three exhibitions in the heart of Melbourne, in Federation Square, and I

A new life awaits


he number of international higher education scholarships funded by the Omani government is 1643 for the academic year 2013/14, according to a spokesman from the Ministry of Higher Education. The most popular countries to study in are USA, UK, Australia, Bahrain, Holland and Germany. India is also a popular destination. According to Salem bin Abdulla al Bas, cultural attaché at Oman’s Embassy in New Delhi, at least 1,015 Omani students are pursuing studies in India in both government and private institutions, on scholarships as well as at their own expense.

was involved in getting sponsors from Oman. In 2011 I took part in Oman cultural days in Sydney over four days, where we were telling people about our religion, our beliefs. I met people from all over Oman while I was there, not just from Muscat. I still keep in touch with people who studied with me. We need to share positive things from developed countries that we don’t have here. There are lots of things, from public transport to education, to bring back that are needed to improve the country. When you come back you bring new skills and ideas and you try to bring these to Omani society. You are sharing the experience from that country with your country. I believe that is one of the important things you have to do.

Advice and funding is available for those who want to study abroad and get the grades

The vast majority of Omani students will get scholarships from the Omani government, but universities in Europe and America have a wide range of scholarship programmes that are available to international students. Amideast, the US educational non-profit organisation, offers advice to Omanis wishing to study at US universities. “Often you have to apply directly to the university, but a lot of Omanis don’t realise this so they don’t get to apply for these places,” says Jesse Atkins, the youth programmes co-ordinator at Amideast in Muscat. “We have a programme called Education USA that offers advice on how to apply to US

universities.” Those who gain a place may then be eligible for scholarships to fund their study. “Quite often US universities are keen to have international students because they like to add diversity to the campus, so they are very open to applicants from overseas,” says Atkins. “There are other scholarships such as Fulbright for Masters only. Also there is a very prestigious scholarship funded by Oman Oil called the Takatuf Scholarship, with about ten places available annually for high achieving students going only to top-tier US colleges.” The British Council has recently launched a new website to

promote educational opportunities in the UK, www.educationuk. org. The website aims to guide international students in choosing a UK-based education, help them plan their studies and search for courses and scholarships. “We are hosting a UK higher education exhibition on October 6 with more than 30 Universities participating.,” says Qais Ba Howairath, the British Council’s marketing manager. “Most of the universities have their own criteria on awarding scholarships.” Links SEP 12 - 18 / ISSUE 286




he air is cold enough to make the feet, hands and ears go numb. You can see yourself breathing a visible cloud of tiny particles of water and ice as you exhale. Maha al Balushi, however, looks perfectly comfortable. She has sensibly dressed for the occasion in a thick jacket, gloves, scarf and a warm hijab. Then again, it’s not easy to decide what to wear for an interview in an industrial freezer, in sub-zero temperatures, when you have a wardrobe more suitable for the desert climate of Oman. “I will have to get used to these conditions,” laughs Maha. Indeed, this chilly environment will be nothing compared to the extremes that the 24-year-old can expect to be experiencing in Antarctica, where the thermometer can drop as low -57 Celsius. Maha is one of three new Freezing Omanis selected to visit the White Continent next March as part of an environmental expedition undertaken every year. There, the group will encounter some of the most inhospitable terrain on the planet, not to mention the coldest and remotest. If Maha is daunted by the task, she’s not showing it. “I am so excited,” she says. “Going to Antarctica has been a dream of mine for a long time. “I knew a while ago that I was going and I’ve had to keep it a secret for months. Only my family knew. It was so hard to hold that secret inside for that long.” We have met inside a giant industrial freezer at Enhance Oman on the outskirts of Muscat, where Maha and her fellow Freezing Omanis are being unveiled as the next generation of polar explorers. Joining Maha on the trip will be father-of-two Nasser al Khanjari, 29, a sales engineer and marine conservationist, and Rumaitha al Busaidi, 26, Merge 104.8 presenter. Mentoring the group through the next seven months is Bader al Lawati, one of the original Freezing Omani who conquered Earth’s southernmost continent earlier this year. Since his return, Bader has been raising awareness of environmental issues in the Sultanate and fighting his own eco battles, including a campaign to reduce plastic bag use. “When I came home, I realised that this had to be shared. I couldn’t be the only Freezing Omani and I couldn’t be the only one from Oman to do this,” he says, looking at ease and very comfortable in the glacial surroundings. There will be more Freezing Omanis in the next few years and the first Freezing Non-Omani is likely next year. Maha, who will be the group’s photographer, admits her very ‘girly’ sisters were at first bemused by her antics


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Sponsor Search A place on the International Antarctic Expedition (IAE), organised by environmental NGO 2041, costs RO11,000 per person. Enhance Oman has offered to pay the three RO2,000 deposits but the Freezing Omanis still need sponsors, private and corporate, to help with the rest. All money goes direct to 2041 and will help to shape the environmental future of Oman for generations to come. Go to FreezingOmanis or twitter. com/FreezingOmanis

Cool Facts about Antarctica ❆ Antarctica is the highest, driest, windiest, emptiest and coldest place on earth ❆ An ice sheet covers all but 2.4 per cent of Antarctica’s 14 million square kilometres ❆ The ice sheet is more than 1,200 metres thick in places, more than two kilometres (1.3 miles) ❆ There are no land mammals ❆ Eskimos and polar bears are found in the Arctic, not the Antarctic ❆ Only one warm-blooded animal remains during the bitter winter – the Emperor Penguin

They’re the new Freezing Omanis and they’re off to Antarctica. Kate Ginn meets them in a freezer

– she scuba dives and rock climbs among other things – but her entire family is extremely supportive of her latest venture. “I have always been a tomboy, I like challenges,” says Maha. “This is a great opportunity to show the youth of Oman what you can do if you put your mind to it.” When Nasser al Khanjari, a father-of-two, announced that he wanted to go to Antarctica, his wife was understandably a bit concerned at first. “My family all supports me now. They know that it is important for me to go and a big chance,” he says. “I’m really happy to have been selected. I haven’t told my two sons that I am going; they are too young to understand.” To prepare for the arduous demands ahead, Nasser has been trying out the icy waters of the North Sea in the east of Scotland, where he has been sent with work. His induction included a dive in temperatures of 10 degrees, quite a drop from the temperate Sea of Oman that he’s used to. Not many of Merge 104.8’s listeners will have suspected Rumaitha al Busaidi’s secret. But as Rumaitha reveals to the waiting press in the freezer: “Many of you know me as a radio presenter but I’m actually an environmental scientist. And I am passionate about making a difference.” SABCO Media, Rumaitha’s employer, has agreed to pay a quarter of the fee for her place on the expedition. On their return, the three Freezing Omanis need to run their own environmental campaign. Rumaitha will focus on ensuring that oil companies protect the environment after digging oil wells, while Nasser has chosen to monitor Oman’s coral reefs and promote protection of marine life. Maha, who was caught up in the recent water shortages after a burst pipe near her Muscat home, has decided to campaign for water conservation. For now, they need to concentrate on the task of getting physically ready for the adventure. Which means trekking and swimming, and hours in the gym and the freezer, getting accustomed to the harsh conditions. In the freezer, a warehouse for frozen food products, they may be surrounded by nothing more than cardboard boxes bound for the big hypermarkets, but waiting for them in Antarctica will be all manner of sea creatures. They could come face-to-face with penguins, seals and whales. It is, as Nasser al Khanjari says, going to be the adventure of a lifetime.



Thousands join in fun at Bahja Hall, Qurum

Cup cakes galore

Trinkets and craft products from around the world

Independent jewellery makers

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You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.


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Minute Mentoring



Minute Mentoring

KISS &Tell

In business etiquette, the handshake or kiss is more than just a greeting – it’s a minefield, says Penny Fray



ou go in for the handshake. They don’t extend theirs. The PAUSE BEFORE YOU SHAKE result is a hideous mixture of awkwardness and a feeling that you’ve just made a huge faux pas. “Awareness is very important in a multiIn olden times, showing the palm of your hand was a cultural city like Muscat. People can be gesture of peace. Now, greetings have become a minefield sensitive and what’s culturally acceptable of hugs, kisses and back patting which turn all the more complicated to one person may be insulting to another. when you add cultural and religious differences into the mix. Play it safe by assessing the situation before I’m always getting into scrapes in this area, either coming across as too extending your hand or invading personal formal or too friendly. I never seem to hit the right note. Just the other space.”Eihab Abutaha, CEO of SABCO Media week, for instance, I found myself lunging in for a cheek kiss only to find that the other person was expecting a handshake. It was horribly clumsy and made me look as though I was hitting on them. I wasn’t. I was just trying to add a little warmth to my glacial British stereotype. Then there was the time when I went to an awards ceremony and found my arm extended with no reciprocation. People were watching, cameras were clicking and I was thoroughly confused and embarrassed. Even now I cringe at the memory. “You need to develop cultural awareness and learn to gauge body language,” advises my boss Eihab Abutaha, CEO of SABCO Media. Dress to impress on Having lived in Oman for most of his life and worked with people for the new seas ey’s tn ar cC M la el from around the globe, he’s more or less mastered the art of business with St wool blend clean-cut stretch ers pinetiquette. nk ba e Th jacket. “If I was meeting a man for the first time, I would always shake his us city stripes lend a serio hand to show an air of professionalism,” he says. “But I usually wait for cover ck sli is th to appeal etric women to extend theirs first, that way I’m not likely to offend anyone. m ym up, while the as hint of “It’s important to remain calm enough to be able to observe the other a st ju gs cut brin person and react appropriately. The handshake should be firm but not avant-garde chic. so firm that it appears aggressive. As for kissing, even air kissing, I would RO960 almost never do it unless it was a close friend or family member.” If you are the recipient of an unwanted kiss, it is advised that you turn your head a little more than usual so that they meet air not cheek. Then, there’s the matter of emails. You might build up a relationship with someone online, building up a false impression of intimacy but in the flesh they’re not so open. The other issue is one of inappropriate icons. Again. I have a bad habit of signing off my initial with an ‘x’ or a smiley. I thought little of it until a junior raised an eyebrow and queried whether it was, er, a little overfamiliar in a professional context. It probably is but it’s a habit developed to counteract my terseness Network from on email. w ith Y’s new wyour desk “Signing your name off with a kiss isn’t really acceptable,” eekly profile. concludes Eihab. “Far better to use friendly language.” Name: Deidre H Here are five top tips on how to shake hands with confidence: Position: Direc arvey Introduce yourself before extending your hand. This Institute in Oman tor of the Modern Gulf will give you a chance to assess the situation and appear less abrupt. Character: En Forget the fish hand. A limp, floppy hand speaks volumes working. My mottoterprising, tenacious and hard and should be avoided, especially when dealing with Westerners. Would Like T is never give up. Likewise, a vice-like grip is a no-no. If you encounter it, do not future entrepreneurso Meet: Current, past and get into a power struggle. Don’t pump excessively. A business handshake should be failure and ambiti , with stories to share of success, brief and to the point. Holding on for more than three or four Contact me oon. seconds can make people feel uncomfortable. n: deidre@moder or 2454 Be courteous. If you shake hands with someone who 2737 has sweaty palms, do not immediately wipe your hands on a handkerchief. This will further embarrass them. They’re probably already aware of their problem. You can discreetly wipe them on something after you are out of sight.



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food and drink


Calling all gorgeous gourmands: Fauchon, the fancy French food boutique complete with cafĂŠ, is set to launch in Muscat this month. Offering everything from tea to sweet treats, this posh Parisian import will soon be opening at the Opera Galleria, making it the place to see and be seen.


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New Restaurant


TREND New Restaurant


Fauchon, an iconic landmark in gastronomy, has finally landed in Muscat. Penny Fray shares her passion for the Parisian brand



At Fauchon, making macarons is like a dance that is rehearsed a thousand times until it’s perfect, so that it’s smooth, airy outer shell gives way to a creamy centre that melts in the mouth. Varieties include classic flavours with a touch of creativity such as milk chocolatepassion fruit and rose raspberry.

hey seem so innocent in their pretty, pink shells. You say you’ll eat just one. But soon, it’s two. Three. And so on. Yes, Fauchon’s macarons are irresistible. In fact, the last time I was in Paris, I went a little crazy in the legendary speciality shop, buying boxes and boxes of fancy French treats for friends and family. Now Fauchon is about to open at Muscat’s Opera Galleria. What’s in store? Well, the selection runs from sweet to savoury – from chocolate and patisseries to chutneys and classy compots. And bien sûr – what’s a French bakery without madeleines? Think of this place as the Chanel of the food world. The branding is luxe, the boxes are lovely but most of all, the culinary collection is mouth-wateringly delicious. Of course, I’m going on my experience at the birthplace of Fauchon in the Place de la Madeleine, as the Muscat café is yet to fling open its doors at the time of going to press. But peeping through the blackened boards, it looks like most of what Fauchon has to offer is being beautifully showcased in this ultra-sophisticated space, near the Royal Opera House.

THE CULT COLLECTION The Eclair Fauchon has boldly reinvented this classic from French gastronomy with best-selling chocolate éclairs, and its latest creation, the Saint Honoré éclair. It’s a delightful blend of two iconic recipes from French pastry-making topped with fluffy Chantilly crème and caramel lace. ‘Made in F’ caviar

Mélange Fauchon Tea Creating flavoured teas since 1886, Fauchon composes each of its teas in the way that master perfumers combine their essences. The house blend is one of the most famous – a fruity black tea in which the aroma of citrus zest pairs harmoniously with vanilla.

Caviar is to gastronomy what the diamond is to jewellery. Fauchon offers a variety of French caviar that reveal full-bodied notes, a supreme sign of quality. Available online rather than in the Muscat store.

Who needs flowers when this white ship makes an equally elegant table centerpiece? Available at from RO8

Choc ‘Made In F’ Numbered from 0-9, these chocolates hold the most dearly loved flavours among chocolate aficionados within their delicate shells. Flavours such as vanilla, cream, coffee, full-bodied, fruity, caramel, etc. are nestled within custom-made boxes.

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food and drink


New Restaurant


Tea for two

(or three)





Se but arvice is fin loverfternoon te sm ea let do ay feel wn

Taking tea is a traditional treat that commands respect. More Café’s attempt leaves Kate Ginn a little underwhelmed


f I were to look at More Café’s afternoon tea service as, metaphorically speaking, a sandwich, it would be slightly on the wrong side of fresh, with the sides beginning to curl up, and the slice cut just a little too thick. This sandwich does the job in that it satisfies the hunger, but it doesn’t exactly ignite the taste buds, is far from memorable and is not something you would want again in a hurry. Afternoon tea is a serious business, not to be undertaken lightly either by the establishment offering it or the person consuming it. After all, it has been perfected over centuries and has, therefore, a lot to live up to. It was time for tea on a Friday afternoon, shared with two friends, who were also connoisseurs in the art of making and, mostly, eating this most British of institutions. In fact, one of the trio was Australian, so it wasn’t too biased. The restaurant was quiet, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though afternoon tea is, in my view, always better accompanied by the appreciative murmur of fellow diners and the clink of cutlery on fine bone china. We knew what we wanted, so there was no need to fuss around with menus. Our waitress, who seemed unsure of what the afternoon tea consisted of without consulting the colour illustration on the wall behind us, took the order swiftly. Now, I’m a traditionalist when it comes to tea and prefer the quintessentially English version of tiny sandwiches or finger-sized appetisers, a selection of small cakes and sweets, and usually scones with jam and cream. Times move on, of course, and I’m not averse to trying a more modern take. But More’s version, served on an amazing abstractcoloured, tiered cake stand, consisted of one big piece of cake, two robust rolls, and a selection of small biscotti, washed down with either tea or coffee. It was not to my taste. To be honest, I would have preferred everything in miniature but my two tea buddies were more than happy with the set-up.


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The rolls were okay but nothing special. The bread was a little too sweet and one friend pushed her roll with salmon and what looked like fish paste filling to one side, saying she didn’t ‘do’ fish. I went for the white chocolate cake. A big-layered slab, topped with cute roses fashioned out of creamy white chocolate, it should have decadently seduced my tummy and taste buds, but I was unmoved. A lighter sponge might have helped, as I only managed half. One tea buddy pronounced the passion fruit cheesecake as too gelatinous while the other said the carrot cake ticked all the boxes but for some reason just didn’t quite work. It was left half eaten. This didn’t bode well at all, as she is a renowned lover of all things cakey and rarely leaves a crumb on the plate. She has also taken tea at Dubai More and felt the Muscat outlet was less impressive. No complaints with the English breakfast and Earl Grey tea, though, nicely infused in modish clear-glass pots. The lack of scones was a shame, although the lemon shortbread, biscotti and mini ginger snaps were nicely done. Our waiting staff were efficiently business-like and the bill arrived without waiting. More is an elegant dining place and the surroundings are conducive to lingering longer, so the third tea buddy and I stayed to chat a while after the plates had been cleared away, without being hassled by the staff. Usually, afternoon tea is filling enough to satisfy my appetite until much later and even then, only a light supper is Info Box needed. More Café This time, Royal Opera House Galleria, however, I Shatti al Qurum, Muscat was ravenous Tel: 22022555 just a few hours Email: Website: later and scoffed Afternoon Tea from 3.30pm-6.30pm a cheeseburger and every day fries. Maybe next time, Price for tea per person (with tea or I should order two teas coffee): RO5.2 for one.


New Restaurant




The history and art of tea making through the ages


f the 7th Duchess of Bedford were still around, she would be the one to consult for the definitive account of afternoon tea at its best. The Duchess knew a good tea when she saw one. For Anna Russell, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, a lifelong friend of Queen Victoria no less, is credited with being the creator of the British speciality of afternoon tea sometime in the mid-1840s. Feeling a little peckish in the long afternoons between luncheon and dinner, she got into the habit of having a light meal of tea (usually Darjeeling) and cakes or sandwiches, taken privately in her boudoir, during the afternoon. Friends began to be invited round to join her for this most civilised of refreshments, and afternoon tea quickly became established as a convivial pastime for the middle and upper-class households. It wasn’t long before top-end hotels started serving teas too. Traditionally, tea was taken around or before 4pm, hence the song ‘at half past three, everything stops for tea.’ Afternoon tea has gone through highs and lows, has been redefined and reworked to suit different eras and culinary trends. It has been deconstructed during the experimental years. In vogue pastries, such as macarons and cupcakes, have come and gone. But always, the essence of the afternoon tea has endured. Now teatime is undergoing something of a renaissance and everyone wants retro. In fact, the more traditional the better it seems. This revival has sparked a trend for afternoon ‘saloons’ springing up in the major cities all around the globe, as the demand for posh, tiny triangular sandwiches and cakes rises like a good soufflé. Such is the clamour that several of the big London and Dubai hotels now have waiting lists for teatime tables. It’s proving popular among young people too, who enjoy the comfy intimate setting and relaxed time to eat sponge and catch up with friends. Indeed, afternoon teas have become a fashionable alternative to ‘doing lunch’, with corporate business being thrashed out over a cuppa and a sticky bun. It is no longer the preserve of the upper classes either. Everyone who is anyone can take their tea in genteel surroundings these days. It’s as much about style as substance too. The table has to look as good as the food, with elegant table settings, fresh flowers and exquisite fine china. Presentation also needs care. The food needs to assault the senses, a culinary temptation to be naughty. Afternoon tea is back to being the cherished institution that it once was. The Duchess of Bedford would no doubt have approved.


Mohammed Yemeni, Arabic chef at Kargeen Caffé, Madinat Sultan Qaboos What did you eat as a child?

I liked junk food – French fries and chicken. My mother always gave me fruit, vegetables and meat. She tried to stop me by feeding me healthy Yemeni food.

What made you want to become a chef?

My mother is a very good chef. She used to make great traditional food in our village in the Yemen. They were the same recipes she took from her mother and grandmother, and I learnt them from her. These are the recipes I use at Kargeen.

What ingredients could you not live without?

Yemeni mandi is a special marinade that is used to flavour meat cooked slowly in charcoal. Also ghee, traditional herbs and masala mixed spice. I don’t use ready-made spices. I take the fresh herbs, dry them and grate them into powder.

What’s your signature dish?

At Kargeen I am known for my slow-cooked Omani lamb shuwa and the lamb mandi. I also do a famous Yemeni dish, which is like a soup with meat.

What is your favourite everyday meal?

Honestly, I like to eat at Kargeen, or at home. I have worked in many restaurants and this is the best place by far. Then the food cooked by my wife – she makes a vegetable dish from Yemen called salona, which is a stew flavoured with turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, ginger and garlic. It’s delicious.

What’s the most precious thing in your kitchen? The tandoor bread-making oven. Without it I can’t do anything. I had it specially made in Yemen for me. The clay, wood and charcoal together create the unique taste and texture of the famous bread at Kharjeen. Sometimes I use fine woods to add flavour to the baking.

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Beautifully understated, nude is undoubtedly fashion’s fab new neutral. It’s more glamorous than girly and works well with this season’s other hot hue – dove grey.

Model wears outfit from Hobbs.


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Nude may be very now but this Mulberry tote is timeless. RO425

Petal pink swept the autumn runways to become the undisputed shade of the season, says Penny Fray


s much as I like the idea of autumn (cooler weather and an excuse to wear cashmere again), there is an aspect of it that also makes my heart sink slightly – and that’s pink. It’s the shade synonymous with Barbie, cupcakes and little princesses. Oh, and it just so happens to be the hottest hue of autumn, alongside dove grey and navy. Love it or loathe it (and I detest it), this ultra feminine colour is back in vogue this month. Designers showed it in all hues – from pretty petal at Celine and Roksanda Ilinic to preppy poppy at Miu Miu and Michael Kors. So, what makes it so different from summer? Well, the vibe is distinctly grown up rather than girly. From lazer-cut lace to floral mash-ups, the new wave of blush-hued pieces has far more edge than the usual debutante’s dress. And while the oversized coats and glossy over-the-knee skirts look prim on the outside, they inevitable make you wonder what lies beneath. If you’re older than six, cut out the sugar factor with accessories that don’t always play nice – we’re talking about punk jewellery, black shoe-boots and patent totes. The trend is about mixing textures and putting a new twist on the fashionista’s latest candy crush.

Nude nails by Tom Ford? It doesn’t get more luxe than that. RO16

These nouveau ballerina shoes from Zara may look tres cute but the studs give them added strength – from RO36

IN THE PINK: Penny’s tips on wearing the pastel shade du jour

A pair of pretty chandelier earrings is the perfect way to take a dress from day to evening. Available from Accessorize for RO5

Embrace the lady-like look with this cashmere mix sweater from Tara Jarmon. From RO136

The high shine sheen on this mid-length H&M skirt is seriously stylish. It looks more fashion forward than its RO26 price tag suggests.

1 Pale pink is best paired with other soft shades like winter white and dove grey. 2 One of the simplest ways to incorporate nude pink into your everyday routine is nail polish. There are so many options out there but I’m especially fond of Tom Ford’s version (above). 3 If you have fair skin like me, be careful of going pale – far better to opt for a punchier shade of pink.

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B eauty



Local and international designers showcase their collections at Alroya’s royal affair. Penny Fray gives you the fashion lowdown


ashion month is in full swing, which means a never-ending carousel of fabulous shows. And the launch of Ladies À La Mode was no exception. The weekend event got off to a brilliant start with some of the brightest names in local design houses drawing a suitably cool crowd – from royalty and editors to bloggers and international style fiends. The guest of honour was the hugely elegant HH Alsyida Hugaiga Bint Jifar Bin Saif Al Saeed, who wore an abaya in one of this season’s hottest hues – cobalt blue with gold accessories. The show, which took place at the Al Bustan Palace on Saturday night, kicked off with Ala’a Al-Siabiah’s highly decorative collection. Preserving the spirit of Omani originality, traditional two-pieces were given a twist with asymmetrical silhouettes and a riot of bold colour combinations. Meanwhile, Vivid Boutique injected an air

of bohemian luxe to the proceedings with fluid maxi dresses, fringed necklaces, hot harem pants and trendy turbans. My favourite piece, however, was the long embellished jackets that whispered couture class. Next up was the work of Saleha Al-Saleh, who introduced a more dramatic edge to the evening with statement shoulders and flashes of metallic detailing. The Asian-style jackets with elaborately embroidered backs were particularly elegant as was the abaya, which the designer wore. The show came to a close with the spectacular and highly innovative designs of A’amnah Ahmad Asgar, who owns Gulf silks boutique. Local gowns were imbued with Russian folk influences and strong tailoring. And while the big shoulders and peplum waists were reminiscent of McQueen, I think Asgar’s talent shone all the brighter with simpler silhouettes. The sequined abaya that opened the show’s finale was simply stunning.

Designers: A’amnah Ahmad Asgar, Saleha Al-Saleh, Monique El Helou, Ala’a Al-Siabiah


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Some things reach iconic status because they’re good. Penny Fray lists her best beauty buys


YSL Touche Eclat Who needs

sleep when you can capture eight hours with a click of a pen? This award-winning concealer virtually banishes dark circles, fine lines and signs of fatigue, leaving you with radiant, rested skin. No wonder this iconic illuminator is sold every 10 seconds somewhere in the world.

Chanel No5 The now and forever fragrance oozes fashion and femininity. It was the first perfume that the Parisian couturier Coco Chanel launched in 1921, and it’s changed little since its original creation, except of course, for the necessary exclusion of natural civet and nitro musks. Moroccan Oil This ultimate

hair tamer built its reputation on positive word of mouth, spreading like wildfire from salons to editorial spreads. The antioxidant-infused, nutrientrich formula ensures dramatic results every time, especially on sun and colour damaged hair.

Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream This cult

cream has survived nearly a century in the beauty spotlight. Highly versatile, it can be used on everything from dry skin to sunburn, and even makes a glamorous glossy lip treatment.

L’Oréal Paris Elnett hairspray

Loved by hair stylists the world over, this beauty bargain offers long-lasting hold but disappears with the stroke of a brush. If you ask me, it’s a formula yet to be beaten. The packaging is a little boring though.

Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturising Lotion Nearly 20 of these little babies

are sold per minute. Why? Well, this moisture ‘drink’ developed by Clinique’s dermatologists maintains optimal balance for very dry or oily skin. And with a new complex, it strengthens the face’s own moisture barrier by 54 percent, leaving skin silky soft and absolutely radiant. Which just goes to prove that you can improve on a good thing.

Vaseline Lip Therapy Balm

Forget about designer treatment tins, no handbag should be without a pot of Vaseline. It’s the perfect quick fix for chapped or sore lips, and great for dry patches. And costing less than a rial, it’s the ideal example of how some of the best beauty products are also the cheapest.

Do you scrimp on the daily essentials in order to splurge on monthly extravagances? I know I do. I’ll happily skip around Matalan for my underwear, buy silver in the souq and do my own manicures only to squander what I’ve saved on designer bags, diamond jewellery and some perfume at Amouage. Since the global recession, greed and ostentation have become a little passé. It’s now better to embrace the values of parsimony and prudence, or so say politicians and your parents. The problem is, thirtysomethings like me have been weaned on glossy magazines and never ending re-runs of Sex and The City. We’ve been told that Jimmy Choo shoes aren’t just for red carpet walkers and oligarch wives, they’re for us ‘ordinary folk’ too. Clever marketers have convinced us that life without designer treats wouldn’t be worth living. But post banking scandal, we’ve also bought into austerity chic, with celebrities leading the charge. I became a convert after reading India Knight’s book on thrift. Her moneysaving tips had so much common sense that I wanted to slap myself for not thinking of them first. But while I’m happy to snuffle out bargains on the high street, I can’t quite be distracted from designer delicacies. The solution? Instead of buying several cheap items that may only last a couple of months buy one investment piece that will last a lifetime. That way I save not only money and the environment but also closet space. Next time: FLOWER POWER Sponsored by

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My Hood




CARS AND inDOORS green world

As the Khareef season comes to an end, we savour the end of the lush Salalah summer

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As the season prepares to change, there’s still time to revel in the lush greenery of Wadi Darbat Words & images: Jerzy Wierzbicki 038

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crazy with joy when he saw the green grass. I think he thought we were back in Europe again. As he sank into the green carpet for a rest, I took one camera with a standard zoom lens and set off to explore. The day was overcast and the temperature around 25C and, although humidity was high, the conditions were very good for a hike. I walked between the green trees, my footsteps muted by the grass underfoot. In some places the numbers of visitors were similar to those who crowd into Muscat City Centre during sale time. The valley of Darbat is very different, rock covered by grass and leafy trees. Here nature lives life to the fullest. In the small cracks of the dark rocks, I found a small lizard, while butterflies flittered around the tree roots and birds twittered overhead. It could have been perfect if not for the screaming of people and music blaring from cars. After an hour walking between the valley banks, I made a small camp, fed an exhausted Trop, worn out by chasing through the grass, and had a coffee break. Fortified, I moved to a spot in the valley behind the water. There, I found a big rock, eroded in the centre, and topped with trees. Shrouded in mist, it made for a dramatic and moody image. In my opinion, Wadi Darbat is undoubtedly one of the must-see destinations in Oman. But if you are looking for peace and quiet, I recommend going during the week and after Eid or other holidays, to escape the crowds. During peak season, its lush beauty can be somewhat spoiled by too many visitors. In my view, this is somewhere to be savoured at leisure.


travel guide


am, as you may already know, a man of few words. I prefer my photographs to do the talking. Which is just as well. Standing amid the verdant oasis that is Wadi Darbat, I was literally speechless as my senses were assaulted from every side. The grass beneath my feet was as thick and soft as a carpet, rolling out across the mountains and undulating ground around me. Cloud covered the sky like a thin muslin sheet and the air smelled of the earth. This area of the Dhofar Mountains is transformed during monsoon time as the Khareef sweeps through, turning the brown barrenness into a wonderland. The rains breathe life into the soil. Trees sprout a coat of leaves, buds burst forth and grass shoots spring to attention. Amazing to think that this is still Oman. You feel as if you are in some tropical rainforest or remote island in the Pacific Ocean, anywhere but the Arabian Peninsula, forever associated with arid, sandy deserts. In fact, I am standing in one of the most popular locations in the Sultanate. Wadi Darbat attracts visitors from across the GCC, not just locals, drawn by the cool temperatures and spectacular green landscape – a chance to escape the suffocating heat of the Gulf summer Usually, I try to avoid noisy and crowded places. When I reached the road to Wadi Darbat in the early afternoon, the entrance to the valley was jammed with traffic. It was with some trepidation – and a lot of pessimism – that I made my slow way in. I was worried that my trip would be spoiled. My ever-faithful canine companion, Trop, went

Go to Salalah and on to Taqah. Just a few kilometres behind Taqah, there is a road sign to Wadi Darbat. Follow the tarmac road to the end of the valley where there are parking spaces. If you have a 4x4 car, you can go off road and camp in some places. Be warned that you cannot drive freely through the entire valley.

GPS Coordinates: N17’06’18” E54’27’9”

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he sights and sounds of my Seeb office are one thing. The smells are quite another. Thankfully, Amouage’s factory is nothing to turn up your nose at. Situated just up the road from the clock tower at Al Mawaleh, you’ll find a rather grandiose building stamped with the fragrance house seal and fronted by a magnificent gold fountain. Spacious, serene and subtly scented, this newly renovated visitor’s centre allows you to view the various stages of perfume manufacturing – from extraction to packaging – in a classy yet highly curated way. It’s certainly an interesting insight into a company that has come to define modern Oman. The first part of the tour takes you through Amouage’s 30-year history. It starts with the perfume Gold and leads right up to the company’s latest star – Fate, in a succinct story of ingredients, meaning and design. Each crystal glass bottle from the collection is encased in glass as though it’s a precious piece of art – which, in a way, it is. The guide explains that all the newer creations have their own story and are interlinked by Christopher Chong, the creative director’s narrative. So, for instance, the visionary, who is trained in opera, starts with the story of a nymph singing to the moon in Jubilation, before going on with the sequel of her quest for immortality in Lyric. After selling her soul to a Svengali in order to obtain immortality, she goes on to become the Legend in Epic. It’s fascinating stuff but the child in me prefers the interactive bit of being able to sniff some of the original ingredients in huge glass jars. Next, you learn how perfume is made, exploring the historic extraction process through a series of devices behind a glass window before moving on to watch each bottle being hand assembled by a small army of dexterous workers. Rather disappointingly, the crux of the creation happens elsewhere. On the plus side, it means you can hit their signature store all the sooner. It’s a large and luxurious space that allows you to experience the entire repertoire of Amouage’s fragrances as well as the brand’s ever expanding collection of home, leather and travel goods. Thankfully, there are no sales people trying to blind you with spray or give the hard sell. Instead, you are left at leisure to spritz, sample and sniff. Alas, there are no discounts to be had but you can help yourself to bijou bottles of your favourite fragrances. Also, there’s a chance to try some complimentary traditional Omani coffee, water and dates. The whole tour takes about 20 minutes and is completely free. You don’t even need to pre-book unless you’re part of a group of more than 100. All in all, it’s definitely worth the trip. But if you have kids, you need to keep them under control. This isn’t the sort of place where you can allow little ones to run feral, screaming and smashing designer jars. The visitor’s centre is open every Sunday to Thursday from 8.30am to 5.30pm. For more information call 24534800.

Top Tip Schedule an extra five or ten minutes to enjoy the carefully manicured garden outside. It’s very green and serene with just the sound of trickling water from the gold plated fountain.


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Penny Fray discovers where some of the most valuable perfumes in the world can be found with a fascinating factory tour of Amouage


Postcards from


SENSIBILITY – The Power of Perfume




“As the perfume doth remain In the folds where it hath lain, So the thought of you remaining Deeply folded in my brain, Will not leave me: all things leave me: You remain.” Arthur Symons


he appeal of perfume is that it is both ephemeral and empowering. It creates a legacy that lingers in a room long after its wearer has gone and infuses our imagination with a subtle power, hinting at a hidden identity. I like the idea of leaving an imprint with the perfume that I wear. Even if you’re not a beauty fiend who doesn’t wear fancy fragrances, life’s scents can be powerfully evocative. A whiff from childhood, whether it’s a newly baked cake or a pipe, can whisk you back in time faster than any photograph. No wonder then that the power of perfume is so potent. Studies

show that the ability to smell is highly linked to memory. When areas of the brain connected to recall are damaged, the ability to identify fragrance is impaired. In order to identify a scent, you must remember when you have smelled it before and then connect it to visual information that occurred at the same time. But forget science, this is something that our ancestors knew on a very primitive level. After all, scent has been big business since tenth century BC, when Assyrians used oils to scent their hair and skin and Cleopatra later infused cyprinum, a scent from henna flowers, into her famous bath of asses’ milk.




This beautiful dark red bottle opens up a world of oriental mystery. This is one of my favourite female perfumes thanks to its base notes of vanilla and tonka bean.

Strong and luxurious, Amouage’s debut perfume is reminiscent of the golden age of perfumery with top notes of rose, lily of the valley and frankincense; a heart of myrrh, orris and jasmine and base notes that include civet, musk and sandalwood.



This delightful perfume evokes the many legends of the ancient Silk Road journey from China to Arabia.

Paradise is captured here with echoes of bergamot, lily of the valley and the majestic damascene rose.



A woody and leather fougere fragrance inspired by the sombre mood of an existential journey. I much prefer the man’s version of this fragrance due to the vanilla and tobacco base.

A sophisticated fragrance designed to perfectly compliment its predecessor, Gold.



Lighter and more refreshing than the other perfumes, this appeals to my European nose.

Consider this a filial elegy to the memory of Madame Butterfly.



A spicy and woody fragrance accented with orange blossom and plum. This may be for men but I like its fruitiness.


Unlike the more masculine notes of Reflection Man, the women’s counterpart evokes all the freshness of morning dew in springtime. Too light for my nose though.

Inspired by the chaos and disorder of the global financial crisis, this complex perfume has harmony at its heart. Love it!


Created to celebrate Amouage’s 25th anniversary, creative director Christopher Chong went all out to make something truly memorable with a complex mix of everything from oud wood to honey.


Fate for Woman is a chypre oriental with a rich floral heart intensified by the darker chords of patchouli and oak moss. Again, I personally prefer the male version.

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C’est Chic

Montréal, the second largest French-speaking city in the world after Paris, is both elegant and steeped in history. But there’s another, more alluring, side to the city: youthful, vibrant and recently named UNESCO’s City of Design – j’adore!

Top 5 Places To Visit: 1. Biodome Olympic Stadium 2. Notre-Dame Basilica 3. Place Jacques-Cartier 4. Casino de Montréal 5. Mount Royal


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I n d o o r s postcards from

Ekta Gandhi,

marketing executive at The Chedi Muscat, recommends:


Bonjour and bienvenue from my home city of Montréal. Located in the Canadian province of Québec, it’s the only de facto bilingual city on the continent. Here, the majority of residents speak either French or English. Thankfully, the cultural battles of the past have become a bit passé as newer generations learn to enjoy the best that both North America and Europe can offer. I know that I certainly love the city’s irresistible blend of French charm and frontier adventure. Apart from the cobbled streets and cute cafes, that cool Parisian vibe seems to pervade every terrasse, whilst the typical Western skyline from the tip of Mount Royal at Kondiaronk Lookout is guaranteed to floor you.



My Favourite Place:

I like history and the Old Port is steeped in it. The first colonists arrived here on the shores of the St. Lawrence River in the 1600s, and it was thanks to the port that old Ville-Marie grew into the thriving international metropolis of modern-day Montréal. The pier is the area’s anchor and is currently home to a whole heap of high-end and super-chic restaurants. I used to go to Tam Tams every Sunday in the summer because of the amazing music and live African drums there. Afterwards, walk off your lunch and soak in the rich culture and heritage of Montréal by taking in the famous sites of the old city, including the Notre-Dame Basilica and Place Jacques-Cartier. The art and architecture there is amazing.

Highlights: Apart from the Grand Prix and the various jazz festivals that take place in summer, there’s the nightlife. Thanks to a secret blend of French-inspired joie de vivre and the west’s cosmopolitan dynamism, you can expect a lively yet elegant evening out on St-Laurent Street. It reminds me of Manhattan’s Soho District. Hip and happening, this is certainly the place to hang out of an evening. As for the restaurants, go to Schwartz's for their famous smoked meat sandwiches. Alternatively, try Torqué for innovative recipes based on products sourced from local farms. The glass-enclosed cave with suspended bottles looming at both the front and centre is a ‘must see’. Last but not least, don’t forget that Quebec is known for its Poutine, a local delicacy consisting of French fries, gravy and cheese curd. Sounds weird right? But honestly, it’s the best dish ever invented.

Notre-Da me basilica


Watch out for the sleazy guys who descend on your car and wash your windscreen when the traffic lights turn red. I know they’re the bane of most cities but it can be a bit intimidating in an otherwise friendly, laid back place like Montréal.


Quebec is by far the largest producer of Maple syrup in the world – and it’s wonderful. Usually made from the xylem sap of maple trees, it’s best eaten at breakfast. Even now, I tend to bring my own bottle with me when devouring pancakes. Be warned though, it can be pretty pricey. And between all the grades and shades on the market (not to mention the imposters), it can get a little confusing too.

Where to stay:

Housed in the former Merchants Bank, the Hôtel Le St-James whispers old school luxe. The guest rooms are decorated in a heritage style complete with antique furnishings and oil paintings. There’s also a candlelit spa, a library and high-tea service. Alternatively, try the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth. It’s famous because John Lennon did his bed-in there in 1969 and its celebrity guest list stretches longer than the average limousine. Both Queen Elizabeth and the Dalai Lama have stayed.

Biodome Olympic Stadi um

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Postcards from





Whether you like it outdoors or in your front room, these bits of advanced hardware and software will give you the edge. Matt Herbst takes a look at what’s hot in sports and fitness


We all wish that music players were built into headphones. Well, finally the Sony Walkman NWZ-W260 has arrived. Not only is it light but also water-resistant for all you triathletes out there. It’s washable, so hop in the shower with it after your workout. It sports a drag-and-drop music transfer and iTunes or PS3 synching. The built-in Zappin software lets you build a playlist and the fully charged cell goes for eight hours. The 2GB version (the NWZ-W262) will cost you RO23 while the 4GB version (NWZ-W263) comes in at RO30 available from any Sony dealer.

Get Messi

in the net

While in some countries fishing is considered a sport or serious hobby – in Oman it’s a way of life. The Garmin echoMAP 70s fish-finder and chartplotter is intended for serious angling. It uses a large, seven-inch screen that is easy to read in direct sunlight and the sonar recorder adjusts the position of your boat to spot fish. Available at from RO404


move over 007! With Gibb’s Quadski, you conquer both land and water. with the push of a button, your all-terrain wheels retract and you cAN cruisE the waterways at speeds of up to 45 miles an hour. Bored of water? Hit the trails when another button deploys your wheels and you are tearing up THE dust AGAIN. The Quadski has a 4 cylinder, 1300cc, double-over-head cam, 16-valve BMW motor with specialiSed water jet propulsion. The price is yet to be announced but IT’S likely TO BE AROUND RO15,000. for more INFO


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Ultra-lightweight football boots designed for artificial surfaces, the F50s could help you become the fastest clogger in your five-a-side league. The single layer Sprintskin upper is incredibly light and thin, the idea being that you can really feel the ball and thus kick and dribble with greater accuracy. Also compatible with miCoach. Ranges from RO45-RO80 at



UFC Personal Trainer is the ultimate fitness game that’ll slap/punch/grapple you into shape rather than gently encourage you to tone up. You will need some living room space to take full advantage of the excercises, but the big plus is that its advanced cardio regime really does work in shaping you up. Available at RO8

NEW! Sony Xperia Z1 Sony’s just unwrapped its dust and water resistant smartphone handset. Price to be announced. Operating System: Android 4.2 Jelly Bean


MapMyRun is built to help runners, joggers and walkers of all abilities and ages. Easily track your pace, distance, calories and time with audio alerts. It tracks your activity using your phone’s GPS and later mapping it on a website. You can use it to plan your workouts and meals, and to train for specific events like a 10k run. Basic membership is free and premium requires a fee on iTunes

Screen: 5 in Full HD (1080 x 1920), Triluminos, X-Reality Processor: 2.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core Storage: 16 GB, microSD (up to 64 GB). Memory 2 GB Camera (rear): 20.7 Mp, Exmore RS sensor, Bionz processing engine, 27mm G lens, F2.0, 8x digital zoom, HDR, burst mode, object tracking, 1080p video. Camera (front): 2Mp, 1080p Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, MHL support, aGPS, DLNA, 4G LTE Battery: 3000mAh, up to 830 mins talk time, up to 880 hours standby


And they say diamonds are a girl’s best friend, how about this time piece? The Timex Women’s T59201 Ironman Sleek 50-Lap Silver-Tone/ Black Resin Strap Watch has a nightlight, 100-hour chronograph with lap and split times, 99-lap counter 100-hour countdown timer with stop and repeat. Sports a dated training log with best lap, average lap and total time, and on-the-fly lap. It’s also water-resistant to 100 metres. Wow! RO17 from Amazon

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Postcards from



C ars

Volkswagen Golf GTI 2014

Engine: 2.0L TSI Turbo Horsepower: 220hp Transmission: Six-speed 0-100kph in 6.4 seconds Top Speed: 250kph Price (ex-showroom): RO14,500

Car of the Week Buckle up for the adrenaline adventure with three letters. It’s the GTI by Golf and Kate Ginn got to drive it


itting at the traffic lights, it’s always a bit unsettling when you notice a driver and his passenger both staring fixedly across at you. This happened to me recently and after it carried on, my discomfort became such that I whipped off my sunglasses to give them a dirty look, only for the driver to gesture towards my car. Then I realised. They weren’t looking at me with unconcealed admiration but my car. I guess when you’re driving the new Golf GTI, you have to get used to this sort of unabashed attention. A Golf car of any kind is always a thing of beauty, the way it’s put together and feels under your touch, and the seventhgeneration GTI takes this to a whole new level. I have a confession to make. I’ve always wanted to drive a Golf GTI but somehow it has eluded me until now. Was it worth the wait? Definitely. I’d have waited longer. Visually, it retains the essence of the well-loved brand but with a sharper edge than before. The new GTI is 2.2 inches longer and 0.5 inches wider than its predecessor with a little shaved


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off the height, giving it the feel of a crouched big cat. Its rear spoiler improves aerodynamics and adds a sporty touch, particularly with the Reflex Silver paint finish. This continues inside with sport seats, chrome foot pedals and nifty speed dials. Mine had the ‘Vienna’ leather upholstery, an optional extra but well worth the outlay in my view. The smell of leather and feel under your fingertips elevates the driving experience. With the excellent air conditioning blasting away, we shot off onto Muscat’s highways. This car is fast, responding with vigour to even the lightest of touches on the accelerator. Driving in the fast lane, within the speed limit, a huge 4x4 began to tailgate inches behind, flashing his lights for me to move over. Usually, I give way to these road bullies. Not this time. I put my foot down and (I hope no one from Volkswagen is reading this) the bully 4x4 was history, a mere speck in my rearview mirror, as we roared off down the open road. Safety is always a high priority with VW and the GTI has front, side and curtain air bags,

for when there should be any mishaps. It also has an incredible ability to take corners thanks to the Electronic Stabilisation Programme, which detects potential problems such as a risk of skidding, and takes measures to prevent a loss of control. I also liked the direct-shift gearbox (DSG), which cleverly always anticipates the next gear change, giving a smooth drive and unbroken acceleration (perfect for handling those 4x4 bullies). Top of my ‘love’ list was also the touchscreen entertainment system, with steering wheel controls, and the front and rear parking sensors, which made parking pretty much foolproof. If more help is still needed, just flick on the Parallel Park Assist, which will park the car for you while you sit there drinking a coffee and handling the brake. I also liked the illuminated doorsill trim, matching the red of the speed dials at night. Parting was such sweet sorrow. I was late returning the test car, though the nice man at VW was kind enough not to mention it. I just couldn’t bear to part with my GTI.

They say: ‘Often copied. Never equalled.’ We say: ‘Hot hatch for grown ups.’

Check this out

18” alloy wheels Panoramic sunroof MIB music system with touchscreen Bi Xenon and LED daytime running lights Reverse camera Parallel Park Assist Bluetooth connectivity ABS

Y Magazine #286 12 September 2013  

Your top guide to the best that Oman has to offer