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NOV 28 - DEC 04 • ISSUE 296 • WEEKLY
When Truth Spreads, AIDS Won’t
IN THE NAVY
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ECO AWARENESS The devastating photographs featured in the new book ‘Your Beautiful, Fragile World: The Nature and Environmental Photographs of Peter Essick’ showcases the disheartening environmental degradation inflicted by human activities. It’ll certainly make you think twice about littering Oman in the future.
TOYS ON TRIPS Not everyone can afford to take his or her child abroad, that’s why we love the initiative of Unagi Travel. Inspiring a sense of wonder in kids that can’t globetrot themselves, this new start-up sends their toys and posts Facebook photos from their holiday. Odd but very cool.
Welcome to the new look Y Magazine your indispensable guide to everything modern Oman has to offer.
D GOING DOWN
PEOPLE PARKING IN DISABLED SPACES Disabled bays in France are accompanied by the wording ‘Vous prenez mon espace: prenez mon handicap’ which roughly translates as ‘If you take my space, take my disability too’. I wish that people would consider this when selecting their parking spot in Muscat.
ecember 1 marks World Aids Day, when governments, organisations, charities and individuals from all around the globe come together to commemorate those who have died from the disease and raise awareness for continued research into treatments and a possible cure. Nearly 1,500 people are currently living with HIV in the Sultanate, and it is clear that a lot of ground has been won in the last decade or so thanks to awareness campaigns, testing and antiretroviral drugs. But a grip on the pandemic sometimes seems a fragile thing when risky behaviour is on the increase and the taboo surrounding the subject of HIV refuses to shift, leaving innocent husbands, wives and unborn children in danger of possible infection. Facing Aids means facing the facts. Let’s start making a difference today by acting responsibly. As seen on our front page, when truth spreads, Aids won’t.
STREET HARASSMENT You’ve probably seen the videos doing the rounds on WhatsApp of a woman being horribly harassed on the streets of Muscat on National Day by a gang of men. It’s brought the issue of female degradation back into the spotlight and is something Y will be campaigning against in forthcoming issues.
Team Y has been driving through floods, working without electricity and getting in the festive mood with mince pies and reindeer antlers.
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EDITOR IN CHIEF Sayyida Iman bint Hamad bin Hamood Al Busaidi CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER Eihab Abutaha MANAGING EDITOR Penny Fray
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contents N ovember 2 8 2 0 1 3
20 Tackling HIV World AIDS day 23 Hope For Zoo Owner Promises Change
06 The Big Interview Kai Vacher 08 Your Oman Ali al Balushi 1 0 News Girls Saddle Up 13 Oman in 43 Objects Majlis A’Shura 14 Gallery Eye of the Storm
16 This Week Eastern Delight 18 Movie Listings Thor 2: The Dark World
Business & Career 24 Success In The City Back To Business
Food & Drink
26 Trend Chai Karak 29 Food Review Al Sawadi
Cars & Outdoors
37 Destination Ubar 40 Outdoors Camping Trips 42 Postcard From Cairo
44 Y-Fi Toys for Us 46 Car of the Week 30 Fashion Bentley In The Navy 32 Style Council Barbra Young 34 Trends New Designer on the Block
Health & Beauty
30 NEXT WEEK’S ISSUE...
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SCHOOL KAI VACHER, PRINCIPAL OF the BRITISH SCHOOL MUSCAT
Words: Penny Fray
Please run through your career in 60 seconds or less: After graduating at the University of Leicester in the UK, I became a management trainee for the insurance company Commercial Union before going on to teach. I was head of geography at Heathfield Community College, East Sussex and later Language College Director at Imberhorne School, West Sussex. Prior to arriving in Muscat I worked for the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, London. What made you want to work in education? I know this sounds like a cliché but I genuinely wanted the opportunity to make a positive difference to young people’s lives. I also have a passion for learning and a keen interest in geography and environmental issues. What are the highs and lows of working in this sector? The highs are helping young people achieve their goals but the lows include dealing with paperwork when I’d rather be interacting with pupils, colleagues and parents. What brought you to Oman? The opportunity to lead a prominent British international school and the prospect of exploring and discovering the country’s culture, mountains, wadis, desert and the spectacular coastline. What were some of the goals you had when you became principal of the British School Muscat (BSM)? There are many but mainly to establish the BSM as one of the world’s best international schools. Tell us more: We are working hard to maintain and build on our already excellent academic results in line with the top five per cent of state schools in the UK. Another key priority is the expansion and improvement of our facilities in MQ to enable us to further develop our enrichment programme and continue to provide first class education to an increasing number of pupils. In fact, next week we will be opening our new primary and senior school buildings and I look forward to celebrating this significant step towards achieving our goal. What are some of the unique things about the British School Muscat that makes it different from other schools? The polite, motivated and enthusiastic pupils, the extensive enrichment programme, the dedicated and talented staff and last but not least - the warm and friendly atmosphere. The list could go 06
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on but I know you have limited space. What advice would you give to parents when it comes to getting their children to excel? Help your children to find their passion and support them to achieve their goals. If you weren’t a principal, what would your fantasy job be? A politician or a creative director for large-scale shows and conferences. Describe your character in three words? Determined, reflective and passionate. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? Running along Shatti beach listening to my iPod or walking in the mountains and wadis.
Kai’s top three tips to being successful in education: Hard work Never stop learning Care for young people and colleagues
The Voice of Oman
Ali al Balushi discovers the secrets of selling yourself strategically
correspondence NOT SO EMERGENCY SERVICES Dear Editor,
o you like Gucci or Gant? As consumers, we would rather associate with brands whose powerful presence creates a kind of halo effect that rubs off on us. Price doesn’t matter. Perception does. So why don’t more of us use these business techniques to sell ourselves? It’s a question that fascinates me. Personal branding is all about marketing your personality, knowledge, skills and values. It’s essentially about differentiating yourself from others and positioning yourself as an expert in your field. To advance in business you need to know where you are now and where you are going. Personal branding helps you get there. This approach is very hip and easier than ever thanks to social media. By using sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, we can communicate our knowledge and skills to a global market in a way our forefathers never could. Surely this is an opportunity worth grabbing? There are many people in Oman who can enhance their status by being more active in marketing their professional persona. The harder you work, the luckier you become. There’s no such thing as instant success. You need a goal, an identity and a strategy to get ahead. So take my advice, join the smart set and start building your own brand today.
Next week: Jane Jaffer returns
I was happy to read last week’s ‘Reply of the Week’ letter from Romesh Kan on their experience with dialing 9999. A while ago there was a domestic disturbance in my building. While normally I wouldn’t get involved, this one was getting out of hand so I decided to call the ROP. I feared that the situation might spiral towards something more violent. I wasn’t hung up on but instead was placed on a waiting call with some music being played. In my opinion, it was clear that the operator wasn’t able to attend to my call in English. The
whole point of the 9999 service is that it’s an emergency service. Oman has a population where about one third are expat workers. Therefore, you might say that one out of every three emergency calls received are probably going to need to be dealt with in English. This is a very serious issue and one that Y magazine should champion. I would like to add that on the whole the ROP give a very good service in a difficult occupation and I take my hat off to them. Regards DH, Muscat
SAD SUNKEN CREATURES Dear Y, Your cover story ‘Wild animals in Cruel Captivity’ (Y 295) really moved my heart, especially the photos. Poor, sad, sunken creatures. These photos captured by Jerzy are great but they left me feeling not so great. But, I must say that you have thrown much needed light on this topic and stern steps should be taken now to awaken the conscience of those who are so unkind to these poor creatures and have trapped them for recreation purposes. I’m amazed how a human can be so inhumane. After reading your side piece ‘Play Toys of the Wealthy, I’m still trying to understand the mindset of such wealthy who consider these innocent animals as their play toys. Don’t they understand that these animals are
deprived of everything that is natural and important to them? What type of insatiable fascination do they have for animals that they even ignore the welfare of these poor creatures? When Allah created this world, He created everything in a perfectly systematic order. He made vast stretches of forests, rivers, seas, mountains and sky where these animals can live happily and easily. We humans are now trying to make these animals’ lives hellish. Please don’t consider animals as inferior creatures. I wish you all the best to move forward and hope the results come out efficaciously. We all are with you. Best wishes, Sadia Shams, Ruwi
CELEBRATING OMAN On National Day there are Omani flags flying from the cars that also proudly display portraits of the handsome Sultan. In the back of cars, children smile and wave at us. Why? Because Oman’s so friendly that’s why. They don’t do this in London. And we wouldn’t dare smile and wave back either. Mark Rapley Muscat
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FA C E B O O K
Thanks to Ashwin Radhakrishnan for this fab, flag image.
Debate of the Week We asked:
‘What is your favourite season and why?’ Andrew Barrow I am an October baby so I love the English autumn. Dark evenings, glossy streets, my wife’s comfort food (particularly her shepherd’s pie) and then a lovely warm bed to snuggle down in at the day’s end.
This Week’s Debate: Omani innovations are the theme of a new exhibition. What would your invention be? Tell us on Facebook.
Prabhat Chandrashil A mild winter is my preference, like the sort we have in Muscat. It’s comfortable to withstand and makes one feel energetic and lively. Bader Al Lawati Oman has a beautiful winter. The season is so packed that I don’t even know where to start. The sky is amazing and so is the photography during winter. It’s the perfect season to head out of the city and discover the rest of Oman. Camping and trekking have been made for the Omani winter. Not to mention all the celebrations that are around the season: National Day, Christmas, New Years (my birthday) and the Muscat Festival. Now that I think about it, I have my next few months planned.
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mohammad al hinai and abdul malik was spotted with a copy of Y Magazine in Seeb
Heetraj Chavda My favourite is spring because so many beautiful flowers grow in this season. Flowers make our surroundings beautiful and green. Lorain Fernandes Correia I just love the summer season because there are two months of holidays for my kids. I can go to India and visit my family and friends. A lot of occasions such as weddings and parties are held in the summer. It’s a time for the beach, to collect seashells, build sandcastles with my kids, swim in the sea and enjoy ice cream. Summer gives me a chance to refresh, relax and enjoy life with my family. Raj Shenoy The smell of the soil, overcast and cool weather, company of all family members at home to play some indoor board games and the hot and delicious home made snacks and fries makes the rainy season my favourite. Jovina Pacheco I love winter. It is the time for good food and warmth. It is the time for camping with family and friends and a talk beside the fire. It is an awesome experience to sleep in a tent during a cold night. Piyush Vora I love winter. Oman is a beautiful country and winter adds more beauty to Oman. Be it Jebel Shams, which is a perfect place for camping and sightseeing, or Jebel Akhdar, with its natural beauty or family picnics at Shatti beach, winter is a mesmerising time.
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CLEAR UP AFTER STORM STOP PRESS The average household income per month in Oman has risen to RO1172 in the last four years.
Work is still continuing to clean up after the rain and thunderstorms that lashed the country, leaving up to nine people dead and roads damaged after floods. Several victims of the storms are also missing, presumed dead, following the low pressure system which swept across the Sultanate, bringing a deluge of water raining down. Two teenagers, a boy and girl, were among those who lost their lives. More than 260 people also had to be rescued as wadis overflowed, cars became trapped in deep water and homes were threatened. Around 60 teachers, both male and female, had to be airlifted by the Royal Air Force of Oman from Rustaq to nearby schools after roads leading in were cut off.
GIRLS SADDLE UP They have demonstrated their ability on horseback and earned the honour to wear the uniform of the Cavalry. Thirty-one women this week graduated from an equestrian basic course for police, the second batch to do so in Oman. All were present and correct, proudly wearing the white and black uniform of the mounted branch of the Royal
Oman Police (ROP), at a passing out parade in front of the Commander of the Royal Cavalry and a number of senior ROP officers. The women had graduated after a tough six-month course. During the graduation in Muscat, they showed off their skills and expertise in the saddle. Elite graduates were honoured with awards.
Get your â€˜tash on. The annual Movember charity match, Varsity Boys v Faculty/Parents, at The American International School of Muscat (TAISM) saw everyone getting into the spirit of the event, which raises awareness of menâ€™s health.
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Flash floods also brought chaos to the roads with some becoming impassable and damaged. Teams of trucks have been out with high pressure pumps trying to clear up the worst of the downpour. Diggers have also been used to bring tons of sand to the effected areas to soak up excess water. The good news is that it should be the end of the rain, for now at least. Forecasts for the next few days indicate that it should be a dry, if cloudy, long holiday weekend. Nothing is certain, however, and with the weather being unpredictable, the message from emergency services is to be prepared for the unexpected. * Underwater Oman: see special photo gallery p14
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OMAN Bite Sized Our new weekly slot takes a lighthearted look at a news issue of the week.
OMAN’S GROWING – THE POPULATION THAT IS! Do you mean the fruit? No. It’s a smartphone, silly. Eh? I’m not sure I’ve seen one: Well the BlackBerry used to be the phone to have for anyone on the up. Indeed, I used to own one. Really? That must have been a long time ago: What a cheek. I’m not that old. But yes, you’re right, the heyday of the BlackBerry was a while ago. Tell me more: Well, the first Blackberry device hit the market in 1999. In 2003, the BlackBerry smartphone was released and suddenly everyone seemed to have one. Was it good? It was the first mobile to concentrate on email, not just calls and text messages. What about the name? It was chosen due to the resemblance of the keyboard’s buttons to that of the drupelets that compose the blackberry fruit apparently. Was it fun to use? Put it this way, BlackBerry was widely referred to as a ‘CrackBerry’ in the United States, which alluded to its excessive use by owners. What happened? The iPhone. Put simply, touch and swipe technology came in and BlackBerry was left trailing. Was it bad? It has been tough times at BlackBerry Towers. In August, plans were announed to sell the company due to their increasingly sticky financial position . Two months ago, the company reported a net loss of $965m (RO375.5m). Next could see 4,500 job cuts. A new interim CEO, John Chen, has also been appointed as part of a management shake-up. Is the only way up? It’s hard to say. Sales of its new smartphone, the Z10, released in January were disappointing. But fortunes could be turned around with the right phone. BlackBerry has just released a Porsche Design P9982 smartphone. What’s next? World domination may be some way off. Don’t say: ‘iPhone’ (in front of a BlackBerry executive) ‘Do say: A BlackBerry please.’
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If you’ve noticed that the country seems to be getting more crowded of late, you’re not imagining it. It seems that more people are discovering our little secret – that Oman is a great place to live. We are now nudging the four million-population mark, according to latest figures released by the government. There are now 3.88 million people living in the Sultanate as of today, up from 3.83 million at the end of February. We are getting bigger at a staggering rate too. Increasing by an astonishing six persons per ten minutes in 2012. Unsurprisingly, Muscat governate remains the most popular place to live. It’s where around 30 per cent of us reside. In contrast, the least populated areas are Al Wusta and Musandam with just one per cent of people living there. “The country’s population has grown by 4.98 per cent between 2003 and 2013,” stated the bulletin from the
A WEEK IN PICTURES
National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI). A big part of this growth is down to more expatriates, said the NCSI, with an 11 per cent increase during the same period. “Of the total population, expatriates account for 44 per cent compared to 23 per cent in 2003,” it added. Just over half (50.7 per cent) of the population is men. Male expatriates also outnumber their female counterparts 5:1. We are a young country too. At least, the national population is. A huge 67 per cent of the total Omani population is now under the age of 30. This compares to the 91 per cent of the expatriate population falling into the 20-59 years age group. The birth rate, in general, is also outstripping the death rate: the crude birth rate is 6.20 persons per 1,000, compared to 3.2 deaths per 1,000, said the NCSI.
HEADLINING STORIES FROM OMAN AND BEYOND
Oman is among the countries to salute the historic deal clinched after marathon negotiations in Geneva this week, which will see Iran curb its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief
The largest human droplet of blood was formed in Korea to spread awareness of the need to donate
The camel race season is getting into full swing in the Sultanate with tracks attracting large crowds
Oman’s 43rd National Day celebrations are continuing with some taking to the water to mark the event
OMAN IN 43 OBJECTS MAJLIS A’SHURA Y continues its photographic series capturing the history and culture of Oman and this week, we look at the stunning Majlis A’Shura in the Al Bustan area, Muscat. Crafted from white marble and coloured stone, the building, which took four years to complete, is home to the parliament and includes an assembly hall for the upper and lower houses. Its striking main entrance has the national emblem of Oman – a Khanjar dagger in a sheath upon two crossed swords – sitting proudly above the door.
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As the rain poured down, Y was out and about getting photographs to capture the waterlogged Sultanate
Qurum Corniche. Photo: Bernard Oâ€™Neill
Buildings were abandoned as the water levels rose
It was a time to roll up the trousers and just wade in
The Royal Air Force of Oman airlifted people to safety
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Cars take the plunge to cross a flooded road
Emergency service divers search swollen rivers
Workers clear up the water from Muttrah Souq
Flash floods filled wadis to dangerous levels
Children use pedal power to get around
A spirited response saw people refusing to give in
A brief respite from the rain
Residential areas quickly filled up from the torrential downpours
Commuters do what they have to do to get to work
Buckets were used to bail out a sodden construction site
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T H E W H AT ’ S O N G U I D E Join the Women’s Guild in Oman to celebrate their 40th anniversary at The 2013 Crystal Ball with fabulous food at the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort. The event of the season starts at 7pm, so come dressed to sparkle and raise funds for a good cause. Tickets are limited. Visit www.womensguildoman.com for details.
What to do. What to see. What to hear.
Magida El Roumi
You will have another opportunity to sway to the voice of the magnificent Lebanese singer, Magida El Roumi, as she will be back in the Sultanate to entertain at the Royal Opera House Muscat for two performances. Expect tickets to sell out fast.
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Seek & Ye Shall Find
If you’re looking to do something fun with the family on Dec 4, Bareeq Al Shatti is hosting a treasure hunt to celebrate its fifth anniversary. The event will start at 6:30 pm. Call 24643892 for registration and details.
Mind, Body & Soul Looking to learn more about yoga or just want to find the best way to relax? Yoga Instructor, Randi Krueger will be conducting a yoga workshop at the InterContinental Muscat. Learn different postures and positions that will help you stretch, strengthen and tone your body. Hours: 9am –Noon.
Singing for a Cause The Muscat Singers will be offering a preview of their winter concert by singing a couple of numbers at the Family Carol Concert at the Bosch Hall, PCO Church in Ghala from 2pm – 3pm. Entry is free.
Homes R Us
The Muscat Women’s Fellowship will be kick-starting the holiday spirit with shopping. You can buy art, crafts, clothing, jewellery, books and lots more while enjoying a series of musical performances. Hours: 9am – 2pm at the Ghala Campus. RO2 for admission. Contact email@example.com for details.
Eastern Delight The Jebel Sifah resort welcomes all to watch the colourful parade of umbrella dancers and Chinese Lion show at their Chinese Night Street Festival.
Are you into property and interior design? Then the Home Show 2013 exhibition will be the perfect place to learn about new home services and products. The three-day event will be held at the Oman International Exhibition Centre. We can’t wait.
Food for the Soul We are what we eat. Experience ayurvedic foods that are not only mouthwatering but also ideal for a more holistic and healthy lifestyle at Mumtaz Mahal’s Soul Food Festival. The menu includes an exciting array of handpicked herbs designed to make you feel better.
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MOVIES MOVIES THIS WEEK’S MOVIES For more information and times, go to: City Cinema: citycinemaoman.net Al Bahja Cinema: albahjacinema.net Star Cinema: Tel +968 24791641
Thor 2: The Dark World Thor is currently one of the top box office movies in the US. And its success will no doubt be followed in Oman as the Marvel formula of heroism and humour is captured in this big budget Disney sequel. The director Alan Tyler’s attention to detail in each scene is phenomenal. If you’re unfamiliar with the plot, don’t worry, the adventures of Thor, the Mighty Avenger, continues in a fairly predictable manner as he battles to save Earth and all the Nine Realms from a shadowy enemy that predates the universe itself. As an ancient race attempts to plunge the cosmos into darkness, Thor has no choice but to retain order. While the set up is extremely straightforward, the script is surprisingly adept in balancing and developing the ongoing story line. There is more emphasis on characters this time around, giving the film more bite than the previous installment. The visuals and 3D effects are great but what lifts it is the performance of
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the characters. Brit actor and darling of the critics Tom Hiddleston, is amazing as the ever-deceitful Loky. The complex mix of comedy, charm and moral ambiguity is perfectly captured in his performance and facial expressions. It’s always easier playing the baddy but Chris Hemsworth’s brawn and bravery lets him slot into the role of hero with ease. He has matured as a character, putting personal glory aside to protect his people. Some characters like Lady Sif and the three warriors have disappeared. Not that it really matters. The return of Jane Foster and Heimdall are far more instrumental in the sequel. While I’m not really a fan of comic book adaptations such as Thor, I enjoyed this movie. It’s a little bit more highbrow than your average hero flick but retains sufficient Hollywood magic to keep everyone happy. Good but not extraordinary cinematography. Reviewed by Sura al Bayaty
HOMEFRONT Homefront is a slickly made, hightension thriller from the surprising pen of Sylvester Stallone. When Phil Broker (Jason Statham), an undercover drugs enforcement agent, moves into a small town with his daughter, he thinks it’ll be better (and safer) than city life. But a whole heap of trouble ensues when his daughter gets into a fight with another kid and the local drug supplier discovers Broker’s true identity. High drama with a moral message about looking after one’s family.
Best Man Holiday It’s reunion time with a whole heap of stars, rivalries and romances. After nearly 15 years apart, Taye Diggs (television’s Private Practice), Nia Long (Soul Food), Morris Chestnut (Kick-Ass 2), Harold Perrineau (Zero Dark Thirty), Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow), Sanaa Lathan (Contagion), Monica Calhoun (Love & Basketball), Melissa De Sousa (Miss Congeniality) and Regina Hall (Scary Movie franchise) reprise their careerlaunching roles in The Best Man Holiday. There’s been a lot of hype about this film that’s not altogether justified. It’s okay though.
The Frozen Ground From DreamWorks Pictures comes the story of a friendly failure called David Wozniak. You think his life is pretty dull until you discover he’s fathered 533 children. No, he’s not a super stud but rather a sperm donor. In debt to the mob and rejected by his pregnant girlfriend, things couldn’t look worse for David when he is hit with a lawsuit from 142 of the 533 twentysomethings who want to know his identity. The decision of whether or not to reveal who is, leads him to discover not only his true self but also the father he could become. Ridiculous plot but strangely watchable.
A serial killer has been on a murderous rampage for the past 13 years. And as the bodies of street girls start to pile up in Anchorage again, fear inevitably follows. Alaskan State Trooper Jack Halcombe (Nicolas Cage) goes on a personal manhunt to find killer Robert Hansen (John Cusack) before he strikes again. When a teenage escapee (Vanessa Hudgens) reveals some vital information about the case, Halcombe gets a much-needed lead. But will he catch him in time to save the next victim? The plot may sound like the usual Hollywood fodder but it’s inspired by an incredible true story.
Bollywatch RAMBO RAJKUMAR
Rajkumar is a rugged, rebellious, passionate fighter who also has the kind of slick charm that doesn’t make you feel completely at ease - you want to fall for it but you can’t. Meanwhile, Chanda is the niece of poppy field owner Manik Parmar. Feisty, beautiful and independently minded, she is a perfect mix of sugar and spice. Sparks inevitably fly when they meet. Set against the dusty and rugged backdrop of India the story of Rambo Rajkumar unfolds amidst a lack of law, justice or order.
As the globe prepares to mark WORLD AIDS day on Dec 1, Y looks at what life is like in Oman for people living with the disease Words: Kate Ginn
usbands are putting their HIV-positive people often have to leave their was reported in Oman. Times have changed wives and unborn children at jobs if co-workers find out about their status. considerably in the intervening years and the risk of contracting HIV by “It is difficult because of the stigma,” says country – and treatment of the disease – has unwittingly passing on the virus Dr al Lawati. come a long way. through risky practices. “We need help to get the As of the end of last year, there Last year, 127 Omani information out there and educate were 1,454 people living with HIV Young women became infected through partners, people about the disease.” in the Sultanate, a rise from 1,366 people according to the Ministry of Health. This was With World Aids Day the previous year. The majority of should read out of 435 women in total who tested positive approaching (Dec 1), the Ministry is cases are contained in Muscat, North about HIV for the disease. stepping up public awareness of the Batinah and Buraimi. and how it is Many only find out the truth when they disease with a series of events and More than half of these cases are transmitted and are pregnant and have an HIV test as part advice on prevention. aged between 15-35. “We do have a take sensible precautions of routine antenatal checks carried out on This includes a three day few cases of young teenagers,” says to protect mothers-to-be. workshop, pilot programme of Dr al Lawati. themselves Because of the stigma still surrounding HIV anonymous voluntary HIV testing The main routes of transmission in Oman, many people are reluctant to be and reactivation of a hotline, where are heterosexual (50.2 per cent), tested or keep their HIV-positive status a secret anyone worried they might be homosexual or bisexual (14.1 per from family, friends and colleagues. infected can call for advice. cent), mother to child (5.5 per cent), injecting “It can be a shock for wives who test positive, “The message we want to give out to people drug users (4.2 per cent) and blood transfusion of course,” says Dr Mohammed Redha Moosa is that if you have been involved in high risk (3.3 per cent). al Lawati, consultant physician and head of practices, then get a test done,” says This is according to the Sultanate of Oman the National AIDS Control Program at the Dr al Lawati. – Global AIDS Response Progress Report 2012 Ministry of Health. “If you are positive, there is support and by the United Nations, which used information “They did not know that they had contracted treatment available.” supplied by Oman in March last year. it from their husbands. Sometimes the husband Last year, a similar voluntary testing scheme Statistics from the Oman government’s would have become infected before marriage. was run but was not, admits the doctor, a National HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control “The husband and children will be tested for great success with people reluctant to attend Program (NAP) website OmanAids.org, from HIV and offered counselling.” one of the named HIV centres for fear of 2008 show that the top three risk factors were Women with HIV infection have around a 30 stigmatisation. The Ministry has learnt its heterosexual activity, followed by unknown, and per cent chance of giving birth to a baby who lesson and this time round, an appointment then homosexual behaviour. will also be infected with HIV, according to the booking system will be employed. The UN report stated: “While limited Ministry of Health. UNICEF has classified Oman as research has been done among most-at-risk Most babies infected with the having a ‘low prevalence’ of HIV populations, including homosexuality and They did virus will die before they are three infection and the Sultanate topped injecting drug users (IDUs), available data and not know years old. the MENA region list for testing information from focus group discussions and that they had If the mother’s condition is found pregnant women, with 94 per cent of key informants show that these MARP (Mostcontracted early in pregnancy, medication can women expecting a baby receiving an At-Risk Populations) are all present in Oman it from their husbands. be given immediately, dramatically HIV test. and face considerable HIV risks.” Sometime the reducing the infant’s chance of All expatriates seeking residency in While praising Oman’s national response to husband would Oman are mandatorily screened for contracting the virus. HIV, the report also noted that ‘changing sexual have become HIV tests are available to couples HIV as part of the comprehensive norms and practices and drug use, as well as infected before medical. Anyone testing positive is in all regions of Oman who are international travel and increased exposure the marriage concerned that one or both of them automatically expelled from to other cultures may place young people at might be infected. the country. special risk of HIV.” But Dr al Lawati admits that the challenges Since July 2009, HIV testing and counselling It further said that expatriate workers in facing the Ministry is to get information about services were introduced for all pregnant Oman might also face ‘special vulnerabilities.’ HIV out into the community and engage women. All donated blood has been routinely According to the UN, anecdotal evidence people in the sensitive subject, which still tested since 1988. from ‘peer informants’ revealed that ‘highremains largely taboo. It was back in 1984 that the first case of HIV risk sexual practices are increasingly common
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Sisters Together – LIVING WITH HIV
– year first case of HIV reported in Oman
– people living with HIV in Oman
– per cent of pregnant women given HIV test
In 1984 in a remote village in the mountains, a few hours drive west of Muscat, two young sisters and their family are about to be struck with the most devastating news. The girls’ mother has just died of an unknown cause. The eldest sister is only five when they lose their mummy. Shortly after, the girls are tested for a virus their family and most Omani doctors had yet to hear of: HIV. Both girls test positive. Remarkably, 29 years later, both Raya and Lamia are doing well. In an interview with The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) a few years ago, they spoke candidly of their lives with HIV and dealing with the stigma that goes with it – including rejection by their own brothers and being shunned for marriage. Their mother contracted HIV from a blood transfusion in the early 1980s. Oman, at that time, was importing blood from Africa and Europe. The blood was not screened for HIV since the test had not been developed. After their disease was confirmed, Raya and Lamia were ostracised by their family. Their stepbrothers rejected them.
among young Omani people, in particular young men.’ Precautionary measures, such as condom use, were said to be ‘very low’ among high-risk sex groups, said the UN. The UN also said that an Oman study of 113 men who engage in homosexuality was made in 2011. Full results were not available at the time the information was submitted (March 2012). Just over half of the men interviewed were single, with one-third (36 per cent) married while 13 per cent were divorced or widowed. Most had extensive contacts, said the report. Unprotected behaviour was a cause for concern. With the means and opportunity to travel out of the region, the report said that ‘high-risk behaviours imply HIVinfection risks not only for themselves but also their (potential) spouses and children.” Work has been done in Oman to tackle the rates of HIV infections through drug use, such as sharing dirty needles. The UN noted a program of distributing clean needles in the Muscat area to discourage the practice of sharing dirty needles. Schoolchildren do learn about HIV and AIDs as part of the Peer Education Program in Years 10, 11 and 12. “Young people should read about HIV and how it is transmitted and take sensible precautions to protect themselves,” says Dr al Lawati. According to the UN report, Oman spent USD 4.7 million (RO1.8 million) on AIDS prevention and treatment. RO531,299 of this goes towards treatment, care and support for HIV-positive people with almost a million rial dedicated for mandatory testing. The rest is spent on prevention such as blood donating testing. On World AIDS Day in 2005, UNICEF Oman and – December its partners launched the Unite For Children, is World Unite Against Aids Day AIDS campaign, highlighting the importance
“They thought us repulsive,” says Lamia. “And they refused to sit anywhere near us or share a meal.” Outside the home, the girls kept their diagnosis a secret. “We attended schools like all the other children. Our disease was never an issue,” says Raya. Further education continued with college. While their friends began to get married and have children, the girls could only watch. Both have been proposed to – but the shadow of HIV has prevented it going further. Raya’s suitor ended the engagement as soon as he discovered her status, while Lamia refused to accept an offer of marriage, even though her suitor accepted that she was HIV-positive. Today both girls remain well and living their lives as best they can. * Credit: UNICEF
There are many misconceptions about HIV and AIDS. The virus CANNOT be transmitted from: shaking hands hugging casual kissing sneezing touching unbroken skin using the same toilet sharing towels sharing cutlery mouth-to-mouth resuscitation
– Omani women infected by their husbands last year
– HIV centres for support in Oman
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Distribution of HIV/AIDS reported cases in Oman by gender (1984-2009)
Modes of Transmission among People Living with HIV/AIDS in Oman 50
of protecting children and helping young people infected or affected by the virus. A telephone hotline manned by ten volunteers was initiated to answer calls from the public. This time round, the focus will also be on smashing taboos surrounding the disease and ending discrimination. With only 0.64 per cent of the population diagnosed with HIV, it does not have the same high profile as disease such as breast cancer or diabetes. “The challenge for the Ministry is to make it where a test result is not held against the person,” says Dr al Lawati. “We need a lot of education with the business sector, particularly that the confidentiality of results should be maintained. “There are young people out there who are HIVpositive working in banks, for instance, and nobody needs to know about their status. “If their status or the results of a test becomes widely known, however, it becomes difficult. Often they cannot survive in that environment and stigma.” Treatment and life expectancy has changed since the first dark days of HIV. With early intervention and free treatment available to nationals, the disease can be managed much like any other and, with care and appropriate precautions, HIV-positive people can live relatively normal lives. “Things are much easier,” agrees Dr al Lawati. “HIV is no longer the death sentence that it once was.”
Since the beginning of the epidemic, almost 70 million people have been infected with the HIV virus globally and about 35 million people have died of AIDS Distribution of HIV/AIDS reported cases in Oman by age (1984-2008) 20 18 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0
PER CENT 18.3 15.2 13.4
15-19 20-24 25-29 30-34 40-44 45-49 50+ AGE
HIV – THE LOWDOWN It was back in 1981 in the United States that the first cases of a strange new disease were reported. Patients were presenting with unusual symptoms, such as rare cancers, usually only seen in people with compromised immune systems. Two years later, researchers identified a retrovirus as the cause of infection. It was named HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). It is believed the virus, and its variant HIV-2, originated in primates in West-central Africa and transferred to humans. The earliest documented case of HIV in a human dates back to 1959 in the Congo. AIDS (Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is the disease caused by HIV. The illness changes the immune system, making people more vulnerable to infections and diseases. It is possible to be infected with HIV without developing AIDS. HIV is passed from one person to another through blood-to-blood and sexual contact. Infected women can pass HIV to their babies during pregnancy, delivery and through breast-feeding.
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HIV can be transmitted through body fluids, blood transfusions and contaminated hypodermic needles. Many HIV-positive people are unaware that they are infected with the virus. Modern HIV testing is extremely accurate. A single screening test is correct more than 99 per cent of the time. Many people with HIV have no symptoms for several years. Others develop symptoms similar to flu two to six weeks after catching the virus. Symptoms of early HIV infection can include fever, chills, joint pain, sore throat, night sweats, enlarged glands, weight loss and a red rash. It can be up to 10 years before any more symptoms occur without treatment. There is currently no cure for HIV/AIDS. Treatments can slow the course of the disease – some infected people can live a long and relative healthy life. Drugs slow the rate at which the virus replicates, delaying the onset of AIDS. Antiretroviral treatment is free for all Omani nationals and support, including counselling, is offered at 15 treatment centres around the country.
There are young people out there who are HIVpositive working in banks, for instance, and nobody needs to know about their status
Hope For Zoo
Owner promises to make changes as Y visits animal park with a vet
or Alex the lion and his fellow animals at Nouman Park zoo, the future could be getting a little bit better following a huge response to our expose of their living conditions. Y revealed last week how the private zoo in Barka was keeping animals including big cats, monkeys and birds of prey in cramped enclosures and stark concrete cages. Since our story was published, we have letters of support demanding change from within Oman and around the world. Y returned to the zoo this week with veterinarian Dr Elke Heitz, to speak to owner Ahmed al Balushi about the concerns raised and what, if anything, could be done to make a difference to the daily misery of the animals. “I will make changes, there will be improvements,” Mr al Balushi told Y this week. “Some things will take banqueting at the Royal Court of Affairs, sand and stones to scratch against and some time, it cannot happen overnight, and there is started the zoo more than three years ago and entertainment possibilities). The owner assures the question of money but I can make small funds it with his own money, to the tune of us that he will move the hyenas to a bigger cage differences now and I will.” RO9,000 a month. He claims to have spent a and improve the lion’s living quarters. Concerns about Nouman Park surfaced three million rials in total. His passion for the animals “It is too small, I know that,” he says. “I buy a years ago following a Y story. When we went in his care is obvious but clearly he is now out lot of these animals because they are not being back last week, we found more of his depth. looked after and I want to help them. They animals had been added, including After seeing photographic evidence “I care for them. I sit with the animals in the have a tiger, lion and two hyenas. of conditions at the zoo, People for the cage every day for 15 minutes." nowhere Dr Heitz, owner of the Al Qurum to hide, nothing Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) He talks of buying a neighbouring 10,000 Veterinary Clinic in Muscat and a described it as ‘decrepit’ and an abuse square metre plot but admits the finances are to stimulate member of the UK’s Royal College of animals. not in place and even if there was money, them and of Veterinary Surgeons, agreed to “People who care about animals it would take at least a year to construct the nothing natural come with us this week to meet should never visit this zoo or any other spacious areas that Alex and some of the other the owner. animals attraction,” says PETA’S animals badly need. We spent hours walking around Nouman Ashley Fruno. Monkeys kept in tiny cages with little or Park with Mr al Balushi, assessing every She says that unless adequate provision can be no stimulation also need larger living spaces, enclosure. “There are simply too many animals provided for the larger species, such as big cats says Dr Heitz. She also tells the owner to stop in too little space,” says Dr Heitz. and hyenas, the animals should be taken away letting visitors feed them junk food. “That is Two ponies, kept in a small enclosure with no and the zoo closed. stereotypical behaviour of an animal kept in shade to shelter from the sun, are badly in need Two young striped hyenas share a cage captivity, bored and stressed. It is pacing up of expert attention from a qualified farrier for around 4m x 6m, which Dr Heitz says is and down,” says Dr Heitz, pointing to an their hooves, which are horribly overgrown. nothing short of ‘animal cruelty.’ elderly monkey. One of the antelopes is pregnant in an The owner tells us that he intends to breed The small birds are well kept and in good already smallish enclosure and her male partner the hyenas with a view to selling any cubs. He condition, as are the pigeons. There are too has an overgrown hoof on one foot. Dr Heitz is also intends to breed the sad-looking many cats (13) in one cage, lovely also concerned about two magnificent Egyptian desert foxes in a nearby cage. Persian and Siamese, although all I will make Vultures kept in a gloomy cage with hardly any One of the most pitiful sights, look well cared for and reasonably a much bigger natural light. Alex the lion confined to a tiny healthy. Mr al Balushi says he sells area but money them for RO40 each. “I love animals, I want to help them,” says space smaller than the one ducks is the Mr al Balushi. “Nobody is helping and no-one are housed in next door, needs to “Just small things, such as bigger problem is listening to me. I have asked for help from be attended to as soon as possible, cages for the monkeys, will make life ministries but nothing. the vet advises. Ruby, the nineimmediately better for them,” says “I had a meeting at the Ministry of Tourism year-old Bengal tiger and also an ex-circus Dr Heitz. this morning but they said they could not help.” performer, has a slightly larger cage but also A few swings, ropes, tree branches and Mr al Balushi, who is director general of inadequate for her needs (such as a hiding area, toys, to help counteract boredom, would be easy to install and make such a difference for the monkeys. The wire 'floor' (monkeys hate walking on wire) could also be removed to open up the cages and allow them to sit in the sand. Y is holding Mr al Balushi to his word and hopes that the improvements he has promised will be forthcoming. In the meantime, please help us keep the pressure on for change by sending an email of support of firstname.lastname@example.org. 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BUSINESS & CAREER
BEWARE OF TECHNO AGEING Checking out your Facebook status on your smartphone? Apart from causing backache, did you know that staring down at a miniscule screen could accelerate wrinkles? It also shortens the neck muscles and increases facial sagging.
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SUFFERING From Gadget Hunch Rescue your back from the dangers of work. Penny Fray finds out how to achieve perfect posture
ell me. If something made you as tired, old and as hunched up as an old crone, would you still use it? Probably not and yet we’re exposing ourselves to such problems on a daily basis with our smartphones, laptops and tablets. Hours spent bent over a screen, miles covered in high heels and heavy workbags pulling at our necks, all lead to unnecessary pain. Moreover, our stooped position stops us breathing properly, reducing oxygen levels and resulting in fatigue as well as headaches. I know, as I’m constantly suffering from back twinges, knotted shoulders and fuzzy head as a result of poor posture. I’m tall and my desk is fairly low, resulting in a kind of bizarre scene from Alice in painful Wonderland. I’m also glued to my laptop, which according to experts, rounds the shoulders and puts our hands and forearms under needless pressure. Fast-forward five years and this is likely to cause problems associated with bad bearing like neck, back and arm issues. “Not a minute passes without us checking the messages on our phones or pinging someone about something via email,” says Dr Yousef Abdel Mohsin El Qabbany from Starcare’s emergency department. “But there are consequences to this.” According to the doctor, HOLS (hunched over laptop syndrome) is being increasingly noticed in Muscat. “Mobile devices are meant to make consumer lives easier but what we aren’t warned about is the health dangers associated with working on the move,” explains Dr Yousef. “People, young and old, spend as much time hunched in front of a computer, laptop or tablet as they do sleeping in bed. All this amounts to back strain. Rarely do you see people sitting up straight. “Fortunately, the main factors affecting posture and ergonomics are completely within our control. Both employees and employers must act responsibly to reduce the risks of working on the move.” Here’s how: Every 30 minutes or so, stand up, roll your shoulders and neck or go for a short walk to improve blood flow. Keep the body in alignment while sitting or standing and develop good posture habits. The level of the screen should be the same as the head, neither below nor above. Use regular exercise like swimming, cycling, walking and yoga to help prevent injury and promote better posture. Wear supportive footwear when standing and avoid wearing high-heeled shoes for long periods of time. Never cradle the phone next to your ear as it can shorten the muscles between the head and shoulder as well as pinch nerves leading to pain and headaches. When we text we inhale less deeply and tighten our muscles, leading to repetitive strain injury. Overprotecting posture may sometimes do more harm than it helps, so don’t be too overzealous. Holding your phone too close to your eyes increases pressure to focus and leads to eye strain, headaches, dry eyes and blurred vision. Love digital reading? You may have to re-consider the size and weight of your device as more and more experts see elbow injuries linked to reading novels digitally. Either go back to traditional books or hold the device closer to your body.
WHAT THE EXPERT SAYS: POOR POSTURE CAUSES PAIN “Over time, poor posture may be caused by everyday activities such as sitting in office chairs, looking at the computer, driving and standing for long periods of time. It can easily become second nature, causing or aggravating episodes of back pain and damaging spinal structures.”Dr Yousef Abdel Mohsin El Qabbany from Starcare’s emergency department
APPLE SMART COVER This tried and tested case angles your iPad into the perfect position to stop you slouching.
Name: Vera Neu Position: Foun sser of NewLife Fertilider, owner and CEO Character: H ty Center, Muscat. onest, sociable and ambitious. Would Like T been working in ano Meet: “I’ve worldwide since 1 d for fertility clinics share my knowledg986 and want to with people lookin e and experience in regards to infert g for advice and help Contact me oility treatment.” n: 93276693
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food and drink
TOP OF THE TEA TRENDS
Tea is the new coffee, complete with equipment, techniques, and tons of varieties to nerd out over. Here are our top three trends to watch out for this season: 01 Tea Pops: Forget about iced tea. The new way to cool you down will be frozen â€˜lolliesâ€™ in tea flavours such as mango and mint. 02 Naturally Sweet: In response to consumer demand, tea companies are now finding alternative ways to sweeten tea without the use of sugar or artificial ingredients. Fruits that help them achieve this include blackberries and grapes. 03 Reusable Tea Tins: Packaging innovations continue across all food categories and tea companies are pushing the envelope with designer tins that are tres desirable. We love the ones from Twinnings and Lov Organic here in Y Towers.
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TREND New Restaurant
HELLO CHAI We usually need a caffeine hit to function in the mornings but sometimes we can’t face the inevitable rush or strange coffee tongue. Sura al Bayaty tries the trendier alternative of Chai Karak
isit south Asia and on every street corner you’ll find open-air stalls where ‘chai wallahs’ serve up spicy tea in clay cups. It’s part of daily life and the commodity of companionship in much the same way it is in Starbucks or Costa Coffee. Now Chai Karak has become trendier than friendship bracelets with hip young things in Oman. During the past two years I have been a regular at coffee shops that sell tea’s answer to latte. But I’m not alone. Endless lines of cars queue up for small cups of this cult beverage. If you’re not in the know, let me enlighten you. Chai Karak, also known as Masala tea, is an Urdu phrase roughly translated as strong tea. The ingredients may have been adapted from its South Asian roots but the rich, spicy overtones remain the same. I’m addicted to the stuff and so are my Omani friends. The taste, texture and aroma all promise something exotic. Of course, this tea with kick isn’t new and has been known in the Sultanate for decades. But it’s only now that coffee shops and hip eateries are adding it to their menus. It’s even found its way into cupcakes and ice cream. Why? Well, it’s healthier and more nutritious than its coffee counterpart. The traditional method of making it has been adapted to involve less sugar and the spices are commonly used in Asian medicine. The benefits are numerous and include ginger to help ease sore throats and stomachs, cloves and cinnamon for better circulation and cardamom to help eliminate indigestion. If you want to make it even healthier ask for honey rather than sugar, to keep things sweet. Whatever your reasons for drinking it, Chai Karak has become an essential part of Omani culture.
BREWS DU JOUR
The Editor’s Top Picks:
TEA NATION’S MEXICAN CHILLI Made with rooibos tea, this version is slightly sweet thanks to the vanilla, but ends with a chilli kick that’s still gentle enough to cope with in the morning. Rooibos is said to settle the stomach and is naturally caffeine free, so it’s also good after meals. LØV ORGANIC’S GREEN TEA Green tea is good when cutting down on caffeine – enough for a boost but not quite enough for a painful crash. This green tea is light and fresh with a slight tannic touch. The loose-leaf variety comes in a sweet recyclable tin and the teabags are unbleached muslin. Løvely. KANDULA PINK CEYON TEA This award-winning green tea boasts a beautiful pink blush and delicate smokey taste. Blended with a hint of the exotic hibiscus flower, it manages to inspire both mind and body.
HOW TO MAKE CHAI KARAK Ingredients:
2 cups of water 1/2 tsp of freshly grated ginger 1/8 tsp of freshly ground black peppercorns 4 whole cloves 4 cardamom pods, bruised 1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces 2 cups of whole milk 2 tbsp of sugar or honey, to taste 2 tbsp of loose black tea
In a small saucepan, bring the water, ginger, pepper, cloves, cardamom pods and cinnamon to a boil. Add the milk and sugar to the pan and bring to the boil again. Remove the pan from the heat and add the loose black tea. Cover and let it steep for at least three minutes (or longer, if you prefer a stronger brew). Strain the mixture into a warmed teapot or directly into teacups—or stainless steel tumblers, as the tea is traditionally served.
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food and drink
Garlic & Herb Falafel with
Cucumber Salsa Verde RECI
Julie Perrot, a Thermomix Consultant from Muscat What is your earliest memory of food?
When nobody felt like cooking a big meal after the weekend, my Dad used to make crêpes, waffles or French toast, which I loved.
What dishes do you like eating most?
I am a dessert and chocolate addict, profiteroles and lemon meringue pie being my favorites. For a main though, I would go for a French classic of duck confit with fried potatoes and slices of apple sauté.
Which gadget couldn’t you live without and why?
My best kitchen friend is the Thermomix, a food processor that replaces more than 20 cooking appliances. I use it between three and six times a day because it can make everything from breakfast to dinner. We even have homemade bread daily.
Which three ingredients are your cupboard staples?
I always have raw products like flour, eggs and butter so I can start a basic recipe without going shopping when running out of something.
If you could create a fantasy restaurant, what would it be like?
110g of thin crackers (preferably with garlic and herbs) 2 x 400g cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed 1 medium egg 6 salad onions, finely chopped 1 carrot, grated 1 tsp sweet smoked paprika 2 tbsp olive oil Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon 25g pack fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped 1 tbsp capers, roughly chopped 1 cucumber, halved, deseeded and thickly sliced 1 Romaine lettuce, leaves torn
Who would be your dream guests?
I would invite French chefs like Cyril Lignac, Christophe Michalak and Anne Sophie Pic. Then again I may get too stressed, so my dream guests would be friends who would not judge me too harshly.
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I would create a restaurant where people could walk in with a basket, pick up the fresh produce they like the most, and bring it to the chef who would then create a unique meal for them out of the selected ingredients.
Photo courtesy of Waitrose
Break the crackers into a food processor and whizz to make crumbs. Add the chickpeas and blitz again until finely blended. Add the egg, salad onions, carrot and paprika, then pulse again. Divide the mixture into 12 then shape firmly into even-sized cakes. Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a large frying pan and cook the falafel in two batches for 2–3 minutes on each side until heated through and golden. Meanwhile, stir together the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil, the lemon zest and juice, parsley and capers and toss with the cucumber slices. Arrange the lettuce on plates and spoon over the cucumber salsa verde. Top with the falafel and serve.
TREND ALERT -
CAKE MEETS ART
The textile designer Cressida Bell may not always bake her own cakes, but her intricate decorations elevate them into works of art almost too good to eat. Fancy a slice of the action? Virginia Woolf’s great niece has just completed an impressive compendium of confectionary in her latest book – Cake Design.
AL SAWADI BEACH RESORT & SPA Suwadi Beach Road, Barka Bait al Maida Restaurant Contact: 26795545 Email: email@example.com Food for three (with water): RO43.2
Y Magazine reviews anonymously and pays for its meals
HIT THE BUFFET
A laid back vibe and luscious location – the food isn’t bad either, says Kate Ginn
here are certain magical meal moments (as I call them) when everything just falls into place so perfectly it’s almost too good to be true. Eating out at Al Sawadi Beach Resort was one such experience. On that night, the ingredients of setting, company, food and weather all combined together beautifully. True, we got lost on the way to the resort and almost gave up but we were so glad that we persevered. Nor did we mind in the least when, upon arriving, we discovered that the traditional Omani restaurant we had been expecting to dine in (I found a passing mention of it on the Internet) had, in fact, been closed for some time (my fault for not checking further). No, we couldn’t care less because of the alternative gem that we found. Out into the barmy night we were led to the terrace of the hotel’s Bait al Maida Restaurant. It was packed full but we managed to bag a table with a view of the swimming pool, immaculate gardens and, beyond, to the beach. If we strained our ears, we could almost hear the sea in the distance. Above us, stretched a huge expanse of inky black sky encrusted with thousands of tiny stars. Easy company came with the familiarity of two working colleagues as dining companions. Our smiley waitress informed us that it was a themed night, barbecue buffet. Having glimpsed fellow diners tucking into huge slabs of meat, the tantalising smell wafting on the night’s breeze, we all said ‘thanks, that will do nicely.’ At only R014 each for a three-course buffet, it was also tremendously good value. To kick things off, we headed indoors to the extensive buffet laid out with everything from Arabic fare such as hummus to fresh salad, cheese, cooked meats, fish and rice. There was also a station with a chef cooking fresh pasta to order. Our trio piled the plates high and, between us, managed to just about try a little bit of everything. It was all excellent, well seasoned and tasty.
Won settindgerful ambienand ce
At the barbecue station, several chefs in full whites with hats were cooking up fresh meat. I went for lamb chops and beef steak while the boys had the same along with poultry sausages, accompanied by roast potatoes (I do love a good tattie), rice and fresh vegetables. Everything was perfectly cooked and the lamb chops, in particular, were an absolute triumph, nicely browned but as tender as can be. Meanwhile, our waitress was as good as the food, showing how service should be, unobtrusive and always appearing at your elbow at just the right time to pour water or fetch more bread. While we settled back for a rest before tackling pudding, an air of contentment settled on our table. The boys and I were happy just to sit and take in the casual surroundings and relax into the comfortable ambience. Those who prefer more formal dining might not feel so at home, however. This is very much a chilled out place, extending to acceptable dining wear of jeans and a t-shirt. You couldn’t quite come here straight from the beach but it does have that easygoing air of more loose living. We almost felt like we were on holiday rather than unwinding after a hard week at Y’s coalface. Best of all, it’s only about 40 minutes drive from Muscat (if you don’t get lost). Still, we had to disturb the tranquility for the serious business of pudding. Paradise, I was about to discover, perhaps lay in a dish of Bailey’s cheesecake, an Irish cream delight and truly sublime little dessert. Don’t tell anyone but I went back for three helpings in total. One of my colleagues snaffled up the peach crumble like it was the last time he would ever eat, while the other was equally taken by the apricot cake. The blueberry mousse also deserves a special mention. To burn off a few pudding calories, we took an afterdinner stroll around the gardens and down towards the beach, breathing in the salty air and kicking off shoes to walk barefoot in the sand. Afterwards, we sat at the beach bar for a soft drink, watching a few locals battle it out on the pool table, as mellow music washed over us. It was a great way, we all agreed, to end a magical meal moment.
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A NEW SERENITY
A library of distinguished European fashion houses showcased a subtle yet sensational display of tailoring with the simplest of outfits this season. The muted elegance of collections by the likes of Hermés and Céline lay in their restraint and craftsmanship. Think crisp white shirts with governess style skirts, suits that oozed retro glamour and immaculately cut coats. They were a world away from the attention seeking style of certain celebrities.
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We love this utilitarian outfit from Zara. It’s chic yet comfortable enough to wear on weekends. Add an oversized clutch and pair of block-heeled boots for added fashion points.
IN THE NAVY
I know my love affair with Zara may be boring you but it’s one of the few high street stores in Oman that excels in low-key luxe. This leather shopper looks far more expensive than its RO60 price tag.
The colour of sailors is having a fashion moment and finally shedding any connotations it may have had with the banal, says Penny Fray
f there is one colour that is compulsory to wear right now it’s blue - but not any old shade mind, it has to be dark and intense. Navy, made famous by the British military, is now the new black. Why? Well, it’s kinder to your complexion than ebony and just as slimming. Wear it head-to-toe, as seen at Céline and Chloé, or masculine à la Dries Van Noten and Jil Sander. Whatever your preference, keep it minimalist and modest for maximum modernity. Think mid-calf length skirts with crisp white shirts, long gowns or cashmere sweaters with leather trousers. A slash of red lipstick with a high heeled bootie is all that’s needed to add a bit of sauce to an otherwise restrained uniform. But that’s the beauty of navy – like grey - it gives you the freedom to go all out in other ways. No wonder style influencers like Alexa Chung, Kate Bosworth and the Olsen twins have all been proving just how cool navy can be.
Isabel Marant began her career as an accessories designer, and her penchant for jewellery still shines through with these striking lapis lazuli earrings. RO83 from Net-a-Porter
Fancy a classic pencil skirt with a twist? Look no further than Victoria Beckham. Available from MyTheresa. com for RO445
Master shoemaker Gianvito Rossi’s perfectly proportioned ankle boots have been crafted in Italy from midnight-blue metallic leather. The cutout front flatters the arch of your feet. We think this pair looks equally chic with a pencil skirt or pair of jeans. From RO275. This embellished jumper is tres versatile and can be worn with either a pencil skirt for work or a pair of ‘skinnies’ during the weekend – Available from H&M at RO21.
FEELING BLUE? Penny’s tips on wearing navy
1 A single shade outfit, bag and shoes included is the most modern way to wear navy this season. 2 That said, it can be worn with black. Yes, forget the hackneyed fashion myth that the two shades should never go together. That once-unbreakable rule has been shattered as navy and black have been spotted being worn together on the runway, in the front row, and on Oman’s streets.
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HEALTH HEALTH& BEAUTY BEAUTY
COUT WITH CLOUT
Y magazine’s new style columnist Barbra Young talks to Penny Fray about her long career in fashion, mentoring young designers and why Issey Miyake still rocks her world
One of Issey Miyake’s designs
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ayered in silk, cotton and a bib of bling, fashion doyenne Barbra Young is riffling through a pot of pants. “They have Hanky Panky here,” enthuses the effervescent Australian, whipping out a pair of beige undergarments from their careful folds. “They’re the world’s most comfortable thong,” she continues, eyebrows arched by the fact that I’ve never heard of the famous American brand. The glamorous blonde continues to glide through the Opera Galleria boutique, reeling off designer brands by sight. This woman knows her stuff. And no wonder, the wife of Nawras’ new CEO has been working in the fashion industry for more than a quarter of a decade. “I could fill a book with my career journey,” she says. “But I’ll compress, unless you want War & Peace.” She started from the shop floor up as a sales assistant in London. Passionate and hard working, she quickly graduated to group store manager, then buyer. Despite coming from a family of lawyers, she always wanted to work in the creative industry. “I then came back to Australia, using the contacts that I had made in Europe,” she continues. “Understanding that Australia is geographically a season behind, I started importing the previous season’s high-end fashion labels and selling them in a pop up store format. I took over an entire floor in an office building. It was a secret but word of mouth spread fast. The sales lasted six weeks, twice a year.” After three years, the working mum decided to go mainstream, opening her first store and developing at a phenomenal rate due to her success as a designer. “Customers loved the brands we sold but we had problems with sizing because European clothes tend to be small,” she explains. “To cater, I decided to design and produce my own brand using the knowledge that I had of fabric and finish. “I bought materials in Italy and made the trek to Hong Kong, which was scary. This was back in 1981, when not many designers were going there to manufacture small quantities in grown up sizes.” And like that her label Non e Vero was born. “It means too good to be true in Italian,” she explains. “I learnt on the run, made so many mistakes at first, but learnt. Then, after 24 years of importing, retailing, wholesaling and designing, I sold my baby into good hands.” The story doesn’t end there though. After moving to California, Barbra continued to consult for a group she’d previously done business with before moving to Sri Lanka and working with Colombo Fashion Week (CFW) as a designer, mentor and retail adviser. “We worked with 12 designers, helping them with every aspect of the business, from fabrics to being retail ready,” she says. “This was one of my happiest work experiences. It was just amazing to see designers grow and develop.” Despite having had the dream job of travelling the world, buying fabulous clothes and meeting a whole heap of amazingly creative people, she cites CFW as the greatest highlight of her career. “Being able to pass on what took me 25 years to learn to these very talented but inexperience designers was humbling,” she says. Now, apart from being Y magazine’s new fashion columnist, she hopes to be able to continue sharing her knowledge in Oman. “One of the joys of having a little knowledge is being able to help others on their journey,” she concludes. “When I started, everyone in the fashion industry held on very tightly to their secrets. No one shared their experience or encouraged those coming up in the industry. So, I promised myself, that when I had my experience and was in a position to help, I would. It’s a blessing to be needed and useful.”
Upgrade a high street ensemble with a designer bag, advises Barbra
Barbra never leaves the house without make-up
Which designer or fashion house have you had a lifetime love affair with? My one true love is Issey Miyake. From ‘Pleats Please’ to his name brand, this designer can do no wrong in my eyes. He is true to his vision, never compromises and his stores all reflect that view. As far as I’m concerned, his garments are all works of art. When I feel like a fling though, Jean Paul Gaultier is my man, He is so bad, in a good way.
Insouciantly chic, Barbra Young at Eye Candy Boutique
Do you have a ‘no brainer’ outfit? I have very eclectic tastes. I love fashion, I love everything, but not necessary on me. Coloured jeans with interesting tops are currently my picks for this weather. What are the top trends for winter? It’s odd talking about winter garments in this climate – but anything with lace is still strong as are ankle boots. Anything you’d be mortified to be seen in? I would NEVER wear leggings and a short top. No one should, unless they are toddlers! …Or never leave the house without? I can’t leave the house without makeup, a good bag and my iPad. Oh, and matching underwear is a must.
Ankle boots still make the fashion grade this winter – even in Muscat
Where do you shop internationally? My favourite shopping destination is Italy, specifically Milan or Rome. These cities have a fantastic selection of everything on trend. Tell us your ultimate insider secret? Buy the best bag, shoes and watch you can afford - save up if need be. You can get away with chain store clothing if your accessories are high end.
BARBRA YOUNG ANSWERS YOUR FASHION QUESTIONS
I’ve noticed a lot of Ys fashion columns recommend daytime bling. Is it okay to wear jewels before 7pm? If so, how should they be worn? Katie B, Muscat (via email)
It depends on how you define jewellery. Statement pieces that are large and eye-catching can certainly be worn during the day but only with a minimalist outfit. Designer layering can be striking too but a little complicated for the uninitiated. Don’t wear real gems because
they look ostentatious. High street stores like H&M (photographed), Splash and Zara have some really stunning necklaces at prices that won’t break the bank. My sparkles (photographed above) are from a French boutique. Alternatively, if you want to be a little different, get your costume jewellery made from local craftspeople. Wear them with a simple shift or a t-shirt. The secret of getting away with high-octane jewellery before darkness falls is balance. Do you have a query for Barbra? Email her on firstname.lastname@example.org
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HEALTH HEALTH& BEAUTY BEAUTY
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Health H ealth
BF eauty a s h i o n F aB se ha iu ot ny
Health H ealth
BF eauty a s h i o n F aB se ha iu ot ny
THE EAST Penny Fray and Barbra Young meet the designer determined to put Oman on the fashion map with her modern interpretation of the abaya
orget about the French. Moving in a haze of black chiffon and expensive perfume, Omani women exude a certain exotic elegance. But even in the Sultanate there are some who just do it better than others, those who look effortlessly chic and totally relevant despite the modesty of their garb. Reem Noor al Zadjali is one such lady. Favouring her own brand of style, and never bowing to Western fads, the former lawyer looks as though she’s about to become someone special on the Gulf fashion scene. When we first meet, she is standing in the middle of a gaggle of designer clad women from several different countries – a good place to be for someone who wants to conquer the international market with her label The House of Reem. She is wearing one of her own abayas, accessorised with fierce gold jewellery - spiked bangles and a statement pendant. There’s even a flash of leopard print Louboutin shoes underneath her black abaya. The look is distinctly modern yet traditional, the exact effect she wants to showcase in her designs. Her inspiration comes from travelling around the world from a young age as well as a love of culture, art and fashion. “My target customer is the strong Omani lady,” she explains. “It doesn’t matter whether she works or stays at home so long as she wants to make a statement. Of course, every woman wants to go higher and higher, so eventually I’d like to work internationally.” Despite being a trained lawyer, the mother-of-two is eager to display her
creative talent while helping other women express themselves. “In today’s fast paced world women have become part of mainstream society,” she says. “They are educated, smart and independent, so abayas should evolve from a cultural statement into a personal statement.” As a lawyer for a private Omani firm, Reem found it hard to find clothes that were practical and modern at the same time. She had an image of herself looking smart and strong in and out of court. “But I couldn’t find an abaya that reflected me as an individual,” she says. As a result she designed her own collection of abayas and realised she had a flair for design when her friends and family asked her to create pieces for them too. “Soon after I enrolled myself in a fashion design course in Milan, and later a course in London,” she says. “I wanted to do this properly, so I learnt about everything from pattern cutting to fabrics.” Today, marrying practicality with panache is important to her, that’s why she uses materials that stay wrinkle free, even after hours of wear. “I’d describe my collection as modern yet traditional with a clear silhouette,” she adds. “Most of the pieces are free size but I couture them for the customer. I like creating pieces that reflect the wearer’s personality, so I’ll adapt the design to their needs.” It’s a learning process and one that is dictated by her customers’ desires as well as an adherence to her own brand values. It’s a real balancing act. “I’ve tried to put more colour into my pieces but it’s a process,” she says. “Women here aren’t ready for it yet.”
The shades I choose now depend on the seasons but on the whole I try to keep things subtle. I want my clothes to be recognised for being elegant, modern and well cut.” Despite her recent launch on National Day, she’s already in demand. “My pieces are currently exclusive to Eye Candy Boutique because it fits nicely with my brand,” she concludes. “But I get a lot of orders from all over the Gulf via the Internet.” She knows it’s a tough industry but she is still determined to put Oman on the fashion map. And judging from the steely glint in her eye, we think she’ll make it.
STREET STYLE Name: Joana Sá OCCUPATION: graphic design lecturer Wearing: “My style tends to be low-key luxe. I read Y MagazinE and find ideas on the fashion pages. Today, I’m wearing clothes from Zara, accessorized with Charles & Keith shoes and a Bimba & Lola bag.” Spotted at: Opera Galleria
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CARS AND OUTDOORS LOST LEGENDS
Be captivated by the story of the ‘Atlantis of the Sands’ and the search for the fabled city of Ubar
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CARS AND OUTDOORS
The search for thIS ancient city has fascinated explorers for years but is Shisr truly the right place? Jerzy Wierzbicki went to find out
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hen I recently set out on a journey to find the ruins of the lost city of Ubar, I was following in the footsteps of numerous expeditions that had sought to uncover the truth. The existence of the so-called ‘Atlantis of the Sands’ has divided historians, archaeologist and explorers for years, a debate that rages even to this day. Over the years, sites for Ubar have been discovered and then dismissed. Theories abound and the mystery remains. I admit that I was intrigued. The southern part of the Arabian Peninsula has a rich and long history, straddling two huge cultural circles, the eastern part of Africa and India. What stood in the way was the massive and virtually impassable Rub’ al Khali (the Empty Quarter), the largest sand desert in the world, which effectively separates southern countries from the rest of the Middle East. Yet many have routinely traversed the 1000kms of desert - without GPS systems, satellite phones and 4x4 cars. Can you imagine? These caravans would carry local goods from the south to the north unaided by technology. Ubar, so the stories go, was once the entrepôt of the lucrative frankincense trade. But legend has it that it was buried during a sandstorm and all was lost thousands of years ago. Over time, explorers have combed the Dhofar region looking to find a trace of this mythical city. In Feburary1992, an expedition led by archaeologists and the renowned British adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, announced it had, with the aid of ancient maps and surveys
from space, discovered a lost city deep in the sands of Arabia. Excavations at a site of a Bedouin well at Shisr in Dhofar had uncovered, they believed, Ubar, or Iram of the Pillars (the city of ‘Ad with ‘lofty pillars’, as described in the Quran). You can imagine the excitement that this news created not just in Oman and the region, but also around the world. I certainly felt a frisson as I stood on the land they found. Shisr is on the edge of the Empty Quarter, around 170km from Salalah, a straightforward drive. Nowadays, all archeological digs here are protected and covered by net, yet access to see them is remarkably easy. I had been planning to visit here for some two years but, somehow, always got distracted by the great sand dunes of the Empty Quarter. Every time, I vowed that the next time I would visit the archeological site. My chance came recently during a visit to the area. With the temperature still too high to go deep into the desert, I had to change my plans quickly. The solution was simple. I would skim the edge of the Empty Quarter and on my way back, finally make good my promise to see Ubar. I reached the site in the afternoon and the light was perfect for photography. It was very hot and no one else was around. With it all to myself, I crossed the gate, which seemed to be permanently open, and went into the main area where the ruins lay. The site is well prepared for visitors with a footpath between the old architecture. On my left hand side, there was an interesting and quite big construction that looked like an old house. It was, in fact, a reconstruction of an ancient dwelling from Shisr. Evidence found during
excavations suggests these buildings were well made, able to stand the rigours of the desert sun and sand. This reconstruction gives a general idea of the real size and style of the buildings in the historical village. The rest of the houses in the site are in original condition. There are stony constructions, many of which are scattered around stony-blocks, reminiscent of my first visit to the massive ruins of Palmyra in Syria. In the lower part of the site, I found one of the most interesting things, a huge rock with a hole going into the ground. The air was cooler here, so I took some time out to sit in the shade and smoke by briar pipe. So was this really the lost city of Ubar that I was standing in? Well, there is no definitive answer. Artifacts from Persia, Rome and Greece were found on the site, suggesting that widespread trade was done here. But archaeologists remain divided on whether it is indeed the ‘Atlantis of the Sands.’ Many have changed their opinion and now claim that Habarut, across the border in Yemen, could be the site of Ubar. Even a lead archeologist on the team from 1992, Dr Juris Zarins, eventually concluded that Shisr was not Ubar. More recent works point to it being one of a series of desert caravansaries that supported the incense trade. As for the sandstorm or ‘wrath of god’ that destroyed the town, well the theories now range from an earthquake to the collapse of a sinkhole that hosted the well. Whatever the truth, the legend of Ubar lives on.
You can combine the trip here along with a visit to the Empty Quarter or on the way from Salalah to Muscat. If you are planning to visit only the archeological site, you do not need a 4x4 car. Shisr is located around 900km from Muscat. Take Route 31 and in the small village Dawkah, turn on the track to Shisr. A saloon car is fine to travel the track. An alternative way is a bit longer. Pass Dawkah and go towards Salalah, looking out for road signs. The turn to Shisr will be several dozen kilometres after Dawkah and there is a full tarmac road.
GPS location of the ruins: 18°15’19.25”N 53°38’54.63”E
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CARS AND OUTDOORS outDOORS
t comes silently out of the desert – a camel spider scuttling across the sand. It stops. Then, just as quietly as it arrives, it moves off leaving my dog and I alone in the endless dunes of the Empty Quarter under a glittering vault of stars. Despite the odd danger, I love camping in the desert. The silence and solitude makes it a space like no other to sleep in. Here in Oman, especially now the weather’s cooler, camping is a popular pastime with Omanis and expats alike. It’s extremely easy, with few rules about where you can and can’t camp. Just grab your stuff, put the key into your SUV’s ignition and go off into one of the established sites, of which there are many in the Bidiyyah area. That’s the simple option. The more interesting alternative is more difficult and requires caution, after all, the desert, despite its beauty, can be a dangerous place and the slightest mistake can quickly change an exciting adventure into a horrifying experiment. For beginners, the best place to go and stay is on the valley, near Wahiba Sands. There, you can experience a pure desert atmosphere without venturing too far from the road or human habitat. Before you set off into the sand dunes, you should ensure that your 4x4 is working well, features high profile tyres but more importantly, you actually know how to drive it on sandy terrain (it’s more difficult than you think). Make sure you have a shovel, spare tyre, additional fuel and a GPS system. Water is crucial during the trip, so pack plenty of bottles. I always have enough to last me an extra three or four days. When it comes to food, the basics include tea or coffee, bread and a few tins of tuna or meat. Of course, a good cooler filled with ice and gourmet goodies will definitely make your trip that little bit more luxe. The weather may be cooler but that doesn’t
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You can pitch your tent just about anywhere in the desert, says inveterate camper Jerzy Wierzbicki. Just watch out for the occasional sandstorm, spider or snake
mean you should ignore the sun. Shade and cream are essential if you’re planning to spend a significant time in the desert. Natural life on the desert can be helpful or dangerous – it all depends on you. Sandy deserts like Wahiba Sands or the Empty Quarter may look barren and dry. But they’re not. Look beyond the desert surface and you may discover vipers, snakes and scorpions. Avoid them by being observant. Look at the sand. If there are small holes or other markings, chances are you’re not alone. Circling the car around the place you plan to camp helps frighten animals away. Secondly, make sure you wear long sleeved garments, trousers and shoes that fully cover your feet to keep biting critters at bay. I’ve made more than a hundred trips into the desert and have rarely encountered any immediate dangers – just the odd desert spider scuttling past. My advice? Respect the animal’s territory and remember that you are a guest in their home, not the opposite. After all, natural life can be a big ally when you’re camping in the wilderness. When looking for a place to camp, I’m always hunting for greenery. It’s a myth that the desert, even the deeper parts of the Empty Quarter, has no plantation. So when the temperatures start to plummet dried trees are a natural source of wood for a fire. The silence and clean air makes sleep easy. I grab my best Z’s in the sand. But you have to be careful if you want to wake up the next day. The best and safest place for sleeping in the desert is your car. Tents are also good but you will have to wake up early to avoid the post-sunset heat and humidity. Deserts, especially the sandy dunes, are among some of the few places unspoiled by human civilisation, so please take your rubbish with you and dispose of it in the proper place.
LIFE’S A BEACH Camping is one of the best Omani experiences in that it allows you to enjoy the natural wonders of the great outdoors with just a 4x4, tent, cool box and a sense of adventure. But you don’t have to go deep into the desert for a slice of the action. You can also head for the Sultanate’s beautiful beaches. The most popular places to camp include Tiwi, Fins and Bandar Khayran. You can access the latter by boat from Qantab for as little as RO7, but it’s better to negotiate the price before you jump onboard. The boatman will then find you a secluded beach where you can stay as long as you want. Many of the coves in this area are idyllic and well worth visiting. If you don’t already have camping gear, just head for your nearest supermarket. Places such as LuLu, Carrefour hypermarket and The Sultan Center have pretty much everything you need for a great al fresco weekend.
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OUTDOORS COLOURFUL CAIRO
The largest city in the Arab world is opening up to tourists again, so discover everything from ancient monuments and culture to chic city restaurants.
Top 5 Places To Visit: 1. Pyramids at Giza 2. Old Cairo 3. The Citadel 4. The Egyptian Museum 5. The Nile (boat trip)
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O u t d o o r s postcards from
advertising manager, recommends:
Alo (Hello) and welcome to my birthplace, the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world and Africa. More than six million people call this metropolitan sprawl, a collision of ancient and modern spread over 453 square kilometres, home, along with a further 10 million in outlying districts. Think of my city and usually the first thing that springs to mind is our wonderful Great Pyramid of Giza, one of the most famous structures on the list of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It is indeed a magnificent sight and should be on any travel itinerary for a visit here, along with the Sphinx. But there is so much more to Cairo, from markets to museums, just waiting to be discovered. Of course, the city and the country have been through a difficult period of late but the spirit of Cairo has not been diminished. In fact, if anything Egyptians are more proud of their city than ever. There is so much to be explored. Did you know, for instance, that Cairo’s nickname is ‘the city of a thousand minarets’ for its preponderance of Islamic architecture? We also have the oldest and largest film and music industries in the Arab world, not to mention the second oldest G IZ A institution of higher learning, al-Azhar University. On top of that, Cairo has long been the centre of the region’s political and cultural life. It’s also dripping in rich history of Ancient Egypt - as it was founded in the 10th century, that’s a lot of history. Cairo to me is a beautiful, vibrant city bustling with life from old markets to skyscrapers and smart restaurants. But then again, I’m biased. Go see for yourself.
My Favourite Place:
The Pyramids at Giza are the real must see of Cairo. This is the place where you want to go first. The Great Pyramid is the oldest and largest of the three, standing 146.5 metres. Egyptologists believe it was built as a tomb for Pharaoh Khufu. It took between 10-20 years to complete and is quite a feat of engineering, even by today’s standards. Often overcrowded, they can disappoint when you see the buildings around them when you were expecting the desert but they are still impressive for their size and age. Entering the Pyramids is allowed but it can be a very claustrophobic experience. Be sure to watch the sunset from any nearby rooftop.
Highlights: Khan el Khalili is a large typical market covering a vast area in a part of the city called ‘Islamic Cairo.’ Not only can you buy souvenirs as well as spices, handcrafts and fabrics here, but the area also offers a lot more: belly dancing and free Sufi dance shows in the beautiful venue of Wikalat al-Ghouri and a whole renovated street called Bab el Fatouh with plenty of beautifully decorated little mosques. The Citadel is another landmark. It’s also a chance to escape the clogged roads as the area surrounded by the ancient walls is closed to traffic. Do make time to also visit the Mohammed Ali Mosque. Also on my list is Cairo Tower, which was built in 1961. Its design is unique, recalling the lotus flower shape. From the top terrace you can have a sweeping 360° view over Cairo and also eat something in its revolving restaurant. Cairo Tower is on an island called Zamalek, so you will be surrounded by the Nile, with its feluccas and floating restaurants that make it almost as trafficked as a street. I suggest you to try the felucca (traditional wooden sailing boat) ride as well. It’s cheap and so relaxing.
OLD TOWN CAIRO
Like many other big cities, Cairo suffers from high levels of pollution and traffic. The driving can be pretty hairy at the best of times. In the summer, the heat can be suffocating. Watch out too for unscrupulous traders who try to take advantage of tourists with inflated prices. Female travellers should dress conservatively to deflect unwanted attention from local men. As for the recent troubles, be sensible – although things are calming down. Some foreign offices, for instance, have just announced a relaxation on travel advice to Egypt, meaning there are now less restrictions against travelling to Cairo and the Giza Pyramids.
Lots of tourists want to leave Cairo with a miniature model of the pyramids or sphinx, and a toy camel in their suitcase. By all means do the same but I also recommend gold jewellery (cheaper than Western countries) and carpet bags. Remember to haggle; it’s half the fun of shopping! If you have some extra cash you might consider browsing in the antique shops too.
El-Ta hrire bridge & NILE RIVER
Where to stay: If you’re looking for budget crash pads, Cairo is your place. It’s stuffed full of them, with some exceptionally good ones. Finding mid-range gems, however, is much harder. For those with big bank accounts, the impressive hotels lining the banks of the Nile won’t disappoint. The Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at First Residence is one of the city’s most luxurious, while the Grand Nile Tower has by far the best terrace by the Nile and a huge rooftop pool. Talisman Hotel De Charme is one of the only real boutique hotels in the city. At the other end, try the Luna Hotel.
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Buying toys for children can be a daunting task, not only do they change as fast as technology but kids get bored of them quickly and break them within a day. Matt Herbst explores what’s hip in toyland
THE TECH IN YOU
build and play
Like the Lego Ninjago before it, Lego Chima looks to be another toy with all the trimmings. With its Speedorz series it’s more than just a box of bricks and an instruction book. These sets create fun challenges for kids to compete against each other once the toy is built. Pull the ripcord on the flying vehicle, and see if it makes the grade. Starting at RO5.90 from www.amazon.com
SWEETEN ME UP
Here is a super cool and younger version of a first time go-kart. The Mobo Mini is designed perfectly for tiny would-be karting stars (but there is an adult version too, so don’t worry). The seat is more comfortable and the steering is easy for preschoolers to master. It’s not just fun, though. This little machine helps build muscle strength and hand-eye coordination. Better than a bike I think. RO76 at www.amazon.com
EDITOR’S PICK Laser LOGIC
THIS REMINDS ME OF A LOGIC PUZZLE GAME CALLED Rush Hour, IN WHICH thE challenge IS TO manOEUVRE your car out of gridlock. WITH Laser Maze, Players ARE REQUIRED TO move little mirrors and targets around the board in order TO direct a laser beam to IT’S target. ITS GOT up to 60 different TRIALS TO KEEP YOU ON YOUR TOES. Laser Maze is a great mix of old-school puzzleS and MODERN EXPERIMENTING. PERFECT FOR Ages 8 +. RO11.50 FROM www.thinkfun.com 044
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Boost your budding imagination with this fun foodie playset, which lets children set up an ice cream parlour for the family. The set includes five cones, two dishes, two spoons, and three cans of Play-Doh. The Play-Doh Plus, is the new, softer version of the modeling material, which makes soft serve cones and toppings more realistic than ever. Scoop me up. www.amazon.com starting from RO8.90
FIND OUT WHAT’S HIP & HAPPENING IN GADGETS
Just when you thought there was nothing new your kid could do with a smartphone (or an iPad), the Prankstar Quick Attach Microscope comes to the surface. It clips on to any brand of smartphone or tablet, and lets kids zoom in on bugs, clothes, noses—you name it—then take pics of the close up discovery as well as videos and send them to their pals. Great for ages 6+. RO6.45 and available at www.toysrus.com
NEW! Bonzart Lit Mini LCD Digital Camera A tiny LCD digital camera that fits easily in your pocket. The toy camera is perfect for kids as a first camera which can also teach them how to transfer their pictures to a computer and send via email to the whole family. There is also a Super 8 style digital video camera for filming. Available at www. acgears.com for RO7
APP OF THE WEEK
This is the first apptastic toy that immerses the iPad in a play environment. The knight figurine can interact with the iPad’s games and challenges, or he can traverse the castle turrets and drawbridge. The iPad also serves as a transparent but interactive backdrop. Touch the onscreen camera button, and watch trolls run at you from the living room. Ages 3-7. RO20 from www.fisher-price.com (iPad not included)
Measuring less than 3 inches x 2 inches and at only half-an-inch thick, the newly released “Bonzart Lit” digital toy camera punches above its weight in terms of functions. Packing a surprisingly full menu of options into its tiny body, this cute photography toy can snap pictures with a resolution up to 2,048 x 1,536-pixels, just like an Apple iPad 3 retina screen. In addition to a simple filter menu and an exposure adjustment function, the Bonzart Lit also comes with light metering to measure the center of its photographs and allows users to set white balance for different lighting conditions. Producing soft-toned, artistic images with a natural vignette effect, this fun but capable camera is available in red, black, blue, pink and white —the micro SD card would have to be purchased separately.
THE GIRLY GADGET
Barbie has all the digital perks it seems. Changing outfits is as simple as pushing a button. Thanks to a touch- and sound - activated dress with 114 LED lights, you can rotate through ready-to-go graphics (like fireworks or hearts), set the lights to respond to sound, or use the stylus to draw your own design. www.amazon.com for RO19.25 NOV 27AUG - DEC 15 –0421 / / ISSUE ISSUE296 282
CARS AND OUTDOORS
Bentley Flying Spur
Engine: 6.0 litre, twinturbocharged W12 Horsepower: 616 Transmission: ZF eight-speed automatic Top Speed: 322 km/h 0-100 km/h: 4.6 seconds Price: On application
Car of the Week
Elegant, sleek and sophisticated with an air of exclusivity. It has to be the all-new Bentley Flying Spur. Kate Ginn wants one
magine this. You are at the wheel of a car that inspires looks of envy wherever you go. Smell the finest leather interior and sweep your hand across the exquisite wood veneer, crafted entirely by hand, cured for 72 hours and clear-lacquered to enhance the natural wood. Feel the exhilarating burst of speed, taking you from 0-100km/h in under a heart-racing five seconds. This is not - to use the line from a famous M&S advert - just a car. This is a Bentley Flying Spur. If I tell you that this all new machine is the fastest, most powerful four-door Bentley model ever made, you get the idea that it is more than a mere car. It’s almost a roadworthy piece of art. It’s not just the look of the Flying Spur – which is beautifully designed, with an athletic but graceful look – or the sumptuous interior that elevates it to levels of extreme automobile luxury. What makes this Bentley so standout wonderful is the perfect combination of all the elements of power, comfort, refinement and luxury. That and the fact the Bentley engineers have stripped this car down to the basics to create this new generation car.
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The Flying Spur launched in Oman earlier this month, so keep your eye out on the road for it. I promise that you won’t be able to miss it. So, where to start? There’s so much to say that this space just isn’t big enough. What I love most is how the model has been made more contemporary while retaining the classic Bentley elements. It has a distinctly more aggressive stance and dynamic profile. At the front, a more upright chrome grille sits between the pairs of jewel-like LED headlamps. Despite the new changes, weight savings in the body structure means that its 50kg lighter than the first generation car. Handling is as light as a soufflé. And then there’s the engine all six litres of turbocharged power, which can take you to a breathtaking top speed of 322 km/h. How about this neat touch? As the new Flying Spur approaches its top speed, the ride height is automatically lowered via the suspension system to compensate for aerodynamic forces. Performance is, as you would expect, exceptional. As is safety with stability control and the
Bentley’s renowned all-wheel drive system, allowing the driver to take control in all road or weather conditions. Inside, it’s mouthwateringly good. There are, I am reliably informed, 600 new interior parts. Everything is ultra luxurious to look at and touch. There are, for instance, 12 different colours of leather to choose from for the front and rear seats (17 if you upgrade) and up to 12 wood veneers. The stereo and infotainment system is top-notch, as is the technology – this car even has its own Wi-Fi hotspot, which allows laptops and tablets to connect to the Internet. Rear 10” LCD screens are standard. Electronically operated rear side blinds are also fitted as standard, allowing privacy for rear passengers. What makes a Bentley special is that each one can be made to an individual customers’ exacting specifications. I like the sound of that. If I had a Bentley, I would certainly want it to look different to everyone else’s. Unfortunately, the price (base more than RO72, 000 according to my research) means in likelihood that I will never own one. Still, a girl can dream.
They say: ‘Ultimate high luxury with unrivalled performance.’ We say: ‘Please give me the keys.’
Check this out
LED day-time running lights 19” Classic wheel either bright painted or diamond-turned finish Climate Boost function (enhanced rear cooling) Own in-car Wi-Fi hotspot Rear Seat Entertainment Suite Eight channel, eight speaker audio system Touch-Screen Infotainment Wood veneer cabin finish Leather upholstery Backseat LCD screens and multimedia players Customised for individual specifications