Thursday, February 28, 2008

Lord, protect me from your followers



People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them.


-- Dave Barry, "25 Things I Have Learned in 50 Years"

-- Suburban Muscat, "Why I Am Buying a House as Far From Civilisation as Possible"



Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Stone took a second wife!

So far it's fantastic, like having my best friend around all the time.
Stone's employer has been really great about everything.
The baby adores her, and best of all she does the dishes.



Just kidding.



My friend Abeer, (a newly minted member of the Beer and High Octane Society for Bad Girls {BHOSBG}) came down from Dubai for three weeks over the Gregorian New Year.

We had a blast. Abeer helped with the dishes, looked after the angel, told very funny dirty jokes, drank most of our beer, made the salad to go with dinner every night, went out dancing with me, and generally blended into the household routine like she'd lived here forever. We were really sad to see her go when she had to return back to work.


So what I'm leading up to is the following: At a new years party, for a laugh, Stone and I started introducing Abeer as Stone's second wife. She went along with it. The reactions we got were hysterical.


There would be a pause, a nervous smile, a glance from me to Stone to her and back to Stone. And then Stone would throw in the line about how understanding the company was being, extending benefits to her and all. Then the Men would smile warmly, congratulate Stone and us, and give Stone a look of sheer admiration. The women would smile politely between lips pressed firmly together, and shoot me a look of sympathy. It was so, so, so, hard not to laugh.


The amazing thing was that not one of the people we introduced her to called the bluff. They bought it Hook, Line, and Sinker. NOT ONE PERSON looked us all up and down and said BULLSHIT!
  1. As if this would be the first time they would have heard about it

  2. As if I would let Stone take another wife

  3. Who is waaaay hotter than me

  4. As if Stone (studly though he is) could manage to snare two hot, unmarried chicks who are younger than he is in a country with such a skewed ratio of women to men.

Anyway, Hilarious.

Tomorrow, an open letter to my non-descript white car poltergeist.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What to wear in muscat, Oman. for all'ya'all tourists

I've had about five emails in the past month asking for a bit of guidance on what exactly constitutes "conservative dress" or "appropriate attire" in Oman.

I think that is awesome, because it shows that a lot of tourists are concerned that thier idea of Conservative dress Jives with our expectations for what is appropriate.

I thought I would post my take on it, which is mostly excerpted from a recent email. Addtional toughts are welcome, in the comments section.

  • We are free to wear anything we want here, but conservative dress makes a statement that you're not a totally ignorant tourist, and for the ladies it makes life easier.
  • Everybody stares here, don't let it get to you. It's just looking, and there's generally nothing implied.
  • The dress code for men is pretty simple, long trousers always, and a tshirt or oxford. Longish shorts are fine when the occasion calls for it. For swimming, board shorts are where it's at. Everybody laughs at the guys who wear those little speedo man panties.
  • For the ladies, the following guidelines generally apply, but dress for the occasion. A long skirt isn't practical for a mountain bike ride, loose jeans just don't work for snorkeling... etc... That's all cool.
  • If you are Blonde, you will encounter a hundred times more hassle than if you are brunette. I have yet to figure out why.
  • Out in public during the day, and in the evening, it's usually elbows to ankles, no low cut tops. a loose, hip lenth top is ok with tightish jeans, and a tightish top is ok with a long, loose skirt.
  • Wearing shorts, capris', short skirts or tank tops in public, is not the done thing.
  • Evenings at bars, restaurants that serve alcohol, or night clubs you can wear short skirts, and plunging tops. I usually cover up for the walk from the car to the venue, and always for the taxi rides. A trench coat or really long scarf is handy then.
  • Private (hotel) beaches you can wear whatever swimwear you chose. No topless or nude sunbathing.
  • At public beaches I usually swim in a long dress or tshirt and long shorts over my swim suit and cover up once I'm out of the water.
  • In the interior, and smaller villages outside of muscat it's nothing tight, ankels to wrists to neck, generally, again, suit yourself to the activity you'll be engaging in.
  • If you go to the Grand Mosque, Save yourself the hassle of finding something appropriate and just go to Lulu and buy a 9 rial Abaya. It will make a great souvineer. Have one of the lovely cashier girls show you how to properly cover your hair, so none is showing. Wear sandals.

My take on the dress code is slightly more conservative than most, Do what feels right for you. It's your holiday.

Tomorrow a less boring post Chock-full o' humour.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Barack Obama Held My Hand When I was Frightened

He also helped me move a sofa, and folded my laundry. What a great guy!

Go on over to http://barackobamaisyournewbicycle.com/
Feel the love, over and over again. Really, you won't regret it.

*** Updated to add....****
**********

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Something insanely funny, followed by a loud dog update

With great thanks to Buj, over at Buj Al Arab blog, I would like to share the funniest thing I've watched in years. Enjoy.





My favorite line is the one about drinking Mango Juice in the fancy room we never use. It slays me every time. This guy has about fifteen other videos that are just as funny, go check them out here.

On to the dogs...

I haven't updated in a while because I was waiting to see how it was going to go with the dogs next door. Status as follows, thanks everybody for your great advice.

THE BOSS never did find the time to stop by and adress my concerns regarding his dogs and the noise they were making, and then Stone and I went to Dubai for a couple of days to visit family. The night after we got back, the dogs started up around midnight, and finally succedded in waking the baby up at five am. So I gathered her up, put on some clothes, and walked next door, where I leaned on the doorbell for ten minutes until a young lady came out, looking annoyed.

I explained that the dogs had been barking since midnight, and had been keeping most of our house awake for the last five days. She oppologised, and said she would bring them in at night. She also explained that she is only house sitting for her parents, and they would be back in a few days. True to her word, she's kept the dogs inside, and somewhat quiet for most of a week now, which I am really, truly, gratefull for.

I can reoprt that the dogs have been a lot quieter, though last night they started barking at 2, loudly enough to wake me and the adolescent up twice. I think The Boss is back from holiday, so I"ll mosey over there this evening and see about having a word with him.

In the interimn, I have done a little reseach, and can safely say that I out-wasta the boss by a lot. I hardly ever use Wasta, but it's good to know that he won't be able to use any against me.

Another Dog update next week, and then maybe I'll stop talking about my stupid neighbourhood.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Advice please.

Ladies, Gentlemen, and Others,

Please read the following, and give me your advice on the best way to deal with the situation. Please, Please, Please, I am begging you.

The last three nights we've been kept awake by barking dogs. Constant, bellowing, yapping and howling starting at midnight and continuing throughout the day. Last night at Two and again at Three, and again with the Dawn Athan, the barking was so loud that they set off the baby monitor. And, needless to say, woke the baby, and everybody else in the house.

I figured it was a pack of Wadi Dogs roming the neighbourhood, and that sooner or later they would move on. Failing that, we could call the authourities and have them shot. (harsh, but that's what we do here)

As I sat here reading blogs this afternoon, I could hear them barking away outside. Two hours later, they were still barking away. Thinking that one of them might have become entrapped in the alley out back, I went outside and scrambled up on the compound wall for a Look-see.

There were FOUR HUGE DOGS chained up in the garden of the villa next door. FOUR GIGANTIC DOGS. Two big German Shephards, One Doberman Pincher, and One fluffy white one. Let me say that again, FOUR ENORMOUS, BARKING, POSSIBLY VIOLENT, DOGS.

As soon as the Doberman clocked me he was jumping at the compound wall, Teeth bared, Barking and growling. They are building a series of kennels and dog runs all around the yard of the villa next door. The Dogs moved in three days ago, I don't know if there are people living there with them or not.

I asked the caretaker what the deal was, and he said they belong to "the Boss". Apparently, The Boss works for the Royal court, and according to the caretaker, has more wasta then me, so I should maybe think about getting used to the noise.

WTF?????????????????????

I'm hoping to speak to The Boss in an hour or so, and maybe clarify weather this is a breeding operation, or his personal dogs, and maybe politely suggest that they sleep in the house at night.

Maybe I am expecting too much consideration from the Neighbours?

Maybe it's pretty freaking rediculous to move into the neighbourhood with four goddamn dogs that you can't keep quiet and park them beneath your neighbour's bedroom windows, all day and all night long.

Any advice? Does the municipality deal with these sorts of complaints? Can I call the police if the dogs are barking at two thirty in the morning? Is there a limit to how many dogs you can have in a small split villa?

Help.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Instant Karma, Al Ghubra Style

Are you guys sick of hearing about my neighbours yet? Too bad, because this one is about them too, but it's a great story so stay put.

Friday afternoon, Stone and I were sitting in the front garden. We had the gates open to the street so we could watch the world go by, and say hello to the neighbours we don't hate. Both of them.

Around 14:00 we hear the sound of a small engine, tagged to the red line, tearing down a neighbouring street followed by the squealing of wheels as it turned a corner. Moments later, the thing is tearing down our street. It's a baiza bus, and it's clocking 80 -100 kph on our residential street full of kids. The Bus Zooms past, brakes hard, and then squeals around a corner three blocks down, and flies back up the next block over.

Five minutes later, same thing. Ten minutes after that, same thing. Two minutes after that, same thing. We stand around and wait for a while, hoping to get the registration number of the bus so we can call the police. They are gone. Fifteen minutes later, we can hear them tearing it up four streets over.

Stone has had about enough of this nonsense. He grabs a basketball, and stands in the shadow of another parked car. The Bus squeals around the corner, five blocks down, and starts accellerating.

(I wish I could freeze this moment....) Stone waits for the perfect moment, and throws the basket ball out into view, bouncing in our drive way. The basket ball bounces once, twice, and carries on soaring through the air in a perfect tragectory. He driver of the bus, going as fast as he is, doesn't even have time to hit the brakes. The bus collides with the basket ball dead center. Bullseye!!!!! the plastic grille goes flying over the roof and lands shattered in the middle of the street, the basket ball goes soaring forward flying almost a hundred meters before impacting with a wall. The driver slams on the brakes, locking all four wheels up. He skids another block and a half, before coming to a stop.

The Sliding door opens, and four young boys about twelve years old pop out and run round to the front to look at the damage. I go running up, whip the drivers side door open, and find myself face to face with a grinning fifteen year old boy. I ask him just what the hell he thinks he's doing driving like that in a neighbourhood full of little kids. I ask him if he would be grinning so hard if that had been my daughter, or Hassan's little boy he'd just hit, ( and obviously killed instantly) . He slams on the gas, and peels away, driving back to his father's house just around the corner. Yeah, it was my neighbour's kids, joy-riding in Daddy's baiza bus. Suprised?

Stone is standing in the middle of the street, bent over double, laughing at the fabulous instant karma he has delivered. Now that we have the lisence number for the car, we phone the ROP. Stone speaks to them, and explains the whole story, and asks if the ROP could be kind enough to pop round to the father's house and mention that they found his grille in the street, and would the kids like to explain how it wound up in the street three blocks over.

I hate to advocate child abuse here, but I hope the father whipped thier little asses.

A Note about My Neighbourhood: We live in a Very Very Suburban Neighbourhood. Every single house and apartment in the neighbourhood has little kids in it. Our little neighbourhood is bordered on all sides by major streets, so the kiddies are effectively trapped.

There are no playgrounds anywhere in our neighbourhood, although there are about fifty empty lots filled with construction rubble and trash, and six mosques serving a community of about five hundred, including women and children.

There is not a single, solitary, place for the kids to play anywhere here, so they play in the carport areas, and on the street. As I have mentioned before, the kids in my neighbourhood really, really, really suck at sports involving ball control.

I am perpetually amazed that none of them have fallen victim to being run over by one of the hundreds of Mohammed AL Schumacher's that use our road as a short cut, or a drag strip. Trust me, dollars to doughnuts, it will happen sooner rather than later.

Coming up later this week: I present the Muscat Community parks initiative, a post on the recent freezing temperatures, and why we all need to move to Detroit. Maybe.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Chedi, Muscat. The Restaurant Review

The Restaurant, in the Chedi Muscat is recognised as the best restaurant in the entire country. When it opened, the Chedi was so awesome, so revolutionary, so sophisticated that the whole of the foodie community in Muscat was nearly orgasmic with joy. However, Four years on things are slipping, so I thought it was time that I reviewed the Restaurant, if only to try and figure out where they went wrong.

The Restaurant features four open kitchens scattered throughout a gorgeous, sumptuous, perfectly lit dining room. The waitstaff work discretely, linked to the kitchens through wireless headsets. From the management down. everyone is articulate, knowledgeable, and have perfected the art of being totally available while being totally unobtrusive. The kitchens are staffed by a diverse smattering of friendly, happy chefs, all of whom seem truly passionate about what they are doing. I was pleased to note the number of Omani chefs in the kitchen, but disappointed that in the course of Three recent visits I never saw a woman in any of the kitchens.

Our recent visits started off on the wrong foot with something as simple as water. They sell 750 ml glass bottles of still water, imported from scotland, flown here on the wings of virgin angels, for a whopping 2.8 rials. It's a rip off.

I can only assume that like me, the chef has spent a lot of time spanking off to the amazing culinary works of Thomas Keller, of the french laundry, the best restaurant in America, if not the world. Guys like Keller and Charlie Trotter are home grown American culinary talent, and Keller in partucular revolutionised modern american haute cuisine. Something akin to the french laundry is what I think they are trying to do with the new menu at the chedi, and though the inspiration and ambition is there, the kitchen falls short on the delivery, and the chef has fallen short on creating a workable menu, and pairing the ingredients together appropriately.


We started a number of our meals with the raw oysters, which come accompanied with a Yuzu Granite. (A Yuzu is a smallish japanise citrus fruit that is very sour. Granite is like sorbet.) Each visit the oysters were huge, sweet smelling, and expertly shucked. They arrived on a bed of cracked ice, still quivering with life, with a tiny quinelle of the granite. The granite was sweet and acidic, and made an interesting accompaniment, highlighting the sweetness of the oysters. For the traditionalists, the waitstaff were happy to oblige in bringing lemon wedges, shallots, or sherry vinegar.


For the starters, the teeny tiny BBQ pork buns. They were, as adevertised, Steamed BBQ pork buns. They were entirely unremarkable, a sort of lone, boring, totally average dish, featuring a limp accompaniment of a sweet sesame soy dressing. For 5.5 RO, I was pretty dissapointed.

The Unagi Maki, (grilled eel sushi) Was an interesting take on a sushi bar favorite. four peices of nicely seasoned, sweet and gooey eel arrived, with gorgeous wafer thin slices of perfectly ripened avocado, atop well seasoned sushi rice. There was some sort of rather heavy mayonaise or aioli smothering each piece of sushi, and drowning half of the plate, which really detracted from the flavour. Though Shiso pickle was promised on the menu, the only pickled vegitable that arrived was the obligatory pickled ginger, with nary a trace of the shiso leaves, or any discernable shiso flavour.

The biggest dissapointment was the Foigras Torchon( pretty much a big goose liver, deveined, wrapped in muslin, poached and cooled) , a horrifying mishmash of flavours and textures that left us totally baffeled as to what the chef was trying to accomplish. Here is what was on the plate when it arrived;



  1. A smallish slice of torchon, wrapped around a scallop wrapped in seaweed.

  2. Along the side of the plate there was a tiny smear of concentrated Beetroot Jus, sweet and thick.

  3. A quinelle of plain skippy peanut butter

  4. A single chive, sticking out of the penut butter

  5. Porcini Dust, made from dried porcini mushrooms

  6. On the side, a warm, "five spiced" Brioche roll.


The Foigras itself was ok, and pretty well deveined. But it is hard to make bad foigras. The Scallop wrapped in seaweed was fine, if not a little bland, but I disliked the seaweed's flavour with the foigras. I would have wrapped the scallops in moistened rice paper or some other flavour neutral thing to hold them in place. The Pickled beetroot stripe didn't taste pickled, but it was sweet and delicious. The porcini dust and Brioche were fine.



But The Penut butter didn't belong on the plate. It was an act of pretention to put it there. Maybe the chef was trying to do a sort of "penut butter and jelly" alongside the beet stripe. Maybe he was trying to highlight the rich, sweet, fatty, creamy carichter that Foigras and Penut butter share. Maybe he just needed a vehicle in which to stick a chive tip. We were collectively baffeled. The Foigras cost Twelve rials. WHich was about eight rials more than I felt the finished product was worth.


The veal carpaccio, accompanied with fried capers, watercress, and a tuna aioli was impossible to taste, because it was absolutley drowning in the Tuna Aioli. There must have been twice as much aioli as there was actual carpaccio, by weight.

The Sung Choi Bao fell victim to the kitchen's general heavy handedness with salt, which would be a recurring theme in our main courses. Little roll ups of iceberg lettuce wraqpped around minced Chicken with water chestnuts, ginger, Shitake mushrooms, bound together with a spicy sweet sauce. Aside from the salt it was simple, unpretentious, and full of flavour.

The Main courses fared better, overall.

The Line Caught seabass was made with love. The single smallish filet of seabass, skin on, expertly squeegeed and seared until crisp was excellent. It sat atop a couple of deep fried Mussles, soaking in a bowl of clear broth. The broth was garnished with little tomato diamonds, and a handfull of Miripoix, and some scallions. It was pretty, simple, and the flavours were clear and sparkling.

The tasman lamb rack with it's shoulder Brique was perfect every single time we ordered it. The Rack arrived cooked to the requested doneness, and the Brique was so tender and nicely braised I could have eaten it with a spoon. Everything was perfectly seasoned. The dish came accompnied simply by baby green beans, blanched to a brilliant bright green, and sweet creamy parsnip puree, redolent with butter. We were so thrilled with the Lamb that I can't remember anything else that was on the plate.

The Kung Pao Chicken, (interestingly labeled as a Thai dish, although it's Scezchuan) was essentially a very fancy version of the American chinese takeaway favorite. It was tasty, zinging with chiles and the traditional cashew nuts. It arrived prettily garnished, but was nothing special.

The Cantonese Pork Belly was the final dish to suffer from over salting. The pork was tough, and the broth it swam in was so salty I couldn't finish the dish. The wood ear mushrooms were great, soft, and prettily cut. The Accompaning Rice paper dumpling may have once been crisp, but by the time it arrived at the table it had been soaking in an the seawater salty broth and was like a salty sock. The dish was badly cooked, badly seasoned, and badly thought out.

You may go to the chedi to experience the atmosphere, to bask in the fantastic service, or to enjoy the really great wine list. But first and foremost, you are going to the restaurant to experience truly great food. And it is here that the chedi experience crashes and burns in a manner so dramatic that I almost weep to think of how a restaurant that was so good eight months ago could become so bad seemingly overnight. Thier last menu was so good, I just can't fathom how the same kitchen, in the same restaurant, but under a different chef can crank out a new menu with so few redeeming features.

This review is based on three recent visits to "The Restaurant" the flagship F&B in The Chedi hotel here in Muscat, Oman.

About Suburban: Her credentials include 6 years working as a Sous chef, Pastry chef, and executive chef in America and Europe. Previous to that she was an undistinguished line cook, a smoothie and sandwich maker, and once, a night shift cook at a Denny's.

Suburban has worked for, and snorted staggering quantities of cocaine with, some of the top chefs in the world and thus feels qualified to review both distinguished and undistinguished fine dining restaurants. Having acheived a life long goal of finally leaving the restaurant industry, Suburban can be found killing time at home in the middle east, and contemplating which useless car to waste her husband's money on next. If you liked this review, you can send her money, pop rocks candy, spare parts for Chevrolet trucks, or a nice email. She can be reached at otheroman@gmail.com

Monday, February 4, 2008

This week's winner for most reckless driving is....

White Minibus # 3338 TS
23:00, February 3rd, 2008
Reckless endangerment, Speeding,
Driving into opposing traffic, And scaring the crap outta me.
You know the road that paralells the highway, from Al-Sarooj Shell station to Ministries area?
You know when you are driving from the Petrol station towards ministries, you go up a little hill, and over a crest into a small right curve before the road straightens out.
You know how over the crest there is a concrete and interlock divider in the middle of the road there?
This guy overtook a stream of cars, by swerving across the road, into the lane of oncoming traffic. Thus, he was passing on the other side of the concrete barrier, over a blind Crest, with nowhere to go if he ran into traffic coming the other way.
You think that's reckless? He did it with a busload of kids on board. No shit.
Yes, I've sent an email to the ROP.
Next week I'll launch the yet to be named Bad Parking / Driving Blog

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Gossip, ROP media relations, or the lack of.

This morning our wonderfull Nanny arrived with tears glistening in her eyes. She asked if I had heard the news about the building collapse.

Had I heard about the three hundred and fifty people killed in the building collapse yesterday in Al Khuwair? Tragic, Tragic. So many dead, she had seen the building on her way to work this morning.

And I was like 350???? People???? You must be joking. So I cruised upstairs and did a quick search for a building collapse in Al Khuwair.

I found two pretty beliveable articles in today's papers stating that two (that's right, 2, TWO) were dead in the collapse of the Teejan furniture showroom and warehouse.

Which, don't get me wrong, is tragic and sad. How awfull.

What's fascinating though is that in less than 24 hours the death toll via word of mouth and courtesy of the after church gossip group went from something in the single digits to 350.

Hello ROP!!! Do you guys read this? You really need someone in charge of english language Press and communications. I quote today's Times of Oman here...
The ROP is conducting interrogations to find out the reasons for the collapse of
the building and the extent of damage, a source at the ROP said.

Yeah. Interrogations. I have this vision in my head of a Teejan furnishings employee hooked up to a car battery, blind folded and quivering "I am only an accountant! I know nothing about structural engineering!! Please Mr. ROP man, stop hurting me!!!"

I assume someone in editing at the Times' screwed up and confused Investigation with Interrogation. Or maybe some moron from the ROP actually said that to the press, or maybe they really are interrogating accountants and cleaners. Either way, that's not what you want the papers to publish. ROP, if you're reading this, I'd work for free for you guys until you found someone better.

I love you ROP, but your media relations arm sucks.