Monday, March 27, 2017

The 2017 Other Oman Awards! Qurm Edition.

I feel like it's time to throw some praise on the people and businesses who are kicking ass here in Muscat. I also feel it's time to throw some Shade on some of the annoyances and businesses in Muscat that totally Suck. (Almost all of these are in Qurm) 

Hence, I give you the 2017 Other Oman Awards. 

Best Radio DJ
Talal, from Oman FM
(runner up: Faiq on the Mic, Oman FM)
This guy is fantastic. Keep it up Talal, we LOVE you.

Worst Radio Station
From the narcissistic presenters to the playlist curated by mentally disabled tweens, I just die. 

Best Turkish Food
Baba Salem Turkish, Qurm
Y'all, the Iskander Kebabs are legit there. 

Worst Tea and Cheesy Bread Joint
Tea Corner, Qurm
How is it possible to make your employees so unhappy and hostile? 

Best Bread
Le Petit Paris Bakery, Seeb and QCC
The sourdough is the stuff of dreams

Best Falafel
Al Tarboosh, Qurm. Near Al Araimi Complex
Not the falafel Sandwiches, the falafel platter. So Good. 

Best Mobile Phone Company
Oredoo (Nawras) 
Such nice people at the stores to help me and answer my stupid questions.

Best Veggie Garden at a Car Wash
Oman Oil, Al Harthy Complex
From Okra to Eggplants to Bananas to Sugarcane, these guys have an amazing green thumb

Best Florist
Caravans Floral, Al Asfoor Plaza, Qurm
The freshest flowers, the best designs. Give them your money.

Worst New Construction
CCC (currently called Qurum Commerical Center?)
What the fuck are the doing to their already microscopic parking lot? Can anybody explain this to me? Couldn't they just kick out their current tenants, renovate the existing building, and then get in some businesses that people actually want to go to? Seriously.

Best Construction that nobody ever thought would finish, but did.
Sheraton Hotel, Ruwi
Ten goddamn years to renovate. That's straight-up AMAZING.

Best Nail Place in an Unlikely Location
The nail place below the Borders / Travelator at Qurm City Center
Super nice folks, ample parking, intimate atmosphere. Wish I could remember the name of the place.

Best Eggs Benedict
Homemade hollandaise a must. 

Most WTF/ Failing at Hipster Decor in a Restaurant
Shakespeare and Company, Qurm
(Runner-up: Copper, Qurm)
It's like Pinterest threw up in there. 
Most Improved Restaurant
Chilli's QCC
I cannot believe I even wrote that, but they were so bad before. 

Most Tired Restaurant Cliche'
(Runner-up: Food served on tiles or cutting boards)
Enough with the Sliders / Mini burgers. 

Most Annoying New Arrivals
People From Dubai
No, we don't do Brunches. 
No, we are not impressed that you came from Dubai. 
No, in Muscat we do not wear THAT out in public. Doesn't your gym have a changing room?
No, we do not feel we are missing out on anything here except for IKEA.
No, we are not bored.

Most Inexplicably Empty Building
Al Al Harthy Complex, Qurm
I Love that building and the guys who own it. It would make a great location for an IKEA!
Whatever becomes of it, I have so many happy memories there, I hate seeing it empty.

Most Underused PR Communication Device
The nodding Donkey oil pump outside PDO MAF camp / Gate 1
That thing should be lit up and turned on 24-7 with a flashing LED sign that shows what percentage of Oman's GDP PDO produced in the last month. 

Best cakes and Desserts
Iranian Sweets, near CCC
Decadent. And they did a killer Zombie angel Barbie cake for the kid's birthday. 

Worst Investment Decision
Omantel (Worldcall deal)
For quietly blowing over 300,000,000 USD of a publicly traded company's money. 

Worst thing in the Entire World
KFC, Muttrah Souq
A KFC. In Muttrah. Is nothing Sacred? 

Most Improved Hotel
Al Bustan Palace
Wow... Just Wow. 

Coolest "New"  "Resort" 
Muscat Hills Resort, Qantab
Not for Poor People, tho...

Most Interesting Public works / Construction Project
 Pipeline replacement/addition in the Wadi between Al Harthy Complex and CCC and Al Araimi.
Y'all gotta go for a walk through the wadi from Qurm park up to Sultan center, It's fascinating, and gorgeous down there. 

Best VW Bus with an Instagram Account

Best English Newspaper For Oman News
Gulf News
How sad is it that I get the real scoop on what is happening here from a newspaper published in the UAE? 

Worst English Newspaper in the Entire World
Times Of Oman
From Bad to Worse. Do these people even Have an Editor?

Best Chinese Restaurant 
Kung Fu Chinese Restaurant, Fun Zone, Qurm
Ask for the real menu, or go through the secret door on the right and head upstairs. 
Try the water dumplings. 

* Lest you be concerned by my ethics, rest assured that I never accept freebies or offer paid endorsements, and blog Semi-anonymously so most of these businesses have no idea who I am. 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Overheard in my house.

A while back, one of my neighbours posted something inviting people to list four words every woman wants to hear.

It looked something like this:

Isn't love beautiful?
What Four words would your wife love to hear you say?
Share and post below!

The responses were not particularly romantic, but they were hilarious.

  • The toilet seats' down
  • I brought you food!
  • I'd rather stay in.
  • It won't suck itself...
  • You don't look fat!
  • Brown is your color!
The "It Won't Suck Itself" line SLAYED us. You guys, we died laughing.  Stone has adopted the phrase, and likes to use it every time I give him the nookie lookie, seek out some morning wood, or request a Nooner. It never ceases to be hilarious. 

Last week, I decided to return to horseback riding. I found a great stable, had a couple rides, and asked about the prices for a package deal, where I can ride as much as I want, and have a particular horse that I can sort of call my own. Costs in hand, I went to Stone and suggested that he finance my daily riding adventures. Here's a quick transcript of the conversation. 

ME: Baby! Great News..... Saif has a horse that is the perfect fit for me! 
Stone: That's great news! 
Me: Yeah, I'm so excited! I can lease him so I can ride him every day, and have lessons on the school horses as well! I'm So happy! 
Stone: How much is this happiness going to cost me? 
Me: $XYZ
Stone: You are fucking kidding me.... 
Me: Don't you want me to be happy? 
Stone: Yes, but not that happy. 
Me: Happy wife, Happy Life? 
Stone: My life is already happy.  
Me: Well, It Won't Suck Itself, Baby. 
Stone: Touche'
I am really enjoying my new horse. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

This week's serving of Journalistic excellence.

A couple weeks ago the much anticipated OMNY brasserie at the Hormuz Grand Hotel opened to the public. There has been a lot of hype about this place, but the Instagram and other media were pretty short on details as to what it would be like, what it would actually serve, price points, cuisine, etc... Basically, all the things you actually want to know about before you go to a restaurant and part with hard-earned cash.

The wait is over my friends, and I can now report to you a few details aboutOMNY. I can report these details to you because the Hormuz Grand PR team sent out the most exquisitely worded press release in the history of Omani Press releases. Below: the first two paragraphs:

- "A fusion represents the best of the component factors. Two vastly distinct identities come together to generate a product that has the best characteristics of the constituent elements. And such is the story of OMNY Brasserie, at the Hormuz Grand Hotel, Muscat.
An amalgamation of French, Italian and Omani cuisines, set up in a New York style, the OMNY Brasseri offers a unique experience to its diners."

What sort of English is this? The release continues:

- "The conflation of cultures that is reflected in the menu, permeates to the staff as well. For, according to OMNY’s objective, the team is a multicultural mix of members from India, Kenya, South Africa, Malta, France and Romania.
Even the music is a blend of jazz, lounge and ambient tones. The intention is to lend a holistic fusion experience to the guests."

We are not sure if the PR firm was having a laugh playing the thesaurus game and got caught out when Muscat Daily ran the release verbatim, or if the author of the piece is just a pretentious twat. either way, I cut the article out and filed it into my Scrapbook of Journalistic Excellence.

Aficionados of Middle East PR, look no further for this year's nomination for most thesaurus-tastic Press Release. You can read the whole thing in its entirety HERE

Gotta say that seafood tower looks good, though.
Photo supplied with Press Release

Sunday, February 19, 2017

UAE announces plans to build on Mars, local pundits pee pants laughing.

Just a quickie today guys, I'm' working on a couple of more substantial posts for next week.

I was amused to read that our esteemed neighbours to the north announced that they will build the first city on Mars.

No, I am Not kidding, you can read the article in the Gulf News HERE. The article was Accompanied by the usual Dubai glitter and hyperbole synonymous with UAE PR, and immediately brought to mind a vision of Duabi-type-expats trying to have brunch in spacesuits. Tragically, HE. Nasser Bin Tumoon wasn't quoted in this article, but I'm holding out hope we will hear from him on this matter in the future.

Photo Credit: Dubai Media Office

And honestly, who better to lend expertise and experience to help colonise an uninhabitable place where nobody actually wants to live? This mission was basically created for the UAE! This is also probably great for India, as the construction will likely require lots of Indian engineers and labourers. Expatriate escape opportunities would likely be limited due to the distance between Earth and Mars, and illegal immigration likely wouldn't be an issue for centuries!

The article goes on to state: "The plan showcased during the summit highlighted the expected lifestyle on Mars in terms of transport, power production and providing food, as well as infrastructure works and materials used for the construction of the city."    "Showcased"  & "lifestyle"    That is UAE PR at it's best, guys.

The timeline for completion is 100 years from now, so I don't imagine it's impossible, but I do question if this is the best possible use of the UAE's resources given all else that is happening here on Earth.

Where is Muscat Jet Driver when you need him? 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Omani Produce, Origin Oman, One Star House Party

So, I love cooking. I was once upon a time a fancy-pants chef, and although I have no desire to cook again professionally, there is nothing that gives me more pleasure than cooking for friends and family. I am doubly blessed because I have a wonderful cadre of friends who are happy to drop everything and pitch up to help eat dinner when I have cooked too much or have found something really special at the supermarket. It's my favourite thing in the world.

One of the things that changed most dramatically during the 5 years we were living overseas is the availability of stuff produced in Oman, specifically food. Local produce was generally limited to cabbage, tomato, eggplants, dates, honey, root vegetables, salad herbs, and fresh fish. If you wanted frozen fish one had to suffer the ignominy of buying frozen fish that had been caught in Oman, exported to the UAE, and then reimported here to be sold in supermarkets. It was RAGE inducing. Occasionally in season there would be a delivery of some perfect pomegranates or garlic from the mountains, or locally grown romaine lettuce, which was always exciting, and demanded a grilled Omani prawn Caesar salad to celebrate.

Getting to the point: You Guys, there is so much amazing Omani-Grown Produce available these days! a couple of days ago I found the most gorgeous candy-cane beets, grown in Oman. There are several organic farms producing lettuce, kale, red chard, different kinds of squash, fresh flowers and even heirloom tomatoes. I know this makes me sound like a total douche-bag-hipster, but I really do love red chard and kale. Additionally, we have Fish&co who are packaging and freezing local Omani fish here. Fresh fish is great, but sometimes you just want to whip something out of the freezer for a fast dinner. Sultan Center probably leads the market in stocking Omani Produce, but Carrefour has really upped their game in this department as well.

The Origin Oman Logo

Years ago, I was approached to contribute to an Origin Oman cookbook. The plan was to have various local chefs compile 3-7 recipes each using Omani ingredients and distribute the cookbook free or for a nominal charge in all the supermarkets during Ramadhan. It was a great idea, and with very little notice, I created, tested, and wrote a bunch of recipes to contribute. Origin Oman sent a great photographer to capture the finished plates, and people, that food looked the business. Seriously high-end shit, Y'all. We hit a snag in the road when Origin Oman helpfully suggested that I wasn't nearly Omani enough to be the author of the recipes, so perhaps we could credit my partner with the recipes instead, and stage photos of her cooking the food, so it would seem more "Omani" At the time, I honestly wasn't too fussed either way, but my partner kindly declined. I have no idea if the cookbook was ever published or not, but I was thinking maybe I should post a weekly or monthly recipe here that highlights Omani ingredients, and what is so great about them. What say you, Blogosphere?

This, belatedly, brings me to One Star House Party which is a Pop-up restaurant at the Al Bustan running for a week starting tomorrow night. It's the brainchild of some wanderlust-stricken chefs who have decided to do a 20-month, 20-country round the world trip, cooking a seven-course meal on the final week in each country. The meal will highlight Omani produce, ingredients, and the best that Oman has to offer. We bought tickets for the first night, and I am basically pissing myself with excitement. If you want to know more about the event, Sythe, over at Muscat Mutterings did a write up on the event HERE Tickets are a super expensive  USD 120 each, and do not include alcohol, though the website indicated that the booze is BYOB (an optimistic pipe dream here, I'm sure). I'll post a review of the experience, so tune back in Saturday.

More from here soon. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A couple of things that didn't work out quite as I thought they would.

Here is a short list of recent things that did not work out as planned. Perhaps someday I'll compile all of these into a book called "Good Intentions, Disastrous Outcomes. How to think about things before you do them"

1) The first car we bought when we moved back to Muscat was a cool Off-Road toy for Stone. It's Loud, has chunky tires, everything on it is probably illegal, and it's a stick shift so we can just leave it unlocked because that pretty much guarantees it won't be stolen.  We bought the car from a nice young man who works with Stone. The kid is an engineer and has outstanding taste in cars, to the point that I think maybe I married the wrong guy and should have married this classic-car-loving engineer guy instead.  A while back I opened the glove box and found a bottle of cologne that Classic-Car-Loving Engineer guy had evidently included in the sale. Other items were an impossibly soft and furry gearshift cover, two fancy mussars, an Aux cable, car air freshener, and a box of tissues. I figured any man cool enough to have such a great collection of cars would probably smell AMAZING, and I would like to smell AMAZING too so I uncapped that fucker and sprayed it all over myself. Stone described the smell as a cross between something a bouncer at Rock Bottom would wear, and the scent of impending date rape. We ran the rest of our errands with the windows down, and it was two days before the scent was fully banished from my skin.

2) Stone got invited to a dinner thing at the big bosses' house, in order to welcome visiting top brass from the home office. The invitation said spouses were invited, so we booked a babysitter. In a moment of extreme confidence, I grabbed my craziest high heels, my oldest, dirtiest, holiest, most favourite jeans, and a lacey tank. The look I was going for was "I am definitely a former rock star and you guys all want to be my friend because I am exciting and vivacious" The look I achieved was more along the lines of "I am a recovering drug addict with such limited normal life experience that I am unable to dress myself for a dinner party with adults" In order to cope with my nervousness  at being at a party for which I was inappropriately dressed and surrounded by strangers, it seemed like a great idea to get extremely drunk. Fortunately, our hosts didn't have a pool, because given my already stellar decision-making skills, it wouldn't have been too long before I suggested skinny dipping.

That's it for today. Later in the week, we are maybe going to discuss why the guys at Tea Corner are so hostile towards me, even though I am super nice to them. Perhaps you guys can weigh in on that one, because I am baffled.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Small Annoyances

I have several small annoyances, local to Muscat that are probably worth writing down, if only because it will serve to distract me from the shambolic debacle of bad policies spewing forth from the White House.

Before we get onto my various grievances can I point out how amazing the weather is? They are doing some excavation in the wadi  that runs from Sultan Center to CCC and then under the highway to the park, and as a result are pumping lots of underground water to the surface. It's like a small river flowing through there right now, and it's the perfect place to take your kids, spouse and / or dog for a stroll. I would love it if the Municipality could keep the river flowing and make a open park area, and maybe put down some soccer fields and maybe space for a community garden. Nothing that would be impacted if there was a flood, but when it's not flooding would provide a lovely place to walk and grow things.

  1. Being female in public: I don't know if it is because Bangladeshis now outnumber Indians as expats (A whole blog post on that coming soon), or if things have changed, or if I have just forgotten the total hassle of being female in Public here. Like, stop staring at me, please don't touch me, please don't ask where my husband is, or if I have one, or perceive that because I have the audacity to take my vagina with me wherever I go that that is somehow an invitation for your skeezy-ass come-ons or excessively touchy feely personal interactions. Gentlemen, raise your game.  
  2.  Parking everywhere, specifically the Beach One building near the children's museum. Y'all this is just bonkers. How are we still allowing buildings like this to be constructed with so little parking? you see the same thing in Bousher, Ghubra, and pretty much everywhere else where there is construction happening, someone proposes a giant building, and the powers that be approve it to be constructed despite a total lack of adequate parking. Is it Incompetence or Corruption? I have no idea.  Apparently all the approvals require the same amount of parking that would be required in the UK. This would make sense if our country was anything like the UK, with a temperate climate, good public transportation options, safe pedestrian thoroughfares, and people living near by where they shop and work. It doesn't work here. Over the past 10 years we've had the chance to build a thoughtfully laid out municipality, with good transport infrastructure and adequate parking / safe pedestrian access. Instead, greed has got the better of everybody, and so instead we have a total clusterfuck anytime you try to go anywhere or buy anything.  
  3. Have you all been through the newly constructed neighborhoods at PDO camp? If you want a master class in how to build a multi-cultural housing community right, look no further. Protected side streets, sidewalks, pocket parks, adequate parking, just the right number of speed bumps, good lighting, and construction sympathetic to the existing terrain of where they are building. Any future developments in the capital should be required to follow whatever design and density principals they used at PDO, it's just so gorgeous, and all the omani and expat families look so very happy playing together. Hence, by my bringing up the following, you will think I am being super pedantic. As you drive through the PDO construction areas, there are these pretty signboards hiding the view of construction activities. These signboards show pictures and silhouettes of men doing fun things, safety reminders, men working at PDO, men working in the interior, cute kids, men playing sports, men barbecuing, men having business meetings, renderings of the houses, palm trees, etc... People what I want to know is, where are my bitches at? The only women I can see on any of the boards is one silhouetted woman pushing a baby carriage, and one silhouetted woman doing traditional Omani crafts. I am sure this was not a deliberate thing, just an issue with availability of clip-art or file photos from whatever, but it annoys me just the same. Can we have some pictures of the ass-kicking female directors and managers and scientists and athletes and grill masters up on there please? 
  4. Taxi Drivers: When you think about it, a taxi driver basically has one job. To drive. So like, how is it possible that taxi drivers as a group are such abysmal drivers? Like, you only have one thing you need to do, and yet, rarely a day goes by without a near death experience courtesy of a taxi driver driving terribly. How do these guys even keep their licenses? The fleet of metered and monitored taxis cannot come soon enough. 
  5. When the muscat Municipality tried to shut down Souq es Sabat a few weeks ago, in order to basically steal the event for themselves and make it run under Muscat Festival. Why can we not have anything nice without some officious twat from a ministry trying to fuck it up?
  6. Why are the cashiers at Lulu so angry? 
  7. Will the cruise liner tourists ever leave so I can shop relatively unmolested at the Souq?  
In other news, the weather has been amazing, and I have a lot of stuff to write about in the coming weeks, and the time to write about it. I just had to get all the above off my chest first. Hope Muscat is being good to all of you!