Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Sharp knives, turtles & sinkholes

Having a few days off, I've just visited Sur. Despite it being hot & humid, although less dusty, I thought I'd do some sketching in the town. I like recording decay and seeing a dhow partially submerged, I thought it would be the perfect subject. Sitting on the sand, engrossed I was aware of a man standing over me. Looking up, as I said hello, I saw he had a knife in his hand. Gulp, I wasn't sure if he wanted to rob me, hurt me, or was just curious as he crouched next to me. I'm self conscious drawing with an audience at the best of times, but when they are holding a knife, I could barely contain the shaking. Continuing to draw, trying to chat a little - I've seen on tv that you get hurt less if you can make the event personal - and leave fast was my plan. I feel a bit guilty, as before I packed up, he kindly sharpen my pencil with his knife, so I think he was just curious about a mad English woman sitting drawing outside in the middle of summer.

The evening before, after the drive up from Muscat, my friend and I went to Ras Al Jinz to turtle watch. One of the things on my "to-do before I leave Oman" list. We got there before sunset, if there had been one but it was too dusty/cloudy. We were not allowed onto the beach in case we disturbed the turtles, so we climbed the cliffs overlooking the beach and sat listening & watching the waves crash below. Once back down we had a long wait until 9pm in strong winds, so strong that I almost got cold (the shelters had walls, which weren't high enough to stop the wind howling through). Finally, about 10 of us, with the guide went to the beach, stopping for an explanation on the turtles and what we would see, the group was then made to switch out torches and follow the guide's single beam towards the sea. We got to the first turtle and were joined by about 10 more tourists. The group was too big in my opinion. Justified I think when several flashes went off, phones rang, and one guy slipped into the hole nearly onto the turtle. So much for not disturbing them. The 2nd turtle we saw was laying eggs, which was amazing to see, but I was a bit disturbed the next morning when my photos (taken without flash by the guide's torch) revealed that the guide was holding back the rear flipper so we could see. I thought this turtle watching was supposed to be non-intrusive. Finally, having watched a couple of turtles lumbering up the beach, it was time to leave them in peace.

The next morning, we left Sur after breakie to take the coast road back to Muscat. It's a strange route now being half on the new highway and half on graded (non-tarmac) roads. Taking a detour just before Dibbah, we stopped at a sinkhole. As part of Oman's tourism drive it's now enclosed in a park, and the hole itself is surrounded by a wall and has steps down. Both seem a good idea as the drop is about 20m and the way down shingly. Once at the bottom, we had the pool to ourselves and swam in the amazingly clear salt water, which I think the picture shows. At one point the sandy bottom looked so close I stretched down and realised the bottom was at least another 5 metres below. All too soon, we had to leave and return to Muscat.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Strange weather

Being British I naturally have an obsession with the weather. The other day yahoo reported the weather as above... At school I didn't learn dust as an adjective for weather, just the normal sunny, wet etc. So, looking out of the window this was the view:

Ugh! Normally, it would look like this.
A slight difference I think! The nasty murky pic reminds me of the UK, all grey where the colour is washed out. As you can see from the temperatures, we were not quite at UK temperatures, which I think were around 17c, but mid-30s. What it doesn't show is that along with the dust we have high humidity. Why am I living here?

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Nations united by Pimms drinking

Last night, because it's the summer and the weekend and for no other reason, I had a small get-together at my flat. Several jugs of Pimms were consumed, a few gins & tonics, numerous beers, and some wine. Hic! Why was it a United Nations gathering? Well, we realised that in the room were us Brits, 3 South Africans, my Dutch neighbour, French, Italian ladies, and a new Greek friend complete with Ouzo. Unfortunately, due to the quantity of Pimms drunk, I think, the ouzo was unopened – next time? As usual the only glass that got broken was by yours truly; I did the same when I had the terrace gathering for my mum when she visited. What a klutz.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Choose your Path

Chose your Path, originally uploaded by digitalazia.

Just thought I'd share this photo with you all. It's by the Omani photographer, Ahmed Al-Shukaili (digitalazia on flickr). Amazing this was taken in the train-free Sultanate. It's the tracks of the "tourist train" into Al Hoota cave, now if only we could get a train, underground, tram, or any form of public transport in Muscat.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Unicef & a new botanical garden

Last Wednesday a colleague & I conducted a team building day for UNICEF out at the Al Nadha Resort & Spa, Barka. Please check out unicef's website: http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/oman.html

During the day, UNICEF staff participated in many different activities. The final event of the day achieved a great sense of achievement and the most laughs as the participants tried to build the tallest tower from newspaper. (see pic above) Afterwards, several of the UNICEF staff expressed the wish that the event had been over 2 days, showing that the day was a huge success.

Al Nahda is a “5* hotel” although the stars have been given by Oman’s Ministry of Tourism, which means it's not quite at the standard you would expect. Overall a very nice resort, but the maintenance leaves a bit to be desired e.g. the pool has a waterfall into it and the rocks/pool edge below are slimy with algae that hasn’t been cleaned. However the lunch they laid on was spectacular. That evening I was treated to a night there (the rooms are lovely) and a massage in the morning. Very nice! Afterwards there was time for a few hours by the pool, before sadly it was time to head back to Muscat. I would have loved another night, but it is quite expensive.

Last night (9th), it was another talk organised by the hao, although this time it had nothing to do with history, but was a talk on the upcoming Oman Botanical Gardens due for opening around 2011. I hope by then I will have visited the Eden project in Cornwall, as it’s ironic I haven’t even been there yet. The Omani gardens are being planned with a surprisingly high level of environmental awareness, even down to construction of the various buildings. (Using the LEED system) Hopefully this new method of construction awareness to produce green buildings in a environmental manner, recycling of materials etc will impact on the many other construction projects here. The gardens will be for native Omani plants and a tremendous job has been started to collect seeds & cuttings across the country and in cultivating them in nurseries. They have even discovered new species that were previously uncatalogued. The talk was very interesting and left many of us impatient to see the results of the project.

Tomorrow, Wednesday it’s the final Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra concert for the summer, and I have a complimentary ticket, thanks to Richard, who’s a music teacher for the orchestra. I'm really looking forward to it.

Friday, 6 June 2008

The Full Monty revisited

Last night, I went to Vanessa & Leif's house for a movie night showing of the Full Monty, as one friend had never seen it.
We started with dinner, home made pork sausages & mash, artfully arrange by Vanessa on the plate - sausage in the middle, a dollop of mash on either side of the sausage, with caramalised onions to represent pubic hair :) That was followed by strawberry mousse and coule - just think red G-strings and you have the idea.
Finally, it was time to watch the movie, and we all gathered in the lounge, around Leif's huge screen to watch. I hadn't seen the movie in ages and it reminded me how good English films can be.