Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

Just a quick note to wish you all a very happy and prosperous year in 2010.

2010 already?!

Time flies eh?

le fin.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Safari Bar

Recently, an Oman Forum member, Samsquatch, had convinced some of us to go and see his band, Earth Beat, play at the Grand Hyatt's Safari Bar.

I had stopped attending this bar a year or so ago because of the number of ladies of the night (or whatever you want to call them) that work the venue.

On a Monday night, myself and a group of friends decided to go and watch the band - and had a thoroughly great time! The band members know how to play their instruments, and were able to fulfil a bunch of our requests, some of them being a touch obscure. Perhaps next time I'll hit them with a request to play the Cure's Close to Me track, and see how they fare with that one!

What was entertaining about the night (other than the band and the company) was my rather weird interaction with a man in a mustard dishdasha. I was standing at the bar doing my best to attract the attention of one of the barmen, when I caught two eyes staring at me from across the bar. Admittedly I was feeling the effects of enjoying a few drinks and probably did a squint so that I could focus on who this person was that was staring at me so intently. I then realised it was a man staring at me. I just shifted my view, and thankfully a barman had finally decided to serve me.

Two minutes later, as I'm putting my change back in my wallet, and getting ready to take the drinks over to where my group of friends were sitting, I became aware of a man standing *very* close to me. It's the mustard man again. "Hello" he says, grabbing my hand (I thought he was going for my wallet) "how are you"? And so went the polite conversation I find myself having with various people all too frequently here. Finally, when I thought the conversation was over, after he had told me he works in the interior on rigs for PDO and only gets to spend half his time in Muscat, he drops this clanger on me: "Do you like Arab pussy"? Excuse me?! "Arab girls - you like? You like Arab pussy?" At which point this guy whips out his phone and promptly starts showing me pictures of women he's claiming to have bedded in various states of undress. I must admit the sheer shock of where the conversation went did take me by surprise but after 30 seconds or so I remembered why I was standing there in the first place, and wanted to go and return to my friends, so I politely said bye, and left.

Mustard man follows me to the table where my friends were (who had rather inconveniently decided to go dancing) and kept asking me for my number. I'd already given the guy a false name (par for the course for me I'm afraid, I never usually give my real name to weird people in bars), and was now struggling to remember the same fake number I had just given him. Finally he left me alone and went back to the bar.

And now for the real clanger. Half an hour later, I was in the toilets and thinking about going home, when again, I feel someone next to me. Mustard man, again. This time he's standing next to me at the next urinal, except he's not using it. He's staring at me, more specifically, my groin. I got out of there straight away, grabbed the wife and friend still left and legged it out of the bar.

So, just watch out for men in Mustard Dishdashas!

Have a nice weekend everyone, and have a great New Year's celebration.

le fin.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Galfar (Brunei) facing bankruptcy, Muscat Daily review.

Seasons greetings everyone, it's been a nice and relaxing past few days with the Christmas celebrations and people starting to get ready for New Years Eve. However, I expect that the chaps at Galfar were not having a particularly good Christmas.

Once again, a huge story impacting a local company here, and not a peep of it in any of the papers here. I've done my review of the new local paper, Muscat Daily, and I will have to get around to that later on in this post. But it must be said - Why did none of the local papers run this story? Are the journalists even aware of it?

Galfar's Brunei operation, Galfar Pembinaan & Perusahaan (B) Sdn Bhd, are being sued by 13 companies for a total of US$ 25,000,000. That's a lot of cheese!

The news release is posted below, and here is the source.

Court Records Show Company Owes $25M In Total

Bandar Seri Begawan - Brunei's biggest bankruptcy since Amedeo Corporation went on the block has been put in motion yesterday with a court action against Galfar Pembinaan & Perusahaan (B) Sdn Bhd, one of Sultanate's largest construction companies.

The first to throw the stone against the troubled company, according to an advertisement in the Borneo Bulletin yesterday, is Freme Travel Agency Sdn Bhd, which has sued Galfar for $97,344.53. According to Brunei Supreme Court documents, there are 12 other companies given notice to be present at a winding up proceedings against Galfar. They are owed $25 million in total by the once star performer, court records show.

The largest creditor is Bank Islam Brunei Berhad (as is cited in court documents) to which Galfar is indebted to the tune of $15 million. Others besides the second largest, Baiduri Bank Berhad ($7 million), are mainly building material suppliers and other service providers. A firm called BK Global International Bhd is owed $1.8 million and the rest are smaller figures.

The advertisement of Galfar's bankruptcy petition posted in the Borneo Bulletin yesterday by solicitors, Messrs Sankaran Halim, says that Freme Travel's petition against Galfar is directed to be heard on January 30 next year before the Brunei Supreme Court.

Galfar, a leading construction company in the country involved in various large government projects, is basically a joint venture between local and Oman interests.

A search of the official records reveals the local partner is Haji Roney bin Haji Roslee @ Haji Roni bin Haji Rosli who holds 900,000 shares in the company. The rest, 3,000,000, is held by Sheikh Salim Saeed Hamed Al Fannah Al Araimi and the late Mohamed Rashid Al Araimi. They hold 699,999 shares each, records show.

An Indian national who has business interests in Oman, Dr Haji P Mohammed Ali controls 700,002 shares. The company came to Brunei from Oman well over a decade ago and soon established a name for itself but got into difficulties in recent times until it faced its current problems.

Now the survival of the company is in the courts and in the next move its multiple creditors will make.
The sad state of the company comes in the year that brought with it its full share of calamities both financial and otherwise.

Now I wonder if any of this will effect the local company here? The Muscat express way is still not finished, their tender for the MC3 package at the airport (That's the Passenger Terminal Building, Arrivals and Departures area, aka, "The Airport" as most regular folks would know it) was no where near competitive, and so the smart money would be on them not winning the Contract for the airport.

I just read the Undercover Dragon's blog, and he just posted the story on Galfar too. Beaten to it by a matter of minutes!

Now, Muscat Daily, the new English language paper here, has been circulating for a few months (since Oct 10 2009 I think).

Here is my brief review of the paper to date:

Registering for a subscription. This proved to be quite challenging. The first person I spoke to on the hotline seemed incapable of understanding me, and it was quite apparent that the poor girl did not speak English as a first language, and evidentially struggled with the language quite considerably. Not the best first impression I had, considering that the paper is targeted at an English speaking audience. Eventually, after calling again, and for a third time - I got my details taken. Then, about 2 weeks after that, someone turned up at the address to collect the money for the subscription, and then, about a week after the subscription dues were taken, I finally got my first paper, on 6th December, nearly 2 months after the launch. The registration process could certainly be improved!

Layout & aesthetics. I quite like the layout of the paper, it's very standard and regular. I know that the first 6 pages every day will be the National news, followed by Regional and World news (which I dont really read all that much). And then my favourite bit of the paper (after of course the national news) - the Op-Ed section. I presume this is a clipping of articles posted to the Associated Press that are republished with permissions. But it is enjoyable to read some real journalism in the paper, and interesting articles too. I find the National news is quite an entertaining read, but something that slightly piqued my interest was a column that has started in the Local news section entitled: Muttrah Mutterings. Cheeky bugger, can't even come up with his own unique column title!

I find that the World news section seems to contain a lot of India-related news, but then again, I guess the lions share of the English readers are probably of Indian decent. However, it's been said of the Times of Oman, that it should be renamed the Times of India, and I'm going to say the same applies to the World section of Muscat Daily. I doubt this will not change though. Advertising is what makes the printing press go round. To highlight this: Page 16 of Muscat Daily today (Monday December 28): All 7 stories on the page are related to India. My point here is that there is also not a single advertisement on the page, or the one next to it, the start of the Sports section. Just a comment.

The sports section is brilliant. I like to see what's going on in the NBA and the NHL, and no other paper here is covering this stuff - so thumbs up for that, but lets have some coverage on the Toronto Maple Leafs some time soon please! :) The soccer coverage is also right up to date. For example today carried the write-up of the Manchester United - Hull game last night (Man U won it 3-1) - the game ended about 9pm? 9:30? last night, and yet, it made the press for today. Good effort there. It must be hard to carry a lot of news on local sports, yet somehow they do manage to do it, and I'm following the OCCI basketball cup with some interest.

The business section is also a good read, and I find it somewhat amusing that the horoscopes and time wasters (those games) are contained within this business section. What does the editor, Mr Saleh Zakwani, think that all the people that are interested in the business section do? Want to do crosswords?! Another obvious question is why are the Government Tenders contained within the Local news, and not the Business section? Seems a bit odd to have it in the main paper. Perhaps that's just me that thinks that.

And that's about it. I'd say its the best English Language paper of the 4 currently available here in Muscat, and it's very handy getting a copy of The Week on Wednesday as well, it saves me having to actually hunt for a copy.

le fin.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas and NYE

Well, the season is upon us. Yet, somehow, it never really feels like Christmas when it's so warm and sunny out, does it?

Having said that, I was quite impressed when talking to a friend of mine recently. His little daughter had asked Santa for a rocket and an air plane. And, rather incredibly, Amazon has water rockets and remote controlled planes. I suspect that there will be one very happy girl come Friday morning! So perhaps it does feel a bit like Christmas. I'm sure some mulled wine and mince pies will help. I wonder if brandy butter is available here? More importantly, I wonder what this water rocket is going to be like?!

Something that always helps to get into the seasonal swing of things are parties! The rugby club have two events this year, one on the 23rd, the other on the 31st. The Christmas party, on the 23rd, is free for members, and only RO 5 for non-members.

On the 31st, for NYE, the prices are RO 20 for members, and RO 30 for non-members, and that includes an open bar for the entire night, along with food as well. Not bad when comparing to the hotels tickets, which are in the region of RO 60-65 a ticket. The Skratch band will be playing at the club for NYE as well.
Seasons greetings everyone.

le fin

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A little bit more on the Emergency at the Airport/Wave

Recently, a lot of us left Muscat for the Eid vacation. A lot of us decided to jump on a plane and go somewhere. Whilst having a drink with a friend recently, he repeated to me a story so colourful I might as well share it here.

Is it true? Who knows? Have I confirmed it? Hell no.

So take it with a pinch of salt, but perhaps there are elements of truth in it.

The Emergency Response test that was conducted recently at the end of The Wave development and had tons of people scared that there had indeed been a plane crash (rather unfortunately timed with the broken news story of the entire Oman Air Traffic Control system going wrong due to a rather unfortunate "rookie error" of a junior IT technician installing an update incorrectly).

Apparently, according to an overheard conversation on a plane journey during Eid, the entire event was secretly filmed and screened for HM live. The first ROP officer on scene, rather amusingly, got out of his car, took a look at the fire, and then promptly got in his car and drove off! HAHA! A comment was made about that particular officer breaking rocks before the end of the day.

Props to Muscat Jet Driver for the above graphic!

It appeared that the people having the discussion on the plane worked for, or were linked to in some way, a consultancy firm assessing the abilities of the Sultanates emergency services. In direct contradiction to the press reports, it was noted in this overheard conversation that the tests were, in fact, a complete failure, and that "more tests will be carried out in the next 12 months".

A wild and crazy number of up to 20 'tests' are supposed to be carried out here in the next 12-24 months. I think that's a bit over the top, but perhaps we'll see more emergency response tests in the coming months. The next test is rumoured to be a bomb (not a real bomb) being let off somewhere in the region. I'd say a good spot to do a test would be somewhere in the Ministries area in Wizarat.

I guess if it happens, then the rumour will turn out to be true!

le fin.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The rain.

Well it's been raining the last few days as I'm sure we all know now. And I've finally found time to write a blog post, sorry about the month off!

The NCCD (National Committee for Civil Defence) even went to the lengths of sending out text messages warning people not to go into wadi's. The Ministry of Education decided to close all the schools on Sunday, and the Muscat Daily paper even ran a heart-wrenching story about a 16 year old boy that lost his dad and two of his dads colleagues in Al Amerat.

A panoramic shot of the Amerat road

A larger picture showing the destruction on the Amerat road

Official figures quoted in some of the papers have been hovering around the 10-20 deaths mark, however, I can reveal today that Contracting company NCC (National Construction Company) working on an access road to a housing development near Quriyat (in a bizarre twist of fate, the development was to replace houses lost in Gonu) have reported 30 men missing. They were working on the access road as a night shift on Saturday night. No trace of them can be found, which presumably means that they are either dead, or decided to do a runner from the Contractor. I believe at this moment in time they are presumed dead.

So, please everyone, make sure you're careful out there - but I think the worst of the rain has been and gone now!

I wonder if we'll get Saturday off as a holiday in light of the Islamic new year?

le fin.


Saturday is a holiday for both Public and Private Sectors :)

New Hijri Year – Holiday

The decision allowed employers and employees to agree on work arrangements if necessity arises.

Muscat, Dec 14 (ONA)--- Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser al Bakri, Manpower Minister today issued a ministerial decision ceasing work at private sector companies and establishments on Saturday December 19th 2009, on the occasion of the Holy Prophet's Hijra Anniversary and the new Hijri year 1431 A.H.

All employees of the private sector extended their heartfelt greetings to His Majesty and wished him good health, happiness and a long life and the Omani people welfare and prosperity.