Monthly Archives: January 2011

“Sketchbook of Oman” by Alan Reed

My family and I had the distinct pleasure of meeting my favorite watercolour artist, Alan Reed, and his charming wife, Susan, during their recent trip to Muscat.  We have a cherished masterpiece of Alan’s hanging on our wall, “Father and Sonwhich I blogged about 10 months ago.  Alan is a well-known artist in Oman and had a fantastic exhibition at the Muzna Gallery in April-May 2010 entitled “Mystical Oman“.

In a way to give back to Oman, a country which has given him so much inspiration, Alan has put together “Sketchbook of Oman” in celebration of the 40th Anniversary of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos. A scholarship scheme for 40 Omanis, to undertake Undergraduate Degrees at Universities in Oman, ideally with those with links to British Universities was established.  These scholarships would target poorer Omanis who could not otherwise afford tuition fees.  A key partner in this would be the Ministry of Higher Education who would help identify suitable candidates for the scholarships.  The candidates have been selected and the scheme is now well underway although raising money to fund the students is an on-going project.  Purchasing “Sketchbook of Oman” is one great way to contribute to this scholarship.

This limited edition includes only 250 of the sketchbooks to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Oman.  The selling price of this special collector’s item is RO 200 rials with the majority of the price being used to help needy students in their studies.  A copy of Alan Reed’s “Sketchbook of Oman” has been added to the Royal Art Collection of Queen Elizabeth and His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said was also presented a copy as a gift.  Read more about Alan’s honor of presenting these gifts to the Queen and Sultan and more about his famous paintings in Oman in the wonderfully written Oman Observer article “Paintings of Oman for Queen Elizabeth“.

Alan’s contact person for the sketchbooks in Oman is Maggie at jeans@omantel.net.om .  If you are an art lover, would love to contribute to a worthy cause and wish to promote education in Oman, you best buy one of Alan Reed’s sketchbooks while they’re still available!

MUSCAT FESTIVAL- The Place To Be!

Muscat Festival is a huge event each year (Jan-Feb) to celebrate the culture and heritage of Oman.  This year is the biggest celebration ever due to 2 factors: 1) the festival was cancelled last year due to the H1N1 scare and 2) the festival is considered part of the 40th anniversary celebrations of Sultan Qaboos’s rule in Oman.  This year I decided to brave the crowds and see what “this whole Muscat Festival thing” was all about!  :-)

This is the adult entrance ticket which only costs 200 baisas (or about 50 US cents!).  Tickets for kids aged 10 or above are 100 baisas.  Free for kids under 10 (accompanied by an adult of course).

Entrance ticket lineup outside Qurum Natural Park.  2 lines for men and 1 line for women.

That’s neat that you get 2 free rides at Magic Planet in Seeb City Centre with each entrance ticket…unfortunately, 2 out of 3 times they just grabbed the tickets out of our hands as we entered and didn’t give back any portion of the ticket making this promise null and void!

The Festival is taking place this year from January 27th to February 24th in 2 parks: Qurum Natural Park (all the pics on this post are from Qurum) and Naseem Park (will post about this location another time).  The festival begins daily at both parks at 4pm and goes on till 11pm.

This Omani gentlemen does portraits each evening at one of the benches just in front of the main childrens playground of the park.  It takes him about 20 minutes and he charges RO 5.  If you want to get a sketch of a younger kid (or baby) who can’t sit still, he prefers working off of a photograph.

Plenty of food stalls available during the festival!

Every night in Qurum Park, they have the most fascinating cultural performances on stage near the Omani markets.  Click here to see a video of Dhofari men and ladies dancing together!

More cultural singing and dancing of Dhofar (click here!)

One final video clip from January 28th’s Dhofar dancing!!!

One of the kid oriented stalls in the Omani Markets area of the festival.  I must say that some of our baby’s favorite toys are from Qurum Park vendors including colorful balls that light up when you bounce them (500 baizas each).

No Omani cultural market would be complete without a family from the Dhofar region (southern Oman including Salalah) selling incense!  :-)

I thought it would be a great idea to get a photo with this bull tied up in the Heritage Village…until the bull snorted (looked like smoke coming out of those nostrils!) and made a quick charge at me.  In my rush to get a pic, I failed to notice that I was wearing the brightest red shirt in my whole collection!  Welcome to my world!  Thank God it ended with a laugh rather than a frontline heading about a mindless foreigner killed on the 2nd day of the festival, ha!ha!

Khalfan Al-Sheedi (pictured here) from Saham is just one of the many talented Omani artists you can meet at the Heritage Village during the Festival.  He makes all types of art pieces and furniture using materials from palm-trees.  We bought one of this miniature house looking items (in the pic) for 3 rials. (GSM: 99063694)     

The musical performances in the Heritage Village are a definite must see if you make it to the Festival!  Unlike the stage performers, you can get up nice and close to the performers which can really help you imagine what its like at actual cultural events.  This is one of my favorite parts of the Muscat Festival.  Instead of traveling to different regions of Oman to experience the diverse regional cultures, Muscat Festival brings the village and their members right to you!  :-)  Wow! Just think about it.

More vids will be posted when I get the chance. 

Expect to hear quite a bit about the Muscat Festival in the coming weeks as I am obviously hooked!  Great job, Muscat Municipality!  :-)  You  are definitely “playing a pivotal role in ensuring that Muscat is a city of choice to both live and work in“!  

Key contact Numbers: Festival Hotline (8007722), Royal Oman Police (ROP) (9999), Oman Air (24531111), Swift Cab Taxi (80077779), BlueBird Taxi (24492558), Yellow Cab Taxi (24607011).  (International dial code for Oman is +968)

The Eyes of the World (& Heart of God) on Egypt!!!

PRAY for Egypt!  These are pivotal days and prayers are needed.  Watching all the events unfold before my eyes on tv is heartbreaking and yet… encouraging.  The people of Egypt have had enough of corruption, high food prices, unemployment, poverty, lack of freedoms and they are bravely seeking to carve out a new future for themselves!

This may come as a surprise to some people but God is not surprised by the events of these past few days.  God knows the end of a matter before its beginning.  The events of Egypt have been foretold and these days are setting up the final stage as prophecied in the book of Isaiah some 2700 years ago!  Any serious student of Bible prophecy would know that Isaiah 19 is a major chapter to consider to know God’s will for Egypt’s future and her role in end times events.  Consider just some of the words of that chapter:  “…I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians: and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighborAnd the Egyptians will I give over into the hand of a cruel lord; and a fierce king shall rule over them, saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts…”  The prophecy concerning Egypt in Isaiah 19 is a message of both judgment and hope for Egypt.  Here are the most encouraging prophecies regarding Egypt which I read from my Bible this evening while watching riot scenes on my tv screen indicating “a wind of change” is sweeping through Egypt: 

The prophet Isaiah sees a day when Egypt will be converted to the knowledge of the Lord.  The highway running from Egypt to Assyria through Israel pictures a time of international peace when Egypt and Assyria will become “my people”.  The prophet looks well beyond the present realities in which the world powers do not acknowledge the true God and proudly pursue their own destinies, running roughshod over the people of the Lord.  He foresees a series of divine acts that will bring about the conversion of the nations.  “I will bless them” God says speaking of Egypt which is a national fulfillment for them of Genesis 12:3.

KEEP EGYPT IN YOUR PRAYERS.  Pray, like I do, that the violence will be limited, the transition will be smooth and that the people will elect able representatives who will look out for the well-being of all Egyptians after so many years of so much corruption.

Authentic Persian Cuisine at Shiraz, Crowne Plaza Hotel

Shiraz at the Crowne Plaza Hotel is one of the few places to get authentic Persian cuisine in Oman.  It’s one of the more expensive restaurants in Muscat but with good reason!  The food is wonderfully presented and the views from the alfresco terrace are second to none, overlooking the Qurum beach shoreline.

The terrace offers a romantic setting for anyone in Muscat taking out a special someone or celebrating a special event!

Shiraz is well known for their extensive wine list.

Shiraz offers some free appetizers including salad, nuts, cheese and bread!  (So if you’re on a tight budget, you could skip the appetizers and go right to the soup or main dish sections of the menu…)

MMM!!! Iranian bread!!!  The bread at Shiraz is reason enough to treat yourself here!

Iranian Vegetable Broth known as Soup Tabrizi. Boiled barley cooked with tomato paste & cubes of vegetables served with barberry & parsley.  (RO 3) Loved it!

Cucumber & Pomegranate Salad – Salad Anar Shiraz.  Fresh cucumber and pomegranate mixed together and served with special pomegranate sauce. (RO 3.75) This salad was incredible.  Hard to describe just how fantastic this salad tasted.  The salad itself sounds extremely simple but it’s unlike any salad I’ve ever tried.

Shiraz Salad – Salad E Shirazi. Diced tomatoes, cucumbers & onions with a minty garlic olive lemon sauce. (RO 3.5)  Pretty good!

Smoked Eggplant & Eggs – Mirza Ghasemi.  This hot appetizer consists of grilled eggplant mixed with garlic, tomato, onion & eggs. (RO 5)  This was a wonderful choice as an appetizer!

All types of rice to choose from!  All kebabs at Shiraz are served with your choice of white rice or trio of Persian rice, pickles & grilled tomato.

Lamb Shank – Baghali Polo Ba Mahiche.  Soft lamb shank served with Iranian green rice & tomato sauce.  (RO 13)

Lamb & Green Beans Stew – Khoroshteh Lobiyah.  Lamb shoulder stewed with peeled tomato & green beans served with white rice. (RO 8)

Lamb & Bean Stew – Ghormeh Sabzi.  Lamb shoulder slowly cooked with Iranian herbs, red beans & dry lemon served with white rice. (RO 8 -(what we were charged but menu says 9.8!) ?)  Delicious!

This plate has 3 different khababs that we ordered.  Mahi Kabab or Fish Kebab is hammour fillet marinated with dill, olive oil, lemon juice & saffron, and (like all the kebabs) served with a trio of Iranian rice & pickles. (RO 11.5)  Kababeh Sarashpaz or Mixed Seafood Kebab is a combination of shrimp, lobster & Hammour marinated with fresh mint, garlic & saffron. (RO 18)  Kabab E Dandeh or Lamb Chop Kebab is lamb chop marinated with saffron, black pepper, olive oil & mint. (RO 13.6).  Kebabs are some of the best and most expensive items on the menu.  We probably went overboard on this night!  They also have 3 course set menus available (certain starters + main course + dessert) for 18 rials +17% service charge/tax per person.

This delicious looking dessert like dish is actually an iced coffee! (RO 1.8)

Faludeh - Persian sorbet made of thin vermicelli noodles frozen with corn starch, rose water & lime juice.  It is a traditonal dessert in Iran and most famous in Shiraz. (RO 3.7)

Iranian Chef extraordinaire, Abol Fazi Narman Zadeh!!!  :-)  Any questions on the dishes available here? Just email to: kitchen@cpmuscat.com

I love the paintings with Iranian cultural scenes on the walls at Shiraz!

This should give you a fair idea of what to expect when dining at Shiraz.  It was a lovely evening out for us and I highly recommend this fantastic restaurant.  www.cpmuscat.com  Tel: (968)246 60660  Fax:(968) 246 60600

Our Beach Bum Baby!