Tuesday, 25 December 2012

A plug for the sink!

It's Christmas day and what am I writing about? A plug for the sink, yep that's right one of those little rubber thingies that stops the water from running straight down the drain.......

Christmas morning our late lie in was interrupted by a phone call from our son Rufus calling from Canada. So some two or so hours later we crawled out of bed having spoken to the family and breakfasted on eggs and unsmoked bacon.  A little let down from the normal Christmas, but then we were keen to get on our way for two days in a luxury hotel on AlJebel AlAkhdar - that would be the Green Mountain.

A quick dash out to the kitchen with our dishes I racked n stacked then searched the kitchen high and low - yep no plug for the kitchen sink! Our stand in maid (all of four hours a week) had been yesterday afternoon and done the dishes.  What she did with the plug we may never know....

I called Katrina and she looked everywhere I had and maybe a place or two I hadn't. All to no avail there was no rubber plug for the sink.  It's OK says I I will just duck down to Zam Zam's Hypermarket and get one.  Hmmm no such luck, the store attendants just looked at me blankly when I said for the umpteenth time - no I don't want an electrical plug. Ok so I will go to Al Fair (another hypermart) that's just down the road I thought, probably unlucky I had driven, but then we were keen to get away - as if I hadn't driven there would be no story to tell.

So off to Al Fair - well sir we normally have them in stock, just over here - where I had already spent a few minutes scrabbling through the box of odds and ends.

Ah well Carrefour is just down the road at Muscat City Centre, surely they will have them.  Yeah right - after the first attendant said no not here in Kitchen ware, have a look in Bathroom. Sounds reasonable I thought. So I get to Bathroom and look around , nothing. Ahh there's an attendant I'll ask him - follow me sir he says (with a knowing look and air of absolute confidence) finally I think - until we walk around the corner and there's the first attendant.... d'oh.

I am starting to get a little peeved by now, spent close to an hour and no flaming plug for the sink!

At least there's a kitchen store, off I go and get blank looks. I'm sorry sir we don't stock hardware did you try Carrefour? GRAHHHH!!!  So with cries of Merry Christmas sir, I head off to Home Centre (and for good luck try e-Maxx along the way - yes I know they're an electronics store, but they do have a small hardware/housewares section) - and you guessed it more blank looks and Christmas wishes.

So hanging my head in shame and despair I head for home. And then I think well I could try the small building supply shops - So I stop at the first one I see and ask - only to be presented with a grand selection of aluminium pipe end plugs - no, no rubber plugs I say. More blank looks and Christmas wishes.

Sigh in desperation as I turn the penultimate corner to home I pull over and ask at the little "Household Items and Luxuries" shop (that's code for cheap crap - but sometimes useful). Ah no sir they say after showing me their selection of powerboards, but try the building supply shop across the road, and Merry Christmas - Arghhh.

So with  nothing to lose by now - it's been an hour and a half - I go across the road. Do you have rubber plugs for the kitchen sink I ask.  Ah like this the little man says and presents me with an aluminium pipe end - No says I rubber. ahh he says and comes back with a little bag containing the fixings to replace the whole sink outlet. We have this he says presenting the plastic bag to me - and miracle of miracles it also contained a rubber plug!

Yay finally. Home dishes done and we hit the road almost two hours late. And the lesson for me is walk to Zam Zam's next time, coz you never know where you will find that odd thing in Oman.

But seriously nine shops to find a kitchen sink plug?

Happy Christmas everyone.

ps we did make it to AlJebel AlAkhdar and am sitting on the terrace watching the sun set, with beer at my elbow and feeling a little chilly for the first time since March.

Life is good.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Rock eyes and rifles

It's December now, which means winter in Oman. The shops are full of furry coats, mufflers and even ear muffs! Why they have any of them is totally beyond me as the day time top is yet to drop below 25 (even on rainy days) and the overnight low is still above 15. I could get used to this.
The Guns at Barka Fort, under observation of the guard. Interestingly some of the Guns bore a crest of Tudor Rose and ER - "wonder what that meant??"
After our little rush of guests  - Ollerenshaw, Hazell, Hunt and Hodgkin we have now settled back into the quiet of sharing our house with the cats.  Mind you they do manage to make an extra-ordinary amount of noise when the mood takes them.

One of the good things about having guests has meant seeing more of this amazing country. I think my mum summed it up best - "when you go around a corner a whole new vista opens up and you could just as well be on the moon!" Even after the better part of a year that still holds true. The mountains here are "rugged" and as you travel you quite quickly pass from one type of geological formation to another. Red and caramel coloured rocks replaced by gray and black, which in their turn are replaced by,,,,,,, Vertical strata replaced by horizontal and then something like this!  If you look closely you can see an eye shape in there.

The rock that watches you
The following series of pictures were all taken within a 20km stretch,  just to give you an idea of the extraordinary variety of geology. Don't ask me what they all mean, Kiriel was the one that took pictures of the explanatory signs!

Look at the wavy line - almost creek like!

Kiriel inspecting a Geological oddity

And with all the tourists we have been to Mattrah Souk quite a lot recently. So much so that I found an antique shop and we were back so soon after, that I found it again. I feel wallet pain coming on!  Katrina beat me to the punch and bought some silver couched fabric, which she is planning to have mounted in a display frame.  I was keenly eyeing off the things that went Bang or Slash! Hanging on the wall was the most amazing array of antique swords and firearms I have ever seen - matchlocks (yes you read that right - plural), flint locks, single shot martini henry rifles - but unfortunately the shop keeper knows his business and his pricing.  

I will come home with some things such as a silver powder horn, traditional leather buckler and sword at the least.  While a matchlock would be interesting at 1800 Rial (that's $4500) to you I'm not quite that keen for an interesting wall hanging. Not so worried about the sword but getting one of the shields could be interesting, as they were traditionally made from heavy leather, and of course the heaviest leather they had access to was Rhinoceros. So I will only be getting one of those if I can get the papers to apply for a pre-CITES certificate. Real ones start at about 150 rial.

Katrina has also managed to start her traditional Omani jewellery collection. Traditional jewellery is typically silver and much of it, from the 18c on was made from the Maria Theresa Thaler. A rather substantial silver coin.  They sell Maria Theresa "dollars" in the Souk, but precious few of them are real, mostly aluminium dumps with a thin silver coating.

And being winter it's cruise ship season.  Seems every time we go to old Muscat there's another one or two cruise ships in and hordes of tourists everywhere soaking up the atmosphere. Sigh. Although I guess the locals probably think that when I turn up in the middle of nowhere to interrupt their peaceful solitude.  Darn Tourists!

I guess that's bye for now.
Things you see on the beach.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

A month of guests

How quickly a month passes.  Seems you blink and miss it.  Since my last post an awful lot has happened.

In that month we have had our first three sets of visitors, who have all come and gone back to Australia, leaving us here in Muscat.  Ah peace and quiet you may say, we have our house back and its all ours again.

At the beginning of November our first two sets of Canberra visitors appeared and left on the same days, and they weren't even known to each other until they were introduced in Muscat. These were the Hazells and the Ollerenshaws.

Our first outings as tour guides! Seems that our guests were satisfied with our guidance and enjoyed Muscat and what little surrounds they got to see.  Things like the Grand Mosque, Matrah Souq, Sawadi Beach and so - on  All of which I have posted photo's of before.  A veritable social whirl, complete with restaurant dinners, roof top BBQ's and so on.

And in that time our cat Bluey discovered how to get off the roof of the house, so there were a couple of set too's with his mum.  As well as unrelated cat set too's not involving our cats. All this ended up with us severely limiting roof top access since then.  And after a few days of nasty cat talk it has all gone back to quiet.  Mind you our British neighbour gave me an earful one night over cats - seems he doesn't like them!  Not sure what's going on there now, but then we've invited them over to dinner or drinks  a few times and they've never accepted, so I just guess they're a bit hermit like. Ah well they go home in six months, so maybe our next neighbours will be more social - one can hope.

All boxed up
But anyway the day our guests left Katrina and I shot off to the Royal Opera House for an evening of Omani music, supported by a few tunes from the Royal Symphony Orchestra.  All very nice, as for not much more than $100 I was able to get us box seats - I could get used to that!  The music was fun and the supporting dancers were "enthusiastic" but a fun night was had by all. So much fun that less than two weeks later we were back with Mum and Dad for the BBC Symphony Orchestra.  Tickets were about the same price, but this time that was for the cheap seats - sigh caviar one day, fish and chips the next. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

And then Mum and Dad arrived for two weeks.  They got here on a Friday morning and I had the Saturday off for a public holiday - Islamic New Year.  And all of this coincided with the 42nd National Day.  To say that Muscat had a buzz would be an understatement. The streets were (and still are) decorated with a flag on every pole and celebratory lights on every bridge/overpass.

One of the most popular businesses around that time had to be the car decorators. People had flags, pictures, stripes, swirly patterns and so on put on their cars to celebrate.  One evening we went out to dinner on the corniche. Nice and quiet when we arrived but HOPPING by the time we left, and somehow we ended up in the middle of the Mustang owners club parade of decorated cars. And then the following night Mum and I went out to try and get some distant shots of fireworks and ended up caught up in the celebrations of National Day. This time we almost ended up with the Jeep owners club.

National Day
That night out was a bit like a New Years Eve, people running up and down the street, riding on car roofs and bonnets, hanging out windows, running between and around cars.  Because we had our windows down we got happy faces thrust in the car with cries of Happy National Day, Welcome to Oman and so on.  And all the time the Police stood by and observed.  I guess if anyone had been dangerous or really TOO silly they would have acted. But everything was in great spirit, with none of the vicious edge that a drunken crowd can generate.  It was all a lot of fun and great to see a people proud of their country and celebrating that with anyone that came along.

In the end Mum and Dad had a great time in Oman and got home earlier today (Saturday) totally exhausted I believe. Not too many days ago they were on their safari of a lifetime with visits to traditional boat yard, wadi's, forts and a desert camp. And posing on the stern of the social club launch in front of the Royal Palace...

Katrina and the Kayak
Your friendly neighbourhood octopi
Over the last month the real revelation for me has been I have discovered after years of disliking the beach ( I grew up in Geelong where it's surf coast and not much to see that's readily accessible under the water) I am developing a fondness for it and seaborne activities. Now we have the Kayak I am happy to go to sea for a little paddle, not too far from shore and also in calm weather! But combined with all that if the water is clear I am happy to jump in with a mask snorkel and flippers to have a bit of a look around.  And my there is a lot to see.  Wherever there's a little island or sheer drop into the sea there are coral reefs and all that entails by way of colourful fish. Big ones, bright ones, small ones, colourful ones and well you get the picture, but not in this case because I don't have an underwater camera.  So you'll just have to make do with your imagination and pictures of some washed up aquatic life....

Not everything is safe

And there we have it a bit of everything.  In a month it will be Christmas, on a work day, may just have to take some Christmas cheer to work that day.  Maybe Christmas will come early with a big decision on the project at work...