Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Muscat, Oman : Four Facts You Might Not Know

pictures are taken during our trip to muscat, oman on mr. khairul’s birthday in early march.

1) one of world’s largest yacht is in muscat?

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before leaving for dubai, we took a stroll along the corniche at muscat port. alongside it – the while row of shophouses, old houses and even a mosque – is the old muttrah.

 

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we were lucky that day, as we could clearly see this yacht. so? we LIVE in dubai marina. we see posh, rich people’s yacht all the time. so what’s so special about this particular yacht? well, it belongs to the ruler of oman – sultan qaboos. yeap. it’s HIS personal yacht, and it’s one of the largest in the world. I love this picture that I took, because you can see the size of the yacht alongside the typical arabic dhow. awesome.

 

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ordered to be made in 2006, the impressive-looking yacht is named ‘al said’. at the time of launching, the yacht was the world's second longest, and the most powerful.

 

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ok you’ve seen his yacht. wanna know where sultan qaboos lives?

 

2) what’s the ‘al-alam palace’?

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my sis-in-law tina in front of ‘al-alam palace’, sultan qaboos’ official residence

 

that blue-gold-blue building is the official palace of sultan qaboos (he used it only during special functions. sultan qaboos has 5 other palaces!). it’s called ‘al-alam palace’. the palace has a history of over 200 years, built by imam sultan bin ahmed, who is actually the 7th direct grandfather of the current sultan! talk about keeping-it-in-the-family huh? it’s re-built looking like that in 1972.

I would say this area is the putrajaya of oman, as the palace is flanked by all the ministerial buildings.

 

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3) historical old forts : al-jalali, al-mirani & muttrah fort

other than frankincense, muscat is also known for its old forts, especially al-jilali fort and al-mirani fort. these two forts are often described as the ‘twin fort’ because of their location on either side of muscat harbour. a beautiful, historical representation of oman’s past.

and even cooler fact : the ‘twin forts’ flanked ‘al-alam palace’, a powerful symbol of protection of the sultan against any foreign attack? what’s clear is, no other building rises higher than these two forts.

 

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that’s the al-jalali fort behind my boysobviously overlooking the sea of oman; protecting the country from foreign attack coming from sea.

 

al-jalali fort was built by the portuguese in the 1580s to protect the harbor. once in the 17th century it’s also used as a prison for members of the royal family. it’s currently a private museum storing old valuable oman cultural history, open only to foreign dignitaries who visit the country. tak aci!

notice the punctuated dots on the fort in between two towers? that’s the holes for the canons!

 

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that’s me in front of its twin – the al-mirani fort. muscat was strongly defended against attack from the sea by these twin forts. built in the 16th century, it contributed to the fall of portuguese in muscat.

 

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muttrah fort, still holding one of the old canons used in the days of yore. awesome! I LOVE these historical places with extravagantly old items; like touching the stones of the pyramids, or looking at mona lisa, or being inside the taj mahal. it’s just amazing that these are the items that have seen all the wonders of the olden days – the people, the speech, the costumes and customs. and it’s still here, for us to see and touch!

 

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4) oman, famous for frankincense

frankincense is an aromatic thingy from a plant, that emits smoke when burnt. macam kemenyan tapi wangi. orang arab suka sgt kan benda ni. aku tak minat sangat.

frankincense is a popular item of trade in oman since the 15th centure. in fact, it’s so popular that it has become an iconic symbol for oman. a huge frankincense burner was actually built on top of a hill along the roadside of muscat’s corniche; best viewed from the park beside it.

 

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my boys along this beautiful muscat bay. behind them is the iconic frankincense burner – a symbol of what oman is most famous for.

 

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what’s so engrossing from grandma to her three dubai grandsons?

 

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my sis-in-law tina with her goofy nephews

 

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look at that azure water. it’s so amazingly blue it’s almost magical. and this photograph is NOT filtered in any way. it IS. THAT blue. such gorgeous waters of oman sea!

 

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ok fine. THIS was filtered. filtered baek punya haha. just an awesome reminder of that brief time spent with my sons, in view of the wondrous azure waters of oman sea. just breathtaking.

 

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we will return! (alah. 4-5 jam je drive weh dari dubai ke muscat! sblom buat highway, ipoh-kl pon 4 jam. ape la sangat. huhu)

Monday, March 24, 2014

By Law, Buildings in Muscat Cannot be More than 10 Floors? and Must always be White?

I couldn’t believe it when I first read it. it’s illegal to build tall buildings in muscat, oman! really? and no other colors are allowed other than white? but seeing the landscape of muscat itself prove that statement to be true.

white. short. and square.

this was my 2nd visit to muscat, oman – and newly discovered this interesting fact. we were here during mr. khairul’s birthday, where he took us all along with his mom, aunt and sis for a weekend getaway to oman.

 

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oman’s capital; muscat is not as metropolitan as the shiny spanking dubai – the buildings are similar, almost uniformed – their WHITE and SHORT. hardly any skyscraper, nor other color than white. what muscat DO have are these black rocky mountainous range that dominate the landscape of oman beautifully.

it turns out that, it’s a fact that most muscat’s buildings never rise more than ten stories – max 12 floors. it’s actually a decree by sultan qaboos ruler of oman to ensure that the city’s magnificent mountain backdrop is never overshadowed my man-made structures.

wow respect! now THAT’s preserving the beauty of nature, and not drowning yourself in the race to build more and more taller skyscrapers hoping to reach the sky!

 

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hardly any skyline filled with shiny skyscraper here in muscat. here, nature dominates.

 

“..we do not want bland urbanism which can be very alienating. we are also strict about colors, the dominant color in muscat is WHITE and the remaining colors have to be modest and earthy so that they respond well with nature’s colors here. we also have a limit for the height of the buildings and they should not go over 40m. we do not want skyscrapers to compete with our mountains.”  ~sultan bin hamdoon al-harthy, chairman of muscat municipality

click here to read full article.

 

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amazing view of muscat from up top. thanks to our tour guide abg yuzly and kak anis for taking the time to drive us up here. siap bulan mengambang lagi!

 

hmm. quite, quite interesting!

while dubai encourages people to get as creative and wild as they can in designing new, architecturally breakthrough buildings – coin-shaped building lah, buildings shape like a gigantic red alien ship with the ferrari symbol and many more – until you can hardly remember you’re in a desert; and here in muscat they aim to retain their identity and unified character, while continue to preserve the magnanimity of the surrounding nature. what a stark contrast!

both cities are charming in their own unique way!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Muscat, Oman : Old Muttrah Souq & Camel Mandi Oman

for mr. khairul’s birthday on march 8th, he celebrated it by taking all of us – his wife and kiddos, his mom and aunt and sis to muscat in oman! this was my 3rd time in oman since living in the UAE (united arab emirates). to me, oman is a beautiful country with its own natural characteristic like the rocky mountainous range which you can see all over the country. 

click here to read about the time we spent 2012 hari raya haji in muscat. and this othe posting is when mr. khairul’s whole family (his mak and bapak, his bapak’s sis maklong, his siblings tina, asrar and sofia) went for a musandam dhow ride to see the dolphins, way back in 2010. read about it here.

 

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here’s me and sis-in-law tina at the UAE-oman border. we were immediately greeted by this amazing sight – the beautiful black rocky mountains. this is oman!

 

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our designated tour guide was this cool couple abg yuzly and kak anis. they just moved to oman from kuwait. I must say they are one of the most friendliest strangers I’ve met in a long time. tak pernah jumpa, tak pernah kenal tapi terus ngam macam dah lama kenal. both husband and wife exude warmth and sincerety. we were in good hands while in muscat!

 

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abang yuzly suggested this yummy thai place for lunch. it’s ‘sabai dee thai foods’. nothing feels better than enjoying good ‘ol asian food while away in a middle eastern country! haha.

 

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we had the unforgettable tom yam seafood, soft juicy steamed fish, crispy ikan 3-flavoured & squid somtam (thai salad). semua sedap. everything tasted good, especially the tomyam and ikan 3-rasa. crispy on the outside, and juicy fishy flesh on the inside. satisfying!

 

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highly recommended by mr. khairul after recommendation from bro yuzly. I think it’s green tea with milk. it’s served like this, and then you stir and end up with a pale green drink. I don’t really fancy plain green tea on its own, but this bitter-sweet drink was really satisfying! I totally love it. it’s new and refreshing. glad I gave it a try!

 

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the one place to go to shop for antiques is muttrah souq – the oldest market in oman, perhaps in the whole arab world – probably about 200 years! it has got lots of nook and corners that somehow leads you to more and more little shops. you’d think that it’s just a small souq, but its long and winding narrow lanes might get you confused!

me? I love it – it’s like travelling back in time!

 

mom-in-law, maklang & sis-in-law tina with kak anis our awesome tour guide plus driver plus hostess (hot tea and karipap panas! yum!). she had just moved to oman from kuwait and was such a good sport driving us in, out and all about muttrah souq. thanks so much!

 

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top right picture : mom-in-law and aunt-in-law maklang choosing their favorite arabic perfume. they’re sold in small bottles like minyak attar in mekah but these ones in oman don’t smell that strong – just sweet, and some are fruity macam bau perfume ralph lauren! top left picture : my eldest boy khaleef wearing the distinct recognizable omani cap (kopiah) and here they’re called ‘kumma’. it’s so easy to spot an omani in dubai – just for this one characteristic.

 

oh, what myriads of sights, sounds and smells when you walk in muttrah souq!

  • sights : colors of pashmina, cloth, jubah of all designs and pattern, and bling blings on bags and jewelery
  • sounds : the crowd; people bargaining for a price, haggling, calling out a wandering child (kahfi!!! not too far!!! kazim, come back! khaleef hold your brother!) hihi
  • smell : the frankincense of course (kemenyan wangi) – for which oman is most famous for since forever, and distinct smell of arabic perfumes

 

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love this shot! especially since I had to quickly take a snap! I’m not too comfortable taking pictures while the owner stared and expecting me to buy something from his shop. sorry dude! I just want a picture of your beautiful shop!

 

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look at all the colors!

 

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enjoying my stroll inside the muttrah souq while mom-in-law, aunt-in-law maklang and sis-in-law tina shop shop shop!

 

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before we leave muscat, oman, our designated tour guides bro yuzly and kak anis had one more yumminess to offer – a lunch date at a mandi restaurant in oman, specializing in – camel meat! yeap. ONLY camel meat.

 

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no chicken, no lamb meat. JUST camels at this restaurant. the top one in this picture is grilled camel meat, and the bottom one is fried camel meat. each one with its own unique taste that I love. it’s well-marinated as I can taste the spices, and the texture is also very soft and tender – not liat at all. I can eat them all! sedap sangat!

 

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the plate of rice that we shared among 12-13 of us! that’s A LOT of rice, I tell ya! the white one is like our nasi minyak, while the other one is like nasi tomato but not quite. lebih kurang. I prefer the ‘nasi minyak’ because it’s more milder than the orange one.

 

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how big is the plate of oman mandi rice and camel meat? see lah. hihi.

 

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old muttraq soup, thai food in oman and oman camel mandi. we shop, we eat, we happy – owh, what a holiday!

it was a happy weekend for us, and the day that my mr. khairul turned 35. however, speaking of march 8th, I can’t help mentioning MH370, that went missing on that very date. at the time of writing, the plane is still missing and reportedly ended its flight path in the vast indian ocean. my thoughts and doa go the the perished souls on board, and the grieving family. may Allah continue to give them strength. Allah knows best.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Hatta Desert : Sand, Wind & Camels

on our way to muscat, oman sometime early march, (together with my in-laws who were here for their dubai holiday) we passed by hatta desert – beautiful bronze sand everywhere. it was an amazing sight. now my kids are very used to the desert sand already, but what happened that day was an unforgettable moment for them, and me!

 

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my boys – khaleef, kahfi & kazim – brothers forever in the sands of time.

 

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writing on the sand. it won’t last a minute, but the memory will last a lifetime! (corny sangat mak! haha)

 

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the unforgettable moment was when, out of the blue, a group of camels strolled our way, eating plants while their at it. what a wondrous sight! it was wonderful to watch.

 

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wild camels out to get lunch. so adorable!

 

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kazim playing in the sand; while the family of camels taking a stroll in the background. and since you’re looking, oh those sand dunes!

 

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thank you, camels for sharing your family moments with us!

 

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here is my sis-in-law tina with her dubai nephews

 

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mr. khairul with his aunt maklang, while his mom looks on at the back.

 

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dubai-hatta road lies in the background – a favorite fast lane for bikers of UAE, a common playground for mr. khairul and his biker buds. what a beautiful sight of bronze sandy desert as you chase the wind on two wheels!

 

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enjoy the clip below; my boys, the sand and our unexpected guests. the background music is lagu ol skool ‘midnight at the oasis’ by maria muldaur.

 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Awesome Buildings Around Dubai & Abu Dhabi

you know the world’s tallest building burj khalifa is in dubai, but do you know there are many more buildings in dubai with awesome titles too? world’s tallest hotel, world’s tallest twisting tower, world’s furthest leaning tower – all here in united arab emirates.

here are more incredible buildings in dubai which prove that dubai never ceases to amaze me.

 

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my sis-in-law tina is standing in front of ‘cayan twisted tower’ in dubai marina – the world’s tallest twisted tower, twisting 90 degrees. standing at 310m, 75 floors; with each floor rotating by 1.2 degree. so beautiful, so iconic! to build something strong and concrete like that in its twisted form is amazing. it’s an apartment building tapi bila lalu malam-malam nmpak few lights je on. penuh ke tak penuh lagi ni?

 

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I was at safa park with my in-laws to check out stuff at the dubai flee market. the two blue buildings behind us is the JW marriott marquis dubai – the world’s tallest hotel at 355m, and 72 storey. all the suites at JW marriott marquis dubai come with sheikh mohammed’s book of poetry penned by himself.

 

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me, mr. khairul with his mom and aunt in front of the awesome coin-shaped ‘aldar HQ’ building at the edge of abu dhabi. another great feats of engineering and architecture in the UAE!

 

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this quirky-looking building is simply called the ‘O-14’. some call it the ‘cheese grater’ building or the ‘honeycomb’. to me it’s the polkadot building! I always see it from afar, from sheikh zayed road on our way to dubai mall but never got near enough to take a picture – until now. one of my favorite buildings in dubai!

 

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this is ‘capital gate’ – popularly known as ‘the leaning tower of abu dhabi’ – the world’s furthest leaning man-made tower. at 160m and 35 stories, it is one of the tallest buildings in the city and features an 18° incline to the west (according to wikipedia). that’s me and khaleef with abah on his visit here few years back. you can see how long it has been when you see how small my eldest khaleef is. hihi. abah you should come back again soon – so much new stuff happening in dubai and abu dhabi!

 

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there are many, many more interestingly shaped buildings in dubai and abu dhabi – and the ones I features here are just top of the ice-berg. awesome! and as usual – everything is ‘the most’ ‘world’s tallest, biggest, widest, leanest, –est –est –est!’ haha.

check out and gp google burj khalifa, burj arab, sheikh zayed grand mosque, the ferrari world theme park and viceroy hotel for more awesomeness!

waiting for the world’s biggest marvel theme park to finish and open here in dubai!

check out these postings too!

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