Rembrandt Visits Oman

29 07 2009

Gulf News has an article titled “Rembrandt show to draw Omanis and Dutch closer”. Basically, it is about a month-long (Ramadhan long) exhibition of Rembrandt’s original paintings at the Grand Hyatt from 10 am to 12 midnight, non-stop.

Expect more of such images, Its titled The Jewish Bride

Expect more of such images, It's titled "The Jewish Bride"

“A hundred original works of Dutch artist Rembrandt will be displayed for the first time anywhere in the Middle East or North Africa (Mena) region when the Grand Hyatt Muscat hosts an exhibition during Ramadan.

“Rembrandt’s original paintings and etchings have travelled world over but this is the first time they are being brought to the Middle East,” the Dutch ambassador to Oman, Stefan van Wersch, said.”

It opens on the 19th of August.

“Al Salmi Library, a family enterprise, is bearing the cost of the Rembrandt exhibition. The total expenses involve 600,000 Omani riyals (Dh5.7 million) plus the insurance cost.

“They are obviously insured and would be well guarded during the month-long exhibition,” said Shaikh Abdullah Al Salami, chairman of Al Salmi Library.

“It is being held for the first time in the region and only in Muscat.”

“The Grand Hyatt Muscat would be transformed completely to look like a Dutch palace,” revealed Ashok

This is not what it looks - The Return of the Prodigial Son

This is not what it looks - "The Return of the Prodigial Son"

Suvarna, CEO of NPA Events, who are managing the exhibition.
The Royal Oman Police will take over security of the exhibits once concerned agencies from the Netherlands hand it over for the exhibition in Muscat.

Entry for the show will be free from 10am to midnight during Ramadan.”

Now since Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salmi has mentioned twice about the security measures and about the paintings’ insurance, it seems security was a hurdle in bringing the multi-multi-million dollar paintings to the region.

This all shall be followed by a reciprocal 7-month event in Amsterdam, featuring something of Oman. Wonder how they pulled ‘that’ off!!

NSFW - I don't think this one'll be there (click to enlarge) - "Bath Seba"

Now since the age of consent in Denmark hovers around the 15-year-old mark, and hash is almost-legal, I’m sure bringing Omanis and the Dutch closer will be all for the good! Atleast no one will be ‘robbed‘ in Thai hotels, that’ll happen in Dutch hotels!

I’m sure the “unclothed art is art, totally fit for viewing” theory shall be useless here, so I think the exhibition shall be kiddo-safe, however I have no idea on how to keep an exhibition safe from a kiddo. And I don’t think a Rembrandt exhibition is the place for a kiddo, especially if they’ve decked out the hotel “in the style of a Dutch Palace”. What does that mean? Is the Dutch foortbaarl team going to be there? I’m sure they live in a castle!

-TFK





Michael Jackson – Too Good, Too Soon?

28 06 2009
Didn't get back up this time

...didn't manage to get back up this time around...

So, seems like MJ really is dead. Cardiac arrest, followed by an hour of resuscitation, but to no avail. Again, Muslims/Islam managed to tick some people off when a news channel censored Jermain Jackson’s press conference’s ending statements, where he said “May Allah be with you, Michael, always,”. Jermaine is an announced Muslim (taking the name Abdul Aziz) whilst rumors surfaced about MJ while he was in Bahrain.

I was really surprised about ToO’s news yesterday about Jackson being in Oman, esp on the personal invitation of The Essa Zadjali. But since I was not in Oman at that time (a university had hired me to study for them. Tried to resign tonnes of times but they wouldn’t let me. I had a negative salary of 250 RO/m), and there was no media coverage that I recall, so I was genuinely surprised. And then the cheesy shot of Essa & MJ with an Omani cap in MJ’s hand. Wonder what the motive was!!?

Surprisingly, again, there has been very little bile in the media so far. Frankly, I expected more. Most of it is subtle, tepid “such unfulfilled promise,” “remember what he was, not what he became,” “I loved him as a child star”, bot-man genius” et. al. Unfulfilled promise? Every LP was a masterpiece, (or atleast a best-seller).  Remember what he was, not what he became? He wasn’t a model, he was a singer and songwriter, and pretty good one at that: up there with Elvis & The Beatles in rankings. & then the condescending: he was so sweet! So precocious! Yeah? And “Smooth Criminal” is one of the greatest pieces of music of all time which I personally like. So is Billie Jean & Thriller is the best selling album of all time.

Celebrity statements are pouring in. There are tonnes of them here. Mostly repetitive though, but shows you the people who knew him. I expected more on Farah Fawcett!!

Funeral arrangements are next. Expectations are to get the body Tuesday & have something ready by then or Wednesday. Oooo! Like to see the media got batshit crazy over this one, just like they did for Diana & Elvis. I regularly want something like this (not someone dying, but some one/thing to waver, even if for an instant, like Anna Nicole) to see the media instantly stain their pants. I mean they instantly go all ga-ga and start dripping! Wow! Really talks volumes about their professionalism and sense of perspective.

So I end this here with a RIP for the man who really didn’t matter if he were black or white, coz he gave us a thriller of a ride as long as he lasted off the wall, with his dangerous defiance of cultural norms. He did rock my world once, then fell out of my life, but doesn’t take away from his history, which was not bad, btw; I still remember the time. After all, no one can beat it like the King of Pop did. Poor thing, managed to be gone too soon. Guess this is it then!

-FK





(Ir+Om)an

17 06 2009

Iran, Oman & the Kish Gas Field

Yup, it’s official. Following my previous posts there was a pending visit, I was waiting for our Deputy Prime Minister to visit but it seems as if I have been upstaged by the govt. and now it is His Majesty himself who is going to pay the newly crowned Iranian President a visit. While this is significant on many levels, it is a bold statement by His Majesty to be the first head of state to visit the Iranian President after his elections. Whilst partial recount is underway, we really don’t know the state of Moosavi supporters’ unrest by the 28th. But it figures that the state police in Iran will have squashed all opposition to make it peaceful enough for our delegation to visit.

And the enoturage is impressive too. ToO states:

His Majesty the Sultan will be accompanied by a high level delegation comprising

Sayyid Ali bin Hamoud Al Busaidi, minister of the Diwan of Royal Court,

Gen. Ali bin Majid Al Ma’amari, Royal Office minister;

Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, minister responsible for foreign affairs;

Ahmed bin Abdulnabi Macki, minister of national economy and deputy chairman of the Financial Affairs and Energy Resources Council;

Abdul Aziz bin Mohammed Al Rowas, His Majesty the Sultan’s adviser for cultural affairs,

Dr Ali bin Mohammed bin Moosa, minister of health;

Maqbool bin Ali Sultan, commerce and industry minister;

Lt.-General Malik bin Sulaiman Al Ma’amari, inspector-general of police and customs,

Dr Mohammed bin Hamad Al Romhi, minister of oil and gas,

Sheikh Yahya bin Abdullah Al Fannah Al Araimi, the Sultanate’s ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Nice! That’s 7 ministers, 10 portfolios and 13 heads of profiles and 1 Head of State. Seems like Oman will get a corner of the international media for this event, since all spotlights are pointing there already. Oman will be like a minor character in a play suddenly sharing the stage with the main female lead who has been hogging the stage. Now whether this character uses this opportunity to do something screenworthy and make her presence felt or will just pass on the glass of water, play his minor part and exit left, is yet to be seen. Hoping it is the former, expected to be the latter.

But then again, expect important development to happen on the Gas Sharing thingies floating around. With the ongoing gas field deals, the joint gas and energy company setup, tourism and infrastructure deals setup, I want to think that nuclear issues are also going to be discussed, however I don’t think that is going to be announced anywhere.

Well, let’s see.

-FK





Emot-Iran

16 06 2009

Take a horse. Should be dead. No, kill him, just arrange to obtain a dead horse. Lay him down (or if you can, make him stand up)….. and then beat him. Beat him and Beat him to death!

Just what did you achieve? The same as I’ll achieve by speaking about the spin media puts on events.

The elections in Iran. Ever since Ahmadinejad even hinted at his victory, the media, international ofcourse (CNN & Bloomberg, that we I get here) has been ranting and raving about foul, rigged, cheated, fradulent and what-not elections. Regardless of what happened on-ground, why does an supposedly independant 3rd party have the gall to point out one viewpoint so loudly as to defean others. Just like writing 30,000 billion and then 1 trillion and saying the billions are more. Twisting, turning, churning, pivoting, manipulating everything to suit one way or the other.

NatGeo: Iran

NatGeo: Iran

Why just can’t we have a newsflash that says “It is believed by so-and-so that the elections were rigged. However, so-and-so says they were not. The Iranian leaders announced the win of so-and-so but have now called for a recount”. Phrase that properly and ta-da, news! But even here, the possibility of manipulation is so much. The first so-and-so could be someone of clout, the 2nd one a known crankcase, one viewpoint with videos and graphics, the 2nd one delivered with a smirk across the face etc etc etc. Bah!

But then again, its Iran we’re talking about here. A nation of people who lost an entire generation battling the Iraqis. Who saved their land from invading forces and lived to tell the tale. A land where if walk the streets you see many more women than men. Going from the Middle East, you pause and stand seeing male:female ration of 1:3. Where women police officers are as much, if not more, active than men. A nation of proud people, defiant in the face of the West. Ostracized by the international community, scraping and making inroads by sheer force of resilience and on the back of their God-gifted natural resources. Deeply religious, fanatic Shiites. One can judge their emotions by the fervor during the ’79 revolution, the annual religious festivals, the ’83 war. Why wouldn’t they be having strong opinions about the election? English hooligans anyone?

I started off with ideas and things to write about,  but scenes of the horse pass in front of my eyes. Poor horse. Dead and still taking a beating.

-FK





Railway – More Oil – More Undersea Land

31 05 2009

MUSCAT – Gulf Arab finance ministers have asked Price Waterhouse Coopers to study how the region should share common customs revenues, the last step in implementing a regional customs union, officials said on Saturday.

Whilst this is a long-pending issue (it was decided in principle in 2003), but the load unbalance in terms of incoming ports and goods dissipation due to inland transport means that some formula has to be worked out to maintain who gets how much of the customs earnings. The obvious way is to note the custom levied per item, the final listed destination of the item and then pay that amount to that country annually/whatever. This would not only promote a common interface port, or the biggest ports (UAE, Sohar), but also reduce good-travel-costs within the GCC, due to decreased/no within-GCC customs.

Furthermore,

GCC finance ministers also discussed a common railway grid on Saturday, Hinai said without giving 
further details. One of the proposals presented to the ministers was to extend the GCC railway to the Yemen’s border, according to a document obtained by Reuters.

Gulf Arab states have been considering setting up a joint company to build a railway costing more than $14 billion linking the nations.

The 1,940-kilometre (1,205 mile) railway, which is envisaged to be operational by 2016, would allow diesel-powered trains operating at speeds of up to 200 kilometres an hour to carry passengers and freight between GCC countries, which are in the process of forming a regional economic bloc.

Cool… we shall implement a railway in 2016, which is already about 200 years behind the countries that matter, and to lay it on even more, they’re going to be ‘diesel’ trains! Woohoo!! We’re the richest economic bloc in the world, we’ve got the biggest natural resources reserves ever, we’re getting the world’s most delayed railway project, & we’re running diesel engines in the same area as the world’s greenest planned city (in Abu Dhabi). Nice!

Oman will raise its crude oil production to up to 830,000 barrels per day by the end of this year, oil minister Mohammed bin Hamad Al Rumhy said on Saturday.

Nice.. more oil means more revenue right.

Al Rumhy said Opec’s recent decision not to change oil output was a “good one” and crude oil prices at $55-$70 a barrel were “reasonable”.

Nice, Nice. OPEC cuts output, which increases prices. Oman, not being a member of OPEC, boosts production. Since prices are already high, Oman sells oil at higher rates! Yippee!!

Oman has spent heavily on a variety of long-term programmes to enhance oil recovery from aging fields.

The efforts appear to have begun paying off with Omani output rising last year for the first time since 
peaking in 2001. Analysts feel that the quality and price of Oman’s benchmark crude oil would deteriorate as it steps up efforts to raise output from ageing fields.

Yup. Wonder what the next plan is?

And lastly,

MUSCAT — The Sultanate has submitted its request for expanding its continental shelf boundaries beyond the economic zone at the UN Maritime Office.

What? What does that even mean?

Oman wants to preserve its natural resources on the seabed and soil within the continental shelf zone below the neighbouring high seas opposite its shores, said Salim bin Abdullah Al Alwi, head of the Continental Shelf and Maritime Affairs Office at the Foreign Ministry.

It will be be followed by sea seismic surveys to support its right for the demarcation of its continental shelf boundaries.

The move will bring huge economic benefits in terms of exploiting the non-living resources such as minerals and oil.

Accordint to Article 76 of the UN Convention on Maritime Law for 1982, the continental shelf is beneath the deluged land extending 350 nautic miles from the baseline to overseas.

Ahh!

The continental shelf is the physically demarcated rock shelf which is the slope that rises and rises and leaves the water and starts becoming the land of the country. A few hundred miles into the sea, the rocky bed either shelves off (cliffs and such) or its physical thingies change (constitution, slope, rock-type) marking a transition from the continental shelf to the sea-bed.

So this baseline is considered a part of the country’s land for all intents and purposes (let’s put a post office there). The Maritime Law provides for 350 miles beyond this as part of the country itself, thus giving Oman ownership of all the fishes and sand and the goody goody things also, like the oil and the copper and the what-not.

Let’s make an underwater restaurant!

-FK





How many Gulfs?

24 05 2009

That is an assumption of course. Since the Europeans created the Euro, the Gulfians should create the Gulf; and maybe have its symbol to be a stylized  G (okay, maybe not a G with a strikethrough!)

But still, what would it be named?* What would it look like? What would it show? Colors? Size? There are obvious problems. The GCC has 6 member countries and 6 local currencies. These are the:

Bahrini Dinar

Kuwaiti Dinar

Kuwaiti Dinar

Omani Rial

Omani Rial

Qatari rial

Qatari Rial

Saudi rial

Saudi Rial

UAE Dirham

UAE Dirham

So there are 5+7=12 heads of states that could look for space on the note; the color ranges could be from a soothing blue to a neutral gray to a rich red; the denominations could be as low as .005 of the base unit upto 500 of the same etc etc.

I’ve often thought, who decides such things? The Omani note, forex. Gray! Steel Gray with white! White on a currency note? Anyone expected it to remain white? And the dimensions? Following international standards, I think. But still!

As for the other issues, there are many toothsayers saying all sorts of things. GCC common curreny doomed. UAE plays its card. UAE move shows underlying differences. Currency on brink of failure. & the UAE itself is leaving options open.

I think its not as decisive as it should’ve been could be. The UAE obviously wants all matters pertaining to incoming funds within its jurisdiction at the moment. And the current crunch, if nothing else, tells them the imprtance of having cash-in-hand. On the other side, SA can use its behemothical size to roll this way or that and make the currency happen with or without UAE.

Oman, otoh, I think, has once again shown something that is much better, much deeper and much more decisive than all the other member states. I again do not know who makes these policies (the originators, the one fiscal expert who thought this up, “Let’s not join”), but this basically shows off a “good move” on the part of the country. After all, no one is going to tax Oman or levy any ‘late fees’ if we join later, right? The country has a good, solid 25-year plan going in full swing. The targets decided upon are very much on track, the proper assets are in the proper places to start all engines, but there is essentially no pressing need. Yeah, it would be swell to have tonnes of money and assets floating around, but we have a bit more than we want currently. So no rush. The UK was reviled and pointed at and accused of missing out on something ‘wow’ but they stood their ground and kept the Pound and still joined the EU. Years on, while they are not on top of the world, but they are not hurting either.

But I still think we should move away from the USD peg.

-FK

*A little birdie told me they’re planning to call it the ‘Khaleeji’. Expect all South/East Asians to call it a “Kahleeji” (with a ‘K’ intead of the throaty ‘Kh’)

Proposed Symbol

Proposed Symbol

The Arabic word ‘khaleeji’ (خليجي ) stands for ‘of the gulf’ thus the ‘G’ symbol with the by now customary central bar . And just as the ‘$’ symbol once so aptly stood for ‘ unit of silver ‘ letthe Khaleeji be understood as a ‘unit of gold’? The most convincing argument for such an interpretation is that having a gold/silver backed currency is considered the final leg to remove Riba (ربا ‘interest’ or ‘usury’) from the financial system, which is forbidden arcording to Islamic economic jurisprudence . Or, we can just use the Arabian affinity for gold.

O_O





Muscati in New York Times

17 05 2009

There is, undoubtedly, interest in Oman at the moment. The international media, having ravished itself on the UAE, dissed SA, ogled Kuwait & Qatar, beaten the Iraqi and Irani dead horse, are now turning their eyes on another niche of the center of the world.

This interest is manifesting itself in the form of articles about Oman in international dead-tree media.

NYTimes has a not-so-positive article. That’s the bad part. I won’t rant on the article, coz its ‘so’ rantable that I’d have to forget all semblance of completing my work today and then ‘urgh-ing’ all the day tomorrow.

But the point of notice of this post is:

A recently amended law allows the government to prosecute anyone associated with a Web site or blog that posts anything objectionable, not just the writer.[…] A blogger was sentenced last month to 10 days in jail after posting on a public forum a confidential government document[…]

This links to Muscati’s post in Omanforum, circa 1999.

Yayy!! Lots of hits!

-FK