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Gone in a few hours.

Byline: Our Correspondent

(Images: gone.jpg)

Shahzad ul Hassan went to great lengths to pool together the money that would allow him to buy the two used trucks and trailers so essential to his business as a transporter. Yet three weeks after the acquisition he was a dejected man. The batteries from his trucks had been stolen even before he had a chance to load his first consignment. Impromptu visits to transporter offices and areas like Ghala and Wadi Kabir where such trucks are often parked revealed that Shahzad is not a lone victim of such malice. If the transportersAE words are anything to go by, then stolen batteries have become an accepted risk

of entering the transport business

in Oman.

Javed Iqbal, who came from Pakistan nearly three decades ago and has been working in the transport business ever since told us, oAnyone and everyone who has entered this business has had their batteries stolen at least once, at some point of time.o Fellow transporter Nisar Ahmed agreed and with good reason. He had batteries stolen from two of his three trucks in the last one month.

As the testimonials of thefts pile up, fresh problems also come to light. oA friend of ours who also owns a transport company has had one of his long-term clients cancel their contract with him when he failed to deliver an urgent consignment on account of the batteries being stolen from his truck,o said Aamir Ulfat Hussain Awan, managing director of transport company Ulfat. oWhen batteries get stolen, we have to go around and get replacements by which time the roads might have closed down for trucks. But our clients often think that we are lying to them and that we use the time

to cater to other clients,o said Khan Zada, the owner-cum-driver of a

single truck.

Meanwhile Shahzad has had to spend more than RO250 to replace the stolen batteries before he could accept fresh consignments. oEach truck requires two batteries, which cost RO64 each. So, every time we lose batteries, we lose nearly RO130. And this does not include the losses incurred from delayed deliveries, lost contracts and damaged reputations,o said Aamir.

Apparently, the problem of theft

is not new. oAlthough batteries, tyres and a few litres of diesel from the tank have been stolen in the past

too, the magnitude of the problem has increased manifold in recent times,o explained Javed who has

had to buy new batteries just last month. That battery prices have

also gone up in the last few months has been a double whammy.

Although they cannot substantiate their claims, the transporters blame sellers of used batteries and scrapyards for their woes. oWe suspect such thefts are organised by scrapyards who sell them to sellers

of used batteries who then resell them in the grey market or export them across borders to neighbouring countries,o said Aamir.

However, there are those who do not think the theory credible. oI donAEt think stolen batteries are resold.

No one would buy them for fear of landing in trouble for buying what could be a stolen item,o said a mechanic at Wadi Kabir on condition of anonymity.

A likelier tale, he said, is that with the international prices of lead

having doubled in less than a year, the stolen batteries are probably broken and the lead inside sold. Indeed a quick search on the Net revealed that while lead had been selling at less than US$1,500 per ton in 2006, prices had gone up to over US$2,500 per ton by November 2007.

A trip to a scrapyard revealed

the reason behind the transportersAE suspicions. Posing as customers seeking to buy a pair of old batteries we visited the scrapyard, which we had been told were likely to have stocks of old batteries. We did find a heap of batteries, some broken and battered, but others that appeared to be fine. On approaching the scrapyard manager to buy a pair, we were given a thorough once over before being asked to look for batteries at a garage instead of a scrapyard.

Surprised that anyone would refuse an obvious customer, we

persisted nevertheless and enquired the price of these batteries. After much persuasion the man behind the desk reluctantly said, oRO22 per piece.o We expressed our dismay at the high price and walked away.

On the way out, the manager decided to accompany us and at the gate left us with his parting shot. oThere are a lot of thefts in Muscat. So, we do not buy any battery in working condition. We only buy scrapped ones.o

Meanwhile, the transporters say they have been desperately trying to safeguard their precious batteries, without much luck or success. oWe put chains around the exposed

battery compartments and padlock them, but these are easily gotten past since the thieves seem to be armed with heavy-duty cutters,o complains Nisar. For him, and most of the others, the only solution to the problem appears in the form of a dedicated truck and trailer parking area. oIt becomes harder to steal from a walled compound that can be guarded than from unguarded trucks parked by the roadside.o

In such a case, the solution may not too far as the Muscat Munici-pality is planning to construct a truck terminal. The Municipal Council is already hosting discussions with the Ministry of Housing for land acquisition for the purpose according to Khaleel bin Abdullah al Baloushi, director of information, Muscat Municipality. However, until then, transporters will have to rely on their thick chains and heavy

padlocks and be wary of where they park their vehicles.

(Dr Margaret Chan, DG, WHO)

This yearAEs International WomenAEs Day focuses on investing in women and girls. There is abundant evidence to show that when women are given an opportunity to express their potential, health indicators rapidly improve for themselves, for hou-seholds and for communities. Investment in women and girls not only contributes to socioeconomic progress, but is also an investment

in health development. Public health values women as agents of change. Understanding of the power of women to spearhead change

has moved into the mainstream

of development thinking. The Millennium Declaration by the international community recognises gender equality and the empowerment of women as effective ways to combat poverty, hunger and disease and to stimulate development that is truly sustainable. An investment in women and girls is an investment in sustainable results.

During conflicts and disasters, women stand out as reliable, resili-ent and resourceful leaders and forces for holding families and communities together and moving

forward. Women have unique ways of developing grassroots networks and know how to use them to meet their personal and collective aspirations for a better life. But while the potential of women is recognised at the international level, this potential will not be realised until conditions improve dramatically in countries and communities. Too many complex factors, often rooted in social and cultural norms, continue to hinder women and girls in achieving their potential and to benefit from social advances. This can change by protecting and promoting health. Then the payback will be substantial and truly sustainable.

(Images:cancer.jpg )

The Karnataka wing of Indian Social Club recently held a seminar to raise breast cancer awareness in the country. This was the first of a series of such initiatives planned by the association, said Ahiraj Gururaj, convenor, Karnataka wing. At a function held at Al Falaj Hotel in Muscat, Dr Rajyashree N Kutty, senior

specialist surgeon, Muscat Private Hospital, spoke about various facets of the disease, which she said is the most common cancer in the world and in Oman.

Dr Rajyashree said several factors like heredity, early puberty, late childbearing, obesity and lifestyle factors such as heavy alcohol

consumption and smoking can increase a woman's risk. However, the biggest risk factor is age. Most breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50 and women over 60 are at the highest risk. This, she said, is the reason why regular examinations is important. Diagnosed early, this is one cancer that can be cured; all the more reason why one should undergo check-ups.

Dr Rajyashree said though only 120 cases of breast cancer are

registered every year in Oman, the prevalence is much higher as most patients, once diagnosed, go abroad for treatment. She said one of the concern areas is that unlike in the west where age is a major risk factor, in Oman and the Gulf region, the incidence of breast cancer is high among younger women too. In conclusion, she said one very important factor to remember is that once you suspect something, it's best to go to a specialist instead of a regular cli-nic as time is a critical factor in treating breast cancer. Iman Hamad Hamood al Busaid, editor-in-chief of Y, was the chief guest, while Dr Sathish Nambiar, chairman of Indian Social Club, was the guest of

honour.

KayAEs IT is a part of Al-KayAEs International, a RO5.7mn turno-ver corporate with diversified businesses in areas of transportation, oil field supplies, logistics and lifestyle spread across the Middle East. KayAEs IT has changed the IT arena in the Middle East with its innovative approach to the solutions imparted, a press release said. KayAEs has brought in world renowned solution provi-ders - in the field of RFID, retail solutions and infrastructure solutions, point of sale, hand held

terminal applications, ID card solutions, time and attendance solutions etc. Their major brands of solutions include Polaris (Retail ERP), GFI (Network Secu-rity Software), Zebra (ID card Applications) and PCE UPS. Their other solutions include Fixed Asset Tracking, Document and Restaurant Management Softw-are, Wired Infrastructure (CISCO, Net Gear and Linksys), Wireless Networking (Buffalo, Aruba and Solwise), PCs and Servers (HP, Dell and IBM) and Anti-Virus Solutions (NOD32 and Kaspersky). KayAEs IT is dedicated to provide client satisfaction with focus on quality, ethics and principles.

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On the eve of its 40th anniversary, Zubair Corporation announced its decision to change its work schedule to five days a week. Employees of the corporation will now work an hour extra each day of the week to compensate for the two day weekend that they will have.

The announcement was made by Giles Cunningham, CEO of Zubair Corporation, at a press conference held under the auspices of

H E Juma bin Ali bin Juma al Juma, Minister of Manpower. Addressing the press conference, Rashad al Zubair, vice-chairman of the corporation, said he hoped that others in the private sector in Oman would follow suit soon.

Cunningham also informed that although the corporation would move to a five day week, its

automotive division would now work through the week and no longer close between 1pm and

4pm in response to feedback

from customers.

Bank Sohar has announced that it will be a sponsor for the Oman Awards for Excellence. The bank will sponsor the People Development Award for the 2008 edition. The Oman Awards for Excellence is a private sector

initiative that honours achievements of OmanAEs private sector. The award aims to recognise individuals contributing to the countryAEs economy through the private sector. oThe People Development Award

recognises companies that show commitment to people development and companies that empower their work force to increase their productivity through well-conceived training and Human Resource

practices,o said H V Sheshadri,

DGM - risk of the bank.

Meanwhile, the bank announced in a press conference spicing up its Al Mumayaz savings scheme with a bigger prize bag, more draws and more prizes. Draws are planned on the 10th, 20th and 30th of each month and quarterly draws on the first of April, July, September and January. Khalfan al Tale'y, DGM retail banking, said the bank would be opening ten new branches this year. "We will open four - in Sur, Ibra, Salalah and Azaiba - in the next two to three months to coincide with the bank's first anniversary on April 9." Prizes include shopping vouchers for a whole year worth RO3,000, an Infiniti EX 35, a cash prize of RO25,000 and a prize of RO50,000 in 'gift of winnerAEs choice' or cash.

The Shell Representative Office is now a

limited liability company - Shell Development Oman. Announcing this at a press conference, Dr Andrew Wood, Shell country chairman, said, "The broad range of activities

undertaken by our office - social investment through to learning and technology sharing - now exceed the scope of a representative office. We are therefore delighted to announce that as of now we will be known as Shell Development Oman LLC. With the new setup, we will continue to

contribute to the sustainable development of Oman.o Erik Nijdam, shareholder adviser Oman, Shell Development Oman, said the company would be shifting to a new office in the second quarter of next year. Custom-designed to minimise energy requirements, the new office will also be equipped with state of the art communication and IT infrastructure and will replace the current office on Fahud Street.

One of the regional papers recently carried an article by a local reporter with a headline that said aeOman faces a shortage of 25,000 homesAE. This was the opinion of a fast-emerging property develo-per. I have no evidence to the contrary to argue the point, but IAEd like to point out what I do know. There are apartment buildings in town, either brand new or less than a year old, which have many flats that remain dark even when the sun goes down. This is because the landlord and the agents (or one at the behest of another) would rather leave the apartment empty than go below the asking price.

There is also a mention in the same article that though it is aetraditionallyAE difficult to get permission for multi-storeyed buildings, that is really the path to take. Before I go further, I must add that the views stated here are completely my own. I am very glad that the authorities in Oman have not aetraditionallyAE given permission to build shining monstrosities. I think the best thing about Oman is the fact that we are not squashed between high-rise buildings on every side, that when you drive on the road you see glimpses of the sea and miles of fascinating mountains.

Of course, we have buildings reaching skywards in many areas, but this does not need to take over the general landscape. There is so much space here u we are not some tiny little country fast running out of land area. So, isnAEt it a little too soon to say that the best option is putting up ten floors? Of course, I may be of this opinion because I have never owned land. You do the economics of building a villa or even four villas on a property or building ten floors with four apartments on each floor.

We met a couple last weekend who had come back to Oman after a gap of almost 20 years and when I asked the gentleman what he thought of Muscat, I was a bit apprehensive. (You know how it is, we can complain but no visitor must.) It was great to hear that both his wife and he thought the place looked beautiful. They are right. Pos-sibly we are over-reacting because we care about what lies ahead.

Noise pollution

I want to draw the attention of the authorities to an important issue, which may not be important for others who are not directly affected. However, it is a really painful thing

to bear. As we know that more than a month ago, the Teejan Furnishings building in Al Khuwayr collapsed. Since then, a heavy duty and extremely noisy machine is always working 24x7. As we are the tenants in the building next to that, it is rea-lly painful for us to bear this loud sound continuously even at night. From that time onwards, we are unable to have sound sleep. Is it possible to run this machine only during daytime? It is now impossible for children to study or for us to sit comfortably in peace. Sleep has become a dream now. We hope that action will be soon taken to stop this.

Tenants of Fahmy Furniture

Buil-ding, Al Khuwayr

Proud to be in Oman

This is with reference to the column aeProud to be OmaniAE published in the columns section of www.theweek. co.om in Issue 260. This is a great article Suad. I am an expatriate living here for quite some time now. I share the same emotion. The national feeling which bonds all the people living in a country must be strong. When the country gives you so much freedom, respect and opportunities, you must value it. Oman is a progressive country. And may God bless Oman with peace and more progress.

Nikhat, posted online

Not enough coverage

I am a regular reader of TheWeek

and I appreciate the work that you guys are doing. You have given pretty good coverage for the recently held Power Walk in your story aePower-dressing Muscat's business gurusAE. The article is done pretty well and full credit to Arya, the photographer and of course, the editorial team at TheWeek. All seems well, but I did notice an error. The picture on page 14 with the caption Mr and Mrs Ajit Khimji is captioned incorrectly. The picture is actually of Mr and Mrs Ajit Hamlai. Mr Ajit Hamlai heads the Al Bahja group of companies as well as the Al Nahda Resort and Spa.

Moreover, I did notice a line that reads, oEarlier in the evening, a hard-nosed model coordinator, a former model of considerable repute, was barking out instructions to the

models. Perhaps being chastised like truant school-kids was playing on their minds, causing a minor slip up.o Please note that the models

had a last minute choreography rehearsal and managing a group of 14 models in such a situation especially knowing that one is running way behind schedule is a tough job. The model coordinator could not have helped aebarkingAE at the models. Again with reference to the same lines, models are not chastised at all. They are put through this experience of being yelled at all the time. It is merely a part of being a model.

The aeslip upAE was caused when a model lost her balance on one of

the steps on the stage (her position was towards the edge). The models sounded like desperate, passive kids in the above lines.

I had expected more coverage. I see there are no pictures of the models except a couple. If you have not noticed already, Nethra Raghura-man is a supermodel of very high acclaim and she looked very stunning in the white sari she displayed on the ramp that evening. Then again there are no pictures of the second half of the evening, which I felt had more glamour and colour. I hope you will take my opinion into consideration.

Neeraj Raveendran, by email

Well done Aussies

I am writing this after seeing the Reuters report you carried in Issue 260 about some young Australian cricketers spurning the chance to play in the highly lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL). Remember Kerry Packer and the famed Packer series. Well, the Indian versions of it are the Chandra series and Pawar series. These guys are hell bent on ruining the game on the pretext of promoting the game. Kudos to the young Aussies for refusing to fall prey to this temptation. The game

is losing its charm globally due to

the lack of quality - quality given by players tired of playing too much cricket. The commitment to the game has become questionable. And who knows about Sachin Tendulkar? Maybe the money there will inspire him to leave one-day internationals. I think everyone has had enough of his one knock in ten outings. Or maybe I am wrong.

Name withheld

Much more than a simple romantic movie

This is with reference to the movie review Jodhaa Akbar carried in Issue 260 of TheWeek. I happened to see the movie. I was initially reluctant to go for it, but within two minutes the movie had all my attention. Though the movie has been promoted as a romantic movie by the makers and now reviewers for obvious reasons, the movie is actually far from it. It is romantic and much, much more than that.

The case of the review is the same as that of the promotion. It is sadly incomplete and incorrect. The alli-ance should be aptly termed as aepoliticalAE not aedynasticAE. The dynasties on both the sides didnAEt want to have anything to do with it. The conditions set by Jodhaa had more to do with the hope that the alliance would be refused. The acceptance of these conditions by Akbar was not due to tolerance, admiration or being beauty struck. He had not seen her till then.

It was more to make the political move successful. Tolerance crept in later. Why political? Because Akbar was a warrior with vision (maybe the only one in the family). He dreamt of a united Hindustan, of establishing the biggest Mughal Empire. The movie has extensively covered Akbar and his forward thinking, his promotion of free and fair practices, from trade to customs, his advances in Sufi philosophy, art, commerce and of course, war. The thing to be learnt or understood was not religious tolerance alone, it was also to change, accept change, initiate change and to achieve progress. Does the review really say it all? Not really, it got struck and stuck to the red rose.

Name withheld

Add more to the review

The film is a great one, which covers the making of one of the greatest emperors of united India. There is a comprehensive attention to detail. But your review doesn't say much about the cinematography of the movie. I think that it is worth mentioning. I have not seen such great war scenes in Hindi movies before.

Ishrath Noorein, posted online

Call the scrap dealer

I read your cover story aeDanger Zone?AE in Issue 260 on trucks parked illegally in a residential area. You should do what we did in a similar situation. File a report with the police and give them seven days

to be removed. If not, just call the scrap dealer.

Andy, Germany, posted online

Silence Budgie

Yes, we did think that you had silenced John BurridgeAEs weekly rant, but as he puts it, aeNo such luckAE. In his columns before the break, he made the ludicrous claim that the success of France and Holland in international football were due to aesweepingAE their former colonies for prom

ising players. In fact, almost all of their players were born in France or Holland. He also threw in a gratuitous kick at asylum seekers, aea drain on the economyAE. In fact, the British government spends one quarter of one per cent of the budget on asylum seekers. He then went on to dismiss coaches and managers as irrelevant. He followed this up with a plea for more golf courses in Oman, hardly a pressing priority. In another article, he claimed to have sufficient Arabic to encourage young goalkeepers to aeput him in hospitalAE! Was this a joke?

After the break, he came out ranting as well as ever. It is one thing to have lost patience with Gazza and his problems with alcohol. However, it is entirely another to actively wish him ill. The column then went on to claim that Best, Maradona, and Gazza aewerenAEt all that good anywayAE. There is no doubt that Best was one of the finest British forwards of his generation, however tiresome his drinking became. Maradona is difficult to love as a player and a man. However, his record speaks for itself. Also, he scored what many believe to be the best goal ever in the World Cup. Napoli won their only Serie A championship during his time there. Coincidence? Gazza didnAEt achieve the same heights, but he did play for England 57 times. So, he must have been doing something right.

As Clement Attlee advised one of his ministers, oA period

of silence would be welcome.o The longer the better.

Philip Skeldon, on emai

OmanAEs e-readiness ranking has gone higher by 28 ranking points in the last two years, informed Dr Salim bin Sultan al Ruzaiki, CEO of Information Technology Authority (ITA). To further accelerate this pace, Oman needs to progress to a higher level of e-governance, he believes.

The stage is thus set for the launch of the much awaited Ubar Portal project. The portal is set for a soft launch in July 2008, while the operational phase is to be set in motion in the last quarter of this year, he added.

Ubar Portal is designed to be

the main gateway to electronic services offered by the government. Named after the ancient Omani city of Ubar - the aeAtlantis of the DesertAE and the main trading gateway into

the Arabian Peninsula - this modern portal is designed to provide a

rich, personalised, unified and

highly customisable experience to its users.

Anytime, anywhere access to the portal is possible through multiple channels such as the web and mobile devices. Navigation on the portal site will be simplified through a life event service delivery model and searchable content.

To any portal visitor, a click of a button triggers a number of

automated, sequenced and synchronised service delivery steps in a seamless and transparent manner. The visitor-authenticated identity will be transmitted to various

systems involved in the service delivery and sets up the proper authorisations required to complete the service delivery process.

The use of electronic forms and digital signatures will eliminate

visits to government counters to submit signed paper applications. Payment for online services will occur electronically on the portal and will provide the service requester with a choice of pay-

ment instruments.

The ITA recently organised a workshop on the content of Ubar. It was for representatives of key

government departments which will use the portal. Addressing

the participants, Dr Ruzaiki said that the project was intended to help the sultanate join the leading countries in the field of e-government services. A number of ITA sponsored infrastructure projects, including Ubar gate are currently underway and aim at helping

government departments in providing better services through a single window.

oThe Ubar portal will be an

electronic transactional platform. If it is well utilised, it will save time

and effort for all of us,o Yaqoob

Dur Mohammed al Balushi,

director of e-services at ITA, told

the participants.

The participants were provided with questionnaires to collect details about their ministries, their services, requirements, forms, average processing time, restrictions, eligibility and special requirements, if any. ITA has recently issued a tender notice for agencies to undertake this content collection process, a senior official informed.

Director: Peter Hedges

Cast: Steve Carell, Juliette Binoche, Dane Cook, Alison Pill, Brittany Robertson, Marlene Lawston

Knowing Steve Carell from Bruce Almighty, The 40-year-old Virgin and other side-splitters, and of course his small screen project - The Office (USA), I entered into his latest box office foray expecting

little plot line but rip-roaring laughter to make up for it. However, watching this nuanced drama cum comedy, I admit, I was more than pleasantly surprised. It appears that Steve is much more than the one-trick pony that I had him pegged as and possesses a great ability for producing hilarity (and there were points where I found myself fighting for breath) in moments of tragedy.

Like many silver screen hits of the last few years (read The Family Stone, Meet the Fockers and the soon to be in theatres, Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins), Dan in Real Life depicts the trials and tribulations of your typical, financially comfortable, suburban American family. At the epicentre of the Burns family is black sheep Dan (Steve). Having been widowed four years ago and left to bring up his three young daughters (Alison, Brittany and Marlene) as best he can, the newspaper family advice columnist at times, finds it hard to swallow his own medicine. This becomes particularly apparent during some time out at a family get-together in Rhode Island, where Dan meets the girl of his dreams (Juliette) at a book store, only to find that she is already taken - by his younger brother. With his emotions, as well as his logic gone haywire, Dan finds himself wallowing in the injustice of the situation and as a result, neglecting those who are dearest

to him.

What follows is a sensitive and heart-warming glance at the Burns family dynamics, through both happy and trying times. Of course, things inevitably work out for the best in the end and while this may sound a bit too sickly sweet and predictable for those comedy lovers amongst us, donAEt forget SteveAEs strong point for generating tears

of mirth in even the sternest of moviegoers. Check out his dance-floor moves while out on a date with old family friend Ruthie Draper (Emily Blunt) to see what

I mean!

(Images: Sham.jpg)

ItAEs an Omani rap star who has got enthusiasts of this genre of music to sit up and notice these days. His video One & Only is on high circulation on MTV Arabia and is ranked No. 6 on MTVAEs World Music Video charts. And in keeping with the way things tend to happen in the world of rap music - Cordozar Calvin Broadus is now Snoop Dogg and Tupac Amaru Shakur became 2Pac - His-ham Hamood al Maskry has been rechristened Sham.

He features alongside American R&B artiste Loon and Bad Boy EntertainmentAEs DJ MarvLS in Dream Wave PromotionsAE event scheduled for March 13 at the Le Grand Hall, Al Falaj Hotel. Arash Taslimi, managing partner of Dream Wave Promotions, informs that this is only the beginning of a series

of monthly events lined up for Muscat featuring artistes of international repute.

Sham, when he was still Hisham, grew up in Al Ghubra and attended Al Wataniya School and National Private School. With an English mother and a father who occasiona-lly DJed at the Gulf Hotel in the

mid-70s, oGrowing up in Ghubra near the beach was the best time in my life,o he recalls. Based in Dubai now, he visits Muscat frequently to be with his family.

And though heAEs based in Dubai, he plans on launching his debut album - which should be soon - in Europe. oIf you start from there, things come here. Not the other way round. And I donAEt think it matters where a person is from to break into any market if the songs are good,o Sham says.

After school, Sham headed for Malaysia ten years ago to study business management and from there to London where he worked for a couple of years. And somewhere along the way, he decided he wanted to be a rap star. oThe best thing about making it as a rap star is proving to myself that it can be done even when people said it couldnAEt. If you put your mind to something and work hard, it can be done. Besides, itAEs

just doing what you love doing,o Sham said in an email interview from Dubai.

Having collaborated with K Young, Tamica and Llyod, Sham now looks forward to working with artistes such as P Diddy, Fabolous, Usher and Sade. oI have been influenced by many good artiste, like 2Pac, Biggie, Michael Jackson, R Kelly and many more.o Asked about his newfound fame and having to deal with being recognised in malls, Sham is most understated. oYes, people just ask if it was me they saw on MTV.o

Once, an Arab sage said,

"Be humble and you will rise like

a star

You may see its reflection down on the water

But it is still soaring up in the sky

And don't be like smoke

Although it pushes itself skywards

It shall always remain down and lowly."

As far as etymology is concerned, the word aehumilityAE is derived from the Latin word aehumilisAE, which means low and humble. Thus, a modest person is deemed to be unpretentious and down to earth. However, humil-ity is a far cry from humiliation as the latter is intended to make someone feel ashamed and disgraced, while humility is a virtue through which one can achieve inner peace and harmony.

On the other hand, pride is a deadly sin. It is also, religiously and morally, an abhorrent trait. As a matter of fact, it might be an indication of what is known in psychology as an aeinferiority complexAE. In other words, an arrogant person tries to show others that he or she is very important in order to hide his or her own shortcomings. As the English expression goes, "Empty vessels make the most noise.o The following story from Omani folklore reveals the repercussions of being self-centred and that arrogance leads to nothing but self-destruction.

Once upon a time, in a village there lived a young man called Ahmed. He had many talents, notably, his ability to climb up tall palm trees. Ahmed was loved and respected by all his friends. However, one day he was blinded by arrogance and bragged to them about his talent. As time elapsed, his egotism grew so much so that his friends began to detest him.

One morning, while Ahmed was walking with his friend between the gardens, they spotted a gigantic palm tree. Perhaps, it was the tallest tree in the village. One of Ahmed's close friends, Salim commented, "Good gracious! Look at the size of this tree. I doubt that anybody can climb it. Not in a million years." Out of pride, Ahmed replied, "I bet my life that I can do it in no time."

"My dear friend, don't even think about it. For so many years, this tree has proved impossible to climb," Salim added. "So, what are you going to give me if I manage to do it?" Ahmed asked. "I promise to give you three piastres (Qurush)*," Salim replied.

Ahmed accepted the challenge and started to scale the palm tree. It only took him two and

a half minutes to finish the job. However, when

he wanted to climb down, he felt very dizzy and couldn't move further. Bereft of hope, Ahmed prayed to God to res-

cue him.

"Oh! God, I am in

grievous distress and I need your help. If I ever make it to the ground, I will give a whole camel to the poor," Ahmed beseeched. When he was half way down, he began to see a ray of hope. Thus, he stopped and

prayed again.

"Oh! God, if you help me, I will give a whole sheep to the poor." Ahmed continued climbing down until he was almost at the bottom. He stopped and prayed again. "Oh God, if you help me, I will give a big rooster to the poor."

When Ahmed reached the ground, he became ungrateful. Out of arrogance, he said loudly, "I won't give even a feather of a rooster to the poor." On saying this, he fell down and broke his back. His friends rushed to check on him.

"Dear friend Ahmed, what

happened to you?" they asked in unison. "I am in excruciating pain," Ahmed screamed. They went to see a number of doctors in the village in a bid to treat their friend but all their attempts were in vain.

The damage was already done. Ahmed's face was pale with fatigue and he fell into a deep sleep. In his dream, he saw an old wise man talking to him. "What's wrong with you, son? I can see that you can't move. This is all because of ..."

"Thank God, it was just a

nightmare," Ahmed heaved a sigh of relief. However, when he realised that he was paralysed,

he wept and said, "Oh! God, this is real. I have nobody to blame

but myself".

* Qurush - old Omani currency (This story is part of Omani folklore. It has been translated by the writer)

(Images: collage.jpg)

Anina von Winterfeld did not set out to make collages. "I just found that mixed media has unlimited possibilities," she said. "It gives me freedom to experiment and express myself and it's fun to do, the most important thing."

Anina's collages form one-third of a current exhibition at Bait Muzna, which runs until March 16. Her pieces, 68 in all, hang alongside paintings and sculptures by Moosa Omar and Ayoub al Balushi, two of the heavyweights in Oman's art scene, and the combination of paintings, collages and sculptures makes for a visually exciting show.

Although always interested in art, German-born Anina trained as a teacher. She has lived in Oman for five years, during which time she reduced her teaching tasks to allow herself the freedom and time to work in her studio at home. Variation is key to her work. "I love to have variety," she exp-lained. "I don't plan a picture from the beginning; it just happens - big strokes, scratches... it all comes

out of a non-planned background. Everything is unique."

Her collages are made up of layers, sometimes as many as five or six. For example, one single canvas in the exhibition, Door and Wall, features layers of paper, bark stripped from a palm tree, bandage gauze, ready-made fibre paper - oI buy it from a flower shopo -

different paints and tile glue. Corrugated cardboard, pressed skeletal leaves, plaster of Paris, tissue paper, glue and clay are also much loved materials. "I'm a good customer in the Honda Road hardware shops," she said wryly.

Her pictures are varied in terms of subject matter and format, some big, some small, others tall and slim. This is partly to ensure that they can fit into all areas of a house and partly because diff-erent themes require different

formats. Omani scenes are a leitmotif - the canvases are speckled with mosques streaked with gold, ornate doors, old walls, mountains and flowers - and Arabic

calligraphy ripples across the surface of others, several of which are intensely green. "After Gonu, I had a break in my inspiration. This is a dry country but a lot has changed with the rain, and in winter there's more greenery." Her verdant pictures are just one more element in an uplifting and diverse show.

For details, call 24739204 or visit www.aninacollage.com

I headed to the ministry at about ten in the morning, cursing myself for being caught in answering emails instead of arriving early to be first in line at 7.30am. My Sony Ericsson dutifully alerted me, and I was certain that 'after eight' meant half the day gone. But there I was, late, and

hoping to at least get my application in. The place is actually outside the ministry building and I got my new comp-any registered within two and a half hours.

A number of 'offices' outside offe-red to have their reps wait in line on my behalf

to pay fees and to receive

documents. I did not mind supporting that thriving albeit miniature industry; it saved me a few hours. Total time spent, including driving to the ministry - four hours.

That has got to be a record we can be proud of. If only ministries replicated this model in other areas of high traffic. The state of the art immigration and ID centre of the ROP near the airport is equally impressive. It even has TVs and ample parking space for you and your car. Getting

a driver's license, however, remains more challenging.

A few years ago, I worked

at the Depository supporting the stock market. There, we managed to account for every transaction and holding on

a daily basis. It would not

take a huge leap to implement such a mechanism in the housing sector, where the

government needs to improve its speed, and with it, its income. It would even remove nagging land buyers from its pre-mises with greater

efficiency. There are a number of similarities in the above examples (company registrat-ion one-stop shop, Immigration centre and the Depository).

In each case, you would find a small group, a focused goal and isolation from the centre. In each case, there is an open operation theatre, which guards against long lunch breaks and personal calls. There is also the elem-ent of money - that highly measurable commodity. The result is high efficiency and good performance.

Views expressed here are the authorAEs own and do not refl-

ect those of TheWeek. He may

be contacted at aneesnow@

gmail.com

(Images: lostintransit.jpg)

Ceri Edwards in Dubai

ceri@apexstuff.com

Upon hearing that I was being sent on a media trip to test-drive a range of GMC vehicles on a Ride and Drive event from Dubai to Fujairah, my first reaction was excitement at doing something new and different from my usual responsibilities here in the sultanate.

However, after that initial euphoria, trepidation quickly set in as I realised that though I have been happily navigating the roads of Muscat for over 18 months now, the spaghetti junctions and impatient cosmopolites of Dubai were a totally different ball game. Tailgating on Qurm Heights Road, I can handle, but in an unfamiliar car and in alien surroundings, I am completely out of my comfort zone. In addition - a petrol head I am not. I barely know the registration number of my own trusty runabout and my biggest

concern was that my automobile ignorance would be spotted and derided before I had even had a chance to buckle my seatbelt.

At the Ride and Drive event I was supposed to be test-driving the Terrain, the newest addition to the GMC family that was being launched at the event, but was instead guided towards the Acadia CUV (crossover utility vehicle). Although other manufacturers jumped on to the crossover bandwagon some time ago, GMC made a late entry into the segment with the Acadia last year. The vehicle is designed to have the proportions of a SUV (sports utility vehicle) but has the driveability and comfort

factor of a car on account of a completely new platform being used for its construction. Externally, there is little to separate the 2008 version of the vehicle, which is what I drove; its distinctive appearance being defined by a tapering roofline, shiny 19-inch wheels, LED lamps and a rear spoiler.

Stepping into this behemoth along with my female co-companion, we were then greeted by an

interior that reflects style and refinement. Compared to the insides of the little jalopy that I drive regularly, the instrument console seemed state of the art while seats were nothing short of plush luxury.

However, putting two girls in a car together with a map in our case was not the greatest of ideas. Getting lost precisely three minutes away from our starting point was not a high point, but the car itself, despite my prior anxiety, was a joy to drive. After finally managing to leave the city behind long after schedule, we really let the Acadia loose on the quiet dusty roads of the UAE and thoroughly enjoyed its smooth and responsive ride.

Breathing a sigh of relief that we had made it in one piece, I realised that I was still no closer to being a motoring aficionado, but at least I could hold my head up high and say I held my own. As for the car itself, it was smooth and comfortable and definitely worth a look if you are looking at getting yourself a bit of a saloon car in the body of a SUV.

Technical Specifications

Engine - 3.6lt PetrolDisplacement - 3,600ccType - V6 with VVTMaximum Power - 301hp at 6,800rpmMaximum Torque - 358Nm at 3,600rpmTransmission - 6-speed hydramaticOverall Length - 5,098mmOverall Width - 1,986mm

Overall Height - 1,849mm (with roof rails)

Wheelbase - 3,020mm

(Images: s1.jpg,s2.jpg,s3.jpg)

Although the average motorist does not spare a secondAEs thought before driving through a bend, a corner is often the most accident-prone part of any road. Negotiating a corner or the technique of cornering, as it is known to motoring enthusiasts, requires subtle judgment on the part of the driver.

While speed and braking greatly affect vehicle dynamics during cornering, perhaps the single most important factor in good cornering technique is the line that the driver chooses to drive on. The correct line will mostly see you through the bend safe and sound.

In the diagrams, the correct line is the one marked in green while the one marked in red is the line to be avoi-ded in the interests of safety.

On the highway

Driving through a bend on the highway is least complicated since everyone is travelling in the same direction but there is usually a greater margin of error since there is more than one lane. However, a good driver would typically stick to the middle of his lane on the bend.

On a four lane dual carriageway

Stick to the outside of the corner as far as possible before negotiating the curve. Once in the curve, watch out for cars coming from the opposite direction as there is no divider separating the two sides of the road. DonAEt switch lanes while negotiating the bend.

On a two lane dual carriageway

Use the same technique as that on a four lane dual carriageway. Once you are on the bend and can see cars coming from the opposite direction, you can move to the inner side of the lane but avoid overtaking entirely.

(Images: Jeddah.jpg)

OmanAEs Wheelchair Basketball team are, in every sense of the word, a team. In fact there is no greater example of a group of people fighting, battling and struggling as one, week after week, in the name of sport than Mansour al Buseidi and his squad. TheyAEre an inspiration. Since Mansour, 41, was thrown from the wreckage of a car accident and left paralysed in his lower half, back in 1991, just the simple task of attending a training session with the wheelers has proved almost impossible. Top it off with another brick wall faced by lack of funding and no official recognition from the Ministry of Sport and you begin to wonder why Mansour and the wheelers even bother battling on.

After all it becomes a very expensive game once you realise every team member needs specialist lightweight wheelchair frames priced at RO1500, plus a constant supply of spare parts on top of just the regular expense of running a sports team. The Ministry of Social Affairs does offer support, but itAEs not always enough. oWe carry on, because this sport means absolutely everything to us and more. We owe it to team members before us, to keep fighting on like they did, and we owe it to future team members to keep playing our sport ready for them to one day benefit too,o said Mansour.

He continued, oTo know that you can meet other disabled sportsmen is such a comfort to someone

growing up with, or suddenly experiencing damage to the spinal cord. More than just a game, this allows people with disability the opportunity to get out of the house and lead a healthier life, both mentally and physically. If we can reach just one more person suffering in silence our goal is completed even before a game starts.o ItAEs a tale that has most inspired a group of students at the American British Academy (ABA) in Al Khuwayr, where the wheelers have trained ever since their regular courts were damaged by rains. Twenty-five members of the schoolAEs Students Against Prejudice (SAP) society could see that what the team made up for in spirit, they sadly lacked in funding and leadership. So when the pupils learnt of the playerAEs disappointment about the wheelers maybe having to forego an opportunity to travel to Jeddah in May for the GCC Wheelchair basketball championships, due to lack of cash, everyone at school rallied together with fundraising initiatives.

Husband and wife team and also teachers at ABA, Ty and Marcie Frederickson are supervising the campaign, which is spearheaded by pupils desperate to lead the wheelers to Saudi in summer.

The students have been selling raffle tickets and finding sponsors to donate prizes for a grand draw to be held at the school on March 15 at 2.15pm. It will follow an exhibition match involving the Oman Wheelc-hair Basketball Team and big crowds are expected as part of a wider inter-school basketball tournament.

oThe idea of making Oman Wheelchair Basketball a headline event at the interschool basketball tournament is firstly to raise awareness of the sport and then to attract sponsors and raise funds in order to send the team to Jeddah,o said 18 year old Samiha Sumar of SAP.

Zahra Naqvi, aged 17, another SAP member at ABA, added, oSo far we have sent letters to almost 20 companies asking for financial

backing and/or donation of gifts for the raffle.o

oThe response has been great and we are quite confident about making what seemed an impossible mission at first finally quite feasible. Even if we fail we feel, weAEve spread awareness about the difference this game makes to its players,o said Kristian Jatten, 17, also from ABA and the

SAP society.

So far Swiss Air, Oman Air, Al Hoota Caves, Gulf Leisure, Raz Beauty Salon, Consolidated Cons-truction Company, Jane Jaffer, Hi FM, Explorer Publications, Subway, Ernst & Young, Adriana Skaloud and Aker Kvaerner have given generously to support the team. Mansour said, oWe are so heartened by the studentsAE and supportersAE attempts to get us to Jeddah that we just hope we can make it and perform admirably in order to repay their efforts.o If you can offer any type of

support, even if itAEs just to purchase or help sell raffle tickets, everyone at OmanAEs Wheelchair Basketball team would be very grateful in your bid to bring them closer to Jeddah.

For more information, contact Marcie or Ty Frederickson on 95671699 or email them at tfrederickson@abaoman.edu.om

IAEm constantly asked the question whenAEs Ali al Habsi going to get a consistent run in BoltonAEs first team. The short answer is, when Ali stands up like a man and confronts manager Gary Megson head on. If Ali hasnAEt got the guts to march into MegsonAEs office and lay down a few home truths then heAEll never play Premier League football. After his display against Sporting Lisbon last week, I would have been in there like a shot to tell Megson, oIAEm better than Jussi - play me at Wigan next Sunday - or by Monday youAEll have a big fat transfer request slapped on your desk.o Trouble is Ali has been brought up too well, his Omani nature is to never question authority, to lay his head to one side and stare at the floor submissively. That very Arab trait will never get Ali anywhere - I love Oman for the politeness and kindness of its people, but in the Premier League where itAEs dog-eat-dog, flowery talk will get you nowhere.

Megson continues to play Jussi because of the great service JussiAEs given in the past, but those days are gone, thereAEs no future in history. ItAEs cowardice on MegsonAEs part. JussiAEs been responsible for the past two defeats at Liverpool and Blackburn, but what does Jussi care - heAEs refusing to sign a contract so heAEs as good as off at the end of the season anyway. Ali could be playing

championship football next year and itAEs all thanks to Jussi whoAEs getting Bolton a step closer to relegation every day. ShouldnAEt AliAEs fate be put in his own hands - afterall he canAEt do much worse than Jussi Jaaskelainen at the moment. Ali needs to be bolshy, arrogant and demanding like me if heAEs serious about getting anywhere in football. Everyone knows heAEs good enough following his performance against Bayern Munich, but Ali needs to realise this too. If he doesnAEt believe it,

no one else will. I do feel sorry for Ali because his agent, Peter Harrison, also happens to be JussiAEs agent, and Peter wonAEt march into MegsonAEs office to defend his client, because he has a greater vested interest in Jussi playing. If Peter can keep Jussi in the shop window (ie on the pitch) then Jussi can transfer at the end of the season with a maximum fee - a major cut of which will go back into HarrisonAEs wallet. In HarrisonAEs mind, Ali is just money for the future, whereas itAEs imperative he cashes in on Jussi today before itAEs too late.

ItAEs clear Ali should fight this battle alone, because no one else can help him now. I stood up for what I believed in to get him playing abroad - I fought with ministers, ministries and Milan Macala - it got me the sack from the OFA, but I still did it. Now Ali needs a dose of the Bolshy-Brit about him too if heAEs to get what he wants. He must grow up, I canAEt fight his battles for him anymore.

I used to throw my weight around all the time in order to get a higher wage or more games - I was doing Bosmans long before they were even invented. The Bosman deal basically counteracted a law, which said even when your

contract is up with a team they can still receive transfer cash from your next move. Thanks to Jean-Marc Bosman contesting this in court, every player is a millionaire now, because they wait for their contract to expire (like JussiAEs doing) and then take all of their next transfer fee for themselves. I was doing that in the 70s and 80s. Crystal Palace refused to pay me what I wanted, so instead of turning up on a Saturday to play, I went to sit on the swings with my kids at the park; well they couldnAEt pay me could they? So I burned holes in a few pockets and chairmen and managers got so annoyed that they released me on a fee - I then took all the signing on fee from my next club QPR - and it made me a very rich man. Other players would have been worried because if youAEre not in the shop window, then clubs might not pay you that much - out of sight out of mind. But I wasnAEt worried about this as I was so confident of my ability that I knew people would pay me what I wanted. Perhaps Ali should take a leaf out of my book - I always got what I wanted from causing a stir. The mock arrogant persona and stature that I created for myself did me favours because people started to really think I was the boss man - it worked! When in truth I was an ordinary player. Ali is ten times better than I ever was. HeAEs going to be a star, the next big thing, but heAEs got to swagger around like he owns the place before people give him the credit heAEs due. He needs a bit of Jens Lehman in him - LehmanAEs willing to barge into WengerAEs door in order to get what he wants. I challenge Ali to give it a go and who knows he might even get a game at Wigan next week. He canAEt stand there gawping, like he did after the Bayern game, he should have thrown in an ultimatum.

The views and comments expressed in this column are the authorAEs own and not necessarily those of TheWeek. Email Burridge at budgie@apexstuff.com

(Images:camera.jpg)

Author: Our Correspondent)

A treacherous pirate is murdered by his clan for trying to steal their booty. But before he dies, he curses his killers and vows to return so that their descendants face his wrath. Fast forward to 2008, six seemingly unrelated people, the descendants of those cursed buccaneers from different parts of the world, embark on an adventure that will reveal their destiny and a hidden treasure.

This is the story of what is probably the first English language feature film to be shot in Oman, Pirate's Blood.

Although the original plan was to use India as the location for the shoot, director Mark Ratering was persuaded by Omani producer Mohsin al Saidy and actor Salim Bahwan, who acts alongside debutante Maimoona al Balushi in the film, to come to Oman instead.

"The decision to come to Oman turned out to be a great one because of the country's geography. There are a lot of locations where desert meets the sea," said Mark. Mohsin said that most filmmakers avoid Oman for film shoots as it lacks cinematic infrastructure. He hoped that Pirate's Blood would trigger an interest in the sultanate as a filming location in the future.

After three weeks of shooting in various locations around the country, Mark said that he had completed nearly 75 per cent of his filming. Besides the remaining shooting for the film, which will be done in India, a majority of the post-production work will also be done there. "The final edit, however, will be done in America since I want this film to have an international look and feel," Mark informed.

A[umlaut] Apex Press and Publishing

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Publication:The Week (Muscat, Oman)
Date:Jun 30, 2008
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