Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Stopover in Dubai

The pool at Ismail's villa at Palm Island looked like this

This is a belated entry.No time, weh.Too many meetings, social functions to attend. I had only a couple of hours doing poetry with Jacob Sam-la Rose, the East London poet brought to KL by British Council. But managed to see him perform at Zouk's Slam Poetry (phooii.., young people were drinking and smoking like they had never heard of cancer, kidney failure)

My Fulbright certificate giving (and dinner) was just hours before that.What a busy evening but Gayah and I had nice time talking about our teenagers and supporting each other as worn out parents! :)

But yes Dubai.Apa yang seronok sangat Dubai ni beats me. I didn't like the airport.I think it's over-rated (I found a scarf I bought in Muscat, sold 3 times more at the airport).People were rude at the counters. There were no proper and friendly resting lounges for passers by (hotels were always full).My Rawa relative waited but didn't wait any longer (went to sleep sebab besoknya kerja) when my plane was delayed.Bagus punya Rawa! :))

But Nik's Arab friend, Ismail, made a difference to my first impression of Dubai (although I had been passing through the airport on numerous occasions). Ismail is a young millionaire (unattached at 30, religious, smart and kind hearted). Can you imagine him picking us up at the airport at 10 something in the evening and was with us till 4 am? His brand new BMW was impressive.He showed us Dubai..the new and old Dubais. We had dinner at the Global Village which looked and sounded very global.I didn't like it except for the restaurant we were at (good service, good food, good philosophical conversations).

Then Ismail took us to his Palm Island weekend villa (worth millions of dirham) after showing us some of Dubai's 7 star hotels..woohooo..cantik.The Creek pun bagus.People didn't sleep even at 3 am.

But ke manakah Dubai ingin membawa kemajuan yang tiada nokhtah ini? Dan siapa yang untung?

Yang pasti, I am glad to see a glimpse of hope.Ismail masih berjubah walaupun dia seorang jutawan, trained in the West.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

More images of Oman

Thank you Oman.God bless.

at the Airport VIP lounge, so impressed by Omani hospitality

we also fed the mountain goat

We ate from the tray

till we found a picnic spot almost at the peak

and more mountains

there was nothing but mountains

so we continued our journey up the mountain

pre-Islamic rock walls

pre-Islamic rock homes

but not before seeing a wadi on the way

convoying up the treacherous Jabal Shams

A guy with a heart of gold

The castle guide and our Omani alumni

watching out for enemies

Jabreen Castle

The Alumni Prez giving a speech

at our IIUM Omani Alumni Chapter Launch (our mc for the day)

building tourism

Omani kids at a fishing village

Dr. Nagat and me at the palace

There are more pics and wonderful memories of Omani people and places but it takes so much time to download.These are just a handful few.Please see the pics from bottom up.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Greetings from Muscat, Oman

Omani hospitality (serving the halwa)

at the harbour

night shopping at the bazaar in Mattrah

night life at mattrah

Muscat is a very accessible, slow paced city.But its nights are alive.

We were in the Jabal Shams area yesterday (up the mountain on four wheels drive). A dangerous journey indeed.It was hot (but I was told it'd get worse in months to come) but the mountains were mysterious and yet, beautiful.I wondered about the Quranic verse in which God had entrusted the Quran to the mountains but they rejected.I could relate to why it was the mountains...they looked real solid and strong.Like they could protect you from just about everything.

We had a picnic up the peak (almost).You'd think it would be so hot up there given the deserty and dry (almost Martian landscape) look but it was very, very pleasant and cool and we shared our foods with the mountain goats.Some pics later.

Then there's the fallaj (something like the zam-zam well in which water does not dry up even in bad summer and this has been since ancient times).

We also went to visit Jabreen Castle.Simply well-built and well-thought (the architecture's simply amazing...Quranic verse and doas were part of the the overall interior so that as the kids/adults climb up the staircases to go to their bedrooms, they'd read the doas).

The Omanis are very friendly people.Most people speak English here.

We also went to Old Muscat (Muscat and Oman were two separate governments till they merged as Oman not too long ago). The Old Muscat has a nice fishing village.I'd put some pics later.

Halwa Maskat is from here.They taste real good here.Prof Ibrahim Zein told us a story about how an Iranian student of his gave him some Iranian halwa.Prof Ibrahim said, "This is from Muscat not Iran". The boy said no, no..it's Iran's.So he asked what Iranians call their halwa.The boy said, "Maskati" (read Muscati). :))

So every time your mom serves you your halwa maskat..please remember its place of origin. Ha ha.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Salam from Jakarta

Me, at the hotel

Habiburrahman El-Shirazy, author of Ayat-ayat Cinta (rep. 31 times, the movie, a blockbuster -- watched by the Prez and paupers alike)

Eka (of Flinders days) and me.Eka's husband will soon be posted to Mexico City

Barbecued gold fish I ate with Yuli at Taman Ismail Marzuki (T.I.M)
-- I hope it was not somebody's pet

I think this is the tugu of liberty (taken from my hotel window)

The biggest mosque in Southeast Asia (6 floors)

With Jas' mom at our hotel

Malaysian delegates (and CEOs of SEA Language Centres) at the Southeast Asian Language and Literature meeting


I'm writing from Jakarta.Today is my 3rd day here.Jakarta is not cheap.Or was I brought to expensive places? Even the street bazaars were not cheap (perhaps I was too dressed up like wanita kaya?) No wonder Janet said she was a Carrefour gal whenever in Jakarta.She just could not be bothered to haggle with prices with the retailers.You just can't win with them.Too polished.

This is the hotel I'm at http://www.hotelborobudur.com/default1.asp
The garden is so beautiful (reminds me of Hilton in Istanbul) Even the strict security checks remind me of Hilton in Istanbul (so many Americans here..there's a group of American military men..doing some cooperation with Indonesian militer)

I met the writer of Ayat2 Cinta at breakfast (his book was reprinted 31 times) And I saw his blockbuster movie on day one (didn't waste any time!) Cried throughout the movie.This movie can beat Fitna at any time.The movie is authentically Islamic and well-researched. :)

The seminar I'm at will be attended by 300 Deans from universities all over Indonesia.3 Ministers from Msia, Indonesia and Brunei are also here.I have many butterflies in my tummy now. :)

More later.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Remembering Tam...

She was my 4th (of 8) sister.She had a masculine name but we called her Tam cos' her skin was darker than other siblings in the family. She was always the odd one out. While my other siblings chose to go to English schools, she chose to go to Sekolah Melayu (in those days). Her friends called her Bob cos' she was a bit tom boyish.

When she was 19, my mom wanted her to marry a long lost relative.Like a good daughter she was, she obliged (but not without some initial resistance).But she was pampered so much by her husband and travelled to a couple of countries which included the UK and Egypt.I think she was happily married and so blessed by Allah. She was going in and out the istana and mingled with very important people. She loved beautiful things and like a true Rawa, she loved gold.

Tam was a generous being.She bought me a nice gold necklace and my young infant a gold chain with her name. Zafirah was 9 months when Tam died in a car crash.At the age of 34.I remember the day well.

And today, after almost 16 years, I thought of her on my way to work (I think of her everyday but today the pain was as fresh as the day she died).I thought of her in this painful manner because the radio was playing her favourite song about a boy saying farewell to a dead friend.

Tam has 3 children who looked after themselves after her death.Her husband refused to remarry and is almost blind for all the memory of her and too much crying. Baraqah (who was 2 when the car crashed) has just gotten her SPM results and is looking for a uni. placement.I hope she will find some place somewhere and get to do what she wants to do (Accountancy). Baraqah was the family finance controller and it is no wonder she is so good at Accounting and Mathematics.She had been playing with numbers and balancing sheets since she was in Standard 1.

Her eldest brother missed out on college cos' he was looking after the younger sisters. I hope when the gals have finally settled down, he would have his own space for himself.

I think we have much to share. Whatever wealth, comfort we may have, it is not ours.There are others who need it more than us.

To Tam, al fatihah - in memory. Thank you for preparing my picnic meal when I was 15.Thank you for doing the cukur when Zafirah was a month old (no one dared cos' she was too tiny).Thank you for telling me I was actually going through labour pain and advising me to go to the hospital the night I cringed with 'stomach ache' (9 months pregnant). Thank you for the last buffet you got the family together just hours before you died. I still remember you waving goodbye with a happy smile on your face because everyone was home for the buffet you prepared. It was your way of saying goodbye to us.As though you knew.Hours later, I received a phone call from Daud saying that you were involved in a car crash.I was hopeful you would survive but seconds later, another call saying you had left us.

Thank you for being such a loving and supportive sister, daughter, aunty to so many who still think of and love you.Even in your absence.