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Monthly Favourites

My September Favorites

October 1, 2014

This is the first edition of my new “favorites” section where I shall post my 5 favorite things from the month gone by.

My faves could be anything; it might be the TV show I have been loving, maybe the book I am currently engrossed in or perhaps even a must-have beauty product. It could even be a favorite memory or photograph from that month.

Whatever the items may be these are what I genuinely love and want to share with you.

Get the jist? Lets crack on with September then;

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Expat Life

The Box Appeal 2014

September 29, 2014

With just a little over two weeks left to contribute to the Box Appeal 2014 I wanted to bring it to your attention if you didn’t know about it already. I don’t want you to miss out of course.

You can read all about the charities info on their FB page, click here.

I don’t jump on every charity event in town but this one caught my attention- it is easy to contribute and I can do most of it whilst I do my weekly grocery shop. Perfect for us Mum’s on the go.

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Adventure Time, Expat Life

Snake Canyon – Wadi Bani Awf

September 9, 2014
If you love adventures in the great outdoors, throwing your body off massive rocks for an adrenaline rush and contorting your body into small spaces then ‘Snake Canyon’ may just be the place for you!On impulse I signed myself up for a crazy expedition and persuaded a couple of friends that this was going to be a good idea. They really are trusting in my ideas!

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Other Stuff

Photography Class With Salim Al Harthy

September 8, 2014

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that the picture quality has improved of late. My sloppy photography attempts are smoother and a little more polished than before. As a beginner there is still huge room for improvement but for now I am pleased with my own progress.

Recently I made an extravagant purchase of swanky DSLR camera. The camera itself was amazing and the picture quality fantastic but I lacked one very important thing – the ability to use it well.

Whilst searching online for a teacher I stumbled across the amazing work of Salim Al Harthy. Immediately I was hooked! The subjects, the angles, the colors, the movement all combined to make something spectacular.

I NEEDED to learn how to do this.

You can read about my experience in full by clicking here for my article in Y Magazine.

No longer am I intimidated by the complexity of a DSLR camera and I feel more confident in my abilities. I would definitely recommend this class to others who also wanted to do the same.

“Your first 10,000 pictures will be your worst” Salim maintains, Well that means I only have another 9,000 crappy ones until I start really improving… I can’t wait!

If you are interested in Salim’s classes you can find out more by visiting his website, click here! You can also follow him on Instagram at “salimphotography”

Adventure Time

The Muttrah Trek – C38

September 2, 2014
The month of September is upon us and as far as I am concerned the outdoors season has commenced! Cue the whoops and cheers from me! After enduring a long, sweaty summer I am ready to get back outside and get active. There were weeks on end of pounding the mall with the pram just to get out of the house and now I am in desperate need of a change of scenery!Bring on the BBQ’s, Boat trips, Picnics, Hikes and anything that doesn’t include walking round and round a mall.
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Expat Life, Uncategorized

Ice Bucket Challenge & Swim Time

August 26, 2014

If you haven’t heard about the ALS ice bucket challenge then you must be living under a rock. All across the globe people are throwing buckets of iced water over themselves in the name of charity. 

This week I had been feeling quite smug to avoid any nominations so far – perhaps everyone assumed that I had already completed it – then the videos calling out my name arrived thick and fast from both Scotland and here in Oman. No escaping it. Dammit.

As I put my thinking cap on to conjure up a fun way to complete the challenge I noticed the Shangri La’s Facebook status. They were planning a group ice bucket challenge that afternoon and anyone who joined would be allowed to use the facilities for the rest of the afternoon. How could I turn that down?!

A large crowd turned up and everyone was in good spirits ready for the challenge! I can confirm that there was no scrimping on the ice in buckets, they full to the brim! Brrrrr!



On the group attempt it isn’t easy to spot us in the crowd of buckets and shivering bodies. There was only one thing for it – a repeat performance. Thankfully the second attempt was filmed and there was no need for a third bucket!

Sadly my video won’t upload here to Blogger but head over to my Facebook page ‘The Duncan Adventures’ to watch the video.

     

After our double dousing of iced water we headed to the pool area for some much needed heat. 


The pool here is fabulous! It is super clean, not too crowded and plenty of room to throw a lively baby around.

Spencer quickly got bored of his inflatable pool seat and wanted to be thrown high in the air as he shrieked and giggled.


As the evening sun set at the Shangri La we packed into the car and headed for home. Before we even reached the main gates there were faint snores coming from the back seat – a sure sign that a fun afternoon was had!

Expat Life, Food & Entertainment

Friday Brunching

August 21, 2014


If you have spent anytime at all in the Gulf – especially Dubai and Abu Dhabi -you will know that Friday Brunching is a BIG deal! It the place to be seen and a chance to spoil yourself after a long week.

The past weekend we brunched the day away to celebrate the 30th birthday of a friend. The chosen venue was the ever popular, Grand Hyatt Muscat.

We arrived with our troop of hungry bellies ready to feast!

Bang on 2pm the fizzy juice – wink, wink – was poured into expectant glasses for those who were choosing to indulge in a few bubbles.


This handsome, smiley chap was my main date for the day. 


As the Bambino was along for the meal I didn’t snap as many pictures of the beautiful decor of the Mokha Cafe as I would have liked.

For me, the best thing about brunching is variety of different foods to sample and being able to indulge in the seafood delights. I dined on huge prawns, smoked salmon, crab and oysters. These are things that I would rarely eat at home so I like to make the most of it when dining out.

See if any of this gets your taste buds going!

 

 

 
Between courses the boys had a ‘time out’ and orchestrated a plan of who would keep them in a constant supply of finger foods…
 
George won the award for most bread actually eaten and swallowed and Spencer trumped him with the most slobbery bread sticks on the floor.
 
 
Then it was on to the deserts…
 
There were fruits, puddings, cakes, pies, ice cream cones with sprinkles and even a huge flowing chocolate fountain. I couldn’t resist but have a few chocolate covered strawberries.
 
Bang went that diet. Oh well.
 
 
 
With a belly full of bread sticks and cucumber slices it was all too much for the little Dude.
 
After copious amounts of delicious food, a few bubbles and lots of laughs we headed home for a well deserved rest. This brunching malarkey is hard work! 
 
Prices-
  • Non alcohol – 22 rials per head, includes water, soft drinks and juices
  • Alcohol- 25 rials per head 
For more info contact the Grand Hyatt or visit their website.
Other Stuff

Cyberbullying – The Joker Behind The Screen

August 10, 2014
Cyberbullying and online harassment is as serious problem for adults as it is for children. In fact, adults can be far more adept at hiding their identity and far more malicious and sophisticated in the way they use technology than children. We are live in a world of constant pinging and beeping as smart phones and electronic devices light up with the latest messages information allowing gossip to spread faster and wider than ever before.

Cyber Space is a vast place with many screen names, fake profiles and avatars to hide behind. As we carry our electronic devices everywhere with us – I take mine everywhere – the bullying also comes with us, lurking and haunting. This leaves us wide open to attacks 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

In internet slag these bullying culprits are called “trolls” – they deliberately set about to upsets others by starting arguments or posting unnecessary inflammatory messages on blogs, websites, forums and chat rooms.


“Muscat – Where Can I Find” is one of the most active and popular Facebook groups here in Oman where users can ask the local community for help in searching for particular items, directions or advice. This page is a fantastic and valuable tool available to us but, like most websites these days, it has been subject to trolls thinking that they are clever to insult and ridicule others. The creator of the page, Nicholla Henderson Hall, explains to this trials of having such a dynamic page:


“The purpose of MWCIF is to help members of the Muscat community to find what they need. We have built up a credible and loyal following over the past 4 years. Although we have guidelines in place there are times when these are thrown by the way side and he forum becomes a battleground or comment war fueled by a controversial topic. As a spectator to a comment war, comments may seem funny or entertaining. We all read them with a disassociation of a person. We aren’t involved. It’s not hurting us BUT it is hurting someone. Someone who is reading the comments could feel emotionally targeted, feel like they are being being made a fool of or being disrespected. One of my BIG comments to the group is ‘think before you write’ or ‘take a step back from the computer’ when you begin to feel emotionally charged by someones words. 

The other big issue we have is that we are such a culturally diverse group with English not being the first language to many. Last year we did a survey that showed we had 49 nationalities present. What does that mean? It means the written word could potentially be interpreted in 49 different ways. This is why we have guidelines. This is why we take the time to protect content and why we have an open policy of asking members to send us anything that is insulting or disrespecting so we can promptly remove it and the culprits from the group.”



Most of us have probably at least been border line culprits ourselves at some point or degree as we exercise our ‘freedom of speech’ and push our opinions on others or take the mick out of other online users. I have been a culprit myself. Laughing at someone else’s expense on a Facebook page and watching them get rattled. At the time I thought that I was clever and witty as people ‘liked’ my comments. But what we seem forget at the time is that there is someone else on the other side of that screen with feelings reading our harsh words and opinions. My new rule of thumb – If I wouldn’t say it to the persons face then I won’t type it to them either.



As a Blogger I have chosen to put my life, my opinions and my identity out there for the world to see. I didn’t expect glorifying praise and admiration from the masses but I certainly didn’t expect to be targeted by internet trolls either. In the past two years I have had countless nasty messages and emails usually from ‘anonymous’ sources. For the most part I choose to ignore the hate, delete and then move onto the positive messages I receive every single day but something still nags me deep down inside. I just don’t understand the mentality of these people who deliberately take the time out of their day to spread hate and upset others. Maybe I never will understand but it still hurts to read the hatred directly at you.


Next time you think it is hilarious or clever to harass, intimidate or ridicule someone online then just take a second to think about how it might feel if the boot was on the other foot.

Don’t be that person.

Adventure Time, Expat Life

A Last Minute Jebel Shams Adventure

July 27, 2014
If I am perfectly honest with you, dear reader, I hate camping. I really do. It scares the beejesus out of me and it’s never been something I have enjoyed. Do you remember camping as a kid there would always be one that makes it to 10pm and then has to come indoors? Yep, that was me! My hatred of camping is not because I am scared of the dirt or the cold, it is because when I was a young impressionable little soul I heard some scary stories and I can’t shake them from my thoughts. So… I have only slept in a tent once before in my life.

For the past week my friends have been planning a camping trip to get out of town for a change of scenery and in search of some cooler weather. Even though I wanted to join in the fun I had talked myself out of it so many times that I just declined.

On the morning of their trip my friend, Erin, turned up at my house to borrow a cool box. With a quick “are you sure that you don’t want to come?!” and Colin chiming in with a “Please go, Me and Spencer will have a boys night” combined with my weak, hungover state and a brief moment of madness I they had convinced me and I found myself agreeing.

The downside – they were all meeting up in half an hour and I wasn’t no where near organised from the party the night before. I was still in my PJ’s had the previous nights make up on. 

Our destination was to be the famous ‘Jebel Shams’. Somewhere that I am embarrassed to say that I have never been before. 

In our convoy up the steep, dusty mountain roads


Heading out of town on the Nizwa road the first 1.5 hours is on easy driving black top road. Easy peasy. Once you get get through Nizwa and onto Bahla – you may know the name ‘Bahla’ from the folk tales in Oman of black magic, or Jinn, and all sorts of crazy goings on – the road starts to get narrower and windier until you hit the dust tracks.

On the way you pass by the old village of Ghul built into the surrounding hillside. How beautiful!! It is quite amazing to think that the people who lived in these simple stone houses only moved out around 30 years ago.


Jebel Shams is part of the Al Hajar mountain range and is famous for being the highest peak being around 3,000m above sea level. In English Jebel Shams means “mountain of sun”. It is located 240km (149 miles) from Muscat, it is a good 2-3 hour drive making it far away enough that it is lovely to get out of town but not too far that it is a huge expedition.

We were heading for the South Summit, close to the Jebel Shams Resort, A 4×4 car isn’t essential to make it up this trail but I wouldn’t feel comfortable driving anything else. The dirt road is well built but still, it is still a dirt road. A few saloon cars were making the journey but were painfully slow. We flicked into 4 wheel drive and off we went up the hillside.

Pajero Power en route



Our final destination that was to be the camp site was a lovely flat ledge on the side of Wadi Al Nakhur Gorge, otherwise known as the Grand Canyon of Arabia. I had heard that the Arab world had it’s own “Grand Canyon” but I did not expect it to be this amazing! The views are spectacular!

You need a head for heights around here as we were up above 2,050 meters above sea level. Yikes! As we arrived mid afternoon the temperature was a lovely 36 degrees, that made quite a change from the sweaty 44 degrees we had experienced just an hour previously before we started the steep incline. 

Oman is well known as a geologists paradise where they travel from all around the world to study the rock formations, from here you can see why!

To give you an idea of just how huge this canyon is, look at the below picture and try to spot the village on the wadi floor.

The Grand Canyon of Arabia
 
 
Having a staring competition with a goat

 

Making memories with some amazing friends
 
I couldn’t resist taking a selfie with a mountain goat. I would be lying if I said I only took one picture… My phone is now full of them.
 
 
As we set up camp for the night Joey & Myself were assigned the task of collecting the firewood to make the camp fire. My pot of noodles weren’t going to be any good without boiling water from the fire. Many of these trees can be deceiving, they look dry and brittle but inside they are very much alive and what would already have fallen was mostly eaten by goats.
 
Between us our efforts were pretty lousy but luckily for us – and the others – we could head back along the track to the resort as they sold wood for campfires. It wasn’t cheap but it was worth it to have a decent campfire. Next time I know to bring fire wood!
 
 

 

This photo of a hungry goat is my favorite by far!
 
“Would you like a vanilla cupcake?”
 
 
After I fed my new friend and took some pictures I soon regretted it as all his little – and the not so little, some of these fellas have huge horns – were in hot pursuit also looking for cupcakes and other tasty treats.
 
Do you ever get the feeling that you are being watched?
 


Camping 101 – No campfire is complete without marshmallows on a stick! One of the other guys brought a wok to stir fry chicken and vegetables. I am definitely learning some tricks for future camping expeditions!


All was well and I managed to get 3 hours of sleep in the tent before the rain started. Rain? Yes rain! Whoooo. Even though it was the middle of the night and I was shattered a spot of rain is still a novelty, especially in the summer months in the Middle East. Then I remembered that my car windows were open. Crap. Off I pottered with my PJ’s on in the pitch black darkness over the rocky ground to close the bloomin’ car windows.

So it was back to sleep for a short while the curious goats rumaged through the campsite looking for food. Not long after sunrise the screaming started… It turns out the hungry goats wern’t the problem, a HUGE spider had decided to come and visit us in our tent.

Does anyone know if this is a camel spider or not?!
 
 
Thankfully I survived the night and despite my hatred of camping I had a great time! I am so glad that I spent a night out of my comfort zone and finally got to see Jebel Shams for myself. For me, one night camping was long enough and I surewas glad to get home for a hot shower and my own bed.
 
So that brings my total in my life time to two nights in a tent…
 
Have you been to Jebel Shams? If not, I would highly recommend a visit.
Expat Life, Food & Entertainment

A Grand Iftar at The Grand Hyatt

July 21, 2014

Last night I had the privilege of being invited by Qatar Airways to attend an Iftar dinner all in the name of everything social media. The event took place at one of my favorite hotels in town, The Grand Hyatt Muscat.

Just incase you aren’t clued up on what “Iftar” means then please let me explain – Iftar is the Arabic word for ‘breakfast’ and is the meal eaten when Muslims break their fast at sundown during the holy month of Ramadan. Iftar is usually a meal eaten with family and friends and is a time for bringing people together. As a Non-Muslim being invited to join such an event is an honor.
If you follow me on Instagram – find me here – then you will have seen some of my pictures already. You may also have noticed that in the past 3 weeks of Ramadan I have been to 4 Iftars already. This is my favourite thing about Ramadan for sure! The food is amazing but I also love the spirit of it and it’s a time to be social together.


Recently I read a very funny blog post by Hey Fat Su called “How to dress to eat”. Fat Su explains what clothing you should wear for optimum food indulgence without any fashion mishaps. She has made these mistakes so you don’t have to! Iftar is a time of eating, well in my case gorging myself, so I was going to make the most of it and had to dress appropriately. On her advice I made some wise clothing choices.

This was my outfit for the evening


The Iftar tent at the Hyatt was so beautiful and dream like with the light, floaty fabrics and the ornate lamp shade leaving shadows around the room.

 
Goodie bags!! Whoooo!
 
 

It is traditional to break the fast with dates. There were plenty available but I chose some dried apricots instead which made a nice change. And then it was on to the real business!

The selection of different foods was extensive for all tastes and appetites. It ranged from soups and salads to fish and lamb dishes. I took Nicole’s great recommendation and tried some of the Lebanese Tabouleh. 

You see the chap in the below picture? Well I’m thinking of asking him to be my best friend… He made the most amazing schwarmas and that is high praise from me – I am quite the schwarma expert don’t you know!



When I looked back through my pictures it seems that I have spent more time taking pictures of the deserts than the rest of the foods. It’s obvious to tell which course is my favorite!

 
 
 
Mr Official Camera Man appeared on front of us to take the group photos right after my third plate of food.. Moving at the pace of a slug and trying to suck my stomach in I obliged to the pictures. Why do I eat so much food?! There were pictures aplenty so I shall update the Blog, Instagram, Facebook when I see them myself- Providing I don’t look like a dough ball who just ate 3 plates of food, of course.
 
No social media event is the same without a group selfie!
                      Can you spot any of the local Blogerati in the picture??
 
 


Meeting the guys from Qatar Airways and hearing all about their upcoming projects was a pleasure. Did you know that Qatar Airways flies from Muscat to over 125 destinations?! I certainly didn’t!


It was a wonderful evening with delicious food and great company. Thank you so much to the Grand Hyatt for their hospitality and to for Qatar Airways for inviting me to be part of the event.




PS- Qatar Airways… Any time you want to give me free flights to Miami that would be lovely. Thanks! 🙂