First Time at Nizwa!

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During the road trip to Oman that me and my roommate did, we spent 2 night at the former capital of Oman, Nizwa. It hasn’t been the capital for a while now, but still you can see a lot of remains of why and how it once was the capital. It has a beautiful Mosque and an even more impressive fort at the city center.

We paid a visit to the fort. Apparently the first parts of it go back to around 500 A.C., after that it has been made bigger, stronger and larger until the 1500’s. In the 18th century they renovated and reinforced it and since it hasn’t really changed much. Inside there were many chambers for different purposes. Really interesting to see the ingenious way of building the fort to protect it both from enemies and the heat.

This is the view from the top of the main tower (which had many booby-traps to go up there for protection):

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Furthermore we had a drive through the minuscule streets that surrounded the fort. Some were not much wider than 3 m. We got stuck couple of times and of one way directions they had apparently never heard :).

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So, whenever you’re planning to go Oman, put this city on your list and take some time to discover some of its history and hospitality!

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First Time visiting a Muslim family!

Yesterday, while we went to a local Arabic restaurant (read the blog about it here) in Bahla, Oman, we met a local guy named Yahya. He was wondering where we came from and where we were heading to. He was really excited to meet some foreigners and gave his phone number in case we needed anything.

Today, we didn’t really have plans for the evening, so we figured, we might just give him a call and see what he is up to. After a long explanation on the phone (his English wasn’t perfect ;)) he invited us over to his home to have some drinks and have a chat.

We were a bit suspicious about the whole thing since we just met him for 10 minutes, but we decided to give it a go and see where it would take us.

Once arriving at his place we met his family (except for his wife, guess it is a Muslim thing) and talked about a lot of things. He was very friendly and very open to what we had to tell and where we came from. We talked about Oman and its history, about his parents, his family, how we learned English, Egypt, the Arabic Spring, Mecca, Islam, Allah, God, the Ramadan, having multiple wives, and so on. Normally I’m a bit skeptical about some of those things but the way we talked about it and the openness of the conversation made it really interesting and compelling.

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Since we were at his farm he gave us some of the ‘dates’ that he picked from his own trees that day. We also drank some water, that he pumped from his well, as well as some typical Omani/Arabic coffee.

Before we left we had a look at his farm, the plantation as well as the animals (chickens and goats) he had there.

This is the picture we took before leaving:

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I must say, this is one of the best moments of my trip to Oman. Never have I been able to meet an Islamic family in such close way. The hospitality was great and we exchanged contact details for whenever we would meet again!

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First Arabic Food!

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Believe it or not but I hadn’t eaten Arabic in Dubai yet. You can find a lot of Lebanese, Iranian, Italian, Persian restaurant, but not too many Arabic ones. Guess the place is too Western for it?

During the road trip we made through Oman we found a very traditional Arabic restaurant near Bahla. We went in there with our Kandura which made the experience complete. The waiters first thought we were locals since it wasn’t much of a touristy place 😉

As it is traditionally done, you put of your shoes/sandals and sit on the ground. A lot of plates always fill the table (this is apparently a must for a good meal) and off you go.

The meal was really great and less spicy than I expected. If you consider the price of €6 we paid, this was one of the best price/qualities meals in a long while!

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First Time wearing a Kandura!

One of the most iconic things about local Emirati (and other inhabitants of the Middle East) is their way of dressing. The women wear a hijab, niqab or burka, the men wear a thob or a Kandura as they call it in the UAE. In Oman they call it ‘Dishdasha’.

When a local Emirati was sitting I’m my class I asked him about his outfit and he explained to me some of the purposes and that it is more of ‘local’ thing than a religious thing. He also explained to me that a westerner can buy and wear it without any problem. That’s when I really considered buying one 🙂

Not much later I found a shop specialized in making these. Together with my roommate we went there and bought the whole outfit. It consists of the Kandura itself, a white t-shirt to wear underneath it, white thin pants, the head-wear (consisting of the ring and the cloth) and a pair of sandals. We had the Kandura itself tailor made so we had to wait 4 days to pick it up. Total price: 400 AED or about €80. Not too bad and the best souvenir you can get!

Here’s a picture of me and my roommate at the fort in Bahla (Oman) while wearing our Kandura.

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We wore them for 3 whole days. They are really comfortable, a bit too hot for me because of the multiple layers, and not very good to get a suntan because it covers pretty much everything 😉

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First Business Card Reader

Should have started doing this much earlier but for some reason it never bothered me not to. But today I decided to systematically scan and throw away the business cards I receive. Travelling here and there with limited space to store things taught me how to live ‘light’ and use technology to get rid of ‘physical’ things.

My ‘Yolu Card Reader’ app is know part of the apps I use to be less dependent on physical material and the risk of losing it. I take a picture of the business card and the app automatically recognizes all the details (name, email, mobile, address, etc.) and stores it automatically as a contact within the app. If you want you can directly copy that contact to your phone contacts. Great tool!

I chose this app after testing out a couple of them. I used this article to have an overview of what the best ones are out there!

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First time using Permissionmachine.com!

It was a friend of mine who told me about this service and how it might be useful for future presentations and editorial purposes.

In short, it offers you a way of legally using somebody else ‘s picture. When you for example see a nice picture on the web, twitter or instagram that you would like to use in your presentation or brochure, Permission Machine allows you settle this in a legal way. Now you don’t have to worry about getting sued and the photographer gets a fair pay for its picture.

Signed up for the system, haven’t bought a picture yet but I have some presentation that are coming up so I’ll know how to get some nice pictures legally!

 

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First Change Management Course!

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I had heard of ‘Change Management’ before but didn’t really have a clue how they would make a course out of it. That’s why I choose this course as an elective in Dubai.

We started today yesterday on Thursday. This is another ‘block’ of lectures. We have lessons in the morning and the afternoon for four days long. That’s because both the professor and the majority of the students (Executive MBA’s) are working full time. So they jam it in 4 days. Which I personally don’t mind. Leaves me more time to do other stuff.

The professor was by coincidence a Flemish guy who normally works at Price Waterhouse Coopers in Belgium. He has been teaching at Hult for a couple of years and travels around the campuses to teach a couple of courses.

Within ‘Change Management’ as a discipline there is 1 guru who made the generally accepted framework for this type of management. His name is Kotter (not to be confused with marketing-guru Kotler) and has put down in words what change management is about.

Basically he has a set of 8 steps that allow you to manage change in a good way.

  1. Create a sense of urgency
  2. Form a guiding coalition
  3. Create a vision for the change
  4. Communicate the vision
  5. Remove obstacles and empower others
  6. Plan and create short term wins
  7. Build on change
  8. Institutionalize and anchor the change

We spent 4 full days on going in depth on this and I must say, once you start to ‘control’ the framework and the underlying steps, a lot makes sense and gives you the possibility to break down a ‘change management problem’ into different steps.

Of course changing an organization is about people and there no single theory that works for all, but when you know how and to what extent to apply these 8 steps, it will certainly help you to make the change happen better and more profound!

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First Skype Number

I was receiving some international calls lately and they were draining my prepaid credit on my phone. Despite the fact that I urge people to call me on Skype or on Google Hangout, most of them seem to go for the traditional way. Because some of the phone calls were concerning overseas jobs I decided to search for a solution to A. Save money, B. Don’t risk losing connection in the middle of an important phone call because I ran out of credit.

That’s why I decided to take a number on Skype. Basically means that if somebody calls that certain number, your Skype on your computer/tablet/phone starts ringing. Simple as that. You choose the country and the region of the number and pay (close to) nothing to receive international calls. People also don’t have to add you on Skype or see all your profile details. Which sometimes can be an advantage.

Have used this couple of times now. Has been working great so far. An extra advantage you have is that you you have your hands free so you can write/type or research while having the phone call. For those who’re travelling a lot and have to change numbers and charge credit a lot, have a look at this!

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First Time drinking Camel Milk!

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Not as spectacular as a rollercoaster or rotating restaurant but rare enough for me to write a blog about it 🙂

During the breakfast in the Jumeirah Hotel in Abu Dhabi (very nice hotel by the way) there were several options to drink milk during breakfast. You had some different cow milks and certain degrees of skimming. And then you also had Camel Milk.

Obvious choice since I never drank it 🙂 In terms of taste I would say it was a little weird, a little more salty I think. But I guess that’s because I never drank it before. On the other hand it didn’t taste that much different from normal milk. In general I would say, I’d probably like it as much as normal milk if I would drink some more.

To finalize, some interesting facts about Camel Milk:

  • The milk has three times the amount of vitamin C than cow’s milk. And ten times more iron!
  • It has less lactose and cholesterol than cow’s milk.
  • It has more fat and proteins than cow’s milk.
  • Camel milk has been used for centuries to treat liver disease, and studies have been performed for hepatitis and liver cancer with promising results.
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First Time in the final of a quiz!

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This was an unexpected one but certainly a pleasant one 🙂 In Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi, they hold a quiz every 3 hours. It’s called ‘Fast Lane’ and basically asks questions about Ferrari related topics. Each person has a set of buttons next to him and must press the right answer as fast as possible. First there were some general rounds among the public and then some rounds that determined who would end up in the final. After 2 other finalists were chosen I was also able to make to the final round and had to go and sit in front on the stage. The final round wasn’t that easy but I still got the answer right… a 10th of a second too late 🙂 Got a coupon as a price to come in second. A legit first timer!

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