Monthly Archives: December 2011

“It’s Not Over”

Friday’s sermon by Pastor Barry (our RCA pastor at the PCO) was based on Isaiah 61:10-62:3 and Luke 2:22-40, with more focus on the NT passage.  A lot of our congregation were missing due to vacation break, so I thought I’d put this up for any of you that missed it.  It’s an appropriate sermon as we come out of the Christmas season and head into the New Year.

Christmas Day 2011 is history. over. done.  It’s sad that the joy of Christmastime for many is over.  By the time the gifts have been opened, the tree put away and dinner is done, we are exhausted.  Many have truly forgotten how to truly celebrate and savor the excitement even after the day of Christmas is over.  Let’s look at what we might do to keep the flame alive.  One good way would be to look at the story of Simeon and Anna for clues as to how we can respond.

Simeon’s response is still used in Christian worship in liturgy as an “attitude of gratitude”.

Anna was married only 7 years and then widowed for many years.  She didn’t just lose hope but trusted in God and rested in His hope.  Sorrow and suffering are indeed a part of life.

I’m glad that the Pastor mentioned the significance of Joseph and Mary presenting a pair of doves or two young pigeons.  This quote from Leviticus 12:8 shows that they were actually poor! (I’ve heard crazy sermons on the so-called “God TV” saying that Jesus’ family was rich due to the gold brought to them as a justification of the health-wealth-prosperity false gospel going around these days!)  God not only humbled Himself in coming as the Christ infant and living life for 33 years as one of us, He was born into a poor family! Not in a golden palace to live a life of comfort and ease!

Simeon and Anna do not look back nostalgically to the past but instead they recognize in Jesus the fulfillment of their hope.

Leaning into the future with hope“…I like that!

True Hope is not just wishful thinking or naive optimism (just as “sending positive vibes” is not quite the same as “prayer”!) but based on the promises of God!

Wait, watch and hope.  It is not over.

Happy New Year, everyone! To those of you who’ve had a fabulous 2011, all praise and glory to God!  To those of us who’ve had major obstacles, all out defeats, and serious struggles, please don’t lose heart.  Keep your eyes fixed above.  God is NOT done with you (or me) yet!!!

World Famous “Swan Lake” (Mariinsky Ballet) at Royal Opera House Muscat

If you had told me 4 years ago when I first came to Oman that I’d be watching the world famous Swan Lake in Muscat, I would have told you that you were out of your mind! First of all, who would have ever thought that there would be an opera house in Muscat, Oman on the Arabian peninsula?!  And me watching a ballet?! haha! I never would have guessed that my wife would have me so easily hooked.

Each corner, inside and out of the Opera House, is a real sight to see due to the extensive use of Marble as well as Omani Desert Rose limestone for the walls.

Even though it was our fourth evening at the Opera House, the beauty of the building continues to astound me on each visit.  There is always something new about the artwork, structure and design that I hadn’t noticed before.

This was my first time walking upstairs to see the upper level of the Opera House.  Gorgeous!  As in the main lobby, there are antique musical instruments on display upstairs as well, including these French pieces (all from the 19th century) that you see in the glass display behind the chairs.

The beautiful arches on the Level 1 colonnade contain concealed airconditioning in the arch soffits.  All of the beautiful interior finishings were produced in Oman!

Scenes of Omani life/culture/traditions by the talented artist, David Willis, can be seen throughout the Opera House.

It’s nice to go upstairs and get a bird’s eyeview of the Main Foyer!

The beauty of the Main Foyer is brought out in brilliant combination of marble floor, teak wood screens and beams and towering white pillars.

The lovely ladies (and gentlemen!) working at the Opera House make wonderful ambassadors for the Sultanate of Oman.  They are ready to assist you in finding your seat, will answer any question you may have related to the building and services there and are more than happy to have a photo taken!  🙂

Act 1 was 70 minutes long and consisted of 2 scenes; the 1st was “The Park of a Castle” and the 2nd was “A Lake in the Forest in the Middle of the Night“.  From the synopsis in the Programme, scene 1: Prince Siegfried and his friends are celebrating his coming of age at a private party.  The guests drink to his health and the jester entertains them with his antics.  The Prince is warned that his mother, the Princess Regent, is approaching.  She is displeased with her son’s behaviour and he presents her with a bouquet of roses to pacify her.  After the Princess has gone, the partying begins anew.  Twilight falls.  The guests depart and the Prince is left alone in the park.  High above, Siegfried catches sight of a flock of white swans and the sight stirs the hunter’s urge in him.  Seizing his bow, the Prince makes his way off into the heart of the forest.”  The costumes were so beautiful in the first act.  It took time for me to warm up to the story and characters, but one thing that was remarkable to me during this ballet is how the dancers know precisely when to make certain movements, choreographed precisely to exact notes from the Orchestra.  Such timing and skill can only come from a lifetime of practise and devotion to dance.  Scene 2 was incredible!                                                                                                                                       Scene 2: White swans are swimming near the shore; they are beautiful young maidens who have been transformed by the evil magician, Von Rothbart.  Only at night can they assume human form and the only power on earth which can break this evil spell is devoted love.  Siefried appears.  He sees one of the white birds come to shore and draw his bow to shoot it.  The bird suddenly turns into a beautiful woman-it is Odette, Queen of the swan-maidens.  Odette’s beauty enthrals the Prince and he tries to capture her.  She, however, is afraid of the evil magician and as she avoids Siefried, she disappears in the midst of the swan-maidens.  Siegfried runs after Odette and vows eternal love and fidelity to her.  Odette’s heart responds in the same way to Siefried’s passionate love.  Dawn breaks.  Odette bids Siegfried a tender farewell and the white swans glide slowly away across the lake.”  The 2nd scene was the most magical (as well as the 4th scene in the same dreamlike lakeside setting) with “white swans” and “black swans” dancing with such unity and precision.  At one point, I counted 22 white swans and 8 black swans and the leading male dancer dressed in white as well; all 31 dancing indeed like graceful swans across the stage.  I was really impressed with the dancing, acting, makeup and evil-bird-costume of the evil magician in the 2nd scene.  His performance and air really brought realism to the entire scene.

After a 25-minute intermission, on with Act 2!  After enduring a 70-minute 1st act (the longest act we’ve experience so far in the 4 performances we’ve seen at the Opera House), the 40 minutes of Act 2 seems to zip by so fast! Act 2 (or Scene 3: A Ball at the Castle): Siegfried must choose a bride from among the well-bred maidens who have been invited, but he remains indifferent to them all because he has given his heart to Odette.  Only at his mother’s insistence does he dance with any of the prospective brides.  He must, however, choose one of them, and as a token of his love, he must give his chosen bride a bouquet.  As he faces this dilemna, however, a fanfare of trumpets heralds the arrival of new guests: the magician Von Rothbart and Odile, his daughter.  The Prince is struck by her resemblance to Odette.  Von Rothbart wants the Prince to fall in love with Odile so that he will break his vow of eternal love and fidelity; Odette will then remain in the sorcerer’s power forever.  It is for this reason that he has given his own daughter Odette’s form and features.  Odile seduces Siegfried, who is fascinated by her charm.  He announces to his mother that the beautiful Odile is his choice.  The wicked magician is jubilant.  Suddenly, Siegfried sees a vision of the true swan-maiden outside the castle window and realises that he has been deceived into breaking his vow.  In despair, he rushes to the lake to find his beloved Odette.”  This royal scene really brought out the energy and talent of the Mariinsky Ballet, especially that of the 2 leading roles.  At one point, the leading female dancer twirled around 20 times in a row without even a hint of imbalance or fatique, causing an Omani man seated directly in front of us to shout out, “BRAVO!”  According to the program, it should have been Viktoria Tereshkina but there was a quick announcement at the beginning of the evening (in a muffled voice) that there were 3 changes to principal roles and so we’re not 100% about any of the exact dancers’ names that evening.  The truth is, they were all brilliant!

The 2nd intermission was 25 minutes as well.  The 3rd Act, or 4th Scene was only 20 minutes long and a beautiful ending to an incredible evening. “The swan-maidens stand dejected and sad.  Odette has told them what has happened.  Siegfried rushes in.  He begs Odette to forgive him and he professes his undying love for her, but the enraged sorcerer summons the black swans and commands them to separate Odette and Siegfried.  Siegfried grapples with the magician.  Fearless in the encounter, he breaks Von Rothbart’s wing.  The enchanter collapses, his power gone, and he dies.  Love has broken the evil spell.  The run rises and shines radiantly on the Prince and Odette, and on the maidens whom Siegfried has rescued.”  The fight scene was well done as was the impressive “dance of death” of the magician.  This was the first ballet performance/story we’ve seen that ended on a happy note without someone committing suicide which was nice for a change!  🙂  It’s easy to see why Swan Lake is one of the world’s most famous ballets.  Truly an enchanting and memorable evening at the Opera House!

Those of you fortunate and wise enough to have bought yourselves tickets for the New Year’s Eve Ghala Event (sold out! 😦 ) are in for a real treat!  For us, our best evening out so far at Royal Opera House Muscat was with Mariinsky Ballet!

Al Sabla Restaurant at Al Sifawy Boutique Hotel in Sifah, Oman

If you ever get out to Sifah (which is a lovely camping spot along the coast about an hour from Muscat), there are 2 main dining options.  I’ve already posted about As Sammak Seafood Restaurant, but there is also the option of Al Sabla, an all-day dining restaurant in Sifawy Boutique Hotel itself.

This is Al Sabla restaurant looking from the marina just in front of Sifawy Hotel.

Traditionally, “Al Sabla” is a term describing the social center of an Omani village: a place where people gather in the evenings, celebrate special occasions and other social events.

If there aren’t too many flies, sitting outside is always a great option.

We found the prices on the menu to be quite reasonable.

For lunch, they have a la carte selections, including the occasional set meal like the one posted above.

Like everything else on the menu, the complimentary bread they bring to the table is nice and fresh.

Pina Colada (2. 14 RO) and fresh Orange juice (1.71 RO).

The fish and chips at Al Sabla is very good! (4. 7 OR)

The club sandwich was also a good choice (3.59 RO). Including 17% tax, our first meal there came to 14.2 rials.

When you stay the night at Sifawy Boutique Hotel, breakfast is complimentary.  If there are less than 20 occupied rooms (like on our first time there), they will offer you one of these breakfast set menus:

I went with the “Marina Breakfast”.


If there are enough guests (more than 20 rooms), they put up a complimentary breakfast buffet which is comparable to any at the 5-star hotels in Muscat. 

Plenty of staff members on hand ready to whip you up anything you desire: a waffle, pancakes, omelette or fuul.

Lunch buffet:

The lunch buffet is only available on weekends and costs 12 OR + 17% tax. On weekdays, lunch is a la carte.

Now remember, you don’t need to be a guest to enjoy dining at Al Sabla! If you are coming for the lunch buffet on Thursday or Friday in a larger group, you may want to call ahead and reserve seats just to be sure!  (Tel: 2472-9111)

Dinner options, like breakfast, depend on the number of guests at the hotel.  IF there are enough guests staying there, they put on a dinner buffet at 14 rials + 17% tax.  If there are less than 20 occupied rooms, they stick with the a la carte menu.

We enjoyed the Noodle & Mango Salad (3.33 RO).

Bolonaise Pasta (3.25 RO). No complaints here!

My Carnivoria pizza was quite good (4.44 RO).

Of course a 3rd dining option is to enjoy room service with all of Al Sabla restaurant’s options from the comfort of one of their fabulous suites!  🙂

A big thanks to Daniel, the general manager who went out of his way to ensure that we were comfortable and taken care of at the hotel during our stay.  One of the greatest assets of Sifawy Boutique Hotel is the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff! (Tel: 968-2472-9111)

New Season Performances Announced at Royal Opera House Muscat!

Today from 11am to 12pm there was a special event for the “Announcement of the Second Half of the Inaugural Season” at Royal Opera House Muscat.  (At least that is what the email I received from the Opera House stated but now it seems they are changing it to simply a new season. Talk about confusing!  😦 )  I was flattered to receive an invitation as a member of “the media” because of my humble little blog here.  Unfortunately I have a daytime job (haha) and was unable to attend.  Info is now available online at the official Royal Opera House Muscat website.

  • Performances start January 16th.
  • Inaugural season discount holders can no longer avail themselves of the 35% discount for the 1st half.  The only discounts now available are for students (with ID), children and grouprates (15%).
  •  Group and package sales start January 1st.  Go/click here for a clear presentation of ticket packages and special offers.
  • Single ticket sales start January 4th. (starting at 3 OR!!!)
  • Students, kids and groups cannot get discounts on Tier E & F seats as the ticket prices are already so low at 3 to 15 OR.

Highlights of the New Season include:

  • The Vienna Philharmonic on January 16th, 7:30pm
  • The Prague Symphony Orchestra, Feb. 23rd, 7:30pm
  • The opera “La Trovatore” on March 1st and 3rd at 7pm.
  • Tango Metropolis,  an Argentine classic on March 8th and 9th.
  • The Hungarian National Opera performs “The Abduction from the Seraglio” by Mozart  on March 23rd and 25th.
  • The South African Ballet Theatre is coming February 10th and 11th!
  • Performances seem to start earlier this season – some at 7pm and most at 7:30pm!!!
  • Click here for a list of all the performances.
  • (Sorry for some wrong info I posted for a short while! Updated now.  Thanks for the corrections, Susan and others!)

Be sure to follow Royal Opera House Muscat on facebook here. You can allow follow them on twitter (as I do!) at!/ROH_Muscat (And click “like” while you’re there! 🙂 )  Click here to go directly to their calendar with dates of each performance.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Christmas in Oman is so lovely.  Believe it or not (for those of you reading overseas), Christmas decorations are in most of the malls and giant Christmas trees adorn many of the 4 and 5-star hotels across Muscat.  Another local blogger, mumoftheanimals, wrote a great description in her post, Christmas in Oman, of how one might get the wrong idea about Christmas here in Oman. (I had the pleasure of meeting her and her husband at the Opera House this week at the opera, Carmen! 🙂 )  The Omanis are very comfortable and warm in their Christmas greetings to expats at this time of year.  To give you an idea of the tolerance here, here is part of an email I received from my boss:

“Dear colleagues,
Some of you might be celebrating Christmas Day (December 25). Merry Chrstmas to you. There are colleagues among us who would want to celerbrate this occasion. I just want to inform you that this is not an official holiday in Oman. If you are a practicing Christian and would like to attend Church services or other functions during the day you may take part of the day off after making arrangements with your students and informing your program/course coordinator. This comes as part of our understanding of one another’s religions and beliefs.”  Sweet, huh?!

Thanks to the flexibility of my workplace, we’ll be able to attend church services tomorrow.  FYI, there are 2 PCO church services on Christmas Day in Muscat this year.  Ghala Church service in the Bosch Hall at 9am (which we will be attending) and Ruwi Church service at 7:30pm.

Looking forward to celebrating Gershom’s 2nd Christmas and watching him open his gifts tomorrow morning!  🙂

A new church banner from the PCO banner ministry gives a sweet reminder not to forget the true significance of the season which can be lost in a sea of tinsel, trees, gifts and good food!  🙂

Merry Christmas, everyone, from Andy in Oman & family from the bottom of our heart! Wishing you all peace from the Prince of Peace who entered our world to bring us hope. Now THAT’s something to celebrate!

Here’s an interesting video I noticed from twitter from Greg Laurie about “Why Red is the Color or Christmas“.  Good stuff!