Nizwa Fort

The consolidation of political power and religious authority in Oman during the 1600’s produced new requirements for fortified buildings, including the lodging of the Imam.

Fulfilling this purpose, Nizwa Castle (built c1650) became the pulsing heart of the Imamate. Within its walls the Imam entertained important visitors, held public audiences and conducted the daily affairs of state.

A secret escape tunnel – the exact location of which is now lost in history – once led from the Imam’s private rooms to a safe location beyond the Castle’s outer wall.

High, crenelated curtain walls with loopholes and downward-angled arrow slits provided protection form musketeers and archers.

Castle guards wore outfits similar to the one below.

The Castle’s massive inner and outer gates were hewn from hardwood and reinforced with iron spikes.

A holding cell located between the fort and the castle made it possible for prisoners to be detained without passing through the main part of the Fort or Castle where they might learn of their defensive secrets. A jail for women was located outside the main gate.

Large quantities of dates were stored inside the castle as a defensive measure in case of a long siege. Date sacks were stacked in rows, one on top of the other. Pressed under their own weight, the dates oozed thick, honey like juice (‘asil) which was channeled into jars in the floor. Dates for everyday use were stored in a large earthenware jar (khars). Such jars had narrow necks to minimise exposure of their contents to sunlight, dust and pests.

Here are a couple more images of the interior of the fort.

The majority of the text was supplied from the different signs in and around the castle and fort.

 

Old Omani Cannon

Photographed at the restored fort in Nizwa the plaque behind it reads:

Omani 3-pounder cannon.
Early 17th Century, cast bronze.

This superb and unique cannon is almost certainly of Omani construction. It was probably cast at Sohar. With its intricate cartouches, it provides a talking point for Arabic scholars. It is mounted on a replica 19th-century Omani carriage found in a gun tower at Al Akdar.

Floating Footy at Kho Panyee

So by now you’ve probably seen the below video from Now This News doing the rounds on social media

The soccer pitch itself is located in the fishing village of Kho Panyee in Phang Nga Bay off the coast of Phuket, southern Thailand. According to our tour guide the village was founded by two Malaysian families (Wikipedia suggests that the families were Indonesian) as a refuge from which to practice their Islamic faith. Nowadays more than 1,500 people live in the village built on stilts, allegedly descendants from the original families that settled there late in the 18th century.

Unfortunately, on the day we visited the weather was inclement and the floating soccer pitch was in a state of disrepair. The locals were only interested in selling us the same cheap and tacky trinkets that were available at every other marketplace around southern Thailand, and the overall feeling within the village was one of depression and bitterness.

Thankfully we were able to visit the little primary school that was filled with colour and laughter, but if you are planning a trip to Kho Panyee I would suggest doing so on a sunny weekend.

Khao Ta Poo

AKA – James Bond Island, Khao Ta Poo was made famous by the 1974 movie ‘The Man With The Golden Gun‘ and has been a popular Thai tourist attraction ever since. Situated approximately 40m offshore from Ko Khao Phing Kan island in Phang Nga Bay, the limestone structure was once part of the island, but has eroded over millions of years to form the rock occasionally referred to by the locals as crab’s eye island or spike island. Khao Ta Poo stands approximately 20m tall and has a 4m circumference at the base. Swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving is not recommended due to the very frequent movement of tourist boats.

Patrol Boat 813

The Fate of Patrol Boat 813

Patrol Boat 813 was built in 1994 and operated under Marine Police Station 1, Division 8 Marine Police Bureau, Pak Nam Sub-District, Mueang District, Ranong Province in the Kingdom of Thailand. The primary role of Patrol Boat 813 was to protect and secure the VIPs of the country and on the morning of the 26th December 2004 Patrol Boat 813 was anchored approximately one nautical mile offshore in front of the La Flora Resort in Khao Lak whilst Thai Prince Khun Poom Jensen was jet skiing.

Several hours earlier the third largest earthquake ever recorded on a seismograph struck off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The subsequent tsunami swept the Prince from existence and washed Patrol Boat 813 almost two kilometres inland killing the entire crew. Other members of the Royal Family were lucky to escape with their lives by sheltering in the upper floors of the resort.

Today the boat stands where the tsunami placed it and is kept as a sombre memorial to the estimated 227,898 people killed by the monstrous waves.

Jebel Sifah

Sifah Marina Panorama

Sifah Marina Panorama

Down the coast, to the east of Muscat, is the resort town of Jebel Sifah. It’s a great place for a weekend, especially if you are a golf aficionado or water sports fanatic. The area is being steadily built up with accommodation, restaurants, bars and boutique shops, so you can expect this little gem to be ‘discovered’ more and more as the year goes on. Heidi and I happened to visit on the same weekend as the SifahStock 2018 Music Festival was on. Who doesn’t love 12 hours of back-to-back music 😉

Ghost in the Machine

A trip to Melbourne for a job fair in 2016 reminded us that posh western hotels, with English speaking staff, can be just as frustrating as any foreign hostel or lumpy mattress disaster.

Ok, so the room wasn’t ready. No problem, we’ve all had this experience before I’m sure. But it was after we finally completed our check-in that things went downhill

Firstly another M Green gets a key to our room. We found this out when the porter showed up to deposit his / her bags. No worries, the front desk will fix it, leave it with them.

A ‘clerical error’ means that the ‘full buffet breakfast’ on the reservation confirmation won’t be honoured. Hmmm, good thing I don’t eat breakfast and there is complimentary coffee in the room. Oh, its instant coffee. Well then its a good thing we are in Melbourne, a city known for its excellent cafes.

When we return to our room there is a letter for the other M Green and items that don’t belong to us. Sigh, back down to reception we go once again. Back and forth with the concierge in an effort to show that I am in fact a different M Green to the one they think I am. Acknowledgement leads to an upgrade with full ‘Club’ privileges, except breakfast. Oh well, a win is a win – right?

Nope. The upgrade causes our credit card to be charged twice for the stay leaving us seriously short of funds for the trip. Another frustrated adventure to reception results in a free bottle of wine, which was really nice, however the cleaner left the wine glasses soaking in our bathroom sink the next day and forgot to remove them from the room.

What else can go wrong? Stupid question. After approximately ten job interviews during the first day it became abundantly clear that I was not going to secure a job as a teacher without experience and I was not going to get experience without a job as a teacher. Classic catch 22.

Back to the room, check for other M Green’s belongings, wash wine glasses, spend remainder of the evening rewriting CV and researching management positions within the schools that are attending. One school in Dhaka, Bangladesh looks promising. Just a small problem, I need to have teaching qualifications in order to be employed.

Last day at the hotel. The other M Green has already checked out, but didn’t pay our bill 😉 Still no breakfast, but Club privileges have us enjoying a cocktail on the top floor. A lucky discussion with a gentleman from a Swiss school has encouraged me to rewrite CV once again and focus on my management skills. Six weeks later I was on a plane to Oman for a job interview.

All’s well that ends well.

Melbourne

Melbourne

Turkish Memorial

The Saddest, Most Beautiful Cemetery in the World – Turkish Memorial

Countless dead, countless! It was impossible to count. Memis Bayraktar, Turkish Soldier.

On the 19th February 1915 the Royal Navy commenced a bombardment of Turkish positions along the Dardanelles straits in the hope of breaking through to Istanbul. The attack failed and the Gallipoli invasion began. The British expected the campaign to end quickly, but the resourcefulness of the Turkish and German commanders resulted in a deadly stalemate costing thousands of lives. Turkish authorities have estimated their casualties at around 87,000 dead and between 250,000 to 300,000 wounded. Like the Allies, many of Turkey’s dead remain unidentified and thousands are buried in a mass grave in the valley below.

Turkish Mass Grave

Turkish Mass Grave

Soldiers from both sides found respect for each other during the campaign. The Johnnys and the Mehmets were determined in their attacks and resilient in defence, yet full of humanity and compassion for the wounded. The image below shows a statue of a Turkish soldier bringing a wounded Australian to the ANZAC lines. The soldier was allowed to return to his platoon.

Turkish Soldier Brings Wounded ANZAC To Enemy Lines

Turkish Soldier Brings Wounded ANZAC To Enemy Lines

“You think there are no true Turks left. But there are Turks, and Turk’s sons!” Unknown Turkish Soldier.

On the 10th August Mustafa Kemal Ataturk personally led the counter attack on Chunuk Bair that repelled the Allies. At 4:30am he crept to within 20 – 30 metres of allied dugouts and called his army forward with a wave of his whip.

Bedlam broke loose at 4:30am. The English were in a a rude awakening. Sounds of Allah, Allah tore the skies in the darkness over the front. Smoke covered all sides and the excitement dominates everywhere. The Enemies bombs tore deep holes in the battlefield, shrapnels and bullets drop like rain from the sky. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

During the fight at Chunuk Bair shrapnel hit Ataturk in the chest. Fortunately for the Turkish commander his pocket watch absorbed the blow and he was left uninjured. The rest of his troops were not so lucky and his 57th Infantry Regiment that was formed in 1912 during the Balkan War, who defended Ari Burnu during the first landings and took part in battles at Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair, ended the defence of Gallipoli with 1,817 dead.

Cemetery for the 57th Regiment

Cemetery for the 57th Regiment

Memorial at Chunuk Bair

The Saddest, Most Beautiful Cemetery in the World – Chunuk Bair

“I am prepared for death and hope that God will have forgiven me all my sins.” Lieutenant Colonel William Malone, New Zealand Soldier, in a letter to his wife shortly before he was killed defending the position his battalion held on the summit of Chunuk Bair.

Between the 7th and 9th August 2015 a mixed group of New Zealand, British, Australian and Indian soldiers made their way towards the high ground of Chunuk Bair. The Allied commanders believed that if their forces could capture the high ground then it would be possible to break through the Turkish lines and head towards the Dardanelles.

“…attacking troops made their way up the steep slopes and through the deep gullies on the approach to the heights. Some units became lost in this wild country and planned assaults were often carried out too late and with inadequate support. The New Zealanders, fighting desperately and sustaining great losses, reached the Chunuk Bair summit and gazed upon the Dardanelles.” Gallipoli Peninsula Peace Park.

Wellington Infantry Regiment Maori Contingent

Wellington Infantry Regiment Maori Contingent

On the 10th August Turkish forces led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk launched a counter offensive and regained the summit. It was the last time the ANZACs would view the Dardanelles and, after the failures in August, the British mounted no more major attacks at Gallipoli.

Winter arrived in November bringing frostbite to some 16,000 troops whilst others literally froze at their post. Mounting criticism throughout the Commonwealth eventually led to a decision to withdraw.

“Between 8 and 20 December 1915, 90,000 men were secretly embarked from Suvla and ANZAC. On 8 and 9 January 1916 a similar evacuation was conducted at Helles. Only a handful of casualties were suffered in these well-executed operations.” Gallipoli Peninsula Peace Park.

Chunuk Bair MIA Memorial

Chunuk Bair MIA Memorial

“ANZAC stood, and still stands, for reckless valour in a good cause, for enterprise, resourcefulness, fidelity, comradeship, and endurance that will never own defeat.” C.E.W Bean, Australian official Historian.

The first ANZAC Day gathering was held on the 25th August 1916 to commemorate the brave soldiers who lived, fought and died at Gallipoli. Nowadays ANZAC Day celebrates all Australians and New Zealanders who have served their country in times of war.

“However, it remains a day that recalls particularly 25 April 1915 when Australians and New Zealanders landed on the shores of Gallipoli, where they founded a lasting tradition of courage, endurance and sacrifice.” Gallipoli Peninsula Peace Park.

For me it was a humbling experience to stand in ANZAC footprints.