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.

The Saddest, Most Beautiful Cemetery in the World

This article was originally published as six separate posts on Wish You Were Here. You can read them separately by clicking this link.

 

Late last year Heidi and I had a short break in Turkey and managed to spend a day at Gallipoli. It was a haunting experience filled with admiration for the soldiers of both sides who stepped up into a war they had no control over yet maintained their dignity and respect for each other, and a heavy sadness for the immense loss of life. Throughout this long post we will share information from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and our images taken on the day, in the hope that we can convey to you the emotion of standing in the saddest, most beautiful cemetery in the world.

A good army of 50,000 men and sea power – that is the end of the Turkish menace. Winston Churchill, 1915

Ari Burnu

“Within days of the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, both Australia and New Zealand began to raise forces to support the British Empire’s war effort. The first cohort sent to Europe was redirected to Egypt for initial training, arriving as early as December 1914. They were organised into a new formation: the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, or ANZAC. This included the 1st Australian Division and the New Zealand and Australian Division, incorporating the New Zealand Infantry Brigade, the 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles. Also attached to the corps were the 7th Brigade of Indian Mounted Artillery, and the Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps. Placed under the command of General William Birdwood, the ANZAC Corps was assigned to take part in the Allied amphibious landings which would begin on 25 April 1915.” Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Beach at Ari Burnu

Beach at Ari Burnu

Standing on the beach at Ari Burnu where some 4,000 ANZAC troops came ashore on that first morning of the campaign was an eerie experience. In the relative silence of birdsong and lapping waves it was hard to picture the chaos of violence and death that once stained this unassuming little inlet. Our guide pointed out that in the darkness and confusion the ANZACs had come ashore at the wrong place. What should have been an easy run across flat fields was now an impossible landscape of deep gullies and high ridges.

“By nightfall over 16,000 troops were ashore, the beaches were full of wounded men, and those on the slopes were digging in. This area soon became known as ‘ANZAC’, and its features would be renamed by those living and fighting here: Shrapnel Valley, Plugges’s Plateau, Johnston’s Jolly, Happy Valley, Russell’s Top, the Nek, Walker’s Ridge, Lone Pine.” Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The Target

Ari Burnu Cemetery was established within days of the first landing. Today there are 151 Australian soldiers, 35 New Zealand soldiers, 27 soldiers from the United Kingdom, 3 Indian soldiers and 37 unidentified bodies interred here.

The Cenotaph at Ari Burnu

ANZAC Cove

Those heroes that shed their blood
And lost their lives…
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours…
You, the mothers
Who sent their sons from faraway countries,
Wipe away your tears;
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace.
After having lost their lives on this land
They have become our sons as well. – Mustafa Kemal Atatürk 1934.

Standing on the beach at ANZAC Cove you realise the hopelessness of the situation. Although the landscape in 1915 was devoid of trees (the majority of which had been cut down by local villagers over the years – mainly for firewood) it was still as steep and unforgiving as it is today. The lack of foliage may have facilitated troop movement for the ANZACs, but it also meant there was no cover from the Turkish resistance that was getting stronger every hour as reinforcements arrived. You can only wonder what was going through the mind of a young soldier as he clambered out of a leaky rowboat and started hurtling himself up a hill under fire from above.

Sphinx, Russell’s Top and Plugge’s Plateau in Black and White
Sphinx, Russell’s Top and Plugge’s Plateau today

“According to the article 2 of the Law on Administration of Provinces No. 5442 the Turkish Government has decided to name the coast that is located between the longitude 26 16 39 and the latitude 40 14 13 of the Gallipoli peninsula as ‘THE ANZAC COVE’ to the memory of those soldiers belonging to the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who landed here on 25 April 1915 during the campaign of Dardanelles which constitutes one of the most glorious wars on our history and whic (sic) also has an important place in world history.” Plaque laid at ANZAC Cove April 17th 1985 – Image below.

The Allied objectives in 1915 were simple. Land at Gallipoli, capture Istanbul and provide a supply route to Russia. This would have opened another front against Germany and its ally Austria-Hungary. It wasn’t to be.

“From the beach, groups of men rushed up steep, scrub-covered slopes towards the high ground. At first the few Turkish defenders were pushed back. Isolated groups of Australians and New Zealanders fought their way to where they could see the Dardanelles. As the day progressed Turkish resistance strengthened. By nightfall none of the objectives had been reached. The commanders on the spot recommended withdrawal but were ordered instead to dig in and hold on.” Gallipoli Peninsula Peace Park.

ANZAC Cove Today
ANZAC Cove Today

The beach head at ANZAC Cove was 600 metres long, but only 20 metres wide meaning that there was not much space to launch a successful military campaign. Supplies could only come in at night and they had to be carried via donkey to the front line. Casualties had to be evacuated the same way. Thousands of men lived in dugouts during the 240 day campaign coping with oppressive heat, freezing cold, swarms of flies, bully beef, artillery shells and sniper fire, at all times surrounded by the stench of death.

You have got through the difficult business, now you dig, dig, dig, until you are safe. General Sir Ian Hamilton. British commander-in-chief, Gallipoli.

As the ANZACs dug in for dear life the British landed at Cape Helles and were met by fierce Turkish resistance who kept the British pinned down on the tip of the peninsula. On the 6th May a combined assault using ANZACs, French and British troops was planned but little progress was made for the next two days. On the 8th May the ANZACs were ordered to push forward towards the village of Krithia. Unfortunately the enemy had set their own lines and over 1,000 Australians and 800 New Zealanders were killed or wounded.

Sir, this is a sheer waste of good men. Joseph Gasparich, New Zealand soldier, Krithia, 8 May 1915.

ANZAC Commemorative Site
ANZAC Commemorative Site

On the 19th May the Turks mounted a counter attack. Wave after wave of Turkish soldiers slammed into the ANZAC trenches only to be met with such desperate and concentrated fire. At the conclusion of the battle 0ver 10,000 Turkish soldiers were wounded and approximately 3,000 lay dead. The ANZACs lost 160 dead and 468 wounded. Horribly, the dead Turks lay out on no mans land until the 24th May when a temporary truce was declared so that the bodies could be retrieved for burial.

The Sphinx
The Sphinx

“As the summer heat intensified, conditions on Gallipoli deteriorated. Primitive sanitation led to a plague of flies and the outbreak of disease. Thousands of men were evacuated suffering from dysentery, diarrhoea, and enteric fever…Men suffered particularly from lice in their clothing. Morale sank as the prospect of victory receded. Many came to feel they would never leave Gallipoli alive.” Gallipoli Peninsula Peace Park.

The stalemate remained for several months.

ANZAC
ANZAC

Best Foot Forward?

Seriously, this is a real thing. Young Omani men are driving with their feet, with cruise control engaged!

Ok, its not that wide spread – yet, but it is occurring often enough that the Royal Oman Police (ROP) had to put a warning out via the Times of Oman. I’m flabbergasted that anyone in their right mind would actually think that this practice was safe, let alone acceptable.

I think that a ‘drivers ed’ program within the local high schools would be a fantastic initiative for the Ministry of Education to implement, possibly with the assistance of the ROP. Proper instruction at an earlier age would also lessen the reliance on third party driving schools and prevent learner drivers from being fleeced by illegal driving instructors.

In 2015 the World Health Organisation (WHO) ranked the road traffic death rate per 100,000 population in Oman at 25.4 in 2015 (see image below, Australia was 5.4). Since then Oman has made great strides in road safety,

“The statistics show that there has been a decrease in the number of accidents by 71 per cent since 2012. Injuries have gone down by 23 per cent and deaths by 52 per cent since 2012. This is because of huge efforts conducted by the government, the Royal Oman Police and the public.” – Times of Oman October 2nd, 2017.

The fact that the ROP has to issue such a warning shows that still more needs to be done, but thankfully the relevant ministries are dealing proactively with the issues at hand.

Omani Treats

Originally published on Wish You Were Here.

Kahwa

Kahwa is traditional Omani coffee. The core ingredients are ground cardamom pods and good quality Arabic coffee beans. Other spices such as cloves, cinnamon or saffron are added to the brewing process and these can differ from village to village, and from family member to family member. The method is simple:

1.) Take a kettle of water and bring it to a simmer.Coffee
2.) Add the coffee grounds and bring it to a boil.
3.) Place ground cardamom, or cloves, or cinnamon etc into the empty coffee pot.
4.) Pour the boiled coffee through a strainer into the pot.
5.) Serve with dates

We shared some lovely kahwa with our friends in Al Rustaq over Eid. Each pot was made by a different member and each pot had a different flavour.

Coffee culture is huge in Oman with giant coffee pots adorning traffic roundabouts and large clay pots available at various souks.

The traditional way of enjoying kahwa in the home is to sit on the floor and never fill the cup to the brim. Once the guest has had enough coffee they simply shake their cup so that the host knows to stop pouring. I learned this lesson a little late in the day and was positively buzzing by the time I had to drive home 😉

But what do you eat with your Kahwa? Halwa of course.

Halwa

Halwa03Halwa is the national desert of Oman and a symbol of the countries heritage and culture. The taste is unique to the family that makes it and the recipe is handed down from generation to generation. The method of producing halwa has been preserved for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years as grandparents teach their grandchildren the hidden family secrets.

“Omani halwa is a symbol of Omani culture and heritage and we have to take extremely good care to preserve it.” – says Younis Abdulrahim Al Balushi, whose family has been making Omani halwa since 1951. Times of Oman.

Halwa02There are several types of halwa including honey, saffron and rosewater based. The later has a flavour with a hint of Turkish delight. During the Eid al Fitr celebrations at the end of Ramadan, tons of halwa is produced and sold with prices ranging from 2 to 10 rials per kilogram.

We were lucky enough to visit a local halwa production facility in Al Rustaq, a lovely town in the Al Batinah region of northern Oman, during the first day of Eid. The family showed us their methods for producing their particular brand of halwa down to the hand decorating of individual bowls with dates, dried fruit and slivered almonds. In spite of the crush of locals lining up to collect their orders, our hosts looked after us very well and presented us with a lovely gift of homemade honey halwa, which requires more than three hours to cook and is the most expensive variety of halwa, at the end of our visit.

Halwa is a uniquely flavoured desert so if you get a chance to try locally made halwa then grasp the opportunity in both hands. It may not be what you expect, but it will be an amazing experience.

Halwa04

Ramadan Kareem

Originally published on Wish You Were Here.

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and begins after the night that the crescent of the new moon is sighted. This can vary by a day or two amongst Muslim nations and this year Oman’s Moon Sighting Main Committee, led by Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Salmi the Minister of Awqaf and Religious Affairs, announced that Ramadan in Oman would officially began on the 7th June.

Ramadan is a time to reflect and re-evaluate our lives. It’s the time to be mindful, work on our strengths, and overcome our weaknesses. The fast involves not only abstaining from food and drink, but also from sins like dishonesty, cruel words, pride, and over-indulgence – Times of Oman

On the 20th June children throughout Muscat celebrated Qaranqasho to mark the halfway point of Ramadan. Qaranqasho is an event similar to Halloween whereby children in traditional costumes visit their neighbours singing songs and receiving sweets as a gift. Qaranqasho began as a reward for children who had managed to fast for the first half of the month of Ramadan.

A specific song is sung on this occasion, “Qaranqashoyonas, atonishwayathalwa (O people, Qaranqasho time, give us some sweets please.” It further goes “doosdoos fi almandoos, hara hara fi a’sahara,” where they ask for candy – Times of Oman

I guess that face painting, games and a belly full of lollies is a great way to encourage the children to continue fasting for the second half of Ramadan 😉

Now that we are well past the halfway mark we through we would share with you some of the things we have learned so far about Ramadan etiquette for non-Muslims in Oman.

The Grand Mosque at Night

Do not eat, drink or smoke in public:

Fasting begins at Sehr, which is sunrise in Oman, and concludes with Iftar (the breaking of the fast) after sunset prayers. The Sehr o Iftar time scale roughly equates to a 4:00am beginning and a 7:00pm finish. During this time frame Omani Muslims are not permitted to eat, drink or smoke.

Non-Muslims are also not permitted not to eat, drink or smoke in public during fasting hours. This includes semi-public spaces such as motor vehicles. Sipping water or munching on a snack whilst driving is not entirely private and therefore it is against the Islamic faith, as is chewing gum in public.

Public observance of Ramadan is compulsory, however many Omanis are aware that non-Muslims have a different belief system to their own and may make allowances within the work place if their own beliefs are treated respectfully.

Workplace etiquette:

Ramadan brings shorter working hours. The working day is reduced to six hours and traveling business people need to be aware of this when organising their schedules. Lunch meetings should be avoided and conference rooms that supply tea and coffee facilities need to be carefully vetted.

Travel:

The Ramadan road toll is very high. The rush to visit family at Iftar, combined with low blood sugar and dehydration from fasting, can lead to road fatalities, so try to avoid driving within an hour of sunset.

Entertainment:

ChocolateAlthough the shopping malls are open for business, cafes, restaurants and movie theatres are closed throughput the day. At night however they become a magnet for Omanis celebrating Iftar and are therefore crowded. Live music is prohibited so clubs and bars will be closed. Non-Muslims also need to be mindful of the sounds emanating from within their own domiciles. Parties involving loud music, drinking alcohol etc are acceptable so long as the sounds are contained within the premises and not allowed to be heard outside.

Dress modestly:

Revealing clothing, sheer clothing, too low, too short, too tight, are all items that should remain in your wardrobe. A Muslim Mosque, Buddhist Temple, Christian Cathedral etc, should all be treated with dignity and respect regardless of what your beliefs may be. Walking the streets of Oman during Ramadan is no different and respect costs little.

Public displays of affection:

No matter how romantic you and your partner find the amazing Muscat sunsets to be, snogging in public is a no-no. There will be plenty of time back in your apartment or hotel room for that 😉

Iftar is awesome:

Iftar is both a feast and a celebration with a strong focus on family and community. Perhaps the best way to describe Iftar to Christians is to imagine the daily fasting of Lent being concluded with Christmas dinner. Traditionally the celebration begins with a few dates to break the fast, washed down with Laban (a delicious yoghurt drink) and plenty of fruit. Then the feasting begins with shawarma, kofta, kibbeh, shish taouk, tender lamb, grilled meat and a vast array of delicious salads including fattoush, tabouleh and a Lebanese potato salad full of mint, lemon juice and olive oil. The Baba Ganoush has that delicate smoky flavour of slow-roasted Aubergine and the Hummous is as smooth as King Island triple cream.

The Arabic coffee, brewed for hours with a mix of ground coffee beans, cardamom, and various subtle spices, is both sweet and savoury at the same time. It is the perfect compliment to Umm Ali, a Middle East bread pudding we enjoyed for dessert.

Ramadan Mubarak!

Coffee