Meet Oman’s Bloggerati

05 Mar 2014
POSTED BY Y Magazine

They inspire, they entertain and sometimes they even change people’s lives. Y meets some of the Sultanate’s most influential bloggers. 



By Penny Fray, Noor Hyder and Shishira Sreenivas

Love them or loathe them, you can’t ignore them – bloggers are shaping our world.

Writing about everything from fashion and politics to parenting and closet skeletons – these tireless online commentators are now media’s new opinion-formers.

They jot down whatever they think, feel or know, and within seconds, it’s published and read by a global audience.

Of course, they’re not new. Bloggers have been around for decades in one guise or another. In the 1980s, they used to pin their views on virtual bulletin boards. But as Internet use spread, they made their mark on the explosively expanding world of cyberspace with their web logs – known as blogs.

Today, there are more than 410 million people viewing more than 13.1 billion blog pages each month.

Successful bloggers are now leading new lives as published authors, front row stylists and even billionaires. Even the not so famous have sufficient gravitas to top VIP lists and make a decent living from their daily ramblings.

In celebration of this new breed of creative writer, we profile some of the Sultanate’s top English language bloggers to discover the secrets behind their success.

Freddie Sayers

Blog: Muscat Mutterings 

bloggers-freddie-sayers

What attracted you to becoming a blogger? 
My wife did it before me, writing a very popular and no-holds-barred blog. One night we were having dinner and overheard people on other tables talking about her blog, which was fun. Around the same time I was enjoying reading Muscat Confidential and The Muscatis, so I thought ‘why not have a go?’

What do you think the secret to your success is?  
I have no idea! I’m not a particularly good writer from a grammatical point of view. I enjoy blogging and perhaps it shows? In the early days, The Undercover Dragon at Muscat Confidential kept mentioning and linking me in some of his posts, and that really helped drive traffic to my blog.

Some say bloggers have now overtaken journalists as writing celebrities, why do you think that is?  
We have? Perhaps it’s because there’s more interaction with readers. Print journalists can’t always directly reply to people (except that one guy who took a national paper and used it as his mouth piece to shout at Andy in Oman). I should point out though that journalists are much more reliable than bloggers like me.

You sometimes cover some controversial topics, which posting are you most proud of?  
There are a few – like the cost of living posts because they help people. But the one I’m most proud of though is probably the scoop I got on the MGM store listings, which I posted on August 27th, 2011. To the person that helped me with that – you know who you are – that was fun!

What are the highs and lows of blogging?    
Without a doubt the biggest high from blogging has been meeting so many people that I doubt I would have met otherwise. The lowest lows are the nasty emails and occasional comments I get from ‘haters’.

What’s your top tip for aspiring bloggers?     
Blog about something you like to write about. If you’re not having any fun with it, why bother?

 

Eliza Richardson

Blog: Pumpkin Polar Bear

bloggers-eliza-richardson

Tell us about your blog?
I started Pumpkin Polar Bear to document all of my adventures and experiences as an expat living in Oman. In my earlier blog posts, I wrote about my ‘culture shock’ and struggles of adjusting to my life abroad; I also shared a lot of my rookie mistakes as an expat – and there were many. My goal has always been to entertain, inform, and excite people to live life to the fullest. I love sharing all the ups and downs of my journey in the hope that it might inspire someone else to take risks and step outside their comfort zone. Oman is such an amazing place to live and I’m very grateful for all the memories that I have to look back on – which all happen to be neatly archived on my blog. My site has taken a bit of a turn since I recently moved back to America. But who knows? Once I get my degree in Graphic Design, I may return.

What got you started? 
I initially started Pumpkin Polar Bear to help keep family and friends up-to-date with our new life abroad. There are so many misconceptions about the Middle East, especially in the States that I wanted to reassure everyone that I was, in fact, okay and having the time of my life.

Are all your followers in Muscat? 
I get views from all over the world! People wanting tips and information about Oman contact me frequently. House Hunters International even contacted me via my blog to film an episode for them in Oman. Once filming wrapped up and the episode aired, the traffic on my site tripled.

What do you love about blogging? 
Blogging is a creative outlet which has allowed me to incorporate all of my interests of photography, travel writing and design in one place. It has also given me some pretty neat opportunities; I’ve written for quite a few expat websites and been filmed. I also love having a way to document life’s moments – but a backspace key is always a plus.

How would people in Oman find your blog useful?   
It was a slow start at first but once I found my writing niche, the blog took on a life of its own and it’s become a helpful resource for people visiting and/or moving to Oman. If you’re looking for restaurant recommendations, or helpful tips on making the move, I’ve probably written about it at some point in time – and if I haven’t, readers can always contact me. One of my most popular posts is called ‘Challenges of Raising a Dog in Oman’. It just goes to show the variety of topics people are looking to find out about in the country.

 

Heather Duncan

Blog: The Duncan Adventures

bloggers-heather-duncan

What’s your blog about? 
It’s an online journal of my new life as an expat wife and new mum in Muscat. Daily life in Oman is completely different to my previous life in Scotland, UK, and I wanted to show my family and friends back home what we have been doing and just how amazing life in the Middle East can be through pictures and stories.

What got you started?  
My inspiration came when I saw a blog written by Pumpkin Polar Bear – I find her writing to be both thoughtful and inspiring. I always enjoyed the new installments on her blog and reading about her adventures so I found myself trying it out for myself and really enjoying it. When I receive positive feedback from followers it makes the time and effort worthwhile.

How many followers do you have?  
I have over 30 followers on a regular basis here in Oman but most people who get in contact with me are other expats looking to move to Oman and looking for advice and friendship. On an average month I have around 5,000 views from here in the Middle East to far away lands like Argentina and Germany.

What do you love about blogging?  
To me blogging is a way of documenting my life for others to read and for myself to look back on. I enjoy knowing that I have helped and inspired others in wanting to travel to the Middle East.

 

Andy Brown

Blog: Andy In Oman

bloggers-andy-brown

What attracted you to becoming a blogger?  
Like many expat bloggers, I first started blogging as a way of letting my family and friends know what I’m up to. It’s changed since then and I mostly blog now to let people know about great places to visit, restaurants in town we’ve enjoyed, events for the Protestant Church in Oman and any news items that are of importance.

What do you think is the secret to your success?   
Longevity. What I mean by that is that many bloggers come to work and live in Oman and only stay a year or two. There are many blogs that fall by the wayside simply because people have left the Sultanate. I’ve been in Oman for seven years now – and the longer you have a blog, the more your blog posts come up on Google search. Another key factor is frequency. The more often you blog, the more often your readers check in to see what’s new. If you go months and months without blogging, your readership falls quickly. Finally, I think the secret of my success has been a willingness to invest. Free blogs have a limited amount of space. I use high-resolution photos and so pay money every year to upgrade the space on my blog.

Which posting was the most successful and why?   
One feature on WordPress that I enjoy is the stats page because it tells me clearly that a post on Bimmah Sinkhole Park (between Quriyat and Sur) has been by far the most viewed blogpost. I think it’s viewed often because it’s a gorgeous spot that people might have seen in photos or heard about and want to see for themselves.

Blogs can be hard work to maintain – what keeps you motivated?    
One of the greatest motivators is meeting people in church or various spots around town who thank me and tell me that my blog was one of the factors that made them more comfortable with packing up and moving to Oman. Wow! That’s awesome to think that my humble little blog has helped people come to see the beauty of the Sultanate. My wife and friends often joke that the Ministry of Tourism should pay me. Of course as a Christian, my ultimate motivation is my love of God and love of people. I try to see my blog more or less as a community service and think about what others might want to know or should know.  We are meant to be here to serve and not to be served.

Any tips for budding bloggers?     
Keep it up! It won’t take long before word gets out about your blog and people will be dying to meet up with you, especially fellow bloggers. You will be AMAZED at the opportunities that present themselves if you continue to write about your passions and experiences. Believe me, if I can do it, anyone can do it. Don’t worry if you’re not tech-savvy. You will learn day-by-day and step-by-step, how to change features and create a blog that you never imaged possible when you first clicked the ‘sign up for free’ blog button. There are never enough blogs, in my opinion; the more the merrier.

 

Shurooq Al Haremi

Blog: Mademoiselle Shosho

bloggers-shooruq-al-haremi

Tell us a little bit about your blog? 
I started blogging in 2011. It’s where I can express my passion for fashion and anything that catches my eye in the industry such as a good sale or the latest runway collections. There are also updates and pictures of fashion shows or events that I have attended.

What got you started?  
Having gone through some fashion blogs and getting to know some of them, I realised that I wanted to pursue a career in the fashion industry and blogging helped me start my own business as a designer. Getting to know many fashion designers who started their journey the same way I did, kept me motivated.

What do you love about blogging?  
I always loved wearing stylish outfits and wanted to share my OOTD (outfits of the day) on my blog and to express myself through it. I also post photos of my recent designs and my journey in the fashion industry. Basically it’s anything that inspires me about fashion, makeup, interior design, or just life in general.

How would others find your blog useful?  
I post pictures and updates of fashion events I attend. I also post about sales, supporting other talented Omani designers and anything related to fashion.

 

Dahlia Al Riyami

Blog: Aishelaqtta

bloggers-dahlia-al-riyami

Tell us a little bit about your blog? 
‘Aish Elaqtta’ is urban Omani for ‘What’s Happening?’ It’s a social events platform that functions as a promotional page for all new activities in Oman. I also showcase local talent and upcoming SME businesses. The blog is linked to a Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram account.

What got you started?  
I have been a blogger since 1998 whilst at university. The first blog was actually very personal and included some of my poems and fictitious stories. I closed that blog down since I had no time to maintain it. Life took over until I ventured back into the blogging world on October 2013. That completely changed the perspective of my blogging experience.

Tell us about your followers?  
The Instagram account is the most active of all and is updated three times a day with various flyers, pictures and promotional events that I am covering. The blog on the other hand is updated on a daily basis, except for the weekends. It has a total of 15,000 views with 75 direct followers via Google+ and exposure to over 250 viewers and their extended circles, when shared through the network. I also link my Instagram account to the blog thus providing exposure to more than 760 followers.

How would people in Oman find your blog useful?  
Ultimately, what sets blogs apart from other marketing mediums, is the capacity to build direct relationships with consumers. My blog comes from a local’s personal perspective, catering to both the Omani and the expat community to what’s happening on the local scene.

 

Maurizio Monte

Blog: Oman Collective Intelligence

bloggers-maurizio-monte

In brief, what’s your blog about?  
Oman Collective Intelligence is that little place in Oman that talks about social media, less traditional marketing and other fun stuff. Through the blog I try to keep readers up-to-date about the latest social media trends, share tips and findings, as well as show great advertising campaigns or viral videos, analyse less traditional marketing activities like ambient or ambush marketing, and much more. The whole point is to learn, understand and share the impact that social media is having on the corporate world.

What got you started?    
Not sure really. But back in 2009 I was always reading local blogs and at the same time my passion for social media was growing. So I started blogging. I remember my first post was ‘10 reasons why brands fail on Twitter’. Five years later and I’m still happily blogging.

How many followers do you have?   
Followers on blogs do not really count, they are just a symbolic number. More important numbers to look at are the number of visits Oman Collective Intelligence gets about 20,000 per month and the amount of people who subscribe to the blog and receive mail updates, and that is about a thousand. I’m very pleased with the results. Twelve per cent of readers are from Oman while most hits come from USA, UK, France, Brazil and Germany. Lately, I’ve noticed an increasing number of visits from both India and China.

What do you love about blogging?    
Blogging is an ongoing learning process that keeps me up to date with the industry’s latest development and trends. What I also enjoy is being invited to colleges for lectures or presentations as well as developing social media training packages for corporations. Through blogging I’ve made many new friends and clients.

Why is your blog useful?
Oman Collective Intelligence is a niche blog. I often compile data and share stats about the local online arena, like the ‘Top 100 companies in Oman on Facebook’ or ‘Why people in Oman use Twitter’. This type of content attracts mostly communication and marketing professionals. The general public finds topics such as ‘The Top 10 restaurants on Trip Advisor’ more useful.

 

HOW TO WRITE A BLOG

  • Decide what you’re going to blog about.
  • Consider which blogging platform you’re going  to use – free or self hosted. WordPressblogger.com and tumblr.com are all popular.
  • Choose a name and create a USP before you write your first blog.
  • Write about what you know and love.
  • Publicise your blog on print and social media.

 

DON’T BE AFRAID TO TAKE A RISK

Blog reader Vivian Daboul learnt a lot more from cult blogger Aziza Al Bahlani than just fashion.

Fear has no meaning except for what you give it. Aziza Al Bahlani, a bright young Omani known for her fashion blog Haus of Ziia, knows this. She isn’t afraid of taking a risk and has overcome her fears by focusing on what she loves most – fashion.  And that’s inspirational.

Often we tend to listen to the limiting self-beliefs that stop us living our dreams. So start asking yourself: ‘what if?’

For Aziza, this question helped her give things a go and never look back.

“My life now is great,” she says. “My followers always put a smile on my face. I’m a regular woman with ambitions that I decided to follow.

“You’d think we all follow our dreams, but I know a lot of us young adults are scared. Do whatever makes you wake up happy in the morning, chase after the positives because you never know what happens in the end.”


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