Team Y reviews 2018, selecting some of the highlights we shall always cherish, and some of the lowlights we’d prefer to forget.
As is the case with every passing year, 2018 was one filled with much excitement and unpredictability – with several high- and low-points making it one of the most memorable years for Oman… and possibly the world too.
From milestones ranging from the signing of the peace treaty between North and South Korea that ended the century-long war, to Facebook coming under the radar for breaching personal data in the ‘Cambridge Analytica’ scam – there was always enough content for us to deal with on a day-to-day basis.
The Sultanate, meanwhile, had its own share of upbeat news: the opening of the new Muscat International Airport, the resurgence of the oil prices, the curtailing of the budget deficit, and the nation taking the Gulf Cup early on in the year.
While trivial news remains plentiful, this week we here at Y Magazine are focusing on some of the greatest news – that affected Oman and the world – recalling some things that could change the course of Oman and even the future of humanity.
January 5: Oman brings the Gulf Cup home
It’s a start of the year that seemed scripted from above. After a (long) wait of nearly nine years, the Gulf Cup finally came home. It wasn’t an easy fight either, with opponents the United Arab Emirates constantly piling the pressure on the Omani team and only finally letting go in a penalty shootout that had people on the edges of their seats.
January 28: Oman temporarily stops issuing expats visas for 87 jobs
In what came as a shocking revelation, Oman’s Ministry of Manpower (MoM) banned expats of 87 professions from being able to obtain visas, in view of Omanisation. The government also promised 25,000 jobs to Omanis.
January 31: The marvel of the ‘Blood Moon’
The first lunar eclipse of the year also coincided with a ‘blue moon’ (the second full moon of a month) to result in a ‘blue blood moon’ – a phenomenon that causes the moon to appear bright red in colour. This was the first time in 150 years that we could witness the marvel.
February 2: Bitcoin dips to nearly half its value
Cryptocurrencies are generally known for their volatility and unstable nature – but when the value of Bitcoin – the largest and most-used cryptocurrency crashed by nearly half (from US$15,000 to US$8,500), it sent the online world and trade market into a frenzy.
February 8: Mars mission in Oman
Believe it or not: Oman’s Marmul (the capital city of Dhofar) played host to the 16-member Mars expedition experiment, which for all intensive research purposes conducted 19 simulation experiments that would then be progressed into use on planet Mars.
February 11: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Oman
After nearly three years of serving as Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi made his first visit to Oman. He addressed the Indian crowds at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Stadium and met His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said to sign eight key agreements, one of which was to provide the Indian military access to Oman’s Duqm port.
March 14: Prof. Stephen Hawking dies aged 76
Theoretical physicist Professor Stephen Hawking was probably the only man who came close to answering the secrets of the universe with his theories on dark matter, black holes, and its relation to time – or at the very least the one who inspired young minds to follow the murkiest corners of our universe (or shall we say, multiverses?). His death not only shook the physics world but everyone familiar with his works. Prof. Hawking was diagnosed with a rare form of Motor Neurone Disease at the age of 22 but fought until the age of 76, before finally breathing his last at his home in Cambridge, UK.
March 19: Vladimir Putin re-elected for another term as President
Despite being surrounded by a wave of conspiracies and corruption allegations, Russia’s Vladimir Putin was re-elected President for another term of six years. With a lead of over 76 per cent, the leader took the race from main opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was eventually barred from the race after cases of corruption were exposed.
March 20: Oman’s new airport opens doors to the public
In what can be called Oman’s proudest moment since the ascension of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said to the throne and the opening of the first Muscat airport back in 1970, the new airport came roaring to life on this day when the first flight – an Oman Air flight from Iraq – landed safely at the new terminal.
April 3: Oman gets its very own solar-powered service station
With sustainability in mind, Shell Oman opened its first solar-powered service station near the Mukhainza oil field, which is in the Al Wusta Governorate. This falls in line with the brand’s first phase of “Solar Into Stations” project, which focuses on implementing solar energy into their existing service stations.
April 4: Facebook scandal exposed
In a shocking revelation to the public, social media platform Facebook acknowledged the leak of the personal data of up to 87 million users with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.
April 20: Swedish DJ Avicii found dead in Oman hotel
Sending the music world into a shock was the news of the demise of superstar DJ Avicii. He had reportedly taken his own life at one of the top hotels in the Sultanate. His body was found a few hours after his show at the hotel, which was reportedly a full house.
May 26: Cyclone Mekunu makes landfall in Salalah
Bringing Salalah to a complete standstill and wreaking havoc in the city, Cyclone Mekunu made landfall on the eve of the 27th. With wind speeds recorded between 126kph and 144kph, the Category 3 cyclone was soon recognised as one of the most devastating cyclones to make landfall since the Cyclone Gonu, which hit the Sultanate in 2007. Roughly 31 casualties were reported.
May 29: Malaysian Airlines MH370 flight mystery to remain unsolved
Four years and thousands of hours of search for any form of debris – after the fateful crash of Malaysian Airlines MH370 flight in the Indian Ocean – later, the last of the private investigators, US-based Ocean Infinity, recalled their deep-sea survey vessel too. This left the case of the crash officially hanging in the balance. The plane disappeared on March 8, 2014, while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers on board.
June 18: Rapper XXXTentacion found dead
SoundCloud rapper turned mainstream singer, XXXTentacion, 20, was shot dead in a robbery gone bad as he was driving away from a motorcycle dealership in his sports car. The singer has posthumously garnered recognition and awards since.
June 26: Oman’s visa law changed to attract more tourists
In lieu of shelling out RO20 for a visit visa, tourists looking to spend fewer than 10 days in the country can do so by obtaining a short-stay visa for RO5. The move is intended to help attract more tourists visiting the GCC.
June 30: Qalhat enters UN ‘World Heritage Site’ list
The mausoleum of Bibi Maryam, which is safely confined in the ruins of Qalhat, was recognised as a ‘World Heritage Site’ by the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
July 23: Oman celebrates 48th Renaissance Day
The birth of a new era for Oman – one of prosperity, success, and glory – began 48 years ago on this day. While the citizens and residents celebrated the launch of the “modern renaissance” under the wise leadership of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, a host of other joint sessions between the State Council and Majlis al Shura were held to discuss topics relating to expanding the capabilities of the armed forces, diversifying Oman’s income sources, streamlining Oman’s fuel subsidy system and implementing Omanisation.
July 10: Thailand boys rescued from cave
In a storyline that seemed to be pulled straight out of Hollywood, 12 boys from a football team and their coach were left stranded after the cave they entered was blocked off by water brought in by the monsoon rains. The entire group was found alive in the cave on July 2 – and following a rescue effort that involved more than 10,000 people, including more than 100 divers, representatives from about 100 governmental agencies, 900 police officers and 2,000 soldiers, ten police helicopters, seven police ambulances, more than 700 diving cylinders, and the pumping of more than a billion litres of water out of the caves – the 12 boys and the coach were brought to safety.
July 25: Liquid ‘lake’ detected on the surface of Mars
Yes, there’s water on Mars – we’ve all read the news. But what’s astonishing is how we stumbled upon substantial traces of liquid water, albeit in frozen form, that we could photograph. Situated just under the south polar ice cap, the water body is 20km across and about 1.6km deep.
August 1: Khareef season wows crowds; visitors hit all-time record
The onset of Oman’s monsoon season, Khareef, brought rains and much greenery to the southern city of Salalah. This also translated into 796,894 visitors – the highest number of tourists ever recorded in Salalah.
August 2: Apple becomes the world’s first trillion dollar company
We wonder if Steve Jobs knew that his creation, Apple Inc., would become the world’s first trillion dollar company. While he isn’t here to cherish the rewards of his – and his shareholders’ – hard work, the company edged out its Silicon Valley rivals such as Amazon and Microsoft to hit the 12 digit mark.
August 9 – 16: Floods batter Kerala; Omanis step in to collect aid and donations
The southern Indian state of Kerala witnessed unusually high rainfall, which resulted in heavy flooding and widespread damage that spread over seven days. While rescue efforts and other aid made its way from the state’s neighbours, Omanis stepped in to make personal donations and also collect aid to send to the victims of the floods.
September 3: Brazil’s National Museum is gutted in fire
One of the largest anthropology and natural history museums of the Americas went up in flames owing to poor safety systems and “lack of funding”. The 200-year-old museum was also the home of the oldest discovered woman in Latin America – Luzia – who was reportedly carbon dated at 12,000 years’ old.
September 26: Omani crude hits four-year high
At US$88 (RO33.88), the price of Omani crude may not even seem to edge close to what it was trading for back in 2014 – but it turned out to be the highest we’d seen in four years. This was obviously good news for the Sultanate although fluctuating rates brought the rate back down in the coming days.
September 30: Omani sports star Fatma al Nabhani calls out racism in tennis
Walking out on a sure shot second round match in the ITF France 21A Tournament citing racism, Fatma al Nabhani quickly gained publicity for being a victim – and her allegations had furthermore resulted in an investigation into the case. Her claims include not being provided with water on the court or with a ball boy to assist her with picking up loose balls, and above all, being asked to remove her leggings – which she strictly wears to adhere to her faith. The investigation is still ongoing.
October 24: Oman hosts Asian Champions Trophy
Oman’s hockey team may still be in its grassroots stages, opting to take a steady and unrushed path towards success but that doesn’t mean those here can’t catch a glimpse of the action. At least, that was the case in the recently-concluded Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament. All the hockey matches took place at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex, in Baushar, and was attended by several fans of the sport.
October 26: Israeli Prime Minister meets HM in surprise trip to Oman
After a long hiatus in diplomatic talks, Oman and Israel seemed to make headway in forging new relations after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Sultanate. As per the Oman News Agency, the two leaders discussed ways to take the peace process forward in the region and also other issues of common interest in order to serve security and stability in the region.
November 18: The National Day of Oman
Forty-eight years ago, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said made a promise to us: that Oman would become the most harmonious and peaceful country in the Middle East. Not only does that stand true today, but both citizens and expats reap the rewards of this wonderful country. As time ticks by, it only becomes clearer why His Majesty is indeed the driving force of this glorious nation.
November 13: Did we stumble upon UFOs after all?
There’s no conclusive evidence to suggest that we did stumble upon a superior species cruising around in flying saucers, but the BBC recently noted that one British Airways pilot contacted the Irish Shannon air traffic control to report objects that were “moving so fast” at about 6.47am. The object subsequently veered off to the north – but without any solid evidence to back up the pilot’s statement, this may join the corner end of the X Files.
November 6: UK to open a new military base in Oman
Oman and UK share a strong bond that dates to the early days of the formation of Oman. It’s little wonder then that British troops will deploy a new training base in the country this coming March (2019). As per a report by the Bloomberg, UK’s defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, said that when made ready, the base would also stay “for generations to come”.
December 24: Tsunami strikes Indonesia without warning; more than 373 feared dead
Tragedy ensued after undersea landslides from the Anak Krakatau volcano caused a tsunami to hit the west coast of Java Island with little to no warning, leaving tens of thousands shocked and stranded with nowhere to go or run. The tsunami struck the coast at 8.30pm (local time) sweeping away everything in its path. A video of one of Indonesia’s famed bands ‘Seventeen’s’ members being swept away by water during a live performance has gone viral. The band lost two of its members instantly, while three other members are still missing.
Moreover, 373 have been feared dead and more than 150 missing.