Today I was given an invitation to visit the Al Noor Association for the Blind, one of three centres I uncderstand they have throughout the country.I was very honoured to meet and be escorted by their dedicated patron, her highness Sayyida Aliya Al Said. I was introduced to different members of the organisation, and shown around the centre, that is soon to be replaced by a much bigger building.
I was fascinated by the beautiful jewellery that blind people were making here, with matching necklaces, bracelets and earrings made from collourful semi-precious stones, with exquisite harmonising colours.I was blessed with a set for my wife and two daughters before I left, so my family also will always remember my visit there now! I also felt some very soft scarves and head coverings, crocheted without needles, but rather on the fingers of the individuals- a Japanese craft they had recently been taught. I was shown around their I.T. department, and listned to the speech-output coming out, not in english as with my own system, but in perfect Arabic! They also have a growing braille library and audio cassettes for educational purpuses, and I understand they plan a visit to the RNIB in London to give them more ideas to continue serving with great dedication the blind people of Oman.
My final activity before speaking to them all was to represent Great Britain in a "ping-pong" tournament against some of Oman's best! The game is really quite different to conventional ping-pong, except for the fact that the same bats are used on a similar sized table. The table is bordered by wooden sides some 12 inches high, and an oblong box is sunk into the centre of each end of the table. The ball is about twice as big as a ping-pong ball, and is much harder, with some small balls inside to give it a tinkling sound when moving. The purpose of the game is to get the ball into the depression protected by the player at the other end, and points are scored whenever a "goal" is scored!
It is actually a very fast-moving game, with the ball hurtling off the sides, crashing around, and I soon found an enthusiastic crowd around me cheering loudly as we smashed the ball at each others goal- but unfrtunately I ended up being beaten 3 nill in good style, despite my energetic and acrobatic actions- skill seems to be the key, not showmanship, but great fun had by all!
I was very honourd to be accompanied by her highness… during my visit, who also helped with the translation when I spoke to the gathering after coffee and biscuits.
I came away feeling I had made lots of new friends, underwstood a little better the global commonality of blindness, and the fellowship we enjoy facing the challenges it brings with it.
A quiet evening with Imran and the head of the bank's HR department here, Khalifa Al Said at an outside restaurent with Richard ended wih Kaleefi and Richard heading off the airport to visit the customs there.
Our life raft for our long water crossings flights that had been sent out had not been cleared in time before the Omani weekend here (Thursday afternoon and all Friday), and it took all of Kaleefi royal blood line, HR connections and diplomacy to finally get it released and left with our microlight at around 0100 hours this morning!
(TO VIEW MORE PHOTOS FROM THIS LEG OF THE TRIP, CLICK HERE)