Saturday, July 17, 2010

Random Snapshots in Salalah

Just before taking this photo, we saw a man lingering by the trash checking out this toilet. Good reminder; one persons s*** can be anothers treasure.
Want Pizza? Well, you can't get it from Burj Pizza. But if you need a table or couch to eat your pizza ON, go to Burj Pizza wth?.
Yeah, I thought this was funny, so did the Indian guy working at Ramiz who gave me a sheepish smile and a wink when he saw me taking this photo, perve!

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Monday, July 5, 2010

Picnics, Weddings and Football

I've been partying these past few weeks. Literally partying...watching football, meeting with friends, shopping, having picnics in the mountains and going to weddings. Salalah is covered in tents and fog. Everyone has decided Khareef is the best time to get married, its okay if its your first, or second or third marriage, its on! My neighbor just celebrated his 3rd wedding yesterday!!! His eldest daughter is 32 and his youngest child is 8 months old...gotta love Salalah. By the way, Nadia was not exaggerating when she likened Dhofari wedding makeup to Marilyn Manson, I couldn't think of a more accurate description, seriously. God help them! Really you people need to get over the white skin crap.

It's picnic time here! Let the kite flying begin!!! Take a drive up into the mountains and people are having a blast! Thats one of the wonderful things about living in Salalah, the whole place is virtually a great picnic spot. You can park your car anywhere, set up a mat anywhere and picnic or BBQ in the middle of nowhere surrounded by nature.

With all my partying, Sam has been taking full advantage of the evenings. He gets together with his friends every thursday for a late evening BBQ in the Jebel that starts no earlier than 9:30 PM.
BBQ Menu
Lamb Chops (an insane amount)
Dew (enough to spark diabetes)
Khubz (pita bread, used to hold piping hot lamb chops and as a makshift napkin)
Watermelon (dessert? or to guarantee indigestion?)

Sam comes home around 2AM smelling like cooked meat. He flosses the lamb out of his teeth and sleeps like a newborn baby...Khareef is good.

When there's no BBQ in the mountains, there's Football.  Most of Salalah is in mourning after Brazils loss, watching Ghana lose was agonizing and Germany-Argentia was just pathetic.

I gotta say, there's just something about seeing grown men, with fantasic physics, and in such great shape, manly men I like to say, just crumble down on their knees to weep after losing....a game? I can't help but feel so sorry and I admit maybe Ive let a tear or two fall, not because of the actual loss, because after all, if I dare say, it is just a game, no instead the tears fall because somehow watching a man crumble does something to a woman, a mother, of course a couple diliberate blinks and eyes are dry, but that little lump in my throat always remains.

I'd like to be a little more consistant with my blog, its been a little hard though...I'm taking full advantage of the cooler weather and I'm not even as eager as I was before about going back home after Ramadan.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dhofari FIFA

It's true, everyone in Dhofar is too busy with FIFA to do anything else but WATCH the games. Nadia and I have been watching on the big screens. Who are you rooting for?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Chicken a la Carte

This is a reminder first to myself, and to my dear girlfriends who shared lunch with me at Browniz yesterday. Maybe we shouldn't have tossed that pizza afterall?

Monday, June 14, 2010


Total writers block. The days are moving quickly with little excitement or enthusiasm to write. Everything in Salalah seems drab. Khareef is creeping up, the Ocean is vicious, the sky grey, the clouds thick. Although it is so warm outside, the grey sky puts me into winter mode and so I've been craving soups (the blasted AC doesn't help). God I miss a little cold, what I'd do for a cold breeze!. I much prefer the indoors for now, until Khareef truly comes. I hate the feeling of my abaya being stuck to me from the unrelenting humidity and the stickiness under my burqa. Arghhh the burqa!

Today I  thought I could relax a bit on Haffa before sunset and enjoy the view, I never made it out of the car. The ocean has moved in so close there is barely any sand to sit on and the humidity is simply unbearable. Apparently the weather has not affected the men folk of Salalah, for they are all glued to the tv screens outside watching football. One of these days I'm gonna pull up a chair and watch the game too on that huge screen darn it!! Better yet, open my own little restaurant for WOMEN ONLY and play chick flicks on the big screen.

The rumor lately is that another cyclone is coming...heading straight for Salalah? I haven't seen anything on the weather channel or news. I keep getting text messages to prepare for it, stock up on water etc. Why are people so paranoid?

What else?....Oh, still trying to fit in a much needed trip back home. Things are "busy" at work for Sam, so I have to be patient, but my patience is wearing thin and I miss ma' Mama!. I'm thinking of doing a layover in France, I hear the weather in Paris is nice.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Grand Mosque: They let me in!!!

Yesterday, I took two friends with me to visit the Grand Mosque... and we were let in!! I couldn't tell you if it was because the guard was in a really good mood, or the fact that all burqas were stuffed in our purses, or that we were unmistakably non-Omani looking, but we got in people!!!. I wanted to do a cartwheel in the courtyard but thought better of it. 

I still have mixed feelings though. Should I attempt next time to go with a group of Omani women, in burqa, and then see if we're let in? Maybe the last guard thought it was "ayb" for an Omani man to take his wife into the mens section of the Mosque? hmmmm.

Anyway, we enjoyed ourselves. We had the whole Mosque to ourselves. I was especially touched when my non-Muslim friend Nathalie decided to bow down on the carpet trying to take in the whole experience of prayer.

I think the chandelier in the men's section is pretty awesome!

This is what happened the last time I tried to visit the Grand Mosque

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Obesity in Salalah...Contagious?

Okay, so maybe gaining weight is not contagious, like say, a cold. But it certainly has a way of creeping up on you, and then BAM you look in the mirror and you can't believe how you so subtly moved from the category of 'average' to...'chubby'? Like going from the sniffles to bed rest.

I know taking the excuse of living in Salalah sounds like a cheap shot to some, but let me just say, it absolutely, undoubtedly, plays a major role in weight gain, for women AND men. Sam can attest to this, not to mention all those men with protruding bellies in Dishdash. Once your teenage football days are over, youre in for it too guys!

It hit me last week, when Sam and I were invited to a friends house, he excitedly suggested I wear that one Abaya I got last year with the pretty pink embroidery. I gave him a sharp look. He was confused when I snapped and said "Very funny!" By the look on his face, I could tell he really wasn't being funny. "That one is tight on the arms now" I said, nearly whining. The whole night I kept thinking...oh my god, I can't fit in my Abaya, my ABAYA. I couldn't believe it. It's one thing not to be able to fit in your size 4 skinny jeans, but an Abaya? Geez, that's just crazy! The dress is a tent, or so I thought! I got so pissed at not being able to fit into that Abaya I grabbed a can of Dew, a bag of chips and hot sauce and wondered....where did I go wrong? =)

Besides the fact that a lot of Omanis don't have the best eating habits, one can still make smart choices in the foods they choose even with the VERY limited products available. But what about exercise?  Its no secret that exercise is essential to keeping a healthy, fit, trim body. Its what keeps that extra cookie or a can of Dew in check from making its way to your thighs or Abaya arms.

But in Salalah your options for exercise are very limited, and moreso as a woman. Yes, gyms are somewhat available. If youre okay with using old equipment, no air conditioning and limited hours of operation, then you don't share my gripe. Earlier this week after lamenting on this weight gain, Sam and I took a walk down "airport road". I was determined to get myself moving. I walked as quickly as I could without looking like a freak, while slightly holding my dress up to avoid tripping. When I got home, I had an ugly heat rash around my neck and chest. You can't exercise in all those clothes! Duh. You have to dress appropriate for the occasion, and Abaya is just not appropriate for exercise!

I obviously don't want to work out in spandex and a tank top, of course not. But even if I wanted to work out, covered, in long pants, a long sleeve cotton shirt and sneakers on the "airport road" people would stare at me like I'm c.r.a.z.y. Women just don't move quickly around here, we dwaddle, and certainly don't dress like that. We're bound to get fat, contagious I tell you.  Men can work out, run, do push ups etc, wearing whatever.  I guess the most we can get out is, walking the Abaya of course.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

ooVoo Blocked in Oman?

I had an appointment to talk to Mom last night via ooVoo, but its BLOCKED!!! Damn you Omantel!!! First Skype now this!!! Monopoly! Control Freaks! I want to talk to ma' Mama!

Monday, May 17, 2010

This is how my morning started...

Yesterday, a picture frame propped on a shelf right above the computer fell down leaving an ugly scratch on my computer screen. I was pretty peeved. My boy saw my agitation and asked me if the computer got an "ouch". I nodded, too annoyed to explain...

Thank you my dear Son, for using your imagination, and yes you're right, it's big band-aid :)

Friday, May 14, 2010

What's Up With...


I've lost count of how many times I've seen this, because it happens nearly everyday. Dhofari men choose the strangest places to adjust their "underware". You could be waiting at an ATM, parked in front of a grocery store, at the beach, in a restaurant, or in this case in front of Center Point, and then all of a sudden, the dishdash goes up, a pull here, a fold there, a slight wiggle and you've just been semi flashed. Its no secret most men don't wear underware, so the thought of some random guy "fixing" himself is gross.

Seriously guys you should be a little more subtle about it, choose a place where people are not likely to see you. The other day while sitting in the car I turned to my right and the guy parked next to us was between our car and his facing ME, fixing his izaar. Thank the Good Lord I didn't see anything, and only caught him pulling his disdash down. He probably assumed no one was in the car since our windows are totally tinted. But someone WAS in the car! and had I turned to my right a few seconds earlier......

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Good Life

So now that I’m stuck here, I have to make the best of my life right? I have to actually use my brain and be creative. It’s a tough world I tell ya’. Why do I need to be creative? Well, because I live in Salalah, where little is happening on the outside, where life revolves around repetition, and few women have a productive life. You have to either have a network in order to know what, if anything is going on behind closed doors OR you have to create a life for yourself. Otherwise, if you’re an expat like myself, you can choose to live a life of solitude or live in a little bubble of the same few people living a life as close to what you’re used to back home. Both suck. So how did you find that balance? Give me ideas.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Yawn, Stretch....I'm Awake!

Dear Friends,
I never intended for my blog to be about my very personal life or to use it as my daily diary so I decided to hibernate until things settled down at home. Things have settled...somewhat. Lots of different things happening at once. Just when you think you have a hold on life, something comes from left field and the whole game changes. A long while back, in one of my posts, I sought advice from you all asking when one should "just do it", you know take a challenge without really thinking too hard or getting too caught up in the details of it all, in other words, a risk. Well, I recently mustered the courage, attempted to do just that, take a risk. A good friend of mine offered me a opportunity I could hardly resist. I could get back into the workforce (more officially) and do what I love boss people around delegate. Even though I knew this meant a lot would have to be sacrificed and that a part of me was being selfish, I kept pushing for it. Well, things fell through, and I'm stuck here in Salalah. Not that thats an entirely bad thing, its just that I was looking forward to this opportunity. Sam has been a bit of a thorn in my back, reminding me of why we moved here in the first place and I should give it at least a 5 year go before venturing new ground, eh.

So after countless sleepless nights, I think I'm okay with embracing the idea that I'll be here for the long run. Wish me strength and blessings. Oh, and wish for the coffee shop to hurry up and get built! That will make living here all the more worthwhile.


Sunday, May 2, 2010


In hibernation.
Will be back soon.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Can't we all just get along...??

So I heard "through the grapevine" that last week a huge fight broke out between Dhofari and Northern students from one of the colleges (in Salalah) leaving one Northerner in the HOSPITAL.

It all started with "seating" at a play. I guess a Northern student sat in the unmarked "Dhofari Only" section which led to an exchange of words. Later, a bunch of Northern guys decided to set the record straight and gathered a lil posse of a dozen strong. Well, little did they know that they would be matched and then some with 40 Dhofaris! Hello didn't they know that was coming?! Fight quickly escalated and left one guy in the hospital. These students are purportedly seniors, and the guy who is in the hospital is supposed to GRADUATE in a months time! So sad and immature. I truly hope the poor guy in the hospital gets out in time for graduation, IF he's even allowed to graduate.

I'm told there is a lot of tension between Northerners and Dhofaris and that it is not uncommon for them to get into confrontations, even in class? I was naively under the impression that these kind of immature things happen in High Schools, not between graduating seniors in College!

On a different note, I can't help but wonder....
What did the guys wear to fight? I can't imagine them in their nice Dishdashas and Kummas, that would be a little restrictive, no? Maybe the Dhofaris were prepared wearing Izar and a t-shirt?. But what about the Northerners hmmmm?.

Has anyone else heard about this? Please share your thoughts and more info!
*photo inspired by Dhofari Gucci

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"Oh my God she went under my dress!!"

Those were the last words uttered by Leah (my guest) while visiting the in-laws. I'm still laughing about it, because I remember saying the EXACT same thing when it happened to me. I took Leah to visit some of Sam's family so that she could get the whole "Dhofari cultural experience". She was treated with such hospitality and kindness that at one point she swore "she should have married an Omani", I told her not to get ahead of herself!

Anyway, after a delicious Omani lunch (dinner to western standards), my sister-in-law brought out the infamous Bukhoor. It smelled amazing of course and Leah was curious about its history and what its used for yahda yahda yahda...

When my sister-in-law tells her to stand up, Leah looks at me for approval. I smile, knowing exactly what is about to happen. She stands shyly and my sister-in-law lifts up her make-shift abaya and puts the burner under her dress. I watch Leahs face change colors as the burner moves higher up her dress. As the smoke seeps through and while my sister-in-law is trying to tell Leah that she will smell so nice and that her husband will be all over her etc, I can't help but crack up just watching the look on Leah's face.  Her cheeks turn all bright red and she is so flushed and embarrassed that I almost think she might cry. I tell my sister-in-law I think thats good enough and Leah sits down besides me and whispers "Oh my God she went under my dress" through a fake smile.

For most people this is no big deal. But for Leah (and when it first happened to me), for some reason, putting something under our dress is... embarrassing? You just don't expect something like that, its strange. Now I am so used to it and welcome it. I laughed even more when Leah later shared with me she was wearing a thong that day and was afraid my sister-in-law would somehow figure that out. Don't worry Leah, your secret is safe with me (ha ha).

As a parting gift I gave Leah enough Bukhoor to keep her non-Omani husband all over her for years to come!

What is Bakhoor?

Bakhoor (Arabic بخور) is the name given to scented woodchips (Oudh the Arabic name for Agarwood/Aloeswood) soaked in fragrant oils and mixed with other natural ingredients (resin, musk, sandalwood , essential oils and others) . These scented chips are burned in charcoal or incense burners to perfume the house and clothing with a rich thick smoke.  It is nearly essential to use on special occasions like weddings or during Eid.

Bakhoor in Salalah

In Salalah it is used daily to perfume the house and is said to have natural healing powers. Many Dhofaris make their own bukhoor and keep their secret recipes for family only. Each bukhoor formula has a different cleansing, healing or purifying effect.  Although very effective, it is not just a way of masking bad smells, but a way to refresh your heart and mind. Many believe that it can even ward off bad spirits (jinn)!. 

During Ramadan in Salalah it is burned in the Mosques in hopes of altering ones mood by bringing peaceful, refreshing and inspiring feelings and to honor the holy month. It is also noted for its memory increasing power and is burned when reciting Qur'an. 

It is traditional in Salalah and many Arab countries to pass bukhoor amongst the guests in the Majlis (Arabic مجلس,  sitting/living room) this is done as a gesture of hospitality. Men will usually place their kumma or ammama (turban) over the smoke to get the fragrance and women put the smoke under their clothing until the smoke seeps through leaving a wonderful smell.

Heres a typical traditional recipe for homemade Dhofari bukhoor. Pound and mix ingredients, adding perfumes. Leave the blend for at least 10 days in a tightly sealed jar to ferment, then use.
3 cups sandal oil
1 cup musk
1 cup tola snails
1 cup oud oil

How to use Bukhoor

1. You will need to get a hold of a Mabkhara (traditional incense burner), there are a few names for this. You can get an electric one as well, however I find the traditional ceramic ones to be better for burning the bakhoor slowly and more effectively.

2. You will need charcoal which you can get virtually anywhere around here. Place a piece of charcoal on your stove and heat it until the edges burn red, do not leave it for two long.  Transfer the burning charcoal into your incense burner (use tongs!!)

3. Then put enough bakhoor to sit on the charcoal and it should start smoking immediately and expel a nice fragrance. If it smells like burnt toast this means your charcoal was too hot and the bakhoor is burning too quickly. You can perfume a room by closing the windows and leaving the Mabkhara there for a few minutes.

4. To perfume your clothing just place the cloth directly over the smoke and allow it to soak up the smoke for about 3 minutes. Scent can certainly have a deep subconscious impact on a person. For me, bukhoor relaxes me and puts me into a tranquil subdued mood. It reminds me of my days in Medina.

My two cents: If you have allergies bukhoor is not for you as it takes up a lot of oxygen in a room. Burning bakhoor unattended is obviously very dangerous and Salalah is known for "unexplainable" fires. Please do not burn bakhoor too much around small children, although many argue its benefits are great, it is afterall smoke inhaled and deposited into your lungs.

It's coming...

I'm still working on my "Must See, Must Do in Salalah" post. Theres so much to share and putting it together is challenging! But in the meantime I am writing another post, it is a very true, very funny story thats turning into a little hang in there JL!

Monday, April 19, 2010

I'm still here but...

I have a friend visiting and we have been taking her all around Dhofar and doing all the touristy things you must do when someone comes to visit. I've been having a wonderful time, just really tired and of course no time to write. She leaves tomorrow and I am already getting blue. I didn't realize how much I miss my friends back home.

I've started a "Must See, Must Do in Salalah" post. Soon as things settle, I'll post.

By the way, thank you for all those emails and comments about Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. Someone wrote a three page summary for me and I really enjoyed reading it, seems like Muscat really enjoyed their guest.

Also theres a new blogger in Salalah, welcome Umm Ququ! Check it out Sweet Salalah.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson in Muscat

If you're in Muscat, you shouldn't miss this!!! Shaykh HamzaYusuf Hanson will be speaking in Qurum Park and at the Grand Mosque Lecture Hall.

Details of Lectures:

Lecture No. 1: History and Impact of islam in Europe
Wednesday 14th April, 2010 (08:15pm)
City Ampitheatre (Qurum Park)

Lecture No.2: Others' Perception of Islam and Muslims
Thursday 15th April, 2010 (08:15pm)
City Ampitheatre (Qurum Park)

Lecture No.3: How Just is Islam to Followrs of Other Religions..
Friday 16th April, 2010 (08:15pm)
Sultan Qaboos Grand Masjid Lecture Hall (heres a map)

If anyone is able to attend I would be sooo grateful to hear your impressions.
**It's on these occasions I wish I lived in Muscat.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Thoughts on the Death of a Yemeni Child Bride

I am speechless. I have so many questions that will never be answered and this story will be put up on the pile of other horrific stories about the exploitation of women universally. I haven't cried in a looong time, but after reading the details of this poor little girl's story I couldn't help but sob. You try to make sense of it all, you try to understand how things like this really happen, but in the end youre left with unanswered questions and sheer grief.

Its almost unbelievable. It begins in Yemen (our backyard) with a young selfish man who wants to get married. He makes a deal with his friend; "I'll trade you my sister for your sister", the friend agrees and the young men are relieved to avoid dowry costs. Like cattle, a 13 year old child, Elham is traded, without consent, for another girl, and like cattle her future is the same. At this point I wonder...

Why didn't someone, anyone in her family try to stop the brother from marrying her off against her will???  She was a mere 13, her to-be husband was a 23 year old man.Why didn't any family member attempt to protect her?

No one stops the marriage and the little girl is sent off to her husbands home. She dies three days after the marriage trade. Her husband, or more appropriately, murderer was so keen on having sex with her that after several failed attempts to "do her", he went to the Drs. requesting tranquilizing drugs so that he could complete the deed without having the child resist him. The Dr. refused him. What a sick, disgusting, good for nothing dog of a man!!!!  But doesn't that leave you to wonder...

Why just refuse him? Why not investigate the situation. What kind of man asks a Dr. for drugs in order to rape his wife? He should have been arrested on the spot!! Why didn't the Dr. help to protect Elham?

So since he couldn't get his hands on tranquilizers, the scum decides to get a hold of performance enhancing pills, and that night rapes her to no end. He ties her up and rapes her until she is unconscious.
He takes her back to the same clinic, this time carrying her because of course she can't walk. The admirable Dr. tells him that she has severe tears in her vagina and not to approach her for 10 days. WHAT THE HELL?!!! A man brings in a CHILD, who is obviously violently raped and has suffered tremendously and your prescription is "give her a ten day break?" The Dr. should be locked up forever.

Elham's mother visits her later that day and finds her in and out of consciousness, Elham tells her mother that she was tied up and raped. Ehlams husband murderer tells the mother that Elham has been possessed by spirits and that he planned on taking her to a witch doctor that day. Of course, Elham never makes it, she dies shortly after. A forensic report later says that Elham suffered extensive damage to the vagina and rectum and was bleeding internally which led to her death. The report suggests that there was more damage from the first examination. Even after she couldn't walk and was bleeding, and he was told not to touch her for at least ten days, this animal goes for the kill, and rapes Elham some more.

So just like that, a child is married off, brutally raped, and dead within three days. I can't begin to imagine what those three days were like. She must have been terrified of him, she probably wished someone would rescue her. Did she call on her mother? her brother who traded her? did she call on God?  And when she could no longer muster the energy to scream, what thoughts swirled in her head? She probably tried to think of the happy moments in her life, even briefly or maybe she just wished for death so that the pain would cease. I can only wonder

After sobbing for Elham and thinking of my own children I vowed that I would never forget Elham in my  prayers.

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Thank you Newsy Community Team for the video!