Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Eid Shopping

They're everywhere. You are dazzled by the richness they add to a picnic in the mountains. Your eyes dance with them as they blow in the wind. Sometimes they hide behind layers of black, their tail sweeping the ground. You can see them in abundance as they hang in perfect rectangles waiting to be adorned. Yes of course, the Dhofari Thobe, or Abu Dhail (Father of the Tail). The Dhofari thobe is an all-encompassing garment with beautiful prints and colors, and a back that is longer than the front. The unique back trails behind the women as they walk, displaying a dramatic silhouette.

However, the marvel behind the thobe, lies in its beginning. According to tradition, an Arabian King used to sprinkle a magic powder on the ground and young women who walked over the powder would fall madly in love with him. To escape his conniving scheme, Dhofari women donned a long flowing dress that swept the powder away to avoid falling prey.

Legend aside, the thobe is an essential household item. I don't think there is a single Dhofari woman who doesn't own one...or a hundred. I own several myself and find them very comfortable (as you can see in my profile pic). It takes a little getting used to, having plenty of material to reckon with. But the looseness provides breath ability and its very light weight. Since Eid Al-Adha is a mere 2 days away, every woman (including myself) is out and about shopping for the latest Thobes.  The traffic is horrific. It's a madhouse. Women handpicking and choosing, negotiating and contemplating. Cars lined up back to back inching down the street. Husbands, fathers, sons waiting patiently in the car as their women shop, shop shop! Last night, my friend and I stood at the doorway of one incredibly crowded shop, we gave each other "the look" , braced ourselves, heads bent, hands held and barged in to avoid the stampede. I found my Eid thobe, so did she, so it was worth the risk.

This morning, still tired from last nights excursion, I am sitting in my thobe, typing away and sipping my coffee. Its a beautiful day alhamdulilah.

p.s I absolutely love watching little ity bity girls run and play in their thobes!

Monday, November 23, 2009

2147 Camel Street, Barefoot City, Salalah, Oman

Mom: “So I really want to send you and the kids some things for your Eid”
Me: “Really Mom thats sweet, but we don't need anything”

Mom: “The kids say they really miss eating pancakes and  asked me for lollypops and I couldn’t help myself I bought a few more dresses”
Me “Oh don’t worry Mom, they have pancake mix here, its just not Aunt Jamima, but its good.  No more clothes either, please don’t trouble yourself”

Mom: “Yes, but I want to send them something, I miss them so much, and since I can’t see them, it would bring me so much joy if I could send them some things... I really want to send you a package, hold on let me get a pen for your mailing address hun”
Me: “Wait! Mom!… Mom?…Mom wait don't get a pen,  we don’t have a mailing address"

Mom: “What? What do you mean?"
Me: “I mean, we DON’T have a mailing address, people don’t have regular mailing addresses here. I mean I could get a PO box but..

Mom: “What?! What do you mean you don't have an address? Where do you get your bills? Where are you again Sweetie?  How can you NOT have a mailing address?”
Me: “We don’t really receive mail”….(except the gas bill slipped under our front door). "Salalah, Mom, we're near Yemen" (I said that on purpose)


Mom: “I just don’t understand, you mean to tell me that you live in a house but you don’t have an address,?”
Me: “yes”

Mom: “Well what if I need to send you something, what am I supposed to do?”
Me: “You can fedex it here in Salalah and we can pick it up, or... I could get a P.O box.

Mom: “So fedex has an address but you don’t?"
Me: smiling “yeah Mom”.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dhofari Women and their BIG shoes

So I’m in the car in front of Al-Istikrar waiting for hubby to return with my twix and a cold soda when a huge van/mini-bus (you know the white ones), pulls up full of women. I’m always so curious about the women here. Despite the fact that I am a woman, I find the women here to be so mysterious…go figure.

So the first woman gets out of the van. I quickly divert my eyes to the ground, waiting for her foot to slip out of the van and hit the pavement, I’m dying to see what kind of shoes she’s wearing, you know to give me a little insight into what kind of woman she might be. I’ve always been told, “a shoe can tell so much about a person”. So when you live in a place where most women are uniform, you begin to obsess trying to get a glimpse of individuality.

She steps out and I’m shocked at her choice of footwear. The soles of her shoes are no less than 4, maybe 5 inches off the ground!!!!!. It’s not just the heal that’s high, the whole shoe is propped up on 5 long inches of rubber!!! Probably made in China. You just don’t expect that from a Salalahite, (that is, if you’re not from here). Her bright thobe/house dress quickly conceals the surprise and finally black engulfs them both. The next woman steps out, modestly, 3 inches of sole approaches the street. Yet, it was the last woman who left me flabbergasted She steps out and her sole is so thick/high I couldn't even assess its beginning!!!

Three women all wearing in my definition: the Dhofari version of stilettos??. They very slowly proceed to the supermarket, leaving me speechless. I keep asking myself “How the heck do they do it? Their black abaya is at least 5-6 inches too long, they’re wearing shoes with enough rubber to make a tire AND they can balance well enough to walk around like floating ghosts? Curtsey to you all!

Every time I step outside my house I am making a desperate dua’a (supplication) that I don’t trip over my mere 4 inches too long Abaya, and that I don’t accidentally drag home all the trash Salalah has to offer. It is not easy to walk when your dress hides your shoes, when your vision is obscured by niqab and a shayla draped on both sides. I have virtually lost my peripheral vision. I am so curious to know why they choose such high shoes when the lifestyle here demands practicality.
I see them at the beach scuttling around, I see them in the hills picnicking, I see them flying kites in their dresses, I see them hop in and out of their cars, go up and down stairs, take walks, serve tea, shop, dine out etc all in their very long abayas and big shoes.

It’s been an interesting balancing act for me. I can cautiously say, I can make it up a flight of stairs nearly unscathed.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Grocery Shopping Va(rare)ity

Grocery Shopping in Salalah

Aisle 1-Rice (Basmati)

Aisle 2-Milk (canned, every flavor and type)

Aisle 3-Snacks (Chocolate bars)

Aisle 4-Frozen Food (Chicken nuggets)

Aisle 5-Condiments  (Hot Sauce)

Aisle 6-Vegetables  (3 kinds)

In all fairness, maybe this is a slight exaggeration, but this is exactly my first impression. Needless to say the first month here we ate out. Some days were finger lickin' other days ... (I'll leave that for another post)

I was spoiled in Muscat. I can count on my fingers the things I couldn't find. Never did I expect Salalah to be so different! People here eat simply, not neccesarily healthily, but simply. As long as you can put hot sauce on/in it, and down it with a Mountain Dew, its all good.

But every now and then, Salalah surprises me and a new exciting item hits the shelves like Canada Dry Cream Soda!!!. I go nuts, stock up and run, cause you never know if you'll see it again. Slowly, I am learning to appreciate that "a little goes a long way".

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I remember being on the plane looking out the window surveying the land beneath me. I couldn't believe I was heading ‘home’ to a place I had never seen or even heard of until 5 months prior.

Palm trees swayed in the wind giving me solace, a hallmark of island living. There were large patches of lush green, jagged mountains and then miles on end of nothing but desert. The plane landed, I took a deep breath and gathered my children. Finally, we were... ‘home’??.

My husband was waiting for us at the gate. I could barely walk straight from utter exhaustion. Salalah is literally a world away from home and I had been traveling for over 24 hours. I caught the glances of a few fellow passengers, watched their eyes flash from mine and then to each child and finally back to mine, this time with pity. I smiled, we’re okay, the journey is over.

We loaded the car, I sat in the front seat squinting, my eyes nearly shut from the harsh brightness of the outdoors. The sun was beaming down so hard and after such a trip, sunlight was the last thing I wanted. I peered out the window taking in this new piece of world. My husband played ‘tour guide’ naming the buildings, areas, types of trees, types of people, landmarks, etc. I was quiet, my heart at ease. There was something about this far away place that settled me.

The apartment was bright, spacious and most importantly clean. I went from room to room familiarizing myself with the walls that would now be my abode.  Sam took me into the kitchen to meet my mistress. There she stood in all her glory, untouched and awaiting my arrival. Kindly, respectfully, hubby left, so that I could satiate my ongoing affair with cacao beans. (Coffeemaker)

I sipped slowly, finishing my cup. I was so tired. I crashed, the kids crashed, we all crashed, only to wake up at 3 am to start our first day in Salalah, Oman. Allah you are Mercy and you have answered my prayers.