Monday, December 28, 2009

Female Drivers in Salalah

The weather isn't the only thing changing around here. I can't believe how quickly Salalah is metamorphasizing. Into what, I am unsure. For better or for worse? Maybe a bit of both. The good news is, the number of women drivers has at least doubled in the last year. Have you noticed?? A year ago, you rarely saw a woman behind the wheel. If and when you did, she was the "odd" Dhofari or an expat. If she was indeed Dhofari you'd do a take two-to and make sure your eyes weren't playing tricks on you. Today though, you can bet you'll come across a few local female drivers while on the road, usually with a bunch of other girls in the backseat. I heard from a friend that local guys keep track of female drivers by knowing their license plate numbers. Well gentlemen, with the rapidly growing number for girl drivers, youd better be really good at numbers.

On a totally different note, while shopping at Ramiz yesterday, I came across something a bit disturbing.
I was looking for a headband for my munchkin and was browsing through the hair accessories, then I saw extensions for little ity bity girls. I'd hate to run into the mom who actually buys these things, I might even tear up if i ran into the little girl wearing it.

Its already 9:30, time for a second cup of love (coffee). Have a wonderful day and look out for female drivers! P.S almost done with the interview with Fatima, will post soon.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Workout Head

I know that just about everyone who comes here has something to say about the "Big heads". Well, I am no exception. For the longest time I thought it was hair. I thought exceptionally long hair, wrapped in a bun under the hijab made that huge second head. Since its already well known that its a pom-pom or whatever, I didn't anticpate ever writing about it ....... until yesterday.

I've been complaining about how much weight I've gained since being here, so my sister-in-law invited me to go to the gym / health club with her. I've never had the opportunity to experience an all womens gym and after reading Nadias post about Salsa Aerobics in Salalah a few months back, I thought it would be a lot of fun.

So off we went. Fun?? Not so much. But interesting it was ... there I was in my gym pants and oversized teeshirt, my new nike sneakers ready to work-it. In comes the other girls. Modesty left hanging on the hooks along with their Abayas. Spandex, shorts, tights, tanks, wristbands, even lingere looking get-ups. But that wasn't it, the crazy part was ........ they were ALL WEARING A POM POM! I swear to God!. So I'm thinking to myself, "Are you serious? You need both your heads to work out?? " I must add, these pom-poms were huge, I was tempted several times to snatch two and do one of my highschool cheerleading routines. "Gimme a G!" "G!" Gimme an O" "O"...."Whatdoesitspell?" "GOOOO!!!"

As strange as it appears at first, I mean, I get it. You wear your second head as a fashion, because it holds your scarf up, your hair etc. But now you want me to watch you jump around in it while working out ????. Half the time I was starring at the pom pom of the girl in front of me. I got mesmerized by the way it stood stiff without moving while she did step-ups. I could literally hide behind it. When the instructor started the next move, I was lost, still focusing on the damn pom-pom. I just want to know, to all you Dhofari pom-pom wearers ... what else do you / can you do in your pom-pom???

I remember once being annoyed when someone asked me quite seriously, "do you sleep in that?" in regards to my hijab. I was so annoyed I sarcastically answered "Yeah ... and I shower in it too". Dumb question deserves dumb response right? Well I dumbly ask you Dhofari girls ...." Do you sleep in that (pom pom) too ??????"

Friday, December 25, 2009

One Wife, Two Wife

I have tons of things to do this today and can't seem to get myself going. I have literally been Sleepless in Salalah. I find myself waking up wayyy before Fajr (dawn prayer) and can't go back to sleep. I end up staying up the whole day juggling the kids, the house, hubby and my other very important priorities. There's never enough time in the day. To make matters worse, last night we received really sad news. I need a little inspiration, hence the photo.

Yesterday evening we went to visit some family. I always have such a great time with them and sincerely appreciate their hospitality and kindness towards me. It's not always easy to communicate and often times we end up playing charades, but some of them speak English really well. The sad, unfortunate news? My twenty-five year old sister-in-law is divorcing her husband of 7 years. She doesn't want to be with her husband anymore because he decided to take on a second wife ... irregardless of her feelings. She has returned to her fathers house, she just gave birth 3 months ago, and they have one other child, 5. As a woman, it was very emotional for me to listen to her side of things and I couldn't help but despise her husband. I am well aware of what Islam says about Polygyny and its permissibility etc, so please, to those of you who wish to give Fatwas (legal rulings) save it. She is not the first woman to experience this sense of betrayal and certainly not the last. It happens way to often, here in Salalah. Many women are suffering from polygyny done / gone wrong. In my sister-in-law's case, she of course has the right Islamically to a divorce, but so much is at stake. I refuse to understand or empathize with his reasoning to take on another wife, I refuse. I sat with her a while and asked her all sorts of questions, I just had so much trouble making sense of it all. The strength in her words, her apparent confidence in her decision and her optimistic heart have left me feeling like super woman. The photo at the top is dedicated to her. I am totally routing for you Fatima!

ps I'll be joining her at the gym this week ... horray!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sleepless Meets Gucci

People People hear me out!!!. There's no conspiracy here, no coincidences, no crazy wacky adventure and I have a valid excuse as to why I have been MIA (missing in action). This was never meant to cause frustration or to linger for so long. I'm actually sorry if it has caused any of you distress. For those of you who think my writing is a hoax, that I am liar or that I intend to cause drama, you are very wrong. I was simply sharing with you a very exciting episode in my real life and because I have a REAL life, I honestly didn't have the time to update my blog as soon as I thought I would (I went camping). As for Nadia, I did politely ask her to not post about our meeting until I returned from my camping trip. She agreed, and I hope this too, hasn't caused her trouble.

For the patient and faithful, what you've all been waiting for ... here's what happened. First, I was a little late meeting Nadia. I had only three hours to get ready and had to cancel prior plans, make sure the little ones were fed and race off to the "spot". By the way, no one suggested what I should wear, so I kept it simple:)

So, Nadia did approach me from a distance as she said she would, but she wasn't nearly as mean, bossy, or scary as she was in her reply. She was almost the total opposite. She was all smiles, very polite, funny and a little taller than I expected. Come to think of it though, after exchanging pleasantries, she did say "we're taking my car" and I just followed. Bossy? hmmm.

Our first stop: coffee of course, it helped take the edge off ... like booze I guess. We got two large coffees, fought over who would pay, she won, (bossy or just Dhofari?) And off to the corniche we went, her idea (bossy?). It was rather romantic actually. We sat on the beach with hot coffee and the comfortable winter air around us, and the sound of the waves hitting the shore. I've never been on a blind friend date before, without ever at least talking over the phone, so this was kinda weird cool.

She did not wear her pink grilled shades, although later she pulled them out of her bag and had a pair for me!!. I didn't think those shades were real in her profile pic, did you?. Anyway, we spent nearly three hours chatting, sharing and laughing, we even came up with a really fantastic idea about blogging (will share details soon). I honestly enjoyed myself. The interesting thing, is that although Nadia was pretty awesome, (and we've exchanged numbers and have texted several times since our meeting), she really is a very different person from what I expected based on her writing. I'm not exactly sure what I "expected" and I am not at all disappointed, on the contrary I'm thrilled we met. It's hard to really explain. It's kinda like meeting the author of your favorite novel. Its just strange. She certainly doesn't fit the stereotype. Some things though, remain the same, she had lots to say with a tinge of sarcasm of course, she knows so much about Salalah and is very proud of her community, she is also quite the intellectual.

When I got home, the kids were STILL awake and the babysitter (my hubby) did a poor job of keeping things tidy;) On the upside, we had a wonderful time camping over this long weekend, where he earned major brownie points!

In the end, I am really glad our paths have crossed (Nadia and me). I think its safe to say we both left a lasting impression on the other and we will be friends. And yes I caved and wore those ridiculous glasses.

PS To Nadia, I never asked you how you found my blog???

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Open Letter (Part II)

Oh my goodness, Oh my gosh. Oh my goodness!!! Nadia responded! I can't believe it! She wants to meet me!!!!. You can read her response here, and then my response to her response...

Dear Nadia

Before I begin, let me curtsey to you for such an entertaining response!!!. PomPom off to you my friend. Bravo! I have a permanent smile on my face, and I don't think anything today can spoil it. Your confidence is charming. And your demands? My goodness, don't want to cross you do I?

I am even more amused by your alegations of knowing me? This is becoming a fun game :) Your anonimity is giving me a rush, I hope to put it all to rest.

Interestingly enough, would you be surprised to know that I may just have an inkling as to who you really are. As you have said, Salalah is many Dhofari girls do you know who have studied abroad(such as yourself)???? I've asked around of course.(sheepish smile)

And although I have plans this evening, I am simply to amused and too curious to not take up this opportunity. 6:30 pm don't be late. Check your email and rethink the shades.

your excited fan


I am soooo nervous and excited and scared and happy! I feel like I am going on a blind date LOL. She's so intimidating isn't she? I don't want to disappoint her. Oh gosh, what should I wear? Should I keep my abaya really casual, or class it up with a little  bling on my shayla? Should I wear heels or flats?? Should I bring her a gift? Only three hours till showtime!!!!! Cross your fingers, wish me luck, make dua'a, hope for the best!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Open Letter

The weather is putting me in such a strange mood. I love the clouds, the breeze and the coolish air that comes through. I wish I could sit on my terrace all day with endless cups of coffee (cappuccino would be nice) and a stack of novels. Let me fantasize a little cleaning or dusting, laundry or vacuuming, no needy children, no studying , no phone calls to make, just me and my mistress accompanied by books. Ah, no such luck.

On a more serious note, I have a bit of a dilemma. I’ve never had a real problem making friends, but it seems all of a sudden I lost my touch? So here’s my letter, in an attempt to be friends with a stranger.

Dear Nadia,

I am writing you this open letter, in front of all my readers in hopes that perhaps they can put in a good word for me, and you will respond, or at least leave a comment.

I have privately emailed you three times already and have not received a response. I thought you enjoyed reading my blog and would take interest in meeting me? I even thought it would be nice to meet, face to face (without the shades)? I love coffee, as I  know you do. Maybe I can treat you to a cup? We can chat the night away...about life in Salalah?

your ignored fan,


Skin Whitening and its Grey Faced victims

I'm so upset. Sad and angry, pissed really. Ive been harbouring these feelings and I need to get them off my chest. Last night, while visiting a respected friend a ignorant comment was made; "your daughter is so white (pause), shes lucky mashaAllah". I honestly didn't know what to say.  I sat there, with a fake mona lisa smile, what was I supposed to say anyway? Thank you, youre right my daughter is lucky?

White, Lucky?? I was burning inside though translating "white=lucky, white=lucky, white=lucky????"

So if she was brown she wouldn't be so lucky huh?
Our conversation took a quieter tone, more pauses, less words.  I was busy, unsupervised in my head. I let the thoughts, feelings, emotions, experiences all flood. The more I thought about it, the angrier I became. The rest of my visit went fine, although I couln't wait to leave so that I could think, uninterrupted. I am not angry with my friend, afterall, shes just another victim.

I think it was my first week here, many moons ago, that I noticed something strange.

I was confused as to why so many women (whose faces I could see) had grey complexions. Now that I am aware of the 'why' it’s actually quite sad to see. Initially I resigned to thinking it was because they covered their faces and so they simply needed some sun. But this is not the case. Soooo many women, young and old, here in Salalah, are victims of the supremist idea that “white is better, more beautiful”. Most don't even realize that they've been brainwashed.  For those quick to judge, dont get me wrong, I'm not remotely anti white and this problem is most certainly not just here in Salalah, or even  the middle east, its a global problem. Back home though, it takes more subtle forms. No one will outwardly admit they they think white is better, as they do here, even though they may truly believe so. It took moving here, and meeting locals, to realize the obvious damage that has been done. I guess I just naively expected Muslims to see beyond color? Apparently,obviously there are no boundaries and we suffer like the rest of humanity.

It’s not hard to spot. There she is, ringing up your items at almost all the local markets, her face is clearly painted over in some white make-up, leaving her looking on the grey side. It takes only one glance to realize that her hand is a beautiful brown while her face is a ghost grey. If you dare look a little closer you can see the white residue stain on the sides of her hijab. You can see the unnatural white contrast through the slit in her niqab/burqa. She is thinking that now she is more presentable, now she is worthy. Again, her hands, nearly always, betray her.

Every time I see it, my heart beats faster and I have this dire urge to approach the deceived woman and somehow relay to her that she IS beautiful just the way God made her. I want to put my arm around her shoulder and let her know that she is loved for so much. I want to scream in the supermarket and tell all the people that we must stop sacrificing our women in the name of so called beauty!!!!. Why in God’s name would you try to change the complexion of your natural skin?! How beautiful we are, in all our shades and hues taken from the very earth we walk upon. Didn't your Mama tell you?! God created us from clay, look around you, the soil of our earth has every shade found in the human complextion.

Since being here, I’ve been bombarded with laughable commercials telling me to smear poison on my face to live a happier more successful life. I click on internet explorer and 100 advertisements try to seduce me with their quick "fixes" as if something is wrong in the first place.  The isles are stacked high promoting this convoluted idea that white is more beautiful. Every single brand you can think of - from Garnier, L’Oreal, Vichy, The BodyShop, to Estee Lauder and Chanel - offers products to lighten, tackle hyperpigmentation and dark spots. Corporations making money off of our insecurities.

With one, mayyybe two exceptions, all my dhofari girlfriends are candid in their idea that "white is more beautiful, and more importantly, more sought after". They scoff at me when I tell them I could go for tan. One friend always reminds me "tall and white Rania, thats beauty around here". When Ahlam showed me her wedding photos, I asked "where are you?" She smiled proudly and said "that IS me" pointing to the geisha looking white woman in a thobe. At weddings the girls are unrecognizable in their new white faces and blue contacts. They sincerely believe their husbands will love them more because they are lighter. All the beauty supply shops have skin whitening products to support their obsession, its sometimes difficult to find products that don't have it.

To my hijabi Sista from another Mista: Are you forgetting why you wear hijab? Let me remind you, one very important reason behind hijab is to be judged by character, the inner self, not for the physical or outward. But here we are judging ourselves and each other! Who's lucky and who's not. With all the variations in our world have we really limited beauty to a mathematical equation?

(White skin) + (Large round eyes) + (Small straight nose) + (collagen filled, full lips) + (tall slim body) = Absolute Beauty

I must admit I am crushed. A daunting, yet absolutely neccessary task lies ahead. I glance at my astonishingly beautiful little girl, in all her glory, in all her beauty and innocence and I sadly wonder what the world will teach her behind my back. Its inescapable but worth the fight.

Although its not about face whitening per se, it still is an important message about beauty. Please check out Doves campaign for "Real Beauty". I am a little skeptical of Dove, but this video is quite telling. I'd love to hear your thoughts. I feel better already.

Educate = Choice = Change

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Things That make me go “wow!, no way! or hmmmm?"

1)The women with purposefully, penciled in connected eyebrows

2)How streets are really made for; soccer tournaments, stray cats and camels.

3)How curfew for all children between birth-17 is 2 A.M

4)How every restaurant is a drive thru

5)How I have to speak broken Arabic with an Indian accent, so the waiter gets my order right.

6)The guy who serves me warm fresh naan and then two minutes later is picking his nose

7)How flashing your lights behind my car means “get the *&#@ out of my way or ill ride your bumper until you do”

8)How pedestrians play "rush and" roulette at my expense...on the an attempt to cross over.

9) How you can get a ticket for talking on your cell phone while driving, but not for letting your two year old sit ON your lap AND help you steer.

And last but certainly not least…

10)The Jebbali guy, who, with a gun slung over his shoulder, a dagger (khanjar) on his waist, a walking stick and no shoes, is shopping at Al-Istikrar for...Pantene Pro V soft and smooth shampoo.

I love Salalah!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Eid Mubarak!!!!

The thrill and excitement of preparing for Eid is gone, and the days seem to be flying by too quickly racing towards the end of vacation.

For Muslims all over the world, Eid is a day to celebrate. It’s a day to dress up, fill our stomachs with the delight of specialty foods and sweets and to connect with family and friends. This particular Eid marks the end of Hajj (once in a lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca) which every able Muslim must perform once in their lifetime. The Hajj is a live re-enactment of the story of the Abraham (peace be upon him)

Here in Salalah, I had my share of Halwa, exchanged pleasantries with  neighbors, caught up on the latest with friends, thanked all the strangers who so excitedly gave my kids 100 besas (by evening their pockets were stuffed) and I even watched the men slaughter (from the car, very disturbing, not recommended).  Now that everything has settled I find myself in deep thought  reflection. I must admit, I kept myself very busy preparing, cooking, cleaning, etc to welcome the blessed day, and I did not find a moment to sit and reflect on what and why we were celebrating. And although this holiday comes every year, a reminder of its purpose is always needed, because with it comes a new found understanding, as it did for me this year.

As our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) said in regards to Eid, “They are days of eating, drinking, and remembrance of God.” Yet, for so many of us we tend to forget the last and most important purpose of Eid, “remembrance of God”.

So what are we celebrating?  Eid Al-Adha commemorates the story of Abraham (peace be upon him) and his son Ismail (peace be upon him) which is also mentioned in the Book of Genesis; when father and son, unified in love for each other, were bound even more deeply in their obedience to their Lord. In a dream, Abraham was told to sacrifice his son. When he woke up, he went to his son, confided in him and told him of his dream. His son, an incredibly faithful child, told his father to carry out his dream. And so Abraham (peace be upon him) firm in his own faith, takes the advise of his son. He lifts the knife, (and in some traditions passes it on Ishmails neck) yet the knife does not cut. The Angel Gabriel comes down to him and tells him instead to sacrifice an animal and that he was indeed a true servant of God.

On Eid Al Adha, all Muslims sacrifice an animal in commemoration of Abraham (peace be upon him) and his inspiring test of faith.
On this day, able Muslims slaughter an animal, whose meat is eaten, and distributed to family, friends and the poor, and go very early in the day to perform the Eid prayer.  Muslims are encouraged to wear their best clothes, give gifts (especially to children) and celebrate with family, friends, and neighbors. It is especially recommended to give in charity remembering the plight of the poor and being thankful for what you have.

So now I'm left to think, unattended in my own head (dangerous). What does Eid Al Adha mean to me? Moreover, what sacrifices do I make in order to fortify, replenish and renew my covenant? I have much to be thankful for, innumerable undeserved blessings and shortcommings to great to sort. I have been seriously looking at the relationship between father (parent) and son(child) in the story of Abraham (peace be upon him). How much faith did he have considering he was willing to sacrifice the most beloved blessing given to him? What kind of relationship did parent and child have, that the parent sought the childs advice? Even more astonishing, the response by a child, Ishmail (pbuh) who advises his father to carry out the dream or commandment. I'm still pondering over Eid Al-Adha, might need more coffee to motivate clarity.  In the meantime...

To the few of you who have now crossed paths with me...what kind of relationship do you have with your parents? Do you trust them the way Ismail (pbuh) trusted his father? What sacrifices do you find yourself making in hopes of strengthening your relationship with your Creator? Help me think...