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!

No comment

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.

Please check out:  

Thank you Newsy Community Team for the video!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Weekend Wonder

Has anyone noticed how pretty Salalah is looking these days? Indians are working hard planting pretty red flowers on the roundabouts and they are working tireless on putting up the new light posts. The lights in the back of the photo are soon to look like the one in the front. I heard a rumor that His Majesty may be coming for a visit, hence the decor?

I was way too lazy smart to walk in the scorching heat for World Health Day last Wednesday. They should have thought more about our health and made the walk in the winter. Poor girls had to walk in their abayas and burqas, while most guys wore shorts and t-shirts. I was sweating just looking at them as I drove by in my air conditioned car. Then I saw this adorable little kid and thought, if he could do it dressed like that (in a yellow abaya) then I should take my lazy cheeks out the car and at least dwaddle like the rest of the girls. So I walked alittle. Note to the organizers: If you give out free t-shirts, you might want to have more than the "one size fits all". I guess they were thinking most Dhofaris are "big" anyway.

How am I you ask? Busy as usual. I wish I had more time to write, more time to filter out. I have been reading the same novel for over 4 months now.  I can barely get through 4 solid pages at night before I crash into a deep sleep. Once upon a time, I could finish a morbidly obese novel like Anna Karenina over a weekend. I could easily devour a chubby novel in 1 night. But these days, there’s simply no time. You would think living in slow paced world would give you more time, but somehow it seems the days are literaly bleeding into each other.

Good news for me: I will be going "home" for the summer!!! I can't wait! I've decided to do all the "touristy" things here in Salalah so that I can bring back lots of photos and tell great stories. I know my Mama worries about me being so far away in such a "strange" part of the world. It has been too long since I've seen my Mama smile. I miss my brothers and sisters and the rest of my family so much that I'm starting to ache. I have to keep reminding myself why we're here....why are we here again?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Shout out to fellow blogger Dhofari Gucci

Dear Nadia,

In your coming post about female discrimination, could you please touch on...
  • Female Circumcision (against the will of the mother for her daughter)
  • Men on Haffa beach (how they chilax on the corniche, sippin' tea, gossiping and smoking shisha. Not to mention that they stay out way too late leaving their wives and family at home, and some being served by scantily clad female waitresses. God forbid a local woman is seen, she'll just kill the whole mood).
  • No coffee shops for women, except at Browniz where the view is a graveyard.
  • Distain for female drivers and harassment on the road (speeding in front etc.)
  • The no Mosque entry for the five daily prayers (exception in Ramadan for the night prayer)
  • The misappropriation of polygamy. The effects on entire families and the their tribes.

Theres more but I need another cup of coffee. Good luck on the post!

Mosque Rules: Please leave shoes and women at the door...thank you.

The intensity of my feelings have settled and I am now prepared to write about it…

The beautiful Grand Mosque has been up for quite some time, since August of 09. For the grand opening, Sam was one of the first on sight to perform the Jumuah (Friday) prayer (lucky him). I have been wanting to go see it since its opening and finally committed to go for a visit. Visiting hours are from 8AM until 11AM, as indicated on the sign propped out in the front. In the last couple of years my hobby to visit and photograph Mosques around the world has intensified, and I planed to add Salalah’s Grand Mosque to my scrapbook.

I load the offspring, snuggle my camera underneath the backseat, grab my to-go coffee mug and pop into the passengers seat. My adrenaline kicks in with the anticipation of walking into a vast open space decorated with elaborate details and intricate geometric shapes.

We make it to the Mosque at 8:57. Kids still in tow, Sam goes to the men’s section to inform the guard that we would like to come in for a tour. I watch them from the car window, Sams hand motions to our car, and then as the guard speaks, Sam places his hands on his waist. I can already tell that he is carrying bad news before he approaches the car. Our conversation goes something like this

Sam: “He said women aren’t allowed to visit the men’s section” (eyebrows raised)

Me: “What? Whatdoyoumean?”

Sam: “Women can’t go in there…”

Me: “Did he tell you why not?"

Sam: “No.."

Me: “Is anyone inside? Are people praying?…. Why can‘t I go in?”

Sam: “No, No, its completely empty, you just can’t go in, women aren‘t allowed in the men‘s section…."

Steam literally shooting out of my Darth Vader ensemble. I flip my burqa up, inhale unfiltered air, wipe the steam from my beneath my eyes, and say, (bottom lip quivering)

Me: “Are you freakin’ serious????! I can’t go in? (pause) cause’ I’m a woman??!”

Sam knows I’m on the verge of an explosion, so he interrupts before my fuse blows.

Sam: “Want me to take some photos for you, I can go in and take some shots for you…Ill do a good job this time?”

Me: “No!, I don’t want you to take photos for me!!, Why can’t I go in myself? Is he afraid I’ll seduce him? Does he think ill make the place dirty by being in there? So you’re saying I can’t go in JUST because I’m a woman???!! But I’m covered from head to toe, and I only want to take photos???! This is such BS man, such BS!"

Burqa gets flapped down again. I‘m so done with trying to figure out why.

Sam: “Why don’t you at least check out the women’s side and take some photos of the outside too. I’ll take photos of men‘s side…come on…” he pleads.

Me: No answer. Just more steam blowing out through the burqa.

I get out the car, slam the door, take the offspring out and head to the men’s section. I pull out my camera and start snapping as many shots as I can. I am deliberate in my movement and obviously taking photos of the guard who I’ve decided to take out my rage. At the moment I don’t care if he is just the messenger or not, maybe its his rule, maybe its not. I don’t know, don’t care. The more shots I take the calmer I get. The surrounding area is very beautiful and I am able to capture some really nice shots. My nerves settle and I make my way to the Women’s section of the Mosque. The sign clearly says “no children“, I open the door and usher the offspring into the Mosque, yes defiantly. I hold my breath, the door opens and the room is….disappointing, nothing grand at all. Its small. Very little décor and the carpet is unimpressive, almost tacky. I take photos anyway, mostly of the kids running around in this cool, soft floored playground. We leave the Mosque, sit on the steps and admire the outside. I give Sam my camera to take photos of the inside of the “forbidden zone". Twenty minutes later, we are back in the car, heading home. I take a look at the photos he’s taken, not bad at all. My head is swirling though, with all kinds of ideas.

I realize that my feelings aren’t just built on anger, but that I am hurt, disappointed and I feel discriminated against, yes discriminated against. Upon further reflection I see that the issue is so much more than not being able to enter and photograph the men’s section of the Mosque. It is this constant second-class citizen feeling that I get here, in Salalah. It takes on subtle forms, but the conscious, those who reflect, can clearly see through these subtleties. The Mosque was built for worship, I know, but anyone should be allowed in, to admire, ponder, maybe even supplicate, it was visiting hours for goodness sakes!. What should it matter whether you are male or female? To add insult to injury, the Mosque was EMPTY, not a man on sight (except the Indian care-takers and the oh so gracious guard). I am not a feminist, whatever that means. But I believe women should have equal opportunity as men. Separate but EQUAL is fine. I started thinking………. some more…

Every day, nearly without fail, Sam goes to our local Mosque to pray…FIVE TIMES. As soon as the adhan (call to prayer) goes off, he drops whatever he is doing, starts getting ready and poof he’s gone. I’m left, with the offspring, either cooking, cleaning, changing a diaper, wiping a nose, scrubbing crayon off the floor, writing a post… and before you know it, the prayer time has gone out. Guess who missed out on praying on time? MOI. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy and seriously grateful that Sam is able to pray at the Mosque, it’s a blessing no doubt to live in a place where you can do that so easily. But, what about me?? How great would it be if I could just, throw on my Abaya, walk outside, bump into a neighbor along the way, and get that 10 minute high of praying in congregation, that peace of mind that comes with connecting to the Creator. Why am I not given that opportunity? The women’s section of the mosques are locked, inaccessible. It seems society has conveniently created a world of solitude for women. We come out only at night, when the moon casts its light upon us, leaving us to look like mere shadows.

So we have been given permission to pass our time by shopping… at the few shops available; Thobe Alley, Abaya Street, Center Point and Max. Fine. I have thobes, I have Abayas, I have lingerie and I have my workout sweats. What's next?  I want to go to the Mosque and pray whenever my heart is inclined, can someone please remind me why I can't?.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Salalah News

Just a quickie

  • Book Fair in Salalah is going on now! The Ministry of Heritage and Culture is hosting the annual Book Fair. They have a pretty impressive collection of books in Arabic  and English. I was really surprised and grateful to find so many wonderful books right here in Salalah. The prices are fantastic too. If you have children don't miss out on grabing some great resources. The Book Fair will be on until April 10th I believe? Go check it out!

  • Center Point is still having its 10 day "sale". Its the only place to really get shoes for little ones.  I went last night and couldn't find parking. I waited nearly 15 minutes for someone to pull out and attempted to buy some shoes for the boys. A stampede of pious women clad in black, nearly killed me. I got jumped maybe three times at the check-out counter, I walked out without the shoes. Don't go too late in the evening its a madhouse.

  • Max is having sale too. Parking is RIDICULOUS. People are parking on the highway, leaving their children waiting in the car. But during the day its totally desolate.

  • Ladies!! I hear a new gym opened up in Sa'ada. Word is that it is better than any other gym in town. There is a weight room, aerobics studio, a child-minding area where you can drop your tot while you sweat, a full spa, and a theatre! I was told that AVATAR was playing on the big screen! If anyone gets a look, please let me know. I might be tempted to drive out to Sa'ada and check it out myself.

Thats all for now folks. I'll be checking out the Grand Mosque for the first time tomorrow. I'm excited =)
Happy First Day of the Week

Friday, March 26, 2010

Happy Jumuah (Friday)

Its Friday night, and as usual I’m awake, sleepless. Now that the day is near its end, and the house is still and quiet, my heart is slightly heavy, having to bid farewell to my favorite day of the week. Yes, despite the fact that tomorrow is the beginning of the week, Friday is my most treasured day.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said "The best day during which the sun has risen, is Friday. It is the Day Adam (peace be upon him) was created. It is the day when Adam (peace be upon him) entered paradise and also when he was taken out from it. It is also the day on which the day of judgment takes place."

See...?, lots of amazing things have/ and will take place on Friday.

But on a smaller scale, Friday in Salalah has its own glory for those willing to see beyond the fact that its the end of the weekend and that things shut down too early in the afternoon.

This morning I woke up to three, nearly simultaneous, text messages from friends wishing me and my family a blessed Jumuah (Friday). I rarely get to see these friends, but once a week without fail, I get a little message from them. Its a nice way to start the day.

Sometimes you forget how life used to be when blessings replace hardships. Since being here, our family has finally had the opportunity to make Friday a sacred day. Back home, Sam struggled to get time off from work or used his lunch hour to go for the obligatory Jumuah (Friday) prayer and the kids spent the day like any other.

Now, our Fridays always begin with a light breakfast, followed by some chaos getting ready to get out of the house on time and then some quiet time for me...(praise the Lawd!). Friday here, has given the guys an opportunity to really bond. Granted, they pray together all the time, but Friday is a day when the guys can enjoy quality time with their dad and the men of the community. Back home, the sense of community is so impersonal and men don’t really have the opportunity to take their sons to a gathering where nearly all the men of the society are expected to show up.

I like watching them prepare themselves to go. Its only on Friday that the boys “perfume” themselves and wear ironed disdash's. Today, one little person asked me to brush his hair and part it to the side! I nearly burst with joy. I had to hold myself from squeezing him to bits and instead very casually replied “sure, no problem” while parting his hair to the right. Later his kumma would destroy the look, but I enjoyed it while it lasted.

Once the boys are gone, I sit out on our terrace usually enjoying a second cup of coffee (like today) and spy street watch.  Little boys and their fathers pile up in cars, neighbors walking to the Mosque are picked up and given a lift and through my eyes everyone seems...jovial?.

Typically in Salalah, this day is reserved for families to get together and eat lunch or dinner with one another. We get together with Sam’s family and the kids enjoy the day with, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I end up getting a day off from cooking and have the pleasure of eating my favorite Omani dishes not made by me =)  How do you spend your Fridays?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Jailed for Kissing

I thought Police had better things to do with their time, apparently not.

A British woman was "caught" kissing her boyfriend in a restaurant. A local Emirati saw it, called the police and voila, the two have been arrested and face one month imprionment. With all the scandalous things that are going on in playland Dubai, this makes headlines.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Oman Air

Yeah, I'd say I had a pretty good weekend. I really like the friends we have in Muscat and so our business trips always end up more pleasurable. But with every flight from Muscat to Salalah I am prepared for the inevitable chaos that will surely ensue. This time however, Oman Air really annoyed me.

My entire family were given seats all over the aircraft. I told the ticketing agent that my five year old will not sit with strangers…trust me. He gave us a sympathetic smile and assured us the flight attendants would be able to rectify the problem. The flight was completely full and we boarded first (one advantage of having small children). The flight attendant was helpful and told us to sit together in one row and that she would sort things out. Things only got worse.

If you’ve ever flown the MCT to SLL flight you’re aware that Dhofari women don’t like to be seated by men. So we play Musical Chairs until everyone is happily or not so happily seated. This one guy got moved three times and finally blew when he yelled at the flight attendant “I’m not moving one more f-ing time!” He took his things out of the overhead bin yet again… and red-faced moved to a seat with two other men. He shot us a not so pleasant look since we were the culprit of his first time move. Women huddled together peering through their burqas letting the flight attendants know they were not about to sit next to any strange men. I watched the flight attendants’ patience wear thin, even getting a little feisty with their co-flight attendants when their seating arrangements didn’t pan out. Sam kindly switched seats with the last woman standing and he sat between two rather large men, I couldn’t help but chuckle seeing him squeeze between them. On a more serious note, they really need to get it together.

1. No matter how you splice it, Dhofari women are not comfortable with sitting next to strange men and will continue to request being seated with each other.

2. Most expats don’t care where they are seated (next to men, women, or both) but feel being moved around three times is a huge inconvenience and annoying.

3.Oman Air experiences this person-shuffling every single (MCT-SLL) flight, so why not try to resolve the issue for their own sanity as well as for the passengers.

So I decided to write a little suggestion letter. Why not have the plane split in three??. Men’s section, women’s section and family section? The airline already knows the gender of the passenger prior to boarding so just put the passenger in the appropriate section. If you are part of a family, don’t put little kids in a seat all alone, far away from their parents. Easy no? Maybe easier said than done, but I think on this particular flight Oman Air should pay special attention to needs of the passengers considering this has become a big problem for all those involved on the flight.

Salalah ramble:

Although nearly two weeks in, I just noticed that summer has crept in on us. I accidentally leaned on the glass door this morning and nearly burned my forearm and part of my bum. Its blazin’!

The reconstruction of Al-Istikrars parking lot is taking too long. Cars are parked all over the place and it’s a hassle to shop. What are they doing anyway? Putting new pavement?

I really enjoy discussing the topic of Globalization/Americanization of the world, its both scary and intriguing.

Lastly, I need more motivation to drag myself to the gym. Last weeks motivation was to check out the rumored prostitute who works out five days a week. I want to muster enough courage to flat out ask her if she is one. I’ll just play the dumb expat asking an innocent question and who has no idea what ayb (shame) means.

Happy first day of the week!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Drive By

What's up with all these "Northern guys" and their not so shy behavior??? While in the car yesterday with some friends, we were stared at, smiled at, spoken about, motioned to and maybe even winked at? A bunch of guys in their car (clearly not Dhofari) were committing a drive by flirt. At first I was confused, so I stared back, thinking that something was wrong with the car or that the guys were trying to tell us something. Then my Dhofari girlfriend said "DONT STARE BACK, IGNORE THEM, THEIR NORTHERN GUYS!!!" what the heck does that mean? Apparently, Northern guys have poor adab (etiquette) when it comes to women. They purposefully try to flirt by trying to get girls attention?

If they only knew, two of us are married WITH children and only one is single...and not looking.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Write on sista!

So we had a long talk. I decided to keep writing. Go me!

I'll be going to Muscat this weekend. Not looking forward to it, its not my favorite place. That's right. Its not. I hate the traffic, the wannabe Omani's, the arrogant expats. I don't like sipping my coffee at Costa and feeling like I'm in California. But business must go on, which brings me to...

The latest in Salalah

Buildings are coming up left and right. I don't even recognize my neighborhood. One day a building looks abandoned, the next day that same building is adorned with a brand new sign advertising a new business. Things are changing too quickly for me. I remember first getting here and thinking "What a deserted piece of place!!!". Then I started to get used to the quietness, the open spaces, the random new change. I'd get a rush after discovering a brand new place and found solace in the fact that Salalah has remained true to herself in not succumbing to all the commercialization of her in-law Muscat. But all that seems to be changing now. Her face isn't as natural as it used to be. Don't get me wrong, a lot of great things are happening to her. She's moving forward in a sense. She’s more aware of the world around her, and her people are making break-through alhamdulilah

I guess I am just afraid of how much she will change. Muscat is starting to resemble Dubai. I hope Salalah can remain unique and true to herself.

*disclaimer: not all Omanis are wannabes and not all expats are arrogant*

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Silence in Salalah


I have been least temporarily.

Apparently one of Sams dear co-workers asked him if I was the Rania behind Sleepless (He read the recent article from Times of Oman on bloggers in Oman and has taken an interest, so I was told).  Sam initially denied it of course and has firmly, but polietly asked me to "please rethink writing the blog so closely to our real life."

My initial reaction was "I really don't give a who if Mr.S knows who I am" and I've proven this by todays entry. I am sensitive about how Sam feels and for that reason alone I am still "rethinking". Who knew old Dhofari men had time for Sleepless?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentines in Salalah

Like Nadia, I thought Valentines day in Salalah would go unnoticed. No such luck? Upstairs from Al Istikrar, (Hypermarket) I saw this….

At least six girls stood in front of the stand browsing through all the red shaped hearts. I have to admit it amused me. Its such a paradox. I waited nearly 10 minutes for them to dwadle away to get this shot, I hope you all enjoy :)

So Salalah has now opened its first “Authentic" Chinese Restaurant, Zen in the Hamdan Plaza. Nothing authentic about it except the beautiful dragon hanging from the ceiling. The food was on the bland side and I just can’t get used to eating Basmati Fried Rice. Its just not right. The “Chinese” tea was simply Lipton red tea with no sugar to give the bitter effect?. I’m sure they can find at least Green tea as a better substitute, I left the suggestion with the waiter. Without completely trashing the place they do try to make it fancy-ish. The décor is very classy, its certainly a step up for Salalah dining, I enjoyed the atmosphere most. The garnish on most entree’s are impressive. Your cucumber takes a nice shape along with your pine-tree shaped carrots. We ordered several dishes considering the price is not too bad. Nothing really over 5 OR. We ordered the Dragon Chicken, Spring Rolls, Zen Chicken and Prawns in Garlic sauce (pretty decent). Fried Rice of course and Dessert. If you’re looking for change of atmosphere, its a good option. If you’re really hungry, you’re better off at Chinese Cascade.

Facebook: I recently realized that putting up personal photos in facebook is a no-no. Any one of your "friends" can simply right click, and save your image, having a permanent moment in your life in their private possession. I have deleted all albums and I encourage my friends to do the same. For the longest time I had a landscape photo as my profile pic. I decided to give my facebook a "facelift" and put in a new profile pic to update my friends (particularly those back home) with a recent photo since they haven’t seen me in so long. It has been a mere two weeks since the facelift and I have accumulated 6 friend requests, all from boys, all Dhofari. I'm so clueless as to how they find me and how bold they are to add me, back to landscape?.

Generally I am a curious person. I tend to ask a lot of questions and I enjoy learning. But I have my limits when it comes to prodding or being downright nosy. This evening when we got back from dinner, a few neighbors were outside huddled in the dark near their gate. After the usual greeting, one of them asked me where we were coming from so late at night. I simply answered "dinner". I hurried the farewell so that I wouldn't have to share more. Some of my neighbors are especially nosy. They ask questions like "what do you cook for dinner", "where do you go on Monday and Wednesday night", "who is that friend of yours in the blue car"....

Since the birth of this blog, I have had some strange emails. For one, I have received two emails from the same person claiming they know exactly who I am. Suuure you do Mr/Mrs Anonymous. I also get emails asking me very, very personal questions about who I am, who is my husband, what tribe is he from, when and why did we marry, am I American, Canadian or British, am I really Muslim, how many children do I have etc. Its annoying. I share what I want, period. The intention behind this blog was initially to share what’s happening around me in this strange place, now home and not so strange...

Its not an autobiography. Goodnight Salalah.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Filipina Women

I am trying to figure this out on my own, but I'm stumped. Perhaps, someone, somewhere out there, can help me "get it"?

-Shes Filipina...
-Shes usually somewhat young...
-Shes visibly the "maid" (holding an Omani child in her arms while the mother shops...) Heres where I get confused...
-She wears somewhat of a uniform...(Extra tight jeans, a very fitted top and.................hijab???).

Why is it that so many filipina women here have this uniform? Is it by choice? Is this "uniform" a request from their sponsor? Whats the deal?. Every restaurant or retail store, with or without hijab they typically wear the same kind of clothes. Last night we were parked in front of Browniz and I just sat in the car blown away. One waitress was wearing skin tight jeans and her shirt was tucked in, she served a group of Omani men who openly stared at her up and down and continued staring as she walked away, all with sheepish smiles. 

If its by choice, why do the women choose to stand out and contrast so sharply against black abayas and obvious societal conservatism? If its not by choice, why are they required to dress as so? Is it to humiliate them? Is it to entice male customers?.

This is not an issue of Islamic vs. Non-Islamic. The expats here in Salalah are very respectful and conscious of their attire, they don't typically stand out because of what they choose to wear.

Help me out people, I'm confused!!!. Its the most perplexing image these days

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Traditional Omani Food

Last night I was supposed to be at the gym, working out, burning fat, dodging pom-poms. Instead on the way to the gym I get text from Nadia, "Look in your rearview?". I look up, there she is, driving behind me, shades on her head (jk).

Next thing I know my gym bag and sneakers are haphazardly thrown against a wall and I'm sitting cross-legged with a few friends in front of this...

We ended up at Bin Ateeq (For Traditional Omani Food) for dinner. None of us had eaten lunch and I needed any excuse to not go to the gym. The food was delicious. For the first time I tried Habsha Maqlee (Fried INTESTINE), once my gag reflex passed it was actually quite tasty, I promise. We also ordered fried calamari, yum, Dijaj Khasoosi (small fried chicken pieces with fried onion, tomato etc.) I also tried Qarass which is bread boiled with sugar, cardamom and fresh cow ghee, soooo delicious! We ended our meal with

A'seedha of course, which is like a jello made with wheat flour topped with ghee. Also very delicious!

I really enjoyed myself with great company and delicious food. We talked about the different foods in Dhofar and that in Muscat. I am not used to eating any of those foods so its taken a little getting used to. I do however, appreciate and enjoy it every now and then. Salalah is unique and very fortunate not to be bombarded with fast-food restaurants yet so often we still choose food that isnt good for us. Its not just Salalah of course, its everywhere. We keep putting crap in our bodies and the effects are evident.

A few weeks ago my family was invited to lunch at a friends house, we ate a huge plate of food (mostly carbs) and after eating more than her share, my host became so drowsy. She could barely keep a conversation and politely excused herself for her habitual afternoon nap. I ended up playing with the children and her 18 year old daughter mustered enough energy to stay awake and keep me company. I know its common to take naps, even healthy, but not when its the effect of a large meal.

My 32 year old neighbor who has extremely high cholesterol and has been complaining of chest pains. She is a beautiful young woman who is alarmingly overweight. I stopped by for a hello just the other day and she served me tea (loaded with sugar), cookies and dates stuffed with butter, which she also generously participated in. I tried to kindly, lovingly suggest that she try to stay away from these things because the result can be lethal. I lost count of how many times I've seen 2 year olds with a can of Dew and a bag of junk roaming the streets. All that ketchup, hot sauce, soda, ghee, and sweets are a huge contributing factor to the diabetes problems. Not to mention the lack of exercise (particularly women).

We are blessed to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables and meat.

A friend and I have I been thinking of doing a free seminar for Dhofaris on how to eat healthy (myself included).

Monday, February 1, 2010

Salalah Sugar Shortage

I don't know all the logistics of whats going on with the sugar, but its true, and Nadia is right...its hard to come by. Last night we had a family friend over and I used up the remaining sugar we had for tea and cookies. Sam went out this morning to Al Istikrar to grab some more for my ritual, obligatory, absolutely necessary morning coffee....NO SUGAR to be found at our local market.

Bravely, he came home empty handed. Without my "medicine" its hard to think straight. I demanded (with pouting lips) could he please go on a search for sugar. Three supermarkets later he found some at Al Mashoor in Sa'ada, ALHAMDULILAH!! Ive had  my dose and now I need to figure out if I'll have to ration what we have.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Desert Camping

I have never been so busy in my life! Who knew that you could get so caught up in sleepy Salalah? To be honest, I'm not sure the ride is over. The good news is....I've been having a blast and I am eager to share my adventures!!!  I am sincerely touched by all the emails asking if I am okay and sending words of encouragement to keep writing, it means a lot. If I haven't responded to your email yet, please know that its coming...

This past weekend I had a SPECTACULAR time camping in the middle of the desert. If you live in Salalah, the gulf or remotely close to a desert its a must-do! I am saddened by how few locals have ever experienced what its like.

We drove nearly two hours deep passed Thamreet before we found "our spot". We were fortunate to have a clear blue sky and with Asr approaching the air was cool and breezy. We camped amidst these amazing sand dunes that appeared to be untouched in perfect unison with its Creator. The right atmosphere can easily change ones mood and for a moment my imagination took flight and I envisioned myself as an Arabian Queen atop her hawdah as she reviewed a grand caravan of camels and men laden with treasures before they embarked into the sands. I looked around tempted to find a random camel and climb its back ha!

Instead we spent the rest of the day slipping and sliding on the dunes, racing each other up and down, creating sand angels and writing all sorts of things in the sugar-like sand. Fascinated by how the wind could make it dance, the kids couldn't stop taking hand full’s of sand and letting it slip through their fingers. Yes, it was magical.

We watched the first stars appear before Maghreb (sunset). I couldn't believe just how many stars poked through the sky despite the Sun's persistence. We decided to pray on the pure sand instead of using a sajadah (my idea). I thought it would be nice to "connect" with the earth being that we are created from it. It was more romantic than practical. Sam had sand stuck to his forehead most of the night and the grains left my forehead sore, alhamdulilah.

Dinner was simple, plain rice and vegetable sauce, salad and hot tea. The sun disappeared before we could finish eating and making a fire in total darkness was a bit of a challenge, but we did it! We sat in a Bedouin style tent around our fire and sipped tea. We told stories and jokes and between the silences we'd look up and marvel at the magnificent stars. It was as if, every single star, ever made, appeared that night to send Salaams (salutations) and remind us of the Creator. Our mood quietly shifted and became serious as we sat under this blanket of stars in contemplation, SubhanAllah (Glory to Allah). I swear I have never seen so many shooting stars. I lost count. Although cliche, the silence was utterly deafening. My ears became full with the humm in the air.

Whether you look out into the Ocean, or up at the Stars or down from the Mountains something unexplainable, but very real, stirs beneath your skin. All your "problems" melt away, like ice left in the sun and then somehow you feel free. The feeling is euphoric and satisfying but short lived. Just as your mind is about to rest, the hairs on your body stand and the realization of how small you are hit you like a ton of bricks. Your heart sees something the eyes cannot and you can't help but wonder "what is my purpose?", "why am I here?" What is it about the earth, nature, environment that makes you ask yourself the tough questions?

Its times like this, when I want to express/translate what I feel into words, that I realize how limited language can be. I can only say that the night spent in the desert will never be forgotton. I slept beneath a zillion bright stars in complete and total silence of the earth and for a moment, although fleeting, I connected with something.


* It is important to mention that travelling in the desert can be dangerous and that you should go with someone experienced.   

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Three Good Friends

What a crazy, busy weekend! On Wednesday evening I had the pleasure of attending a concert in Al Marooj Theatre with one of my closest friends. It was better than I expected. The singer Naziha Meftah had such a lovely voice and watching the emotion in her face as she sang added to the experience. I just wish I understood the words! I took some snapshots of her and her amazing dress along with the talented orchestra. I was surprised to see so many Omani men relaxed and enjoying themselves, I guess Salalah is slowly chipping away at its conservatism? My hubby stayed home with the dumplings.

I was especially dazzled by her beautiful emerald dress layered in gold lace.  While aiming my camera and adjusting the lens, I noticed that all the women seated around me were using their cell phones as cameras. At one point I counted 12 cell phones in the air all taking shots. Its strange the way cell phones here are an essential item for everyone; male, female, young, and old.

On Thursday afternoon I had lunch with a friend who shared really sad news with me. One of her "western" friends told her that a colleague of hers passed away (alone) the night before.  I'm not one to relay gossip and perhaps the story has been twisted along the way, but I was told that an elderly woman passed away in her apartment and was discovered by her dear friend who came to simply check up on her. After hearing this I couldn't help but feel sad myself. Imagine being in a foreign country and dying alone in your apartment?. I can't even begin to think about the devastation of the friend who found the body. The trauma. My heart and prayers go out to her. I don't know what I would do if I found my friend dead. My friend ended the story with "Praise be to God".

This morning I spent nearly two hours on the "phone/computer" talking with a friend who is deeply offended by Frances inclination towards banning the face veil. She is a French-American convert living in France who wears the face veil... by choice. She asked my opinion, what should she do if the law is passed, should she take it off, why are they doing this to women, and of course, what will happen if she doesn't remove it? I don't have all the answers of course, but I am affected nonetheless as a woman who chooses to wear the face veil in a place where its common-place. I've become so used to it that I might feel violated if I was forced to take it off.

For those out of the loop; In 2005, France declared that any and all conspicuous religious symbols would be banned from all French public schools. While its true, Christian crosses and Jewish kippas also fell under this category, it was obvious that this ban would primarily affect the hijab, which it has, considering France has the largest European Muslim population. Now, things are moving quickly and women seem to bearing the brunt of it. Its only a matter of time for hijab to be banned period in France, no?

Just last November the Swiss voted "no" to minarets in their country despite the fact that there are only 4 in the entire country. I still don't understand that. It happens in doses all over the place the push for secularism in the name of democracy.

My Christian friend sent me the photo above. We both had a good laugh and I appreciated her sharing and joked that Nuns wore Abayas first. Sometimes when you're "in" something, your perception is skewed, limited. I remember my non-hijab days and how I perceived the women who covered, I always admired them, maybe I'm just weird like that?. I would be so curious to know how people really feel about the women who wear hijab/niqab today.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Road Less Traveled

When do you know if you should just bite the bullet, have faith, take a risk or as Nike says "just do it"?

I have been battling with a personal dilemma for months now. I have to decide whether to take a huge chance and pursue a "dream" or pass up the opportunity and remain "safe". If I "just do it" there is so much I am putting at risk, everything and everyone around me will be affected in some way or another. There's a part of me that says I must fulfill this dream at all costs and that in the end it will benefit myself and my family.

Then there’s the other side. The side that tells me I am being selfish, too much is at risk, and that the risk isn't worth the cost. The potential for it to all crumble down and be a mistake weighs heavy on my shoulders.
Yes of course I have prayed on it, talked endlessly with myself about it, chewed my mothers ear off about it, even dreamt about it, and still after all that I am unsure.

Help please, when do you know when/if you should "just do it"!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Perfect Stranger

Have you ever been so shocked and touched by an act of kindness from a complete and total stranger? One that left you to reflect on your own kindness and question whether you’ve been selfless enough? Well, its happened to me many times, but for some reason here in Salalah, its been happening almost…often? Someone, usually a stranger, does something entirely selfless for me.

We were being really adventuress this past weekend. We packed up our igloo on thursday night and when the sun rose we set off into the desert. It was beautiful. Romantic. The mountains, the trees, the sand and the beaches all seemed more perfect than the day before. Two hours into our drive, our eyes caught a glimpse of a distant a part of beach that was simply too gorgeous not to venture to. The only thing separating us and the beach was …..SAND of course (soft sand).

Without a thought we swerved to the right off the paved road and cut through into the beautiful sand. The exhiliration lasted 4 seconds, our tires never experienced it. The car wouldn’t move. The tires spun in the sand digging us deeper in. Reverse, nada, Drive, nada, Neutral, nada. Not a person in sight, no sign of civilization and we were stuck. Of course being a woman, a million thoughts ran through my head. "We’re gonna die here, there’s no cell phone reception, well at least we have water, ok so we’ll ration our sandwiches and worse come to worse we can walk to the beach and find fish until help comes?"

So, we got out of the car, and being rookies in the desert we tried to dig ourselves loose. Of course that didn’t work. Then we tried to push our car, our huge car. It didn’t budge, barely shook. Darn this brand new defiant car!. After 45 minutes and no more ideas we resigned to eat lunch... in the car. I thought to myself, but dared not say aloud "You call yourself Omani and can't get us out of the sand?" lol. Before I could finish my rationed sandwich, we heard another car. Hubby jumped out of the car to wave our saviour down. The car was going so fast, so furious, I thought for sure the guy in it didn't even see us! His car zigzagged through, passed us in seconds, practically skipping in the sand.  I could almost swear, I heard it whistle it was so happy. My mouth agape I thought “How the HECK can that, old beat up car go through the sand soooo easily and our brand new defiant car wont even crawl????!

By Gods Mercy, the car zigzags over to us, the driver rolls his window down to talk to Sam. A minute later the guy gets out of his car so excited, opens our door and shakes Sams hand smiling from ear to ear praising God and swears to help (at least that’s what I could make out). He skips away in his car and we’re left in the sand again. I wonder to myself if the guy will ever come back. I ask hubby to translate what the guy said. "He's gonna come back with a rope". I roll my eyes thinking "yeah right, where is he going to get a rope in the middle of nowehere?" Well, a little over 30 minutes later, yes, skipping of course (and whistling), he comes back with a rope and in minutes we are rescued. This perfect stranger drove out all the way to his home, got a rope, drove back to us and then insisted we come to his families home for tea!!!. We were truly touched. We very politely declined and kept thanking him for his help, I even convinced Sam to offer money(total insult I learned). But you should know, you can’t say “no” to an Omani.

We were so graciously served hot tea and were with wonderful company. I tried my best to communicate in broken Arabic. By the end of our visit we were sad to say goodbye. I wont ever forget them. They also convinced me to try camping in the desert during winter. I think I'll take their advice, maybe next weekend?

And about the skipping car, Khalid (our saviour) advised us; “New cars no good. Old, much better.”

Have you ever been touched with selfless kindness by a total stranger?