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 d├ęcor 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!!!"

Ok...so 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 silenced....at 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?