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*


  1. Very glad to hear that you'll keep on writing! I am also an expat living in Salalah, and really enjoy reading your musings. I have been hearing from a lot of different sources about the more frequent and apparent resemblances between Muscat and Dubai, and wanted to comment on this topic. Once you get into the harmony of life and living in Salalah, you definitively notice the more unpleasant qualities to be found in any bigger, more industrialized, touristic and commercial metropolis - and this applies to Muscat as well.

    However, having said that, I always think back to the moment that inspired me to come and live in Oman, ultimate destination, Salalah. The momentous occassion of inspiration was, you guessed it, a brief visit to Muscat.

    At the time I was living in the neighbourhood of Oman, and had had the chance to visit most of the gulf countries - Emirates (Dubai, Abu Dhabi), Bahrain, Qatar, etc. I couldn't wait to leave Dubai - not really for any reason other than my lack of interest in such an inherent display of opulence. And even this opulence and excess of luxury is in a way unique, and, while I would not have the need to go back, I am glad to have experienced it. As to living there ... ughh ...

    But Muscat was a revelation to me at that time! I had never thought that any country in the gulf - due to my limited, but expanding experience at the time - would have the ability to fuse together so many contradicting aspects into one coherent and beautiful whole. The traditional architecture with modern comforts and luxuries, the conservative culture with western tourist expectations, etc. I felt awed and a bit flabbergasted that I could have a glass of 'something' with my dinner if I really wanted to (which most times I don't, but here I actually had a CHOICE), or I could go somewhere authentically Omani and have a cup of chai with my sheesha. No such choices to make in Dubai ... at least none were offered to me ...

    Muscat is NOT like Dubai ... and Salalah is NOT like Muscat. And both of these NOTs are meant positively. Why should Muscat and Salalah be alike? They are, after all, 1000km apart, and represent different aspects of the Omani culture and tradition. One is an international place of business and politics, the other an oasis and paradise where one expects it the least.

    Thank you.

  2. .... YES! That's fantastic. I'm very glad you decided to carry on writing your blog. :-)

    As far as Dubai-Muscat-Salalah are concerned, you cannot stop change. The world has become smaller and smaller. At the moment we can travel around the planet and exchanges views is a couple of seconds through internet, we can visit multiple continents in a week and we can sample food from all over the world in 1 single day. In the end it's up to the decision-makers of a country and the people of these countries to decide how they want to manage these changes.
    I think Oman is doing a great job not selling it's soul like some of it's neighbors did, but money and greed can changes views quickly.
    I bet that only a few decades ago there were hardly any cars in Salalah. Now you can some times buy-1-get-1-free or win a 4x4 only by shopping at Lulu's. And everyone wants to keep up with the Jones's. We're going to have a real shopping mall in Salalah soon. I wonder how that will impact people here.
    So why not develop Omani style with Omani hotels (I think Nadia/ Dhofarigucci mentioned something like that) and build houses with many traditional aspects, have Omani working in hotels, restaurants & cafes and make sure all Omanis have a solid knowledge of their heritage and culture.

    Again, Sleepless... It's super that you're continuing your writing!

  3. Anon 1 & 2: Thanks for the encouragement to keep writing. Believe it or not, strangers can make a difference!

    Both your comments really made me think. The way I see it, its really only a matter of time before the whole middle east begins to resemble its neighbors (meant in a negative way). The people are mesmerized by western culture, young and old alike. Is not Dubai a mirror image of “the good life” on steroids? Its true this is happening all over the world. If you are a Muslim, the reality of "losing ones identity" is more obvious. The youth (especially in Muscat) are giving up on tradition and now seek a more "modern" way of living their life. Again, I am not talking about advancement in technology or medicine or the great positives that have come by "the exchange of ideas". I am talking about the fact that now the people are willing to drop tradition, wholesome tradition and values that are heavily rooted in Islaam. This, I believe is tragic. Once upon a time, even Muscat had an authentic feel to it. I don’t think that is the case anymore, and most people don‘t realize until they visit a place like Salalah. I’ve been living in Salalah long enough to see just how quickly things are changing. We’ll have a mall very soon, the people from the desert and the mountains will be shopping for Gucci in a blink.

    p.s anon 1, your description of Muscat was so poetically written, love it!
    p.p.s. anon 2, yes youre right there were no cars a few decades ago, and people weren’t allowed to wear shoes!

  4. I completely believe that strangers can make a difference - perhaps even more so than friends - especially in a setting such as this, a blog, where you get to learn the true priceless value of your thoughts alone. So yes! keep on writing, thinking and feeling - we love reading what you have to say! Not to mention that we get to think and feel with you :)

    Plus, the encouragement can work both ways - and I thank you for the praise you give to my description ... Believe it or not, you are the third person to use some form of the word 'poetic' for something I've written! And since, in my books, three times is too much for mere coincidence, perhaps I should stop thinking so much and just start writing that book I've been postponing for ages.

    In terms of the bulk of your comment - I wholeheartedly agree with everything you say. It is a fact that the effects of so-called 'globalization' or, more appropriately, 'Americanization of the world', can be seen and felt everywhere. However, the big question here is 'why is the toll quite so high in the Arab/Muslim world?'.

    Yes, television and movies are to blame for the loss of cultural identity across the world in terms of things such as fashion - I mean, really, who wears their 'national dress' anymore? Even in this part of the world, the prevalent trend seems to be - wear the disdasha to work/school, then change as soon as possible once you get home. And what happened to the traditional green Omani wedding dress? What's up with the off the shoulder, white and sequined gowns? Through television, film and music the effects of globalization are far reaching - whatever happened to Japanese, Russian, French, Philippino, Arabic, etc. traditional folk music? Where on earth did rock and pop groups come from across the world? Why do so many dark haired and doe-eyed beauties (the MAJORITY of the world's population) everywhere bleach their hair and put on blue contacts?

    Unfortunately, I think you are right, and that we are not merely speaking about common effects of this phenomena when we talk about the situation in Oman and its neighbourhood. Here, we encounter only extremes, and this is baffling.

    For example, Italians may wear jeans and enjoy listening to Shakira or Beyonce, but they will be the first to tell you that they are Italian - they will go on and on and on about the history, the beauty of the language, etc. - and they fight to preserve traditions of craftsmanship, small family business, etc. In southern Spain, the people will never consent to do away with their afternoon siesta, and those interested in bullfighting or flamenco dancing will only be praised and encouraged, not mocked. Furthermore, most will actually pretend NOT to speak or understand English. This list could go on for a while, but I'll stop here ... and continue in another post? Do forgive my lengthy comments, but these issues are important and they spark my interest highly.

  5. And ... I couldn't help myself :) ...

    Yet, in this part of the world we face a complete division - if the younger generation is to embrace certain aspects of western culture, such as education standards, does that mean it has to look with disdain and condescension upon everything that is 'old' and traditional as being backward? I got to witness the mocking disdain one very young bride faced from her 'friends' when I asked her what she wore to her wedding. She blushed, looked at the floor, and muttered "A special thobe" to which her friends laughed, rolled their eyes, and said "She is a poor mountain girl" insinuating that she and her family do not have enough sense to know 'the right way'. Whatever that may be - in this case, probably a lavish white gown. Needless to say, the girl did not wish to continue talking about her wedding and never brought it up again.

    One reason I think may help partially answer the big 'why' question is actually rather simple. Italians go to university/college in Italian. French do so in French. Chinese in Chinese. And so on. But here? No, the Arabs go to university/college - and even school! (Kuwait, Qatar, Emirates, etc.) - in English! Talk about prioritization of values. I am all for educated professionals of bilingual capabilities - but does that mean everyone? What kind of a message is being sent to the young generation entering higher education? If you don't have English, you don't get education? Therefore, English = "the good life", and Arabic = being poor, destitute, and, if you are male, unlikely to get married, like, ever. What kind of nonsense is this? It does not seem, on first glance, quite so destructive. But, if you think about the kind of skewered perception of their world this creates on a very deep, emotional, and unconscious level, it becomes easier to begin to comprehend the paradox in which the young generations here find themselves.

    Again, please forgive me for rambling on so much, but I think you brought up a very important issue. Thanks for reading.

  6. Oh, what to do?
    I too am an expat in lovely Salalah - I'm a teacher. I've been here for two years, and i don't want to be a teacher here. I don't want to teach English to kids who are already losing their first language, Jebali, to the onslaught of Arabic. i too wish that they were taught their subjects in Arabic. I wish this government had a bit more REAL pride in what is unique here, instead of dragging everyone willy-nilly into the next century through the doubtful benefits of English.
    I know change has to happen (does it really though?)
    One giant shopping mall. Great. Dubai is a horrible, horrible city, a homogenous mash of everything you leave the west to escape. My great fear is that Oman will lose what it has in the race to get where it thinks it wants to go - and its people won't even realise what they've lost. It can happen in a generation.

  7. Come to Qatar guyz!!!

    Awesome developing country

    I love it here guyz

  8. Interesting point of view... I'm originally from Salalah but I'm living in Muscat with my family... I love SLL but sometimes It's bored.... There is no entertainment at all... I guess a proper study should be prepare in order to develop SLL in such a way that it keep its natural and at the same time become one of the civilized cities... The big deal here is that Omanis themselves want Oman to become like Dubai... in fact, I've been hearing a lot of ppl here saying why we don't have in Oman this and this like Dubai... Why Dubai is much better than Oman... I hate Dubai, it's really annoying to live there... We don't really know how to validate the "Paradise" which we are living in... really it's a paradise...
    Regarding the language issue I will be back later on to write my opinion... I'm at work now and I`m not feeling comfortable while I`m writing here (My Boss is really scary loool) ... But keep writing my dear, I really love to discuss such topics...

  9. Dear Rania,

    You hane no idea how delightd i am to find your posts (through google)..

    The reason is: My fiance is moving to Salalah.. We are so confused about making a decision (Yes/No).

    I loved how u refer to Salalah (She).

    Please tell me if you are available for more questions.

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