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?