Thursday, March 5, 2015

to the land far-and-away

I will finish wrapping up a study I have particpating in, inshaAllah, and then I will leave Oman for a while. I will visit my home country, that land far and away. I don't plan to stay. I plan to finish a story of mine there, one I never intended to write, but ultimately must I suppose, and then I hope to return here. That is my plan inshaAllah.

Oman was never supposed to be part of my story, I never intended to stay here, so I don't suppose to make fixed plans anymore.

I had planned to go back to the land far and away maybe next year, not this one. I will miss Oman when I am gone, and my children. I am not going back to show my husband my memories, or to eat actual criossants, or to see fabulous architecture and spectacular nature (and rollarblade, ha ha, without any losers trying to hit on me for that). I am not going back to shop for antiques, or used books, or honey, or to take photos of anything. How strange it is, then, for me to have to go. Seems unreal, and like something detached from myself, these preperations to go.

I remember it, the land-far-and-away. Its sweeping mists that soak my bones and freeze my blood... The glass of the hearth stove I am trying to be as close as possible to but not touch... The scent of cedar smoke rising. Chopped pine, cedar, scents from back home, just another brand of frankinsence.

I love the scent of starting the morning fire in the-land-far-and-away. Waking up early to guard the dying embers from the evening blaze all but gone out. The dare of bringing the basket of kindling in against the cold, maybe disturbing racoons or a bear near the wood drying stacks. Wild things, who attempt to open the garbage bins, and I, but armed with a broom to try to scare them away.

In Oman, it is only bin cats and goats I have to worry about near the garbage, which are not much a worry at all. And the scent of starting the fire here is usually gasoline poison smoke, or too much paper, for wood is scarce, and the world is hot enough most of the time, except in the night, in the desert, or high in the mountains.

I remember pressing my toes as close as possible to the warm glass of the woodstove in the morning, burning them sometimes. Above, there were stars still in the sky, visible from the skylight. Out the door, apple blossoms in the orchard, bumble bees, and hummingbirds, and a sea of green grass. Down, is the little dark stream edged with ferns where deer tread softly, which Omanis would call a river, but to me was a ditch. Up, the hills, blue with evergreen, or sometimes, clouds of mist curling, and only the bare shadow of the memory of trees. Sometimes I would sit here, on my stomache, a warm cup of cocoa or tea in my hands, talking with my father, before anyone else in the world seemed to wake.

That is the most poignant memory for me, of the land far-and-away. Funny, the things one remembers.

I swear, I never felt my feet at all until I set down in Muscat International Airport, and came to a land, where the cold water tap in the shower and the metal of my own seatbelt buckle could burn me. I laugh at that now, so far away from the icy dark ocean with its sharp waves bashing black jutting rocks, where I used to swim for hours. My father says people could succumb to hypothermia in thirty minutes there, but I never did.

I think I'd die now though, if I just tried to wade more than my knees into that water, thick with its tangle of green kelp and bitter cold. I wear sweaters in Oman in Janurary.

I remember standing on the edge of the world on those rocks, splashes of rabid foam into the sky, daring the world--- and perhaps God--- to give me adventure, to take me away to another land, another world than this silver island, hills of dark green, knotted forests that reach down to the shores, which are lined with the bones of trees, silvered with salt.

I left for the city where my father grew up, not far, which I miss very much, but it is not what I remember best, not where I will be going.

I will be one of only two Muslims in town if old Selah has passed away. I don't know. I haven't returned for a while. I will be alone, like ever I was, to walk for groceries and things. I am not frightened. That is the least of my worries, even those stupid hick boys and women who think I am brainwashed or something can't bother me with the weight of the other things to do and to manage.

I don't very much like being disapointed and having my plans not work out, and even less, being helpless. It feels strange, to know I am going back, but to be home, in Oman.

I am building my house in Oman, all my dreams coming together, my husband and children here. That makes the land-far-and-away even stranger. To be so much part of a place, and yet, to have never belonged there.... I don't know really why I am blogging this... but I am.

{ends posts}

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Book Fair Controversy?: thanks to Rummy for spelling it out for people

OPNO: Dear Readers, I am sorry. All of us OPNO girls have way too much going on. I'd love to do an eye-candy post to be all cheery and what not but not even blogger is working right for us these days. However, I am still distracting myself with the internet from the mess in my head and life, and I was like, woah, how can the book fair be controversial? when I read Rummy's post. Here's a repost [and the link to the actual original post ]:
Literacy and literature are two separate entities altogether. Being literate means that you can read and understand but to be into literature means that you not only understand but taste and feel the words shared. I find that our society mix these two things together. We are not the best people when it comes to appreciating art or literature for that matter. We tend to turn a shut eye to things that seem to be complex to read or comprehend. And this example is always evident during the book fair season when Omanis suddenly become literature seekers when the majority of them aren't. Most of them just end up flipping through novels to find something outrageous to make a big deal of. Last year it was a book called ‘Melh’, which translates to ‘Salt’, that had some of its story scraps talk about something too obscene according to our culture but really relates to something that is reality and the case in many relationship stories you hear; non-marital intimacy. This year it’s a novel called Al Rola which despite the message and the story, the focus is on a few sentences of the book that describes a rape scene of an innocent boy and what he has to go through in his mind to come to terms with what happened to him. The uproar every year reaches to a point that at the beginning of March of every year Majlis Al Shura calls on the interrogation of the Minister of Information to hold him accountable on the books he allows the censorship board to pass to the Omani market. And every single year it is the same response of apologizing and making sure that the board will get punished for what they allowed to be spread like dirty laundry.

‘Most writers and poets are agnostic’ they say and that is the justification given on why they can write about these things without thinking about the consequences and repercussions it may have on our society. The argument is that with this type of literature, we are encouraging more and more of our youth to read such 'pornography' even if it is a few sentences in hopes of sending out a larger message. Errrm hello have you heard of 50 Shades of Grey? Have you seen the fascination of waiting for the clear version to be available on torrent for download? If that’s what you fear, then ban the internet because the influences of the World Wide Web are way bigger than a few sentences in a book. Why can’t we talk about these issues and preach to have the messages expressed in the books addressed? The number of child sexual abuse cases in Oman is simply hidden. Families conceal these facts because society would judge them had they known that their daughter is no longer a virgin because she was abused as a child, or their son is no longer 'a man' because he was raped by someone the age of his father. Why? It's high-time we stop hitting around the bush and either read a book in its entirety to get the gist of why that passage was even mentioned, or just stop making a scene altogether and giving something bigger publicity than it deserves if you want people to shut up about it.
OPNO: Oh my gosh my beloved Omani society, grow up. Aknowledge truth (however unpleasant) whereever you find it. Only then can you make the society better. Writers aren't all agnostics etc... And Muslims should be able to understand agnostics, atheists, polytheists, or we make ourselves more ignorant and backwards... Truly is the dark ages for Islam when we get mad about a book about the rape of a boy with a point when this actually is a very dark and true part of our society in OMAN.
{ends today's rant---sorry I am just ranting these days}

UPDATE: Losers in Cars Same as Ever in Oman

Oh. My. God.

I had forgotten how horribly AWFUL it is to walk in Oman. I was just walking down the side of the road today, trying to flag a taxi, and how many IDIOTOBNOXIOUS barely past pubescent BOYS honked at me? Or pulled frighteningly over to coyly offer a ride? (not taxi drivers---they are a post of other days).

SO ANNOYING! Not fly, not cool, not sexy: stalkerish, lame, lousy, low... Like I'd ever get into the car of a stranger! Especially a stranger with the vibe of looser, stalker, or serial killer.

Dear Oman, I forgot all about needing to take taxis and this, walking to and from the store with my groceries. Guys swerving over so that I have to walk in the dirt and dust to avoid coming even close to them. Guys that honk and scare the crap out of you. Guys that are like, ten years younger than me in their first car who think that a busy older woman in an abaya walking alone would EVER EVER EVER be interested in them. Let alone some cool expat chic their own age.


Hasn't changed in Muscat, this, loser guys, in cars, since, like, 1995. Although I do admit, the men who hit on me when I was pre-pubscent girl-child are FFFFFFFAAAAAARRRRR creepier than being in my 30s now, and having 17 year olds trying the same.

Other than that, same old, same old crap from Omani men. Thank Allah for my Omani husband who drives me almost everywhere. I'd forgotten about this crap.

End rant, for today.

Monday, February 23, 2015

DIY Home Arabian/Khaleeji Chic: Moroccan Wedding Blanket, Mandoos Stud-Style Headboard, Khaleeji-Fabric Bukhoor Burner, and Tassels out of thread or yarn

OPNO has seen a lot of gorgeous and genius DIY projects recently. However, this blog is not uploading photos and OPNO hasn't the foggiest why. However, the links will be posted anyways, and the projects explained. Click on the links to see photos.

PROJECT #1: Mandoos Stud-Style Headboard for your bed [ ]

Nothing is worse in OPNO's designer opinion, than a blah bedroom with an ugly bed. Having always loved mandoos (those studded Arabian/Omani boxes sometimes called the zanzibar chest or captian's chest), we use them in Oman for all sorts of things: coffee table, dowry chest, bed bench, TV console... But a way to get the look yourself is to use nailhead metallic trim on a DIY yourself headboard for an exotic version of an undressed bed. Just google mandoos patterns, and follow the tutorial on the link above, using plain black painted wood, or faux brown leather instead of linen (which is shown in the link). Voila! Just add a canopy of mosquitoe net for that exotic feel. (OPNO has even done this in hot pink for her daughter but alas, the photos, the photos...).

PROJECT #2: Faux Moroccan Wedding Blanket

OPNO has always loved the look (but not the price) of Moroccan wedding blankets. Here is a link for the how-to [ ].

PROJECT #3: Khaleeji-Fabric Bukhoor Burner

OPNO has to apologize, this was her own DIY and the photos won't post, however, she took a bukhoor burner just like this one (which OPNO bought from Ramez in Seeb for half a rial) and then simply glue-gunned khaleeji fabric from Zuraiq Textiles in Al hail (can be found other places as well, on the squares to get this look:

PROJECT #4:  Yarn or Embroidery Thread Tassels to trim blankets or pillows

This is one DIY project OPNO also made (but used embroidery thread in black, burgundy, and red) to trim a throw pillow in a very bedouin design. However, this tutorial shows how to do the same, but using yarn to trim a throw blanket [ ].

Sunday, February 8, 2015

HOUSE UPDATE: building now, and my neighbors appear to be insane

Okay, so we finalized our floor plan with the engineer, it was approved by the Muscat Minicipality and the Ministry for housing (although those two places need to work together---they have different rules for the same thing). We hired a contractor who thus far seems honest and hardworking. No one knows I am blogging about them. I am temped to tell the materials suppliers to get a discount lol, but builder, engineers, I certainly won't;). Our workers seem pretty good. The land was cleared.

Then since all is going well, too well for Oman;)--- apparently, our neighbors are insane.

Yes. Of course, I have to have crazy neighbors that all hate eachother.

They keep pulling out the land marks. Now, the workers have finally, finally walled in the property but man, isn't that crazy?

The neighbors keep approaching us, telling us bad stuff about another neighbor. They are, apparently, one family, but, when someone died, they fought over the split of farms and lands, and went to court, and seem to still disagree and resent eachother.

Fun, fun, fun.

Since I'm terrible with guests anyways, I am sure they'll all visit me only a few times, then stop. When you mix up the garam masala with the cardamon for the coffee, it works every time;).

Anyways, we've met a few designers (mainly to get pricing on bulk discounts, since there are more homes than my villa going up)---one for the kitchen and one for flooring and additional materials.

I want a fireplace. Yes, yes I do. A fireplace in Muscat that I will use only once a year most like, but I need one.

The kitchen designer seemed awesome. Was a listener and understood me. I mostly like to design for myself but like options.

I like things and spaces to have a history, to have age, yet be functional, and have something elegant, chic or awe-inspiring (even something small) about them. That's a challenge, since I know what I want and what I don't like, but I don't know what's available, so apologies must go out to everyone working with us who I am like, nope, no, not that, sort of but no, uh uh, not the same, ugly, uh that's not me, ect.....

I still wish the facade were Arabic because I'd already sourced the materals for that, and furnishings, and costed it... so this is a lot of work and I have no time lol.

Anyways, that's everything for now. I will try to upload the DIY post soon inshaAllah.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Rape in Oman cont'd: the murder of a little boy in Sohar

Sorry y'all. My blogger account hasn't been working properly. After some of the heavy subjects I wanted to do an eye-candy post, a fashion post, a beauty post, and a DIY post but my blogger account isn't uploading the photos I want for those posts.

Of course, heavy subjects abound. By now you've probably read about the rape and murder of the little Omani boy in Sohar by two older Omani boys/young men. One of the rapists/murderers was 18 and the other 15 or 16? Something like that. They raped the boy who was abducted from a wedding then held him down while they stuffed sand into his mouth until he died and then left his body like garbage. I hope they kill them. I know, with the death penalty people can be unjustly convicted and condemned, but in this case, where there is no doubt, I hope for the harshest. I mean, even with the death penalty, they won't be so cruel as to kill them by puting sand in their mouths.

As a parent, I can say, if you rape one of my kids (not even murder) i WILL KILL YOU. It is, as simple as that. If the government won't do it, I will. Rape is common in Oman. My husband is teacher in a boy's only school here. He's told me as much.{ }

In Oman, the jail term for rape of a girl is 5-15 years in prison, a male is 3 years. (

I remember a while back now, perhaps you do recall, the school shooting in Shinas?: well a father had his son raped, it was reported to the police but not even a jail term was given, so the father barged into the rapist's school and shot him { }. I say bravo. I'd do the same.

As a female in Oman, I can say, all cases of rape I have heard of, happened to housemaids, or to expat or Omani women who put themselves into bad situations. I am not blaming anyone who puts themselves into a bad situation. Rape is still the fault of the rapist. It is never the victim's fault.

It happens. Be careful. That Omani dude you met at a night club who wants to take you to Qantab beach in the middle of the night could be a perfect gentleman. But don't chance it.

As a woman, I have had the experience of being molested (in a taxi). Again, as my Omani husband would say, don't chance it. If you must take a taxi when you find a good driver keep his number or ask other women you know to share a taxi or get their driver's number. I know two very good taxis in Al Hail Seeb if anyone is interested. They only speak Arabic but they are so so so trustworthy, for example.
----Or get a car and license (I shouldn't talk on this one---I am still the loser who doesn't drive---former city girl habit that is hard to lose).

Apparently, I can't wear my niqab (face veil I wear for religious beliefs) at Sultan Qaboos University because some man wore it to go into a girl's bathroom and molested and harmed a female student in revenge against her family.

Again, not to diminish the importance of rape of females in Oman, however, the statistic for female rape here is grossly smaller than that of rape occuring in Western countries. I believe from experience, that rape of women and girls is actually less here, although that rape statistic should be much higher due to under reporting due to cultural hold-ups on the value of virginity and female reputation, and limited domestic labourers rights and powers. For example,a raped housemaid will seldom be brave enough to report a rape with the ROP {Royal Oman Police} since a couple of rapes and molestations of women have occured while in the ROP offices (along with one attempted abduction by an ROP guy we OPNO girls got fired, alhamdulilah).

For men though---especially those who are boys----rape is actually common. In school of about 1000 students about 4 rapes occur annually. Maybe more. Attempted rapes of about 16 that were thwarted. These aren't Minstry statistics, this is coming from teachers.

While murder is rare in Oman, and abduction and rape also rare, rape is not so rare that we or Omanis find it shocking. So please, guard your children.

Of the two rapists/murders/monsters from Sohar, of one of them it is claimed that he has a mental disability that causes him towards this kind of behaviour. If that is the case, and true, and backed up by doctors, I don't think he can be killed, but he has to be institutionalized because his parents couldn't look after him and stop this. If his previous behavior was already known, his parents should face legal action and manslaughter charges---at the very least criminal negligence resulting in death. They should have been watching their mentally ill/violent child, not allowing him to go around abducting, raping, and killing another innocent human being.

Allah wills everything, we Muslims believe. But Allah also gave people free will. If you choose not to watch over your children, it is a choice. It wasn't Allah who made you stupid.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

UPDATES: Interpol, Muscat Festival, and Loving Oman despite all


Apparently, the owner of Tajer Ceramica was arrested by INTERPOL. I wonder what charges have been laid at his feet {trumped up perhaps?}. Was someone who knew him asked to attest that he was a terrorist or something? {like everyone in Oman already knows happened to the Qu'ran School teachers a long time back now?}

Anyways, I probably shouldn't write anything else on this subject right?   Anyways, thanks to the few (anonymous) commentators who requested I stop writing about this for the safety of the OPNO girls and their friends and families. I feel its totally fine since, well, everyone in Oman already knows about it, and the public already know what they think about it, and I am not naming names ect... I just think, that since everyone ALREADY knows about the corruption, isn't this harassment of the owner of Tajer Ceramica, his friends, his relations, ect... a little much? The man was already self-exiled. Everyone already knows the government is stealing. Omanis can tell by the villas, the lands, the projects, of persons here on this blog unnamed. One doesn't need proof beyond the obvious.

{It is a funny memory for one Omani taxi driver, all the Omani women he drove in his taxi who asked to be dropped off in front of one minister's grand palace of a house to make duas [prayers that in the sense they were being used, asked for the man's punihsment from Allah/God] for the man's destruction (or quick change of heart)}.

In the case of the Qu'ran school teachers and courdinaters who were wrongfully jailed His Majesty eventually had them freed. But I wonder myself if that is enough? Surely punishment of those who wrongfully jail people in the first place is matter more important than royal pardons and belated apologies?---now of course, that is just my humble opinion and the rumbling sentiments expressed on that twitter feed by the public (Omanis).

That's all you'll hear from me on this. Back to regular programming.

Muscat Festival opened up last night. I had a lovely time (ate far too much jola). The Heritage village in Al Amerat is my favourite, but this year I did more shopping than learning Omani handicrafts (bedouin carpet, eye kohl, and Dhofari abu thail dress).
Muscat Fashion Week is coming. Thinking what to wear... That's your usual OPNO programming....

Despite what I wrote above, know that Oman is a super safe and pleasant place to live (I have lost my 3 year old plenty and no pervert has ever made off with her---nor have I been harassed by locals' opinion of my dress and demeanor ect...) with a lovely heritage, great architectural beauty (I am from Canada so natural beauty here can't compare), and a climate of perpetual sunshine. 

I love it here. My life is always desired to be here. I think despite corruption, there are many, many good people. More good than bad. And at least the corruption is obvious. I think that makes it easier to fix in the long run, that Oman's thieves aren't even smart. And even some of the corrupt people here;), are nice. Of course, not the ones who jail people for no reason or deprive widows and divorcees of their legal rights ect... I mean, nice as people.

People are not perfect. And the system, is really more at fault than the people in it (most of the time). The system has rules that are far too vague, with not enough transparency in government. This is already a well known fact. I don't think saying this is risky at all since so many before me have already said it, and almost every Omani you could ask off the street will say so. People are tired os hearing the government say "we are planning for the future". Action and results have a time as well.

However, the progress made under the leadership of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos from before the start of his reign?: simply beyond the grasp of most nations, especially in terms of education and healthcare. I acknwledge that, and that gives me hope for the future. Corruption exists, but all Omanis are educated enough to be aware of that, and to begin thinking of solutions for their country. And that is what His Majesty has always related that he wants for his country. I believe in having faith---my Omani-husband would laugh at that statement---but I do. I may be a pessimist, because I believe in aknowledging all that is wrong and all that could go wrong, but I believe having hope, and trying at the same time in that, is the best recipe for change. Fear, anger, and bleak morose hopelessness, and trying for change?: that's a recipe for disaster.