Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Our 2017 Al Wusta Road-Trip


The only reason I ever had to go to Al Wusta was, once, 5 years ago, an Al Wusta Sheikh's daughter invited me to her brother's wedding. Al Wusta is a 6 hour drive from Muscat, so alas I didn't go. I am sure it would have been something, that girl tried to give me gold bracelets as thank-you gifts! Nonetheless, my husband lived in Al Wusta over a decade ago, and had none but the best memories of vast stretches of private, unspoiled beaches.

I'm willing to go anywhere that I haven't been before at least once, so we set in for the rather long and dull drive.

The only sights along the way were camels, until we reached Al Wusta proper. I tried to google anything of interest, but all I came up was a camel racing track under construction, and the Haima Oryx preserve, which wasn't on the road which we were taking.

In Mudhaibi though, we had a decent Camel Makbous (a rice and meat dish) at an Omani restaurant.
The whole itinerary for the trip was to find a super isolated, people-free stretch beach to camp on, so I wouldn't have to wear hijab (i.e let my hair blow in the wind, and not be so billowing in an abaya) and swim in the sea.

This we did succeed in. However, the beaches were covered in garbage, due to the fishermen who throw out all their boat crap. This was not so 10 years ago, at least according to my husband's golden memories.
Still we had a good time. Our Coleman palmetto-rated sleeping bags were fine for the temperatures, although I should have packed myself a sweater, and was rather glad I'd worn leggings under my caftan, and closed-toe (albeit lace net) shoes.

I remembered sweaters for the kids though, thankfully!

(In the desert, day-time temperatures are pretty high, but night-time, the sand gets super cold on your feet). At night it got pretty windy though, and sand was everywhere!

My kids loved playing in the ocean and bothering the crabs on the beach during the day. There are a lot shells lining the beaches in Al Wusta, so they had quite an impressive cache before the end of the trip.
Before we headed back to Muscat, we drove through the area that is famous for selling fish, and what my husband calls "Little Bangladesh"---because all the dhow fishermen here are Bangladeshi not Omani.

Following the beach road to the point, where Bedouin areesh/palm frond houses line the beach, we found quite an assortment of bones on the beach---camels, turtles, gazelle, and whale bones. Beyond, the dark wooden bodies of the dhows bobbed in the waves.

A Bedouin family from Al Sharqiyah region had a full traditional tent set up here, with majlis cushions, and they were making qhahwa/arabic coffee.

I waved at the bright Bedouin girls in the back of a pick-up that drove past us, bound for an areesh.

Then we went home, and only stopped to pray at a Mosque with a women's section in Mudhaibi.
My kids voted that it was a boring trip, because there was too much driving for them, and not much to see that they couldn't see/do closer to Muscat, but everything in this life is worth seeing at least once.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Things that inspire me: this building in Mutrah

It still amazes me how this one building in Mutrah never fails to inspire me. Will someone please invite me for a tour inside of it, one of these days?

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Traffic Notice Updated: roads are NOT going to be closed tomorrow? and here's some self-inflicted henna

****UPDATE: Egyptian dude changed his mind, again, and isn't coming? So far at least, the roads will be open, and you shouldn't leave work early. That's the latest.****

Thank you Ministries in Oman for sending us a lot of stupid notices about, work is cancelled early, and then, please come to school/work. Don't send any bloody thing until you know for sure!!!!!!!!!!

Original post:

I was bored so I bought a henna tube, and this is the result of me playing with it. I am getting better, I think. Still not good, but no longer the most terrible at it. {This post needed a photo, so here's something random and totally unrelated to driving in Oman for you}.

Anyways, so tomorrow (Sunday) someone is coming from Egypt I guess? So everyone with Government jobs is supposed to finish around 12:00pm instead of 2:00pm, because the roads are going to be closed.

So if you need to go somewhere tomorrow, get there before 1pm.

I don't know the route. I don't know how long they will be closed. All I know is, the school kids are going to be home early, and the main highway I imagine will be closed by 1 or 2 pm.

Monday, November 20, 2017

SHOPPING: Omani Pottery in Muscat

If you happen to like authentic Omani pottery (my mother did) and you suck at bartering (my mother thought she was great but really she always got ripped off) then the Handicrafts Centre in Ruwi might be your best bet, if you can't make it out to Bahla.

I used to go here to buy Omani helwa dishes (I collect them and never ever seem to use them for helwa) and Omani-made finjans (Arabic coffee cups) sets. My mother like the bukhoor burners and the big containers for plantings.

Their prices are not the best but they are decent, and if you do custom orders, they are better than anything besides meeting the craftspeople in person and bartering soooo... thus I am writing this post.

I didn't take many great photos since I was passing by on Friday and they were closed, but trust me, their selection is decent.

Their phone number is 24791454, and their hours of operation are shown in the photo below.
And below is the google map I used to locate the shop:

Monday, November 13, 2017

MY WEDDING IN OMAN, our long-term inspirations & plans to one day have the party part

When I married my Omani husband we basically eloped. Marrying an Omani without permission was illegal (and so it remains) so our wedding date depended upon an Imam or Shayukh in Oman willing to perform the ceremony, and act as my wali (male guardian, as I have no male Muslim relatives). This meant, that sometimes I'd be all dressed up, make-up done, in my cream and orange Nawal Al Hooti Omani wedding dress, with green beadwork and silver threadwork, and then the Imam would back out at the last minute... which was disheartening. Because most Imams in Oman are paid a government salary, witnessing, and performing a wedding for an Omani with a non-Omani means many are in fear of losing their income.

The time I actually got married, because there were numerous, almost-wedding-days, one Imam had already backed out that morning. I'd washed off my make-up, put on my sweat-pant-type pajamas, and been prepared to go to bed early because I was super depressed. 

...Then I got a call. 

An Imam in Barka was willing to perform the ceremony, if I could make it out there from Athaiba in a certain amount of time. No time to phone friends and family and arrange some guests. No time for make-up. No time for changing even. I threw on the best designer abaya I owned, which was plain black actually, and got myself out to Barka. 

The Islamic service took place with me sitting in the backseat of a car in the alley behind the Imam's house actually. Very romantic;). I watched bin cats while the men did the talking.

I was only really involved when the Imam/my wali came to ask me if I understood what everything entailed, and to try to ask me to ask for more maher/dowry. I told him I was fine with what I was getting, and then the ceremony was done. Omanis call this the melka. It was also my "party"/going-away night.

The Imam's female relatives heard of this, and were super anxious for me, that my wedding was kind of sad, so they insisted we come inside to their majlis, and ordered a chicken dinner with rice from a restaurant for us all to have and celebrate. I ate and celebrated with kind strangers.
So basically my husband and I always said, once we got our marriage permission we'd have a big party.
So planning for that, I always maintained, I'd wear Omani dress. There would have to be a mandoos Omani chest somewhere. The flowers would be pink or white bougainvillea, with some pomegranates, and maybe some limes, to symbolize, our Muscat/village lives joined. There would have to be a lot of brass candle-sticks. I love brass candlesticks.

There would be a place with a carpet set as a runner, and another carpet area, for the Islamic part of the wedding (which we already did, but our family and friends didn't see).

There would have to be a donkey, because that was tradition, and it also is something scandalous in modern times, so that is so me;p.
For the food, I actually have no idea still. If it gets closer to the date, I'll settle for a menu. Omani village way is usually meat and rice, and salads.
 I love this  lay-out for the seating.
See, the pomegranates and brass candle-sticks are so pretty as a runner!
Omanis don't typically have flower girls, but my girls throwing bougainvillea petals to line the path would be so cute, I think I have to do it. 
For the non-Muslim female guests I'd have scarf favours in Omani baskets. I think the Muslim girls would like this just as much;). And flower crowns, if I could get around to that...no way I'd pay a flourist. I am super cheap;).
 If there was no bougainvillea on the table, I'd find a way to decorate the seating areas with it.
I really don't know if I'd do Western or Arabic-style make-up, but I would do henna on my hands and feet. I am not really an "arms" henna kind of girl.
I would take pre-wedding photos of my rings, shoes, and dress, like this kind of..but over an Omani gate.
I totally don't know if I'd have bridesmaids, but I'd make them awesome dresses in the same tonal scheme. Omani brides usually have only one attendant. 
I love the idea of having a globe as a guestbook.
The invitations would be simple and hand-written.
And cake isn't really an Omani tradition, but all Omanis I know love cake, so why not?
And I have no idea HOW I would work it out, but I'd love to have SOME live entertainment at the wedding. It isn't really done in my husband's family, but my non-Muslim guests would want to see a little of Oman's culture if they traveled all the way to Oman for a wedding.