Friday, February 24, 2012

OPNO Style Files: drama queen

Muscat Festival at Naseem Park

To be honest, the reason most Omanis go to Muscat Festival in Naseem park, is to shop. Or to take the kids on the rides. I am ashamed to say this year, that was me. While I enjoy the cultural events in Qurum much more, and was supposed to attend Muscat Fashion Week in Riyam park [couldn't find anyone to watch the baby alas], and husband wanted to go to the food festival but we didn't get around to buying tickets, we ended up just going to Naseem. I wanted mainly to see the Arabic women's dresses called Jalabiyia, and the abayas. I really like this short sleeve jalabiyia. It had a 1920s-30s vibe that I could see myself rocking with some dark lipstick and finger-waved hair and a gobsmack of crystals over one ear with a hair comb (there's alot of costume jewelry booths inside as well).At this festival, along with the shopping exhibitions held 3x annually at the Seeb Exhibition center next to the Golden Tulip, these are pretty much the cheapest, STILL IN STYLE, ready-to-wear abayas that you are going to find in Oman. Prices go from 10-25 rials per abaya, and some of the fabrics can even be of a decent quality. Beware the cheap sticky jersey stretch though and hot internet "crepe". It isn't the quality stretch and if it is in more than the sleeves you'll regret is with an abaya stuck to both of your butt cheeks for all the guys at the mall to check out;) and internet fabric is killer hot in Muscat heat.I liked the abaya pictured above. I didn't get it though. The sizes left were all too big for me :(. I apologise for not taking pictures as I was on a mission, but other items include foods such as Jordanian olives, feta cheese, Yemeni honey (mmmm yum), dates, sweets, scarves, traditional African, Yemeni, Egyptian, Omani, Moroccan, Syrian, and Egyptian items, Islamic books and goodies, perfumes, music, as well as Chinese imports such as children's clothes, shoes, towels, housewares, toys, blankets, curtains,... And Indian sari fabrics I had a hankering to take home to make a bedskirt and curtain out of. I highly recommend as part of the Global Market experience at Naseem you try the bittersweet traditional beverage served by the fellow pictured above. I found him by the Yemeni booth (which sold REAL Arabic coffee pots, not the ornate ones sold in Omani souqs but the ones used to actually prepare the traditional coffee in and so over an open fire). I wanted to buy one so bad but I always make a deal with myself before entering the souq I will take only what I intended, or anything else that catches my eyes UNDER 1 rial in value. OMIGOD, I have never seen so much fake designer ware anywhere in my life (maybe besides San Fran China town or on Korean exchange students). Fake Gucci, Chanel, Hermes, Dior purses, and Louboutin red-soled shoes. Louis Vuitton everything. A purse, a watch, sunglasses, abaya, fleece blankets, and child's toy teddy bear. Oh my.
What makes Naseem different than the regular Seeb shopping exhibitions? Outside we saw a performance of a Dhofari traditional dance that if you've been in Oman long enough I am sure you are familiar with "da dana" is the song. That's probably not what it's called but it is about pearls. Or was sung traditionally with something to do with the pearl farming/diving industry? Correct me dear Dhofaris if I am wrong because no Omani I know personally well is Dhofari. I'm sorry my photo totally sucks but it was crowded with Omani guys and I was with my husband so I had to resist pushing through to get a better shot or he'd have gotten all anoyed and fussy, and well, it wasn't the most amzing preformance of the number I've seen in Oman so far so I didn't want to slide his rather giving mood that night, especially since I was still shopping lol;)
Near the area where ther were pony cart rides just before the fair/carnival rides of the festival there was the making of Omani helwa section. The guys would let you try stirring it if you wanted to. I didn't. It is really hard work and I've made helwa once. I don't like the taste enough to try again, and all Omanis I know buy it rather than make it at home. They teased me when they found out I went to so much effort to get some ready for the coffee. We didn't go on any of the rides as we were lugging the stroller around and my girl is too young for anything but we thought the kids in our family would love these balls. From here we walked on to the family area. There was an activity center for kids with drawing and a small park, a tv area where "Dore" was on, an ocean area showing Oman's underwater life but with no posted info whatsoever, a ramp going up showing Oman's four-legged wildlife on a faux mountain (baby loved this part because of the ramp---it was her favourite thing at the whole festival:) ). There was also a small area depicting Omani crafts such as the making of the trimmings for Omani women's dress, the embroidery of kumas [Omani men's hats], the weaving of date fronds, pottery, and repairing of fishing nets. Nothing like Qurum and smaller than last year but maybe we came on an off night since it wasn't the weekend. From there we went to the main stage where a group of Irish dancers were performing that night which we enjoyed as it is from my heritage. My husband remarked, amused, that there were more Omani guys watching than women due to the women in general disliking the shorter skirt lengths of the Irish lasses ;D. My camera/cellphone's battery died before that so the last image I got was the camel rides area before the main stage. Camel rides cost 1 rial. My husband would not ride one. He lived with the beduoin before and said to me that generally the Omani bedu milk them, race them by robot, and eat them, but no one really rides them anymore but tourist. I, of course, have. Oh well. That was Naseem for us. My husband didn't really enjoy it the way he does Qurum but he did like the Irish dancing.

Some Posts by Other Gulf Blogger Girls

Some posts from others I have read recently and found relevent and worth reading even if you are in Oman:

This post on khaleeji makeup horrors as experienced in Saudi Arabia by BLUE ABAYA
Her whole blog is excellent might I add, if you enjoy mine, you'll love her's.

And I found the link to this article from Amal's blog. Alice's list of reasons marrying an Emirati [or any GCC man might I add] isn't a life of endless designer shopping and maids like some women imagine:

Worth it all the same for me, the negative stereotype people have of foreign women being a negative influence on Omani society and taking up the short supply of marriagable men for Omani women, the culture expecting me to wear black all the time out the house, the limits on how I can act... Because I love my husband and more about the culture than I hate.

But girls who think, oh I love designer abayas, and Arabic food, and music, so I'll find me a rich khaleeji husband and have my dream life.... Simply don't get it. It is laughable.

I feel sorry for them because they usually end up divorced and having lost custody of their children because they don't know how to handle the pressures of family and society and usually screw up royally under those pressures enough for authorities to deem them unfit mothers. [Dear Pearl, you know I am not talking about you. You are 100% a better Omani than your inlaws;)]

Nothing is more tragic to me, than delusions.

Yeah, also, even if you are not one of those women who want to marry a GCC guy I am so tired of expat women thinking my husband is rich (or Expat men).

Okay, Omanis, beyond Yemenis, are the least rich Gulf state which any GCC woman knows. But I guess because of the wasta alot of richer business men in Oman have (which does make it easier for them to get permission to marry a non-Omani) this seems to be the prevalent thought.

My husband owns one pair of 6 rial sandals, and only three wearable dishdasha. He doesn't have a watch. He doesn't have a ring. We don't have a fancy car. The house I live in is smaller and in worse condition than the one my father owns back in North America. Doesn't mean he isn't the husband I need, and the place that I am happiest though.

A very rich well off Khaleeji man from a more famously well off Gulf state than Oman proposed to me around the same time as my husband. I know that life and happiness in a marriage don't depend on being 'taken care of'.

Most of the time I can take care of myself.

If you see my Birken handbag, and 300 rial Hanayen abaya, know, maybe I bought them for myself. Maybe I was the one who had the wasta. Maybe we didn't even need wasta. Maybe people in the Interior Ministry just saw that it was pointless to forbid good honest people like us from being together.

So yeah, I liked Alice's honest and very thorough article. A must read for those considering the prospects.

And definately, for any Gulf State. Emirates is considered the easiest for foreign wives, so if you know what the downs are for there, know the same go for here, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and KSA---and often even further complications.

Happy 801st Post on Blogger

The OPNO blog does post prodigously as we've reached our 801st post!

But that's just because there are so many wonderful things in Oman to discuss and explore...

...And some worthy objects of complaint as well.

Thank you for choosing to read this blog.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Daily Diary: Umrah Goodies

For non-Muslim readers: Umrah is pilgrimage to the holy places in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Whenever my friends and family go for Umrah to Mecca they always bring me back something.

My boss' mother got me kohl, my boss got me a prayer mat, my friend got me some good Islamic books, a Saudi girlfriend got me a prayer garment, and my mother in law just came back the other day bearing a whole carload gifts.

I have a big bottle of zam zam water. A new coat and some toys for the baby. Perfume for husband and myself.

And an absolutely deliciously scented supply of bukhoor (incense) and a saudi-style burner for it.

I am usually not a big fan of bukhoor beyond laban (frankincense) but this particulour Oud does not smell like cat pee to me. It smells smoky and tasty and almost sweet but still foresty. Yum.

I can't wait to scent all the clothes in our wardrobe with it. :)

May Allah accept the prayers she made in Mecca, ameen.

The Truth About Shatti's Haunted House, Nizwa's Jinn/Goat and/or Donkey Personage, and Bahla's Witch on the Hill and the Witches' Chained Tree

Living anywhere in Oman, you're bound to hear a story or two. Even in Muscat.

Have you ever passed by the orange-and white villa with big clear windows directly across from Bareeq Al Shatti complex? Well rumour says that it is haunted.

One of my good friend's family villa is built right next door. The true story is that the villa belongs to an Omani man's foriegn wife whose only child died so she usually flies away back home to her home country because she's lonely and sad here. Her house is maintained by its staff. When the cement on the facade falls off, it is repaired ASAP. It is not some magical entity.

What about the tale of the hitchhiking old man who is picked up around Nizwa, when lo and behold, the driver of the vehicle discovers that the man has the legs of a donkey?!

Well, ask around about the driver from the tale, and you'll find out he was a fellow from Jebel Akdhar that all too often sampled his own home grown wine;).

Friends of an old friend (not my friends, lol, let me make that clear) told her that they had a similiar experience in the Interior. They were driving home late one night and were waved down by the most beautiful Omani woman they had ever seen. She was wearing an old style of dress and spoke in an old way and they being guys, immediately stopped to help her inside.

Only after driving a few miles did they realize, she had the legs of a goat.

"Were you drinking?" my friend asked them, eyebrows raised.

"No," they told her.

She thought for a minute. "Were you on drugs then?"

"Well...." they relented, admitting they'd been high on hasheesh. "But it really happened! We really stopped to let this woman in and drove with her a ways! It was a Jinn."

"Uh huh."

"Really, it was a Jinn."

IF THEY REALLY DID stop and pick up the Jinn-Goat Girl, I amuse myself picturing three high-out-of-their-minds Omani guys driving back from Nizwa spotting a helpless "girl" on the side of the road, and cramming a bemused goat into the backseat of their car, and trying to coyly sneak their arms around the cud-chewing kid until the drugs wore off enough that the hooves of the 'jinn girl' began to manifest. A bad 'trip' in more ways than one;XD

What about the Witch-man from Bahla who sits atop the mountain and casts curses and hexes on the travellers that pass through the valley that was once his land? Story goes that the road was built through his property. Many a man and innocent perished under his accursed gaze as they tried to make their way through the valley.

Truth is? That man doesn't OWN any lands. He doesn't know any spells. He's a Shepherd. What he does for a living is accompany sheep and goats while they graze, and the valley is perfect for them to nibble and eat as they must. He found that from the mountain top he can watch his whole flock easily.

What about the deaths?

At the bottom of the valley is a road with a dangerously sharp curve. It is the curve in the road that causes the men driving vehicles that are driving too fast to meet their eventual doom a day or two early, not an old man above keeping his eye on some sheep and a gaggle of goats;)

What about the chained tree in Bahla's souq? I heard a tourist guide telling visitors that the locals built a wall around it because anyone who ventures under it is turned into a cow.

Honestly, when I heard that, I was like, I am going to climb me a wall!

But no folks, that is not true, though there is ACTUALLY a curse to Bahla's chained tree. For real this time.

Way before Islam came to Oman the pagan folk in Bahla used to offer sacrifices under the Bahla souq tree. Some of them were blood sacrifices. The practice continued way after the advent of Islam in Oman, well into the 1960s. Witches (who were later charged as con-men and women by the ROP for blackmailing gullible folk) convinced people that if the tree were killed it would let the evil of some of the bad wishes people had made while giving their sacrifices out so folk would not burn or cut the tree down (as some of them already had tried to do). [It is a dense type of wood and does not burn quickly or easily and is hard to chop] and so it was chained to keep the spirits in.

The more religious (and intelligent Bahla citizens) eventually made a move to stop superstitious people from offering blood sacrifices under the tree, and erected a wall around it, and it exists in that state to this day.

That story IS true about there being a chained and walled wicked tree in Bahla that was once the altar of the willayat's witches. Just not the cow part of the curse.;)

Nadia has written about Salalah citizens throwing gold into the sea for wishes, and the rumour about Sultan Qaboos having a ring that helps him control a Jinn/Genie, on the Dhofari Gucci blog.

Dear readers residing in Oman: what other wondrous tales have you been told or been telling?;)