Today I am craving a long extended stay in the village. Nothing but slashes and swirls of long coloured dresses, and silver bracelets and necklaces that jingle and chime as we stand for respect as someone new enters the room, with an ancient ring for every finger, as we clasp hands, both young and old, visiting the family homes. As we slip off our sandals, feet ever bare on carpet and tile, women leave the doors open so that the fragrence of the garden Narcissus can creep in. The men lounge in the shade outside, chins propped on their silver-hilted assa sticks, and long belts of khanjars cast aside for a while, with their naughty children running in and out in between, not to be counted, and not a fear in the world.
We will enjoy our qahwa and fresh fruit, more fruit than you can bear, then sweet teas and perfumes, while some gather the news, others recite Qu'ran and sew the trim of new dresses with tilli, or embroider a kuma for someone beloved. Dates dried and fresh, banana, orange, mango, and kiwi, and seelani and cardomom, everything the same as it was a thousand years before, but for the buzz of these women's cellphone's whatsapp groups, one for the tribe, one for the family, and one for the work, at the very least!
Even if you refuse it, the old women will sprinkle the crown of your head with rose water, or slip a clay brazier under the hem of your gown so that the entire world is enfused with the silver light of frankinsence. If today is deemed special, your brow will be annointed with the golden dust of sandalwood, these women's anicent tribal beauty extended to the stranger as easily as it is to a daughter.
The visiting does not end, even if all the men decide to take a break and open the wrough iron gates that enclose the old-style homes with their wide walls to go down to the farms and climb the date palms or sit in the sabla. Each meal enjoins the next with fruit and coffee served between, but the king of all meals is the lunch, usually meat served high on a bed of rice with salad sprinkled with dried thyme and a squeeze of Omani lime. That or meat/fish in a sauce which is absorbed with bread and taken with the fingers to the lips. The day seems to end with an afternoon nap, which only ends for the late afternoon and evening prayers, and the visiting and coffee starts all over again.
This is typical rural life in Oman. Walking among long grass in the shade of lime and palm groves and being amazed by the green of banana leaves and the purple shade on the old dirt streets, opening ancient old carved wooden doors... watching my baby daughter chase chickens and roosters and being amused by her being bossed around by baby goats and cats. No wonder, after a busy week at work, I am craving to sit back and have my henna done, sip tea, and relax. I totally deserve it.