Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Gulf-Style Long Hair

I have never gone to a beauty salon for my hair, exceptions being other people's weddings. I wore a headscarf for my wedding. I am not a hair person. Getting oil treatments, blow-outs, expensive products, making hair masks of mayonaise or coconut or olive oil----that's definately not me. I wish it were, but honestly, I don't even brush my hair every day (you would be hard pressed to if you were me, and you had my length of hair + a job + kids). I used to cut my hair into a pixie cut. My Omani husband hates that style on me, so what is a girl woman to do but either not give damn, when lets face it, he wear musayrs (Oman men's turban) for me since I don't love the much-easier-Omani kuma on him...or grow it out.
I live in a land where the normal length of hair is waist length. If it is shorter, it is stylishly cut into layers or curled, and extremely shiny with an oil/dandruf free gleam that I envy. Who has time to do all that I wonder? And how do they do it?... Since every Omani girl I know has gorgeous (mashaAllah) hair. Think of Dubai fashion blogger, Zubaida Jacob, or Princess Ameera of Saudi Arabia.
Albeit, wearing a headscarf does make it easier to grow your hair out. I've nevr had a problem achieving growth. Even if like 90 percent of my hair falls out I'll still have enough. Protection from harmful UV rays, no need for over-styling... No pressure to dye this shade or that. But to keep it looking lovely?
How do you do it dear Gulf Girls/Banaat Al Khaleej--- who read my blog--- although it is written in English? Besides going to the salon for oil treatments (since let's face it, I'll never get around to doing that). Any suggestions?
I read once that Zubaida said keep in a braid and use a certain oil once in a while. But once in a while is not that clear...
So, I am clueless. I can have a messy bun, a frensh twist, anything in an up-do, but keeping shiny healthy long hair... seems impossible. Sigh.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

OOTD+abaya: Rustaq Fort/Castle

On the weekend I went with my Omani sister-in-law and her kids to see the newly re-opened Rustaq Fort. It IS supposed to be open until 4pm. Of course, we arrived at 3:55 pm. Amazingly, it was still open. Wandering around in the dark in an ancient old castle, was, of course, awesome, and while we did a lot of hollaring... and the cameras didn't get a hold of a lot, we didn't lose anyone. I think in a few months, when they set out the carpets, mandoos boxes, pottery, and cushions, the fort will be pretty awesome. Right now, entrance is free. Or maybe that's just for the people who come from 4 until magraib???? Anyways...
Going to places like this, I generally avoid heels. But since, going to places like this, I generally wear an old abaya I don't mind getting a little dusty, I had to wear heels, since I wore a 8 OMR exhibition abaya, with a lace kick front/waterfall cut 2 inches too long for me. This cut is a travesty on stairs, so heels were a must. Trust me, I can better navigate with heels than the waterfall cut to an abaya;).
Since my abaya was so cheap, old, and let's face it, already wrinkly and dusty before we even set out, I had to glam it up a little bit, or I'd be depressed. That's when accesorizing comes in. Pin a couple of flower brooches, add a bright coloured clutch, and some neon nailpolish, and voila! The "roughing" it abaya suddenly looks chic. Okay, not chic. But at least, a little more "me". Or "girly". The belt was from another outfit, I just cut holes in the sides of this crappy old abaya and added the inner-tying belt, and it looked a whole lot better.
Now that the outfit du jour has been satisfactorily described, unto Rustaq fort. Rustaq fort is huge, and I didn't get the chance to see even half of it, due to the fact that it was getting dark, we tripped on some wires, and little children can fall off of roofs and so forth. But we did see some summer majlis rooms, some bedrooms, a cooking room, the bathing spot where my husband told us slaves used to pour the water so the fort's inhabitants could shower, and the pretty spectacular Khaleeji architecture in the canon room. I have to come back sometime, child-less, and before the sun goes down.
I will end this post with my favourite {terrible} photos:

Thursday, February 20, 2014

SHOPPING: an Olivia Palermo look but with abaya

Like Olivia Palermo---but with abaya. I really love Olivia Palermo's classic-but-on-trend style. Of course, generally, you won't see me in public in any of the looks she's sporting because I am a Muslim woman, and I live in Oman, and on top of all that, I wear a black abaya every day. However, there is an online sale right now on this stripes abaya for an equivelent of 12.500 OMR +shipping [which is pretty affordable since we generally spend 18-40 OMR on abayas anyways. Other Olivia essentials are cat eye sunglasses (try Aldo accessories), Bib necklaces (try Zara and H&M) and I went with gold chains, and a designer handbag. For me, that bag for Olivia, will always be a Celine phantom but whatevs, ASOS had a much more affordable alternative for 30.000 OMR. {ASOS also has a replica ring if you want to be exact, to Olivia}. With all those savings, you could probably afford real Chloe ballter flats or Olivia's necklace line;).

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Guarding Your Sons from Rape in Government Schools in Oman and the GCC

This post may be a bit sensitive.  I don't really care. Something has to change.

It is about guarding your sons from rape in government schools in Oman (and the GCC in general)---the problem is worse in Saudi Arabia and UAE from stories I have heard from my friends whose sons's attended schools in those countries. It is a problem in all GCC countries, and not just Oman.

You may recall that school shooting that happened in Shinas? If no, well an Omani father shot the student who had raped his son. I had written before too, that the thought of that happening to any kid and no proper punishment being carried out for the act kind of makes me want to react that way too.

The other day I heard of a boy of mixed heritage attending one Muscat school. He was held up after school by older boys for exactly that purpose. Male teachers who arrive early and stay late after school, and check the washrooms and behind doors very carefully, along with security cameras, are means to prevent this, sure, but when I think of it, why is this level heroism on the part of teachers a requirement of male teachers to begin with? Why aren't schools being made more safe? What is causing the issue, and what is being done about it?

I interviewed one teacher . "What is done with these boys [the rapists] after you know they are guilty?'

"The ones we know attempt rape but haven't succeeded, we as teachers watch them very carefully. The ones who do get caught, we send them away to a far away school," he tells me. "It is to punish the family, so they like the boy [rapist] less, since they will have to rent far away and spend money on his part and it will cause them hardship, and the idea is they will punish him as a result of the hardship he has caused them."

"Isn't that a little bit more like sweeping the crime under the rug, trying to forget about it?"

He shrugs sorrowfully.

It isn't his fault.

He is just a teacher, what can he do? Recent protests over the roles and responsibilities of teachers needing to be clarified were not fully addressed to date. The Shinas shooting is remembered.

"What would you do if it were your kid?" I pressed him further, enraged myself.

"I'd do the same," he tells me, referring to the father responsible for the shooting in Shinas.

"Do the parents at the new school where the rapist is sent----are they informed so they can protect their children?"

"No," my interviewee tells me.

"What about the teachers and directors of the new school?" I ask, stricken with an urge to go to these new schools with faces of the rapist-boys printed out on fliers to circulate about crime to hand out to students and their parents after school, which would be illegal in Oman---I guess. I could wear a mask, so no one knows it was me. Once the fliers were out it would be too late.....

"No, nothing," my interviewee confides. "But we as teachers, should phone them personally, if we care enough. .

..But is that within our legal rights? Or is it a crime here.....of 'slander'."

No one knows.

So how do you protect your children?

"The only way to really protect your children is to have these boys who have been victims of rape come forward, press charges with the ROP, and society make it less of a shame. Shaming the rapist through hardship on their families does not work. The shame is still on the victims. It isn't enough. Not enough is being done. All that we can do is stay late, check behind doors, guard the bathrooms, listen."

I came from a mixed sex school myself. Rape isn't a general issue in mixed sex schools. Either is sex IN the school itself.

Although my interviewee is culturally conservative, he conceeds this is somewhat true. For example, at Sultan Qaboos University, a mixed sex institution, rape isn't an issue that is hiding, lurking, ever-present but unspoken about.

Despite this theory of mine hardly being studied, I believe Islam as a religion provides for the sexes to meet in public spaces for the mutual benefit of contribution to society. Only private spaces is forbidden in the religion as practiced by the Prophet Mohammed S.A.W. .

There are some mixed schools, the government-boys-school teacher tells me. He didn't know of rape incidents occuring there. But he did know, another problem emerges of male Omani teachers having relations (consentual) with their female Omani students.

"This is illegal in my country. You can't date your students, EVER, and additionally, anyone underage without the consent of their legal guardian," I tell him.

"It is not allowed here either, unless the family of the girl wants her to marry her teacher," he goes on to explain.

"What happens if a teacher is found to be having relations with a female student without the consent of her family?" I ask him.

A similar and disturbing pattern emerges.

"Then that teacher is sent, far away, to another school. Or maybe promoted to an adminstrative position, away from students, better than that of a normal teacher."

"Are the other teachers and director in the new school informed about the past behaviour of this immoral teacher?"

"Not usally, and only informally," my interviewee informs me. "So promotion is better, but is it fair to the other teachers? No. Is it fair to the students? No."

Besides actually having a correctional school, no other suggestions of solutions emerges between the two of us, as we casually discuss in disgust the situation, based on the current laws of the Sultanate of Oman, or the policies of the Ministry of Education.

{If anyone wants to translate this into Arabic and send it back to me to add to my post, I will}.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Haal Inc. is an abaya brand based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, who has, for yet another season, nailed the perfect casual abaya. I love the use of colours such as "forest green" and "oxblood" which were exactly what we saw during Winter Paris fashion week, in casual wrap and cocoon shapes. While I myself may not get the lace snoods, or backwards facing "handsome" Saudi dudes in the advert. campaigns, I do get the modern, carefree vibe they were going for. Since almost every second woman at Jeddah art week was wearing Haal Inc., obviously Saudi women agree with me. The Haal Inc. Winter 2013 collection?: Hit.

The brands just opened a store: in Jeddah alas.

Looking for an experienced volunteer to supervise and advise on a Heritage Site Restoration

This post isn't the normal kind of OPNO girl. It is more like an advert. but here goes:

I am looking for someone experienced in restoration with experience in GGC mud and brick architecture (and sarooj if at all possible). The project is the restoration of two mud houses in Ad Dhakliyia region around Nizwa. The possibility of further projects with a more secure (payment rather than volunteer basis) could follow upon project completion. The project will be partially sponsored by Oman's Ministry of Heritage and the rest by the original surviving Omani families who lived in those houses. Work will possibly begin in three month's time, would like to consult before then on site.

Ideally they are looking to find a volunteer (you make your own way to Oman or already in-country or a flight or bus is available from Yemen) and, once employed, we pay your rent and food and transportation (that's the extent of what I think a volunteer is entailed) along with killer (i.e awesome) time off and a chance to see the country ect.... If lodging and food were not required, than a salary of that same cost will be provided. But depending on the building costs we might be able to afford some salary as well, I am not sure of the project's scope yet---sorry.

Experience is required. I mean, maybe you worked in Oman already on restoration projects in Batinah, Rustaq, or Bahla, or worked in Syria or Sanaa, in Yemen. Maybe you built a mud house in Oman, or Yemen or Syria:).

If only Arabic is spoken that is alright as well, but either spoken English or Arabic is a requirement.

If you or anyone you know is qualified and could be interested please send me an email at

Saturday, February 15, 2014

SHOPPING IN OMAN: ready-made Arabic/Khaleeji dresses

While these may not be a "fabulous" find to anyone beyond myself, many a person having told me they find the dresses to be gaudy, or in fact, "just untailored piles of fabric", these dresses (still to be tailored, at 3-4 OMR per-dress-to-be-tailored) were on my list of Omani-village-going/living-essentials.

About them: they are a simple Khaleeji {Gulf} style, that is made to be worn in the house. My Omani in-laws are more conservative so normally, floor length floral dresses with matching scarves called "lendi/wael" are worn, with what I consider gaudy floral embroidery. I prefer the more simplistic traditional "tilli" embroidery, or Khaleeji bands of gold or silver thread, more common among Bedouin or other Gulf states which two of these dresses have going on. They don't come with scarves, but I bought matching silk scarves to go with. I am too lazy to buy cotton for 1/12th of the price and pay .200 baiza to get a matching shawl tailored. I hate tailor shops. Going in, going out, them being late, screwing up my fabric. Better ready-made or just one-stop tailoring where they can't screw up the design, only the measurements....

These dresses are ready-made versions. You just buy them, and a tailor sews them. I bought three for 8 omr each in Seeb Souq. Which is a good price for Oman, since they range between 9-16 OMR normally, depending on whether the dress has a lot of embroidery and crystals and whether or not the dress comes with a matching scarf and trousers.

{In our village, we wear "pantaloons" like a civil war era woman might have, only ours are embroidered and crystal encrusted. In my family it is "ayb" shameful that these ankle skimming pants might be seen. Other Omani families, not so much. Depends on the culture of the region ect.... but thus the embroidery and "match-i-ness"}. I usually wear tights/leggings or jersey harem pants. I think the matching ones are super chic though, but since I don't show mine, "ayb" if i do, why spend an extra 3-6 OMR?

So of the dresses, while I don't wear them a lot, as I live in Muscat, I need them. And since the ones I do have are usually gifts from other people or hand-me-downs since I never get dresses tailored for myself, just abayas, it seemed like time to invest.

The normal Omani variety (completely tailored at the tailor shop from fabric you buy from somewhere else---where one chooses their own design from different swatches of examples) are lined with cheap crap polyester satin which is excruciatingly hot in the summer, and people call me crazy for spending 18 OMR just for the lining of one dress in pure silk when the outside printed fabric cost only 3 OMR.... long run on sentance, point of which is...coloured cotton is my best friend. Plus, it isn't always overly zanily printed. I like flat one-tone colour with no pattern. Leopard with florals and then gold embroirdery with crystals is REALLY just too much for me.
However, I do make exception for suri-silk (from Eastern Sharqiyah of Oman). I even let go this terribly tacky village-style floral and cheap crystal thing it has going on (dress pictured below) simply because I love suri silks. This particular dress could be tailored into a Buraimi, Dhofari, or simple jalabiyia style of cut, so it cost like 12 OMR, but since I bought three he gave it to me for eight OMR with some bartering. Love that silky, stripey-Arab-ish suri silk sheen!
This one---below---is my favourite, because it is green cotton in "Aroos" green (bridal green). I love green. I also love the more traditional (albeit machine-done) style of embroidery. (The dresses come with the design on the neck/chest and the wrists. Some also, as stated, come with enough fabric for pants with embroidery at the ankles).
This last one is a bit kitsch. I loved it nonetheless, so, oh well. They have different embroidered designs representing different objects traditional to Gulf Region culture, like an oud instrument, a coffee pot, khanjar dagger, bedouin face masks called burqa... even fake Gucci and YSL, ha ha;p.

I originally wanted a coffee pot one which was available only in white cotton. However, the whole point of cotton is not to get it lined, so in the end I went with a purple cotton version with a khanjar dagger embroidered instead. As hospitality is represented by a coffee pot, and I as a "westerner" "am a horrible host" says my Omani husband, "naturally inclined to selfishness" [which means I don't like people who show up without calling for dinner] maybe the Khanjar, which represents bravery and I-don't-know pride/honour... better suits me anyways since I am stubborn and warlike??? Yes.... fashion has a meaning, even in village dresses don't you know? Anyways...
 The dress detailed at the neck/chest:
 And detailed at the wrist:
We wear these kind of dresses for hosting normal guests, like neighbors, family ect...although these aren't exactly a style worn in my region of Oman, I like them nonetheless. Me dressing up in jalalbyia for guests IS a bit gaudy and kitsch lol, so why not go all out?;).