Monday, November 30, 2015

Dreams for Plans, but alas, I married an Omani;)

There aren't too many places in the world that I'd want to live... I'd visit them, sure (and I have a long list for that) but Venice is one place I've always wanted to live... And yes, this post has nothing to do with Oman;) just some childish ramblings from myself. I always planned to take a year off and live in Venice. I found an apartment to rent once upon a time long ago, a small boat and outboard engine to buy, and I knew the cost.

I wanted to spend a quiet year there, writing, photographing the changing seasons, and maybe painting.

Now, married to an Omani, living and working in Oman with a house to pay for, and kids, I wonder if that will ever happen? My husband also has two wives, so it is hard to live out one's dreams, let alone, accounting for extra people's dreams. I mean my co-wife's dream is to study French in France and do her PHD in English in the U.K.... which was a lot of negotiating and thinking and planning for us all... the more people in a marriage the more work one's dreams are to fight for.

Education is an important goal for most Omanis. Being a crazy dreamer/Bedouin girl (or guy) is on the lowest end of the ladder of priorities for most Omanis I know (awesome Rumaitha Al Busaidi discluded from that, see her blog: Rummy's Scribblings ).
Still, I can't help pinning pictures of Venice (in seasons that wouldn't be conducive to vacations) on pinterest, and when I shop I can't help thinking, should I buy that? I'd wear it when I go to Venice!... silly me.

Basically I know for 300 rials I can buy tickets (+ return) for myself to Venice from Muscat...Or fly to Paris and take the train to Venice (how glam would that be) and I am sure my husband would go with me even though he finds the idea of Venice dull (having been to Amsterdam's little version of Venice). But that isn't the same as living in Venice and writing out the story I always meant "The Mask-Maker's Apprentice" set in Venice during the 12th century... Alas.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

What do I wear underneath MY abaya?

If I titled this post, instead, what do Omani women wear under their abayas, I'd have a plethora of pictures to post for y'all, since women have different tastes, lifestyle dictates, and all. However, what I wear is rather dull (most days). Underwear for Omani women (unless they are over eighty---then they sometimes wear pantalettes like civil-war era re-enactors) is the same as it is for Western women. Clothes, are another matter entirely however, varying by individuals, geography, and lifestyle.

I personally go for comfort most days, since no one can see what I am wearing anyways, and sometimes I change when I get home. Abaya makes wearing things that are too tight, or too revealing for Oman, or too lazy-ass for anywhere else in the world, okay, happily.

I work, have kids, paint a lot, run around a lot, so it depends where I am going, who I am seeing, how much freedom of movement I need, and how hot it will be. Heat matters in Oman (at least to me!).
So on most days, for going to work, or going out somewhere with some ammount of ac, I wear t-shirts with black leggings. I actually am a devoted dress girl, and hate the world of pants, but this is kind of the jeans+sweatshirt-or-sweater casual thing I would have done somewhere colder than Oman.

I almost always wear gold sandals because they match everything---that---or black sandals (same reason). I walk a lot, sometimes outside. Open toe and flat with some ankle straps rule. I tend to go for flats because I can't walk in wedges without breaking an arm (Omanis are okay with height in a shoe if it is wedge) but Omanis (not all of them because my friend M has the maddest shoes ever when it comes to heeled creations) seem to dislike me in high heels. High heels are my friends. In my home country they weren't immodest, since I walk quietly and normally in them, however, abayas are longer in style here, and some Omanis think them to be not good for Muslim girls. So I wear flat sandals. Most days;). Sometimes I'm bad. Feels good. Weird thing unique to Oman. All the Emirati, Kuwaiti, and Saudi girls I know wear heels, but whatev'.

 Depending which t-shirt I wear, I wear different necklaces and rings and bracelets. Depending on time and mood, I switch between casual perfumes, and Omani incense. I always wear lipstick if I have time, and am seen carrying my own mug of coffee most places (even to get more coffee!).

The thing why I wear leggings is Omanis (women) insist that I do. Strange, that while no Saudi woman ever told me to put on pants under a modest length dress under an abaya, Omani women (and Emiratis sometimes) seem freaked out that my abaya will blow up and some dude will see my legs. To prevent them from having heat attacks over worry on my behalf, I oblige, as, if I wear my favoured dress with leggings, it will stick to my butt, and the abaya will stick too, and then it is like, what the hell, why bother with abaya right? So leggings with comfy t-shirts it is... See, it is totally not my fault that Oman has made me lazy less stylish. I blame my female Omani co-workers;).
If I am running late, I usually just throw an abaya on top of my pajamas. Yes, I do that, to go out, or to go to work. If the pajamas are too long for me, I sometimes wear high heels. If the pants were the right length to begin with, I sometimes end up wearing high heels anyways, because I can't find my sandals. My kids like to hide them in weird places. Inside the bouncy gym/trampoline? Or in the basket I use for firewood (don't ask!) behind a table.

Oh yes, never thought to look there.

...If the high heels have also been kidnapped, I sometimes end up using the bathroom shoes Omanis call "ship-ships". Because of an embarassing meeting I once ended up taking with a member of the royal family while wearing ship ships, I now have bought fake Hermes bathroom ship ships for the whole family just in case, and hope no one will notice how tacky my fake designer ship-ships are, when they forgive first the pajamas under the abaya;).
Sometimes I have guests of a more traditional sort... short hemlines and, my arms (and hair) will cause a family scandal... So I end up wearing either Omani lendli-type dress, or house dresses, which are like the dresses pictures above. They work always with a scarf of some kind, usually coloured or matching the dress if possible. I don't really have any of these that I like. I wish I could just wear abaya. I like abaya. However, if people come to my home they'll think I dress like a total sk*nk or something if I wear abaya in my own home;).
I wear less makeup with this outfit (because make-up is frowned upon by my visitors in this situation) and my accessories, unless they are rings or bracelets, are not allowed to show. Style bummer. Thus this is my least favourite type of outfit to wear in Oman. I like wedding dressing... it is allowed to be stylish, but this kind, not at all. So...
This kind of dress is also hot under an abaya, so if I have to wear it out or to someone else's house or I have to stay in it for over four hours, I run away, and pretend to be an anti-social hermit. I am serrious. Hate it that much. But alas, it is part of life here, since I am married to an Omani and this is part of his particular culture.
My favourite thing to wear under an abaya (closed front of course) for outside in this sun of ours is a sheath dress in a good quality fabric (so one doesn't sweat), or a jersey  (good quality) t-shirt---or---cocoon-style dress.
 If I am indoors all the time with good AC, and not caring about the covered legs rule, something plain pretty regardless of material is fine.
However, I like shorter hems and exposed arms and a comfy line at the shoulder/arm seams so there is no pinching for outside (and sometimes cut-outs to get some ventilation going on) because of the heat. I style these the same as I would a t-shirt and leggings, but might take more care to match my shoes exactly with the dress... Actually I care more in general. Dresses are my thing.
Abaya is great because I can wear things like the above places other women might get glares at (or creepy dude love) for doing the same.
That's mostly what I wear... but occasionally, between salaries, my washing machine breaks, or for some unknown reason, the water pressure in my area goes thus the washing machines doesn't work and I am sooooooooooo not strong enought to open the water heater with a wrench and hold a bucket up while I fix that issue by letting water flow to even out the pressure... Yes, I know how to do it, but I am simply vertically and upper-body strength challenged. Thus, looking pretty, to get husband to fix it involves a ballgown, right?
Ballgowns comes from running out of pajamas before telling husband about said washing machine issue, and having like, ten minutes to get on the way to work.
Thus, I have also been known to wear evening gowns (the least hot or bulky ball-gowney ones) to, like, work, same as I do for pajamas... Spending all day poked by some embroidery or beading in an office chair, or sweating through satin or velvet totally reminds one to ask husband to fix the water pressure upon the return home.
That's life in Oman;).

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

What do Omani men wear under their dishdasha?

This gentleman's wizar is just poppin' out the bottom of his dishdasha
I was going to title this post "what is worn under the dishdasha" but was worried that might come across as a little perverted. Nonetheless, I will carry on, since this is one of those things people seem unsure if it is okay to ask about, but end up asking me anyways;). Alas, hesitancy to write a post ammounts to posting photos of men in their "underwear" although... since a lot of Omani men seem totally okay to go out and do physical labour type work in their wizaar's it must be okay. So the question aswered today is: "What do Omani men wear under their dishdashas?"
Well, they traditionally and most commonly wear a wrap around piece of cotton called a "wiz-zaare" similar to a Scottish kilt but traditionally a wee bit longer;) as Arab men don't like to show above their knees for modesty purposes (it's a Muslim thing). It is folded a way across, and then tucked out and out down (usually).

It is usually white, but can be plain cream, or black, with a little bit of striping woven on the edging. Beautiful (and quality) examples can be purchased at the Omani handicrafts store in the Opera Galleria. My husband says they are good quality and that's where he actually does buy his.

Men might pair this with white cotton tank tops ("wife-beaters') or cotton or jersey underwear t-shirts, although my husband says in the old days they just wore wizar.

I usually see men on farms cutting palm trees or fishermen wearing just wizar out and about, although if you are particularily close with an Omani family you may get used to the site of people walking around in wizars...

I always tell my husband when we go shopping for like, button-up men's shirts or t-shirts, that really, it doesn't matter how cool or well-dressed that would look with, like jeans, since I know he's gonna end up wearing it to be more comfortable around the home with a wizar.... yeah... it'll never be "goodlooking".

Wizar out and about is very common closer to Yemen, and I do see Dhofari guys commonly out in just wizar... and sometimes, they way they are sitting like in a majlis setting, I see, like, their balls by accident, so.... I wonder, like, what's the big deal about their sister covering her face or not right? But anyways...

I prefer the fisherman's wizar because it is usally dyed a darker colour, and checked, and thus, not see-through. Wizaar in white cotton + white dishdasha + car headlights at night = awkward memories.

Nowadays however, some dudes may have begun to wear boxers under their wizar, or have stopped wearing wizar and wear shorts under their dishdashas... I have seen that in Muscat anyways.

Do you guys have any funny "wizar" stories?;) I have a tonne.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Another Beautiful Arabian-tile Option I Found

Another tile we had been thinking of for the villas, when they were in their initial stages, was this bronze coloured metal backsplash option. The copper Franke kitchen appliances we went for also came in a beautiful antique bronze... this would have been gorgeous with it... I am still thinking to suggest it on an Arabian-influenced villa a friend is currently building. It would still look nice with her stainless-steel-everything-else if she gets bronze hardware for the kitchen doors knobs/handles . For only 5 omr and a little bit, it is super easy to clean, gorgeous, and you don't need a lot of it in your kitchen if it is only a backsplash... it would also look great on a wall as a focal point...

From Sharjah, 5 omr per square mtr, in Ethihad Center, aka Union Mall, +971 55 2990669

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

HAPPY NATIONAL DAY: Omanis Are Different Than They Were Ten-to-Fifteen Years Ago

Omanis are different than they were ten years ago. At least, to me;). As Sultan Qaboos grows another year older, I think of how much older we all are... the people of this country.

No, this will not be a post by that "annoying expat" who complains and thinks that Omanis have become in-hospitable suddenly, or depedent on government-hand-me-freebies-over-hard-work----and have-to-have-the-latest-i-phone--and-a-new-car-every-year-without-understanding-the-economy-type Omani.

As you probably know, I'm not that kind of expat. I know too many Omanis to have ever have been that kind of expat.

When I first came to Oman I lived in Madinat Sultan Qaboos (MQ) and Qurum. To me, at least because of my parents, most Omanis were people who lived in shiny white marble villas, which they invited you to for coffee and you'd sit on gilded furniture, and pretend you just ate that helwa you were just offered while you spat it into a planter or a napkin when no one was looking or passed it off to the toddler who was always happily about.

These Omanis (the wives anyways) didn't always (often) speak English, but the husbands or individual women, were at times, in management, in the oil and gas sector, or were, like, a former diplomat and his wife. They were kind. The wives always seemed more modern somehow, even in their traditional surroundings, and  often lower educational levels, than their husbands, somehow.

These people invited us to Al Bustan, invited us to weddings... They wanted to show us their culture, explain it, show us it wasn't what we were led to believe and liked to know our thoughts on issues, what we liked or didn't like about Oman and their culture, religion, everything.

...Otherwise, they were the sons of fishermen, or small shop owners, who lived in crumbling illogically planned and horribly (death trap) wired houses.

I had some very deep religious discussions with the admittedly non-religious security guards at PDO. They weren't live-in- marble houses kinds of Omanis generally. They all had limited education I knew, most of them lived in Seeb (the end of the world back then lol) and would struggle to afford the living conditions and maher (dowry) required for them to marry even a cousin. All of them were helping support their family (where a brother was studying). I knew they were often jealous of me and my sister (in the nicest possible way) for our freedom and lol, luxurious lifestyle.

The nickname "Princess" with my Omani friends came from more than one incident. Somehow, I could tell, they always thought I was just "slumming it" hanging out with them, trying to be their friend, like we were from two seperate worlds rather than the different planets one would figure different religions, countries, cultures, and races entailed to more racist/classist rude expat types of that era. To this day, since that gap was never closed, it saddens me, and I have to feel it wasn't my fault for that. I don't see the world that way. But they did, and some of them, most of them, still do. An expat seeking them out might be a temporary bridge, but a Muslim girl from where I'm from, knowing what I know, thinking the thoughts that I think, liking what I like, all that is too far a chasm for even childhood conversations that spanned oceans to ignore...apparently.

And then there were grossly ignorant Omanis, of all class types, even back then. I remember being told I should hurry up and get married before it was too late (at like, fifteen or something) by some old rich (well educated formally but a dumb-ass) Omani dude who wanted to sponsor my mother for some kind of business. Ten years ago, I thought all these people would be dead by now or replaced by wiser souls... Alas.

The Omani girls my age I knew as a kid were only two types... studying, studying, studying (maybe allowed to play tennis with me or shop but otherwise just allowed to study) or already married or engaged to get married or already married with one kid.

Boy, at sixteen, does that make you feel immature. When all the girls your age are like, "I have a husband and a baby, I am too busy to go to the movies", or, "I want to go to study in the U.K. so yeah, can't visit you or go to the beach or the mall", and the guys my age are like, "yeah, wish I could get married", and "I can't study because I have to pay for my brother to study while my salary helps pay for the gas for my Aunt who drives a school bus whose salary pays our rent" yada yada...

I felt bad about myself. I was a lazy under-achiever, that's for sure. I didn't change though;).

...We didn't often go too far out of Muscat, and when we did, we always assumed things about Omanis that were totally wrong... Still people were beyond friendly and generous. I got invited for meals, to weddings, always, and people were like, oh you like that old door you're photographing? Take it! It is a gift! One woman, she even gave me the abaya off her back when I said it was pretty in a camera repair shop. That kind of thing, just doesn't happen as often anymore. .

..Unless one is in Sohar, or else one travels to much more remote places.

...I found a place in the middle of nowhere in Rustaq one Eid weekend a year ago, and it was like, Oman hadn't changed.

Now I know Oman better, I know some of those differences were based on the ethnic mix of the Omanis I encountered, and the geography.

I've seen much much more of Oman since girlhood. I see less of the positive male end of it, of course, since I am Muslim now. I don't have deep conversations with good Muslim men who try to be examples of good qualities...and the good guys let the female sex of their nation example the entertainment of the country now. So I see more of the creeps and losers, than were balanced out, as a non-Muslim expat, I know.

More and more Omanis are used to expats now. That maybe makes some of them less inclined to like us (not all expats are great---as a consequence, as a kid, I'd much rather hang out at the PDO security gate playing James Bond with staplers than at the pool with a group of annorexic American girls saying how ugly they all were and fat when I was given the option). Us expats aren't as special as maybe we seemed before;)? We're not all princesses or rich girls or interesting or even all that skilled and smart at times.

I know now also, being involved in Omani culture, suppression of Omani women does exist, usually not by the government but usually by families. A lot of it is women-on-women suppression, or male ego being all dumb. Girls are more aware of it now though, then they were when I was a teen here. They have more dreams, they rebel more. They have plans for themselves, not just for their family.

I also know now, the studying Shatti girls, who grew up in palaces on the shorleline, with wide green lawns, whose mothers presided over smoking incense and perfume trays and gilded qhawa pots, are the minority in Oman, although they were the majority in my memories. They now run businesses, organizations, and own property. They have PHDs. They all usually marry before 35 but later than Omani girls elsewhere that I know. They are leaders in this country... unfortunately, they still don't know a lot of Omani women outside their circle. They all too often assume the world is the same everywhere... So do village girl housewives of course, but they do not get to speak for others, usually, so no danger.

I know the dispointment of that almost lost generation of Omani guys, who had to work while other family members got educated... They still sufffer badly from all that is wrong from old Omani culture (pride, ego) where they can't go back to to school or will seem dumb, or can't marry a wife who'd help support them (i.e a much richer wife) because that would be taking advantage of her. As noble and as foolish as they'll always seem to me, for the fact that they have not changed, there is something in them that is a little dead these days. That love for Oman, and this country... it is less true love than it was in our it is more a kind of,  poccessive pride? Oman is ours they say, but what is in their care, they do not treasure, not its beauty, uniqueness, heritage, or cleanness, and there is something dejected in that.

As those were the guys who told me about Islam (without being preachy) and made me laugh at all the ridiculous things I hated about being stuck here as a  kid, I feel... sad. ...Like we are all just sleeping. Some in beautiful gilded Shatti sugar-plum-lipstick-and-porsche-paint-dreams, and others, waiting to wake, praying for that alarm that will stir them.

No one is "lazy" per se, or expecting hand-outs from the government like I hear stupid internet expats accuse them of. But the dream is still a dream. Some things haven't changed that we all thought would change, or they changed to what we didn't plan or what was never a priority. People aren't as excited as they used to be about the future, or they are excited rather stupidly for something stupid, for something that is a mirage of what Omanis truly are... Does that make sense? People are still waiting. Everything is a ten year plan for the future. It isn't now, today.

I'm rambling lol...

Also, I am considered Omani now. That's different than when this blog began. I see what Omanis experience from time to time, feel it occasionally, get caught up simultaneously in the drama, the apathy, the polite avoidance, the mad scrambles, the grand passions, of the nation, all at once.

Omanis seem different to me... but in a way that is the direct influence of my own experiences, the broader geography of generalizations, cultural and religious immersion, and of course, the course of economic and socio-political development (or lack thereof in cases) for Omani,s as a whole, and as individual entities.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Questions from Omani Men about How to Marry (and stay married) to Western Women

More than one Omani male looking to get married have written us OPNO girls, asking the same general questions. I am going to write my answers here for future easy reference.
Q1.) Dear OPNO, is it possible to find a good conservative western Muslim woman to marry?

A1.) Dear Omani Men, there are a lot of conservative and fully-practising-Islam western women. Many of us wear niqab, pray sunnah and fard prayers, may practice not mixing with men ect... but "good" is a wholly cultural definition.
When you think of "good" does it entail being quiet, submissive, gentle, willing to undertake housework without help from you, going-along-with-your-family-and-personal-preferences? In general, do you think of your Western wife being "good" like your Omani mother and sister are "good"?

 If so, you may find a woman exactly like this, but those are a rarer lot.

While there are some women of my culture who may even be okay being housewives, wearing niqab, and cooking and cleaning without any help from you, they all too often had to be very brave, to become Muslims in the first place, or to survive life in a Western country, and go against society there to do so.

So, if they think some of your Omani cultural practices are contrary to Islam (even in things that are not sinful) they may not go along with everything and be "good little Omani girls" ;). Most of us, will speak our minds, after time, and do what we think is right, even if you don't like it, or your society doesn't.

Q2.) Dear OPNO, will Western women accept to marry an Arab (Omani) and move here (Oman)?

A2.) Many women are totally okay to marry Arabs. And to move to Oman, sometimes...if you will support them to do so (financially, and emotionally). Emotional support is important, because your culture may be against our culture at times, and you have to stand by your wife occasionally, against society and maybe even your own family, and certainly, against the general law.

Although, if you don't already know a Western woman, I suggest you study your intentions as to why you want to marry a Western woman exactly.

If it is because you like our culture, individual personality, or like a convert's practice of Islam, most Western women are totally okay with that.

If it is because we are white, or less knowledgeable Muslims maybe that you can tell your own brand of Islam to, we think that is backwards and racist, and probably won't want to marry you, just a heads up. We'll wonder why you don't marry a girl from your own country instead, and be way happier.
I still laugh when I remember a Saudi guy who thought about marrying one of my friends and then changed his mind "because she looks too Arab" despite being Western. When he said he wanted to marry a Westerner what he meant was he wanted a white-skinned, blue-eyed, blonde-haired (pretty or beautiful) convert girl.

Well, let me tell you, all the blonde-haired or blue-eyed+white skinned convert girls I know, we all laugh at this Saudi guy even to today, and we all think he is an idiot and none of us would ever marry him or recommend him to a friend.

Q3.) Dear OPNO, I want to marry a Western Muslim woman, but my income is not a large one. Will she be okay with that?

A3.) Women have different requirements of a husband, depending on how she was raised. She may require a husband fully support her financially, she may not. However, in Islam a man should in the very least (even if his wife wants no money from him) be able to support a wife in case she is unable to support herself... Such as feed her, and your children, buy them all clothes, and pay rent for them to live seperate from your relatives or other wives. That's the minimum requirements in Islam. If you can afford to do this, than you can afford a wife.

But many women, myself included, work when we are able to, and I actually pay my own rent, bought my own house, buy most of my own clothes, and my children's, and sometimes food and electricity too;). That way my husband can buy me gifts and take me places with his money. That makes me feel special, and yet, close to my own culture, but as a Muslim, he has to be able to afford the minimum requirements. Because when I was pregnant, I was too ill to work, for example.
Some women, might be very different from myself, and require their husband provide them with a housemaid to clean for her, and a tutor for her children, and a cook for her food. If she had all these things provided by her parents before she married you, she has a right to ask for them, so tell her upfront if you cannot afford to do so, so she agrees to take less than is her right to ask for, up front. You'll be much happier that way.

Also, marrying a non-Omani is currently illegal in Oman without permission so if you should lose your job, consider how you would support your wife (are you able and willing to move to her country to be married). If not, you probably don't care for her enough to risk marrying her in the first place, without getting permission first.

Q4.) Dear Omani Princess, how do I get married if the law ( 92/93) won't allow it ( I am working in the government ) ?

A4.) You May lose your job. Your wife MAY get sent away (depending on the country of her passport). You MAY have to pay a fine. You will have to do a lot of paperwork, a lot of running around between different government offices. You may have to go to court.

Depends on what the government does, if you get permission, or you try to fight the law and marry anyways. If you aren't willing to risk any of that, don't do it.  Otherwise, try to get a scholarship or pay for your own study for a certain length of study outside of Oman (length of time as required by the Ministry of the Interior), and marry the woman you want to marry there, and apply for permission. Or move to her country and apply for citizenship there. That's a lot of work (and money) too.

Otherwise any advice I could give you, varies by a case-by-case basis, and what worked for the happiness of some, may cause you to lose your job or for your wife to be deported. If you aren't willing to take the risks, don't do it. You don't want it enough. If you can't afford the consequences, don't do it either, because you may just hurt the woman you love or yourself and any woman who loves you will not want you to be hurt for her sake. Make sure those factors aren't a strong enough issue for you.
Q5.) Dear Omani Princess, my family might not agree to the marriage, is it wise to do it anyways?

A5.) If your family doesn't agree to the marriage (my husband's family originally didn't) you have to be strong for it to work. If your mother refuses to meet your new wife even your new wife is a good Muslim or the woman who you love despite all odds, then you have to be willing to tell even your own mother she is wrong, and you won't change or put away any of your wife's rights for your family. If you can't do that, then don't go against your family. Don't marry a woman, to just later divorce her, or treat her less than she deserves, so that she eventually has to divorce you.

And if your family really wants what is best for you, and your happiness, if your wife brings those things to you, then your family will eventually come around. Just have the strength to hang in there and defend your wife when she is in the right.

Q6.) Dear OPNO girls, do you have any advice for making a marriage between Western cultured women and Omani men work and last?
A6.) We sure do!

Examine what you want in a marriage, why you want to get married in the first place, what you expect the role of a future wife to be, and the responsibilities of a husband and wife, before you explicitly seek out or contemplate a Western wife. Before marrying, discuss these things with her.

Your culture has less privacy and individuality than ours. Discuss living arrangements, cultural requirements such as treatment of your family members and guests, how a wife will dress, where she'll live and for how long, what she will be allowed to do, what she won't be allowed to do? What your future wife requires from you? How you want to raise children? What you would do and how you would both act if you had to divorce in the future?

Discussing these things beforehand, will make everything go a lot smoother later.

Have patience. Have strength. Try to understand your wife's cultural perspective. Do not try to force her to change overnight, or with ultimatums, ever. Spend a lot of time with her.

Your culture's ideas about marriage are different than ours. There is a lot of men-hanging-out-with-men and women relegated to hanging out all day with other women. Understand, not all Western (most of us) women enjoy this, and many of us even resent it.

There is probably more advice but I can't think of any right now;).

Friday, November 13, 2015

To all the French Nationals who read this blog

I just read the news and learned of the attacks on Paris.

To all the French nationals who read our blog, inshaAllah it is my deepest hope and prayer that all your friends and relatives are safe after the recent Paris attacks. Such acts are inexcusable, and murder. I don't know if this was Al Q, or ISIS, or Muslims, and as always, I pray not, but feel, as it seems to be the growing trend globally... If it is, I am deeply, deeply sorry and ashamed at the state of ignorance affecting my people, the Muslim ummah, that twisting and taking-out-of-context, our peaceful religion is so easy for Muslims these days.

{A wee added bit to this post, pertinent, as always, from fiercely honest blogger Ange, who has said it rightly }.
That said, I have been saying for a long-time France has been making itself a target. Even myself, being a "peaceful" Muslim would be hard pressed not to deeply dislike and feel and express anger at the French for their treatment of Muslim women concerning not being allowed in government places and schools wearing hijab and the total ban on wearing the niqab(face veil), effectively making these women not citizens despite hypocritically declaring "liberty fraternity equality" and all that Republican b.s.. I have many French Muslim friends who have become expatriated in order topractice their religion despite having a deep love for their french culture and aspects of its heritage (not its history with Algeria of course).
Generally most women in the world love Paris, us hijabis not excluded. We don't judge the entire culture and people by some recent stupidness. And I would like to say on our behalf, that murder of non-violent persons, is murder in Islam, and I hope the organizers of the attacks, and their perpetrators, are caught and punished. My heart goes out to the victims and their families.

To the French people, stay strong, and don't let the acts of a few change you. Carry on as if nothing has changed. That's what terrorists don't want from you.They want a severe reaction to justify their targeting you.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

I still love this Arabian-style tile...

I still love this contemporary copper-coloured Arabian-style tile (that was 1200 dirhams in Sharjah). That's a bit expensive, I know, but back when the villas were going to be Arabian in design, not European, I had decided to use this tile for the kitchen backsplashes. Maybe in the shower niches as well, if we went for copper fixtures everywhere, not just the kitchen appliances.

Alas, no more pretty copper Arabian-geometic stars tiles.

Isn't it pretty?

Waiting for the next project where I'll have the excuse to use it.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Young Man Hanged Along Seeb Corniche, and Pioneering Sexual Abuse Awareness Initiative for Omani Middle School Students

A (very) young man (Omani) was found hung from an areesh (palm frond shelter) along Seeb Corniche the other day (where the fishermen keep their boats usually).

There was intense bruising on his face (rather inconsistent with the affects of hanging). Sources (of opinion--- not the ROP) say it was a suicide... I wonder.  {I have no idea towards the ROP's thoughts on the matter}

I mean, if I was just beaten up, my first response wouldn't be to hang myself unless I was so ashamed of what had happened in part of THAT experience (okay, so I'd never kill myself, even if I wasn't a Muslim) so....

...If it was a suicide,  what drove the young man to it? He had a whole life ahead of him, what was so terrible he'd have to hang himself?

And, as I feel, it wasn't a suicide? Who did it? Do people care? What is being done into investigating it all?

As always in Oman, everyone is being too polite to seem affective.

Maybe totally unrelated...:

At least I am pleased to hear about a new (and rather brave---considering how sensitive the issue is) education initiative that the male school teachers {in Seeb Middle Schools at least} have started.

The aim is to make students (boys) aware about sexual abuse, how to prevent it, how to report it, what it is, order to combat the issue of rape. They are also doing studies about how many rape cases every year happen in Muscat boys schools (which of course, are assumed to be a lower number than those attempted or actually reported). The numbers were still scary to a Westerner like me, who thinks even one yearly case of rape a year is too many. I can't help thinking, if these were Omani girls, not Omani boys, that there would be a much greater effort made to combat these statistics, however, every effort helps.

One male Omani school teacher reported to me of at least two cases of attempted rape in a Muscat school where seemingly nothing was done by the police or the courts (he insists the courts not the police were to blame in these cases) to punish the would be rapists (apparently serial offenders, also students in the school).

I applaud the teachers (and the Ministry of Education  and Health maybe? for supporting their endeavor). The school shooting in Shinas [where an Omani teacher whose son had been raped and who had reported the case to the ROP but the rapist had no punishment, went to the school of the rapist-boy, and shot him] was an eye-opener for everyone. The Seeb teachers' motto is "what if it happened to your son, because it could" in case anyone should object to the controversy of their awareness program for prevention.

See, talking about it, helps. Too bad it took something like the Shinas School Shooting, to make it okay for us to talk about it.

As statistics say rape is a reality in Oman, for Omani school-aged boys (by other Omani-school aged boys) I think this program needs to extend to all schools in Oman, even the younger aged students (when it is a much less embarrassing issue than it is for teenage students). Beyond that, studies should confirm what I theorize, that rape statistics are much much much lower (or negligibly non-existent) in mixed gender educational institutions [so long as harsher penalties are inflicted upon would-be rapists, and teachers if they date, marry, or sexually interact inappropriately with any currently-enrolled students].

All my best to the programs' brave teachers, all ministries involved and supporting and aiding the initiative, and the ROP, for their role in helping teachers make our schools a safe place for our children.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

RESTAURANTS IN OMAN: Al Khiran Terrace Buffet at Al Bustan Palace Hotel

Okay, so to be honest, the last time I went to Al Bustan besides for a friend's wedding, was before hurricane Gonu. The lobby really looked different pre-Gonu. There was like, red velvet and zebra on the upholstery, and blue tiles on the walls... and I really wasn't impressed by it at all....maybe because at the time I was a grumpy teenager that had just been told that no, I could not ride along on a cross-desert rally that my friends were going to get to do... Anyways, this time I was going to Al Bustan, in a much better mood, for my "surprise" late wedding anniversary with my husband. It wasn't really a surprise because he saved the GPS courdinates in his phone along with a Google map. He isn't really a just-go-to-al-Bustan-kind of person either;).
Anyways, lobby is now gold and white with muted blue and sea-toned greens. Much better. Maybe one of the only things I can say 'thank you Gonu' for;).
My husband had made a reservation at Al Khiran terrace (which was up one floor from the lobby--elevators in Al Bustan are confusing). start with, I am not a buffet person, but I did find some things I liked (cheese, salads, deserts). My husband really did enjoy the gravies for the meats. For the food:

I started with a 'Hawaiian Chicken Salad' and a 'Pasta Salad' along with a plate of Feta, Goat Cheese, and Brie, and those were all decent. Then I had French onion soup which was tastey, if lacking in the required texture.The French onion soup was watery, but it is probably the closest to the taste of French onion soup I have yet encountered in Oman;). It is probably what I make at home when I screw up French onion soup but still better than most Omani examples I've tried in Oman. I am quite critical because French onion soup is something I live on and can eat at any time of the day. When I go back to Canada I order nothing but French onion soup, I swear. Sorry Al Bustan.
For drinks, we just had San Pellegrino (I had a hot chocolate that I didn't love).

For the mains, I tried a steak with peppercorn gravy. I didn't love it, texture of the steak was wrong, but maybe I just grabbed a bad cut because my husband loved his and ate three. I had a chicken breast next with lemon-butter sauce and that was nice for a summery-feeling evening. (Sorry we didn't take pictures of the food, we were here for eachother, not the meal itself really). That was good.
For desert I loved the little lemon cakes, and the icecreams. The vanilla was heavenly. The right ammount of real vanilla bean to it.
Our table was to the front in a quiet corner of the Terrace, looking out on the pool. Lovely really. I was a bit warm (probably my fault since my husband was happy---don't wear two shaylas!!!) . It was romantic a little, not too much though. I don't know exactly how to describe it---atmospheric for sure, lovely, but not quite.. romantic? Sorry Al Khiran.

The restaurant floor staff made up for it though, and were super helpful when I considered a non-buffet option, and even though we hadn't said it was a special occasion, when they inquired and found out it was our wedding anniversary they brought us the below dessert free of charge:
Anyways, at around 50 omr for two persons, + drinks at additional charge, it was a good buffet for Oman, but better if you go more hungry than I was though. The scene and location and service are all very good. I have had better food a la carte though in Muscat, for 30 omr+ drinks for 2 persons however.

Would I go again? Yes, if I was taking someone special out who I know to be a buffet person. I think my daughter would love it, or my sister, on a special occasion. My husband and I joked my father would probably like it if we told him it cost 10 omr per person;) and paid before he noticed. I think my husband (he is a buffet person) really enjoyed it. It just wasn't my thing. Worth it at least once in every five years though, for us;)

Monday, November 2, 2015

Forgetting Wedding Anniversaries, Remembering Love

Yesturday was my wedding anniversary. Like usual, I was busy, and totally forgot all about it. I don't remember birthdays, or most holidays. Life is too full of today usually, to remember something that happened on a day long ago.

My husband didn't remember either. I suppose I could blame him, say it was his fault. Claim to be offended that because we eloped, had only the religious melka, not any big Omani-style urs wedding feast, that I didn't wear Omani-dress or a white ballgown, or a veil, but a black abaya, and that all the maher/dowry he had to pay was for an antique silver Omani ring from souq nizwa and for a little silver box (I think it cost in total under fifteen rials) that he forgets my wedding day. I could manipulate and guilt-trip him into something awesome for today.
I won't of course. I'm not that kind of woman. I forget days too.

I think my husband just realized he too forgot and is planning something for tonight. I am pretending I have no idea. I am not really a person who is easily surprised, and thus, I don't like surprises very much. I am very much a planner. I plan things, get them done.

Of course, a woman never forgets how she would have liked to have had her wedding done. Of course, I planned out my future wedding as a yougin'. I've been married twice now. Still didn't happen how I planned. Love doesn't work well with plans, is what I've since discovered.
I always wanted to a forest wedding, on my family's land. They have a forest, and a meadow lined at the edges with ferns, with tall sweet grass and wildflowers, like dandelion and forget-me-nots, and daisies and clover. At the edge of the meadow, is a tangled knotted forest path, where I used to play Robin Hood and King Arthur as a little girl. I always saw myself, as Marion, getting married I guess lol, veil over my face, a crown of flowers, everything else very rustic and charming and simple. And we'd eat strawberry shortcake instead of regular wedding cake, because that's what I liked best as a girl. I never bothered to envision my groom, what he'd be like. I assumed he'd sing to me, tell me stories, be okay with travel and adventure, and encourage me to do all my dreams, be honest, and kind, and good, more than great, and of course brave. I've never met a good person who wasn't brave.
or a winter wedding in my favourite hotel back in my home country, in the library again, because that's a place I loved as a girl. I thought it would actually be cheaper than a country forest wedding, because in December it is already decorated, just the cost of the food and the dress would really be there.
Of course, my actual wedding was an Islamic one, and I didn't have a reception/urs... I sat in a car in an abaya while an Imam came out to check with me if I really was okay with such a minute ammount of maher/dowry. He tried to convince me to take more, he told me my rights.

I didn't need more because I already knew my husband-to-be's character. Patient, kind, and brave people need less insurance policy than romantic sorts from fairytales...

Everyone Omani and adult male who knows me well (as like, aquaintances from work and good Muslims I know) at first were shocked about me getting married in secret and to someone without a good solid income, or in the situation my husband is in. But now they see the wisdom in his character, which I already knew. Anybody else, would have divorced me a dozen times by now;). I am not an easy soul. I am a storm, a volcanoe, a secret forest path that I won't tell you about even I like you because it is mine in memory... Love and trust for me, are not easy, if loyalty and duty are.

I knew it from luck really, women wanting to get married aren't usually able to see through men to the core of their personality and character. As it was, at the time, I was heartbroken, low, and discouraged, when I was first introduced to the man I am married to now, and I saw him with almost accusing eyes, prepared to see the worst in him, and expect nothing good. He wasn't the man of my dreams. He wasn't the hero I'd envisioned, however, he was someone who could say, stand up girl and save yourself.

For someone like me, that's more important than being rescued, surely, since I am well equipped to take care of myself and see the world as it is.

He wouldn't give up on me. As likeable a character trait as that is, for me, it marked him out to be a complete idiot. He's an onblivious, rash, unthinking kind of person. He does what is in his heart.

He to this day, doesn't understand how I don't think calling him stupid is offensive but is actually something sweet. Stupidity of that kind, is rare. Maybe it isn't actually stupidity, maybe it is faith? But to someone as practical as I like to be, I call it stupid.

Now we have been married for almost five years. Time flies. He's still stupid, and patient, and full of dreams for plans, I'm still remarkably unkind and stubborn and impatient and imperfect and suspicious of people.

You could dress up in another day in the past, put him into a bisht, wrap a mussayr, strap a khanjar on, put me in a gown with jewels in my hair and perfume on my skin, but we'd still be those two people who were married and remain married now, only the process of how we would have gone about it would have been different. It would still be just one day from our pasts that we'd forget when we are fighting, when we are busy with our kids and our jobs, and deciding what to cook for dinner or if we can afford to eat out instead...

...I can romanticize weddings, but not marriage. Marriage isn't romantic. Waking up beside the same person every day, dealing with their foibles, and quirks, and personality flaws and cleaning up the messes of their rash actions, and seeing your own flaws constantly reflected back at you through them, and growing old together, none of that is romantic. But it is real. It is a day that you have, and have a good chance of tomorrow, not a memory that is gone and not repeatable.

Is marriage merely comfort and support? Maybe. I won't say that it isn't a good backup, when you're weak and you're down low. Is it habit?

It would be so strange to wake up one day and realize that you have no one to share your thoughts of the day with, funny things your children did, a fact about someone who annoyed you, a beautiful dream...

Is it something we stubbornly cling to, because of all the effort we put into it?

We went through a lot to get married, and even the man who married us went through a lot and risked a lot to marry us.

I think of the man who married us, an Imam from Barka, who could have lost his job for doing so. I remember his wife, who gave me my wedding food, even though it was late in the evening. I remember their kindness, nothing compared of course, to what my husband went through.

I remember going to court and fighting to prove that the marriage even happened, since the man who married us, and his wife, were killed in the fighting in Yemen, where the man had gone to work as an Imam, sinced he said, Oman's unislamic laws forbid halal marriages from being conducted...

Valentines day, people think of that priest dude Valentine? Who was behaded for marrying soldiers to their sweet hearts? which was against the law? I think, that happens still in the world, why have an anniverary say for that? Or why not have a Anne Boelyn or Catherine Howard day as well?

That happens in GCC countries everyday (of course not beheadings! but punishing those for doing what their religious committments require of them to do) so I think of that Imam today, and his wife, who died. I wonder what their wedding story was? If they remembered their anniversary?

I think marriage is mutual admiration and trust, nothing more or less. Without those things, it deteriorates, breaks down, becomes something wretched and reduces people to decrepit monsters or wraiths of their former selves. Love is those two aspects united, perhaps blindly at first, then with such clarity, that it forces one to reckon one's own flaws and weigh them upon a scale of what is worthy to change, and what must be accepted, despite the weight of it.

We forget our anniversary, but still feel that the scale is lighter towards the end of our own true selves, and those made brighter, than the things we have let go of, to be in this place. That's what I remember, when I set myself down to remember such things.