Sunday, May 31, 2015

Ramadan Mubarak, Early; Eid Mubarak, Early

Last minute packing for me includes copying everything on flash drives, selecting windows and paint and kitchen cabinetry, and copying keys for the office. I am scheduling time to say goodbye to my children, to have time with them before I end up in Heaththrow, buying perfumes and watches for relatives.

It feels unworldly. I feel, I am not myself.

Everyone keeps asking me about how I am going to manage fasting Ramadan.

I know....It is going to be long this year.

Longer in the land far and away, than in Muscat. Fajr is at an ungodly hour, and Magraib is after eleven p.m. most nights.  Don't even get me started about taraweeah prayer because I am most likely not gonna do that at all this year, maybe one night, maybe two and that's it. Besides, the Prophet S.A.W never prayed taraweeah en masse, so I guess I am ok with not doing it.

Ibadhi and Sunni friends argue the etiquette for fasting for people far and away, where sunlight never ends, or darkness, for months. Go with Mecca, I am urged. Go with Muscat, whisper others.

At first, I told myself, I will pray traveler's prayers, and not fast.

But then, something happened to remind me about people who are poor who can't choose, well, I'm not gonna eat today...

I am going back to the land far and away because there is an illness in my family. Someone I am very close to, is very sick, and, unless there's a miracle, like Allah wills this person to heal, well, they will slowly starve to death, unable to eat... So fasting one month, even a very long time, while being with this person in this state, should remind me... Not everyone has the luxury of choosing to fast.

I remember, on this Islamic TV programme, people were phoning in, to ask the stupidest, most repetitive questions to the Islamic scholar on the program. Like, the same questions people always ask, that are in every book you ever read about Ramadan. Very annoying. Its why I don't watch programs like this, it annoys me. However, I didn't have sole custody of the remote control.

But one caller was different. I don't know where they were from anymore---some village in Africa--- but the person was calling on behalf of the entire village. He was like, is our fast still valid if we don't break our fast?

The scholar was like, you have to break your fast...

And then the man explained... We are intending to fast for the sake of Allah, and we would break our fast at Magraib, but we have no food usually at this time, to break our fast. Will Allah still count our fasting?

Everyone, and I mean everyone, was like, whoa....

The Scholar had tears in his eyes, when he told the man---and those people---Yes, your fast counts if you make the intention to fast, even you might not be able to break your fast.

It made me cry too, but not enough I guess, because in my heart, I still dislike fasting. I still don't get it, or maybe I forget, even though I have been hungry before, I've never been hungry for a month, not for months, not for years, not to death...

Seeing people die of hunger or not enough water is awful. I've seen it before, but was distant from it. I mean, I separated myself from it, put it in a box, buried it, don't think on it. I can be beside someone, when it happens, but it doesn't touch my heart or stay with me. I don't let it. Maybe this experience, too, I'll box it away, and try to forget it? I don't know.

But I can't be distant from it now at the moment, and being close to death from starvation, during Ramadan, I don't know if I should take it as a blessed lesson from Allah, or a punishment for me being so crap at caring about others' almost all the rest of the time during my life.

While I am happy it is Ramadan, I forget so many blessings. Health. Having more than enough. Being safe. Hell, being happy, even that, is so beyond some. I may not sound happy writing this, but sorrow makes happiness ever so more poignant. Like a cool glass of water after a day in the hot sun of Oman, fasting, or bread in the stomach after eighteen hours without food.

Happy early Ramadan to you all, and have a safe Eid Al Fitr, inshaAllah, my beloved Oman.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I wanna go to Mutrah but its too HOT!!!!!

From the Endemage instagram---makes me wanna go to Mutrah tonight...

Monday, May 25, 2015

My Experience with ISIS: a message to anyone, Muslim or non-Muslim, from a Western Country

OPNO in the land-far-and away, proud and happy to wear my face veil and abaya despite discrimination from fellow country men and women,  but definitely against terrorism and murder and hate for the sake of distraction  (aka ISIS)
I always tell my Omani girlfriends who are thinking to marry a Western Muslim guy from the U.S, or Canada, or the U.K., to make sure he's been Muslim for a while first. Convert guys are mostly crazy the first three to four years. I say this, lovingly, out of the prejudice of my experience. Most of the non-ISIS  and anti-Al Q European and North-American convert guys I know will agree with me on this, because we've all heard pro-ISIS speakers in mosques in our home countries. Most of these guys have experienced someone attempting to recruit them for terrorism, or at least, have read pro-terrorism crap on Islamic chat arenas on otherwise super great Islamic-content websites. I personally find Oman's Mosques much less having pro-terrorism content than Canada's.

I mean, how many Omani guys do you know who've joined ISIS or Al Q?

I don't know any.

And I know Omani dudes who protested the Opera House. And who broke windows on one Muscat alcohol-selling establishment (owned by a Muslim). Even these guys, think ISIS is totally insane and evil.

How many Canadian and American guys do I know who've died fighting (or work in marketing terrorist ideologies) in the name of  the above crazy-ass causes in Afghanistan or Syria (and not to mention, now Iraq and Yemen)?

I personally know 7.

Seven people! Seven crazy-ass, totally misled dudes (who I think are in hell or going there since they are OK with murder).

How many Canadian and American AND Australian convert guys do I know in total?

I know only eleven guys.

I am a married Muslim woman, I don't meet many guys.

However, seven out of eleven is not really a great percentage on the "he might be a terrorist" scale.

The U.K government says they have 500 ISIS members of U.K. citizens. Canada has at least 130. I suspect there are a lot more, since a lot of terrorists, due to their crazy-ass wickedly evil terrorist plots, tend to be semi-secretive folks. Most are background players, recruiters, PR people, not suicide bombers.

So my experience with ISIS? Well, ISIS wasn't called ISIS back then...
Too stylin' to be a terrorist;). P.S. Canadian Non-Muslims aren't afraid of pink or leopard that much when choosing veil styles, that's just a tip;), it shows them you have a choice, when you mix it up with black sometimes.
A long time ago (six, what? years now) in the land far and away, I was in a little Mosque in a North American Western country. I was a female convert to Islam, but unlike many converts, I had a formal education. I could academically research something (even in a language I did not speak). Also, I had a job, with financial independence from my family (which got harder after conversion, but I managed) and my husband. As a Canadian woman, my rights to free movement, divorce, etc, were protected, regardless my religion. I also retained a very small number of pre-Islam work and personal relationships with friends and family. I guess that makes me different from most converts ISIS tried to recruit/brainwash.

I was also lucky. This little Mosque, when I first attended, had (had) a great shaykh (Islamic scholar) who was Imam and lectured (*1, see footnotes).  This Shaykh taught us Islam as something strict on ourselves, not strict on others....

...And that what many teach about Islam, is not what the Prophet Mohammed S.A.W practiced in example.

Because of this man's knowledge, and practice, and his family's practice, even ISIS crazies had little they could say against him. You could say, everyone pretended to behave themselves, while education was available for the Muslim community.

When someone asked him about fighting for  Palestine, he asked this man, about praying.

Did the questioner pray five times a day?

If so, did his family pray five times a day?

If yes, did his neighbors? Did his Muslim community?

If this, most basic pillar of Islam, also a form of jihad, could not be accomplished, what would be the point of trying topple a government and replace it with a so-called Islamic government, if even one man, or one neighborhood, could not do even the basic Islamic tenet of prayer?  Of fasting? of giving charity and providing for the poor and needy? Surely such a people would not even be able to fairly govern themselves, let alone un-Muslim others.

So he told the brother, don't ask about fighting for Allah, if you cannot even fight for your own sake before the eyes and sight of Allah.

That's not terrorist-teaching, that's anti-terrorist teaching. That's what I consider "wahabi" "salaafi" sunni Islam, not the modern version of such, but the actual. Most people mis-use the terminology. Especially Muslims. I think many Muslims, such as the Saudi government, and ISIS, do this on purpose. It divides us further than we are already divided.

Anyways, back to ISIS.

Before, when this Shaykh was around, our jihad was self-fighting. Fighting selfishness. Fighting laziness. Fighting pride. If we could not win those battles, we could not  run a Muslim government, that's for sure.

When this Imam left, he was eventually replaced by a man who supposedly beats his own wife to a pulp. Who thinks women shouldn't work (*2). Who told people Shiite Muslims should be killed. That one woman, married to a Shia, should be killed (I am assuming me too, since I married an Ibadhi man despite being Sunni). He declared people weren't Muslim (i.e they were apostatized from Islam) because they didn't follow Islam as he saw fit, i.e. women wore make-up, or worked, men who said killing Shia instead of maybe, you know, talking to them instead about Sunni Islam, was wrong and even sinful... You get the gist.

He had Shia physically thrown out of our Mosque (since killing them in Canada would mean losing his {refugee claimant} citizenship).

This was the form of Islam, I ran from. I was smart enough and well read enough (and had the financial stability to have time to study and read and make my own mind up) to know this was wrong, and not Islam at all.

Apparently, this means, I am wicked and sinful in pride, because a man must have more knowledge than I do, although, the greatest of all Muslim scholars and givers of fatwa, were Muslim women (i.e. the Prophet Mohammed's own wives and other women of the early Muslims).
Yep, that's OPNO too, but only as a joke, to write an article about the reaction of ordinary Canadians to different kinds of cultural and Islamic attire (OPNO was a member of the Canadian Women for the Women of Afghanistan Charity to Support Women's Craft Guilds and Schools in Afghanistan---these are on sale by the group along with other Afghani crafts to raise money for the charity work---OPNO never wore this kind of clothing ever lol, and her friend who lived in Peshawr brought this baby back for her.)
{Shhh, says ISIS womenfolk, you're not supposed to say that, or God forbid, compare yourself to those heavenly women not of our time period.}

Although, again, forgive me, crazy-ass ISIS folks, Allah said the Islam of the Prophet's lifetime, was the same for all time, and the Prophet's wives and even the Prophet, were mortals for a reason, to be example to us. Angels were not to deliver the message of the Qu'ran or to teach us how to live because of this. Mortal human beings were used because of this. Men and women were, of flesh and blood, with as much chance of sin, if not for the will of God/Allah.

But whatever, yeah, pretending I don't know this, and I unread what books we are supposed to say we follow...

This is the Islam of men who are so twisted and wicked and evil, that instead of dealing with their own inner demons, distract the world, with made up monsters.

Truly, the Muslim majority of the world, are Sunni. Not Shia, not Ibadhi, not Ahmadi, or anything else. So obviously, the majority of our issues, do not come from these minorities we are told we must despise and fight against.

They come from ourselves, from within our community.

The men who think they own women, who are lazy, perverted, insecure, prideful, and vain. From women, who are insecure, needy, hateful, selfish, lazy, judgmental, and prideful.

Globally, our Islamic education is lacking. Our Islamic scholarship as the whole of the Muslim world, is total utter crap, with maybe 5% contribution to Islamic thought, and less than a 11% Islamic literacy rate (I am not talking mere Arabic).  ...And 11% is probably a little high.

And even if you have the smallest trace of an Islamic education, I can assure you, as a sinner and terrible Muslim often in time, self-jihad is harder than physically picking up a gun and shooting someone or being shot or being blown up. Those things suck, but they are instant, and if you thought (wrongly) even for a second, that heaven/paradise is as easy pressing a button, pulling a trigger, you're wrong. Islam is easy, but being a Believer of Islam, is not. You can't just choose Paradise unless Allah gives it to you. Self-killing is not allowed. Murder of others not in self-defense of life and limb, is not allowed. The manner of battle in defense of life and limb, is prescribed, and the murder of non-military targets, and self, are not part of the prescription.

Self-jihad means living, trying, educating yourself, struggling against hunger, lust, greed, and power of authority, for a balance in these, as prescribed by Islam. When life is hard, dying is the easier choice. Killing, is the easier choice, than creating a patient, humble people, armed in example and knowledge who can change minds and hearts, not bend knees and break backs and splatter organs...

To non-Muslims, the recipe to fight terrorism:

Islam in the West can be hard. Muslims face isolation, discrimination, and most often, financial insecurity. Don't not hire us, because of beards, because of clothes, because of headscarves and veils. Let us show you how hard we work, how useful we can be.  Stand up against prejudice, whenever you see it, whether it be someone calling a black man a nigger, or someone telling a Muslim woman to "go to Saudi" or that "she doesn't have to wear that" in your country.

Educate yourselves about us. Sure, us women, we can't hang out with men at the personal level, shake hands, etc. and we can't drink or date (both sexes) but that doesn't mean, we can't do lunch, visit each other's homes, be friends. Most of us are totally normal non-violent people. Lack of education, isolation from family and society, financial stress due to discrimination, cause bad people to have influence on good people.

Those good people, need a place to live but don't have jobs. If those ISIS recruiters give them a home, food, and you, you make a law saying hijabis can't work etc...  It truly causes stupid but otherwise good people to be tricked down a bad path. Bad god-awful marriages for the women and their children, and a path of intense hate and possibly violence, for the men.

A useful article on how recruitment is done, and why what I outlined above is defense against terrorism (3*).

(1) The Canadian government investigated this particular Imam for terrorism and recruiting "jihadis" but that was all B.S.... I should know, they also investigated me (okay, apparently American peeps in Canada doing spying did, not actually INSET, said INSET, who a former anti-IRA terrorism in U.K. expert contacted on my behalf, protesting the fact that I was being photographed, forcefully interviewed, and followed). INSET to this day, is unnerved about other people interviewing Canadian citizens and claiming to be INSET. However, INSET did interview a LOT of the Canadian Muslim convert girls, and DID sit in listening vans outside the home of the good Imam and his family and the Mosque*. Some of the girls were held against their rights, for questioning. Many will say, they felt threatened by the real INSET, to cooperate, despite none of these women feeling anything non-peaceful was going on at the time.



A Comparison of the use of Car Horns Between Countries

In my home country---the land far and away---a car/vehicle blasting its horn at you means you are possibly going to die., i.e., someone is going to hit you/run over you if you don't move/react the right way.

In Oman, it means many, many, less important things.

It means, "hey Mohammed, come take my order!" (from Mr. Lazy-Ass who can't get out of his car at the restaurant/coffeeshop).

It means, "hey there, lsmat, ya ukti," (from, 'I am a creepy dude in a car trying to hit on you')... to anything female that moves."

It means, "pull over, because you are going the speed limit," from (I want to kill myself and/or innocent others" on the expressway guy)... who ends up right beside you at the next red light, but whatev...

It means, "your abaya is sticking out the door!" from (possibly concerned---but more than likely, try-to flirt-with-you guys).

It also means, "thank you" which always, always, scares the crap out of me, when we let someone go into our lane when it is polite to help others merge in traffic.

I don't know, I'll never get used to Oman's use of hazard lights and the car horn, I think. I will always, always, think I am about to possibly die, when I hear a horn blast.

And then, when I don't die, I will be so irate, when I see some lazy-ass in his car with ac on, while some Indian dude has to come out the ac coffeeshop in the middle of the afternoon, to go make change, and deliver a ten second chai karak.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

TWO OMANIS IN: Dublin, 2013; Couchsurfing Fail, and the one thing I wanted to see

So Dublin... Yeah, Dublin. We had originally planned to stay two days in Dublin BUT the only couchsurfers who'd replied to our request were Nudists, which didn't really suit us, and they were super sweet and totally understood that.

Really, Ireland, your couch-surfing (besides the couple aforementioned) community sucks.

However, we booked a hotel for one night, even though after the inanely long drive, we were ready to drop dead from exhaustion.  We returned our rental car, we shuttled to the airport, from the airport we were shuttled to our hotel, and, after dropping our things off, we shuttled back to the airport, where we bought a buss pass and set off bussing it to Dublin.
I think it was my husband's first time on a double decker. Anyways, lotsa awesome moving vehicle photography from me....
 Arriving in downtown Dublin, we set off walking to see the only thing I actually planned purposefully to see in Dublin, although there are many many things to see and do that we never did. As it was already very late in the day, the one thing in Dublin I had to, HAD TO, see, was closing soon.

So some moving (on foot) photography from me.
 ...even faster walking...
And finally, with no more chances along the way to even manage a very bad photo, we arrived at the one thing in Dublin I wanted to see: The National Museum of Archeology!!!!
 As the Museum was closing (we just barely scraped in, and they were dimming the lights) I was just madly running through trying to see the things I wanted to see. I definitely have to come back here. My husband was wandering around taking photos, looking at stuff, reading plaques... I never got to the bog mummy section I so desperately needed to see...
 So, after the museum staff ever so kindly insisted we leave, we went to find food. I was about to drop, I was so so so tired. However, we walked passed a lovely flower market I did not photograph (although I did however, snap this girl in what appears to be the uniform for the female sex in Dublin era 2013: jacket or blazer over top, jeans tucked into calf-length boots):
 So we found food.
Was it this very delicious Moroccan restaurant {pictured above}?:


It was a schwarma joint.

We were craving meat after a week of mashed potatoes and strawberries and fresh baked pie, and we wanted halal.

We found this Moroccan Restaurant, after we turned the corner from there.

I take this photo to remind myself, of the food we could have eaten...
 Basically, after food, I was so grouchy and wanted to sleep. I really, really had to sleep, so we went back to the hotel, and I slept. Five hours later we took a shuttle bus to airport and flew back to Oman.

Dublin, for sure, we have to come again. We did not do you justice.
The hotel we stayed at: cheap, with a shuttle to the airport, which was basically what we were looking for. A more modern hotel, but was warm, comfy, had food, and tourist information, and pillows and bedding were good, toiletries not utter crap. A fair hotel, for when couchsurfing let's you down;)

TWO OMANIS IN: Goodbye County Clare, 2013

I don't know, but whenever we decided to leave somewhere, it would get sunny.

We were in the town of Doolin near the Cliffs of Moher. We had breakfast, went for a walk through town (I still did not buy a Claddahg ring---or hair clip), and decided to hang out waiting for the Aran Island ferry to come in, having a picnic, staring back out at the cliffs.

Monday, May 18, 2015

TWO OMANIS IN: Quin, Co. Clare, Craggaunowen, 2013

It was a wet, soggy day, the day we decided to drive to the other end of county Clare (ok, I decided, since I am the one who cares about museums and basically Iron Age and Bronze Age Ireland out of the two of us). Nonetheless, my husband admitted that of all the tourist attractions we'd gone to (not many) this one was the best worth our money and gas mileage: Craggaunowen. Craggaunowen is a restoration and reconstruction of pre-historic and early Christian era housing and living. My thing, certainly, so we had to go. Plus, my husband enjoys learning how other people lived, and he found so many things in common with the Irish and Omanis, that he understands why Americans decided they all came from Ireland (Irish people grumbled to us, that they didn't send that many Irish to America;) ). The "Gathering" was on, so you have to forgive. We were the only GCC tourists we saw.
This (above) example of an Irish tower house, dates back to the 1550s, and was built by John MacSioda MacNamara (for Omanis, Mac is ibn and O' is ben, same same).  It was basically left in disrepair after the collapse of the Gaelic nobility, in the 1700s. In the 19th century some repairs were made to it by a man called honest Tom Steele, and it was purchased and restored by medieval art advisor to Sotheby's, John Hunt, who also saw the reconstructions of bronze, iron, and Viking era structures on the property, and furnished the property with his own personal belongings. He left the property (fortunately) to the Irish people, and it really is a treasure. I am sure on sunnier days, the reenactments are awesome (battles, court life, women's dressing, cooking etc). I heard, in August (Lunghnassa Festival I believe) there is a big festival here, and if I went again, I'd so go for that.
 Examples of ancient Irish textiles (similar to Bedouin women's weaving in Oman).
 One of the re-enactors who demonstrates life in the castle (although in the 14th century, a drop spindle would have been used, not a spinning wheel, which is the same as how Omanis spun until the 80s).
If this had been an Omani fort, no safety railing (or fire escape signage) would be present;)
At the top of the tower stairs, we took a step out onto the defensive ramparts (but it was pretty cold out so we took a quick step back in very shortly after).
Only high ranking nobility in the early 9th-16th century usually had stuffed goose down mattresses, a lot of the warrior elite slept on stuffed straw mattresses, maybe covered with linen, and many other slept in the main hall by the fire on freshly strewn reeds or straw simply coating the floors. Putting reeds down, was a practice of hospitality for guests. I assume (second picture down from this sentence) that bed originally had a feather mattress, costly, and thus, not surviving to our time period.
Afterwards, we took a short walk to see the Togher (an example of an iron-age road), which was oak wood planks. My photo sucked, because I tripped walking along it, and yeah, that shows, cross-country transportation in this time period, without water access by boats, was hard-going for most, since walking was the order of the day, and only the nobility would have ridden horses, and maybe richer merchants, donkeys. However, on this walk we did see an Irish boar and piglets, which was totally cool. Unlike most Muslims, pigs don't freak me out because of dietary restrictions. Wild boar freak me out from reading too much medieval literature. People getting gored to death by wild boar, weirdly common feature.
Across from the tower house, there is an re-enactment of iron-age farming techniques, and the cutting of peat moss (for fueling the hearth fire). Very interesting agricultural practices, about seasons, drainage, and how animal husbandry went alongside the cultivation of grain, peas, and beans.
Of course, the whole reason I wanted to come here, was to see the Crannog, a mostly-Iron-age dwelling type that for protective reasons, were built on artificial lakes. Bronze-age structures are similar in construction, so seeing (on the woodland walk) the efforts made by Restoration-ists, to train trees in the same manner as the early Irish, for construction of these structures, was fascinating for me. To quote the pamphlet given to us by the site, "Every effort was made to keep secondary working on felled timber to a minimum so trees were selected for the purpose required and, if necessary, pruned to achieve desired result many years before being felled for use". Many trees here are being trained into particular shapes, like a plough, and the hazels which are coppiced and pollarded (seven years after being cut) to use for wattles in the roofing.

The Crannog island itself were constructed by placing layers of stone, tree trunks, brushwood and even old dug-out canoes on the lake bed, and these were secured by wooden pilings, and the platform was covered by a layer of sand or dirt (or  both).  A defensive timber fence often encompassed the property, and herein, houses of mud thatched with hazel wattles were erected. The approach for the home was a causeway, a bridge or by boat.
Above, peat fire. Smells really nice.
Above, example of a Viking settlement, in early Christian Ireland. Very similar to the Irish housing, but structures were made of stone, not mud, and thatched, not with wattles.
The Fullacht Fiadh was my husband's favourite site. He called it, "the Irish shuwa pit". This manner of cooking, originating in the Early bronze age, was a tough, constructed of timber and pilled with water, that was heated by stones from the camp fire tossed into the water. A joint of venison (deer meat) was spiced, wrapped in straw, and then tossed into the boiling water. When the meat was cooked and the water cooled, people ate, and the stones were usually tossed into a mound along later with bones, and this is how these sites are identified by archeologists.

After this area there was also a dolmen (which has only photos of me standing with so no posting) and a version of a Viking escape route/refrigerator/store (which only has photos of my husband crawling through it).
According to a 9th century manuscript, Brendan and his crew, were the first men to cross the Atlantic (to Newfoundland, Canada), using a boat made of oak-tanned hides sewn together and stretched over a flexible ash frame. This made the boat surprisingly resilient to the crushing ice (that downed Titanic) more than a wooden boat would have been, as two crew members- one inside, one hanging over the side of the boat into freezing water- could sew leather patches over damaged areas in the hull when pierced by sharp ice.

This boat, is, of course, a replica, however, in 1976 (see youtube video below) Tim Severin built this baby on the manuscript's description, and, stopping in the Aran Islands, in Donegal, the Hebrides, and in the Faroes, over-wintering in Iceland, proved that it was possible to cross the Atlantic and make it to North America. Pretty awesome. That's what I love about archeology and history.
Although the forest itself is quite warm, it was still nice to go visit the visitor's cottage and have a bowl of soup. Also, I am still regretting I didn't buy the kids the wooden swords in the gift shop.