Friday, July 31, 2015

TWO OMANIS IN: OPNO's village in the land-far-and-away

Despite the usual weather of the land-far-and-away, 2015 was an early, long, and dry summer.

So there was sunshine all but two days I was there. So abayas and a long-sleeve t-shirt were quite sufficient, and for the mornings on the water, which were still quite chilled, a borrowed men's coat did well enough, though I wasn't very fashionable.
One of the first things I did was sneak out early before anyone was awake but the fishermen (or late when no one was awake at all) and go down to the water (although these pictures were taken later in the day when I came back for a walk with my sister). I used to do this a lot in my early teens (okay, not really teens but that point one is on the cusp of girlhood to teenager-hood), when a small group of friends and I would make bonfires on the beach, steal boats, do crazy dares on the nearby islands we could row/motor out to. It is a wonder that any of us lived to reach twenty-five, though admittedly, some didn't.

Not every summer is a golden one, or silver with calm.

Sometimes I go back here, just to remember our little circle, how it was broken, how it once meant the world, and how I am somehow worlds away from the center that fell out. Despite the pain of the place, I always feel calm here, where the light is dappled, the seagrass and purple sea flowers wave, or the black rocks froth with foam as the sea is reaching for the sky.... Either way, it is as I remember, sun or storm.

Funny, current reality has changed little from memory. We were going to leave the little fishing/logging village as soon as we could, and I did. The only difference is, compared to plans, no one took me away, I went on my own, and I didn't sail off, but flew.
That's me, in fisherman fashion:
Now, I never really did love my town, beyond the forests, but I did love my friends and keep in touch with a precious few of them to this day. Most of them I fell out with when I became Muslim (or they drowned before that in a stolen boat in a storm when they should have been house-sitting) or they were guys and it just isn't proper for us to keep closely in touch when a girl has an Omani husband and is a Muslim;). Still none of the old set who used to do the bonfire on the beach thing am I friends with (the ones who drowned I don't blame of course) and it has nothing to do with me being Muslim.

You see, in a dead-end town like this one, there isn't much work unless you leave or become a construction person, a banker, or a real-estate agent.  So people tend to drink more than they should, and some do drugs, (lots of them do cocaine and pot) and I never was one for either, and drinking a Muslim gives up, so we just travel in different circles.

I hope they keep their health despite, and take better care of themselves, and realize one day that just being "from somewhere" and "living somewhere" doesn't mean life has to be that way. Leaving is easy. Or even just reinventing one's self and doing things one's own way. Coming back is always harder, because everything might be exactly the same but it will never be the same for you. ...Because you have changed.
White barnacles crust the wooden posts of the pier, waters lap, looking green under the shadow where the boys set their traps for crabs. ...I see across to my old house, off the spit, and channel where it pulls out to sea, where I nearly lost my life, for a dare. I swam across that point (still a point of pride despite the obvious foolishness of the deed), from town proper, to the east part. And that, dragging another girl with me, who was so thin she almost froze from the water. Afterwards, I had to make a fire on the beach, and hike up sans shoes, to the first house I could find and phone our parents to come get us (okay, her parents, because my dad would have killed me), because even a bike ride, it was over an hour away back to town.
Yeah, beyond barnacles, sea grass, stones spilt into the sea, very cold water, and forests (+friends) the place had nothing offer me. No adventure (just reckless danger), no variety, and love? It wasn't there for me. Every town like this has about one guy (if you're lucky) that you'd consider and sometimes, that's just not in the cards.

Me and an old friend, catching up, laughed about the idea of love in town. Our parents thought a guy with a decent job in town without a drinking habit so profound it negatively impacted him at any time to be a real catch. Our fathers both recommended the same guy to us, which makes me laugh.

You see, whether a small village in Oman or one in the land-far-and-away, the boys are the same.

...So it was never very hard to leave before, and not any harder now. 

Yet the seagrass is beautiful, and the rocks jutting out in the storms are something to see.

No storms for me, however, during my visit. Not this time.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

TWO OMANIS IN: forests and funerals in the land-far-and-away

Where I grew up couldn't be more different than Oman. It rains more than anything else. The sky and the mountains and hills and the coasts are often shrouded in mists, and there are great swathes of forests, some young, and some old, and ever so many trees.

I am a daughter of one forest. I grew up in a forest in the shade of a valley between two blue hills. I used to write poetry. Long haven't, but when I go back I often do. I don't know why I don't more in Oman. Arabs appreciate poetry the way that most people where I am from don't. However, there's something about a silver island where the season is always a green one and the stillness and the life in the forest that does inspire me. Or used to once.

A house of stone, a lawn of green
And the bonniest lass you've ever seen
A bush of rose betwixt
And a bed of lavender between
And the hills turned blue with shades of evergreen.

...So I wrote... trying to describe a story from childhood in verse.
The trees are the secret to the blue of the hills. The green, dark, and deep, covered in cloud, or wet damp, become blue almost. Only what is close is as it appears, a green. Sunshine might reveal their true brilliance, but having been accustomed to such great natural beauty, I admit, nothing in Oman's landscapes usually draws my breath. My love of the dust here is different, not as superficial as my appreciation of blue hills and wild roses, in the land far and away.

If someone from that place asks me, do I miss it there, I can be honest when I say, I miss almost nothing. I miss public transportation, I miss the freedom of walking, I miss running against the wind, climbing trees, shopping in antique stores, reading and bookstores, pattiseries and bakeries, eating out, dressing up, and remembering things I should leave in the past. Those are small things. To some they might account for a lot, but I can always leave them, visit them, and have them again anew.

What I do miss are our forests. And trees. And the scent of meadow lavender, wild, and the spice of  ferns and bracken underfoot. These are always with me in my mind. I can go, but close my eyes, they are before my eyes. I carry them with me.
I spent a lot of time playing in the woods as a child. Thus my childhood has an almost-fairy-tale quality to it. I know how  to trace my way back by the way the moss hangs in the trees, how to light a fire and keep warm, what to eat, what not to eat, how to make medicine and shampoos from roots and berries. I never got lost once, or was scared or cold, not while I was surrounded by trees, though I'll admit, I have a hatred for the idea of being knawed to death by bears, and have a healthy respect for the nature of big cats, for lions from the mountain stalked more than one person I know. My father is proud I guess, that I am not completely useless, despite my girly and princess'ey habits, for I can light a fire the best and not get lost. Which no one else in my family really can say, since they've all gotten lost. My sense of direction, actually horrible at real left-and-right directions, is fine-tuned in the forest. Every root, every stone, every cross-ed tree or moss hanging down, is a marker I can read. I haven't lost any of this. It is something primevil I suppose. It is in me.

...How easy would it be to lay me down
Among the leaves on the cold earth on the ground
Make my bed with sheets of forest rain
A thousand threads of silky hail
And the coming snow like feather down...

...I wrote once... I ran away once to live in the forest. I was ten or something. I didn't last the night. Sounds like bears scared me back. But I never find it cold when surrounded by trees, even if there is snow or rain. Me and the other children, used to make arrows and bows and pretend we were Robin Hood, or else superheroe versions of Robinson Crusoe. Or medieval knights, with sticks for swords, pinecones feeding sling-shots... We swore allegience to a king around the round table of a stump and played at King Arthur. I should be embarrassed to remember these things but I'm not. ...The boy made a good king and we never broke those oaths, the way we break adult promises at times...
Oman has nothing like a forest, not really. So I suppose I shant be buried in a forest now will I Jane?;)

My sister and I (and my mother and I) had an argument over death and dying and what not, since funeral arrangements were being discussed. My sister prefers a traditional burial, casket, crying, gravestone etc... and I think my mother does also, as she appears to be horrified by the idea that should I die in Oman (I likely will but who but Allah knows) my grave will be a unmarked thing in dust. "My husband can always show you which one is me," I try to reassure my mother, which does nothing of the kind I guess. I personally abhor the idea of anything left on my gravestone. Flowers would be such a mockery to senses that could no longer smell in a grave. I like the idea of being left well alone after death, having done what I was meant, trying to take nothing with me. The Muslim idea is nicer to me, than a Christian one.
My father's side of the family have the more interesting funerals. Depsite a history of faux-Christianity they always cremate (burn) their dead. I am sure it is a Viking thing we never lost. I like the idea of that, depsite being Muslim. I find it cleaner. And also much more dramatic especially if they'd let one cremate someone in an old ship, sailing away... of course they won't now will they? Darn governments. Since I can't have a boat burial, I'd love a forest one, alas also, government does object to burying someone just anywhere these days don't they? So the forest on family property where we've buried our family pets is out surely.

My father says he doesn't like the idea of worms eating him, although he figures, rightly, when he's dead, it won't matter much to him. But the idea of grave stones bothers us both.

A man that has no grave,
Shall be covered by the sea or sky.
And if his heart be right, it matters not
Where the rest shall lie.

But my father insists if he must have grave stone, make it an Egyptian obelisk, to be diffcult in the matter but appeasing enough for my sister, who fancies everything Egyptian, and always has.

I'll be buried a Muslim way. I don't think it matters to Allah that much but then, I am not educated in these matters. However, beyond burying me and praying for me, I wish if I die in Oman, no one will spend 3 days at a funeral for me. Serve no one food, waste no money, and do not visit or waste time from work or living loved ones at my expense. I find the whole process of the Omani azza taxing and pointless.

I didn't know the dead person, why should I attend the funeral? I can pray well enough for their soul at home, and I can be of no comfort to those who actually knew them and miss the deceased but by drinking and eating from their property, and that seems a waste. Life has enough waste in it, to waste much on the dead, beyond learning from their mistakes and asking for forgiveness, and any happy thoughts.

I much prefer the Irish wake. Singing, dancing, happy memories, except for a Muslim, all that singing and drinking wouldn't work now would it? But that would much more be a good time to me, after saying a prayer for my soul and forgiveness for my sins, I'd like folk to go on being happy, not wearing dull colours or being bored visiting and having to be all blah and sober. I wonder if one can have a halal, no music, no mixing, no drinking wake, and have it still turn out grand?

Somehow, with my relatives, I doubt it.

However, if I died a Muslim, the Omani-set, they should be happy.

Coming from the family I from, and the place that I from, that should be an accomplishment to make folk laugh and smile a little, even if they are sad. That should be comfort enough. Knowing a formerly fake Christian pagan such as myself managed to become and stay until death a Muslim is fascinating is it not?

I hope that is my end---after that point, I doubt  shall care overmuch.

As a Muslim, with a non-Muslim relative, making funeral arrangements is harder, it is harder for me to laugh and make light, so I'll do as they'd will me to do for them, while praying that'd change. It is Allah who opens hearts and minds, not us mere mortals, whatever free will we've got it isn't over others'. I laugh because it is our way to joke and laugh when tragedy is upon us, and hours are fixed. That's my culture, that's my way. Omanis will always find me horribly rude or shocking. Its either that or be depressed to the point of sinfulness, so I take the brighter cup and drink from its portion. I don't know a middle way.

I told my Omani husband his other wife can throw his funeral but I'll go just for the burying of him, maybe visit people who cared for him and are sad, but else, I will stay away from all that circus, and I'll make my prayers at home and cry my eyes out in peace, and then be happy as I can, doing whatever makes me happy if anything can. Time heals most wounds, but it leaves scars. I already know that. I've had that lesson meted out. I didn't die of grief, even I wanted to. Other people trying to be there for me, didn't help at all, I just had to hide. Better to cry and to laugh and be honest of it, not make as show.

He warns me people will think I did not love him then or that I do not care for them, but I told him, after he dies why should I care what other people think any more? I only do that now for his sake, because I love him. After he is dead, my honour  and reputation is, again, my own, alone, and I can do with it as I like. This makes him laugh, but I know he doesn't understand this, the way I understand the person whose funeral we are discussing of late.

My husband and I, can both hope that we die first, so none of it matters, at least not to us.
That's why forests are such magnificent places. They are so full of death and yet life goes on. It grows up from death and you can smell the dead and dying rot of the forest and it isn't sickening at all, because it is the earth that life springs from, and there's the sweetness and the spice of the life there. It is all together, and we don't try to seperate it or complicate it, like we do beyond the canopy of trees.

Some people feel forests are dark, and scary places, full of unknown sounds, and trees that make one seem so small. But I have never found that myself. There's comfort in such places of such raw nature, the warmth of the body of trees, their shelter from the rain and wind...

"You can tell stories at my funeral," my father says.

Perhaps I shall tell those gathered about the time a branch from a tree fell on me before going to take my examinations. My teacher was like, "boo hoo, a branch fell on my car and I still made it here on time." My uncle was like, "why didn't you just move it out of your way and go" when I aksed for his help moving the bloody thing. I had phoned my father from work, quite shaken that they weren't going to let me re-take my test, and he mocked me for being a silly girl upset over a branch.

Of course, when he came home, he saw the branch. It was the sze of a car, and by some miracle when it fell, I was standing between where two branches met and there was a gap. I managed to climb out with only scrapes on my face.

Forever always after that, my father remembers me as the silly girl who takes falling trees for branches. I'd like to think, that makes him proud.

My father had to cut it up with chainsaw to move it off the driveway. Neither of us mentioned that I could have died. He went to my teachers and had them allow me re-take my test. For I had only been late, not that I had not come at all. My father then cut down that tree, in revenge, and we used it for firewood for the next two years. That memory of him, cutting down that stupid tree, despite our love of forests, always makes me smile in remembrance of him.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Defending Muslims, Defending Arabs/Omanis (Mainly Saudis), and Defending Non-Muslims and their Countries: a rant

I am very tired of defending myself from Omanis who know me well, who should know me well enough to know I think no nation superior in intellect or manners to another overall, or that English is a more pleasing language to Arabic (beyond my own personal preferences) etc... Just as I am bloody well tired of defending Muslims, Arabs in general, Omanis at times (though people from most places in the world only know where Oman is if you say its near Dubai), and especially Saudis (who Allah knows have enough wrong within their country not to add to that with misconceptions from those outside the fold of KSA who have no Saudi female friends, Islamic religion, or say in the running of that country and its people) from the ignorance and Colonial orientalism of others.

I know, I should be patient. I should possibly even change myself. But Arabs and Muslims take offense too easily, regarding a comment about one wrong thing in their way, to be that we Westerners are looking down on them as a whole, and think we are better than them (this is a foolishness but that is the culture---I should know that and deal but I am tired).

And I love wearing black abayas. Please, stop saying oh Saudi men get to wear white and the women wear black yada yada. It is women performing the female circumsions in this part of the world, it is the women judging the dress of other women that make it okay for me to wear leopard print trim on an abaya or no abaya at all, or something ghastly dreadful out of fashion and bland. Not men in KSA, thanks be to God/Allah for that. North Americans. You drive me bonkers, as if scarves and robes and cloth were the important social issues Arabs/Muslims truly have to deal with.

My rant precedes from the following. The incident went like this.

"Oh look that's a famous Omani actress," says OMANI WOMAN #1 to OPNO.

OPNO: "?"

"She thinks we're all looking at her," says OMANI WOMAN # 2.

OPNO: "Is she very famous? I don't know her at all."

OMANI WOMAN # 1: "Well excuse us. I guess Oman isn't as high and mighty as your country [Canada], we don't have anyone as famous as Celine Dion or anything."

OPNO: "You guys have Sinbad the sailor, the original one."

Both Omani woman #1 and #2 glare at OPNO.

OPNO (trying to fix this): "Would I know her if I was a Saudi woman, who speaks Arabic. and watches Arabic dramas?"

(Apparently not the right thing to say, both both Omani woman #1 and Omani woman #2 stop speaking to OPNO for about an hour).

Which, of all the childish pathetic things, led to me being called a racist eventually, even though that is ridiculous. My Omani husband calls me racist sometimes, because I don't like to listen long in Arabic. And apparently I am even more racist to say I am glad I never have to listen in "german".

Yes, I do know much of English is a Germanic language. however some accents grate me ears. I don't think that's racist, it is just like and dislike. Not better and worst. Now if people get that much into a huff about an Arab actress, imagine how much more so that they do when you confront their understanding of Islamic practice, their cultural rudenesses, etc... It is a very hard line to walk and to live a life of self-balance in such a society.

In my own land, far and away, I have to insist to people that Muslims are put upon.

My own Uncle argues with me, that I must be exagerating, that I was never harassed walking down the street, or hurt by someone, for my religion. He, not a Muslim, me, both someone who once was not, and now am a Muslim.

My father defends me, havng witnessed but twice, the hate people gave me for dressing as I do, and my Uncle insists my father's testment is not enough. Apparently I am at fault, even though religious dress is included in my country's rights and charters of freedoms, for dressing as I do, as anti-of-the-country-I-am-from and that's like asking for bad stuff to happen to me. Although I myself, would think actually it to be far more unpatriotic of me, to bend to the will of ignorant others, and not stand up for those rights in the charter of freedoms by trying to please ignorant and violent others who do not embody the ideals of my nation-of-origin.

It doesn't matter to me much. But then, this was a goodbye visit, with both the Oman (my new nation) and the land-far-and-away, and I wonder if there is a place someone can truly belong to without offending anyone, and yet being true to one's own self and ideals.

Many nations expouse values that are in line with the ideals I hold for myself, and that my religion extolls for myself, and yet those nations themselves seem not to recognize their own ideals in practice. I should end this rant with that, and say that while I know it, I do not 100% accept it, and I suppose that shall always bug me. Since there is no way ranting about thise will change anything , should I delete this post?


Since I all too much like the sound of my own voice it seems:) so inshaAllah got that off my chest for the moment.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Eid Mubarak Oman

Eid Mubarak Oman, may this holiday be safe from crazy drivers, odd weather, and may it also have a dose of peace amid the chaos of too much meat and fruit and nuts and coffee and guests. Allah help us all, ameen. This Eid I am thankful, that I do not know violence, that I do not know suppression or oppression, and nor do my children, and all of these have their health. I pin pictures of dream homes and dream vacations, while some people cling to memories of lost children or spouses, sift through the rubble of houses, dream of education or refridgerators or food. I am very thankful for every blessing, and wish we could all want for others what it is we want for ourselves.

Eid Mubarak Oman, country that I love. I dearly, dearly miss you, as great as it is to have a break from village Eid;)

Monday, July 6, 2015

Cross-Cultural Marriages: Born-Muslim versus Became-Muslim Ramadan Mornings

If you are a born Muslim, you break your fast with dates. Generally speaking, dates, or dates, either dried or fresh. Maybe water. If you are a revert (Western---not all I am sure but this is true enough to make me laugh) we prefer stuff other than dates. I don't really care if the sunnah WAS dates. I fasted. Or I am going to fast. Dates aren't gonna cut it for me. I don't like them THAT much. When I am fasting, I am never ever like, oh I miss, a date.

My Omani husband has to have dates before the first fajr morning prayer is called.

I have to have a. a mug of coffee + b. eggs + c. toast. At least. I'd be okay with french toast or waffles if someone would get up early enough to make those for me;). I often settle for toast and water.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Family Debate: Absolute Monarchy and Democracy in Oman, the War of the Roses, and Sects in Islam

When you have a family who loves history and politics and debate as much as my own, very likely some very peculiar (and pedantic) subjects will come up....

For some reason my Uncle (who resents houses that are in the National Trust of the United Kingdom), will come to the end of his tirade against the Canadian government (usually a particular Premier who was born owning too much silverware for his liking) and the British monarchy with sentiments about the War of the Roses and Reformation, blah blah. This is one thing.  As I live now in an absolute monarchy (Oman) this subject always comes up and I am declared a royalist. Which I myself wonder about. Since I am "sunni" as a Muslim, many Muslims also could think of me as a "royalist" as well, as the Ummayyid caliphates did tend to favour their tribes when it came to government, I guess, though my rationalizations for what manner of school of thought and section of Islam I come to defend have nothing to do with politics and everything to do with history and "right and wrong" idealism, I guess. I am also declared "very female" for that, and wonder not if I should be offended?

Somehow, as we discuss the "cousins war" from now medieval British history, and contemplate the complex tapestry woven of Islamic Party/Sect control of majority Muslim history through out history, I am always discussing with my family what side I would have been on. As my family had no history that we are aware of in England, during the war of the roses, or neither any in Flanders, or Burgundy, and little to none beyond being ignorant crusaders in the 12th century, and I am certainy the only Muslim of my family line, discussing whose side we would have been on seems, I don't know, silly. And yet, alas, that is what the Muslim world does to this day, with terms such "sunni" "shia" "ibadhi" "Isis" "wahabi" blah blah blah on the mouths of people who do not know the origins, the history, the connotation, of the sect they have chosen, and cannot differentiate from what it has become and modernly encompasses, from what it began as and originally meant.

Back to the cousins' war. If I was a royalist, tried and true, I must always have been for King Henry and Queen Margaret and their heir (Lancastrians) to the end, and I would have lost and suffered (supposing I was landowning and had anything great to lose). It is always my opinion that from the 13th century onwards owning enough land but not too much to be of armed consequence was quite a good thing, because a King who overthrows your king could forgive you for supporting his rival and you could change your colours always as if nothing had ever happened. Which happened a great deal in the cousins' war. But then, with King Edward (a plantagenant) on the throne, and in his reign, while there was war, there was some manner of law for those lesser than princes that was consistent, and I think this would have won my loyalty. I am not sure, but I think I would have been a York supporter. The best qualified should always be in charge. Someone who runs the general country best, safe passable roads, trade, education, law and courts, etc.

Which is kind of, an Ibadhi thought for Muslims, I suppose, rather than a Sunni thought. Keep in mind, I am a Sunni.

But I may have switched back to the Lancastrian side, once Edward died, as I would have seen Richard the III's imprisoning the two princes in the tower as a great betrayal, despite perhaps Richard the III being better for England than a couple of boys. I don't know. It is hard to tell what one would have done, depending on who one would have been, what would have been of value, and who one had to protect (i.e. Elizabeth of York who had to marry a man who would murder her brothers).

Which makes such games so silly, although we play them on the modern stage, with Islamic history now in our medieval period, our dark ages, as the War of the Roses and Hundred Years' Wars were for European Christian history.

I am a Sunni, in the manner of Ibn Abbas, so while I would have been declared a Sunni in the time period, I would have stood to fight with neither Ibadhi and Shia (modern-day Shia are more to me, like the absolute monarchy people, saying Islamic leadership is tied to a bloodline, rather than the best qualified) nor with the Sunni (Muawiyah). (Whereas, Muawiyah, let's face it, was definately not the best qualified and if you had a choice between Ali R.A. and Muawiyah, you wouldn't have wanted him to lead your government unless you were of his tribe and allied tribes) (and thus there are Ibadhi). I would have said, we should not be fighting, we should not divide ourselves, we are but one house, and that would have been me, back then, I think. I would have walked out on them all, like Ibn Abbas, for killing another Muslim unless they have left Islam completely, is a sin, so such fighting is declared by law of the Propet Mohammed, unjust.

To me, everything that comes from that battefeild in ancient history, every prejudice, every hate, every innovation,  every division, every injustice, is regrettable and avoidable. It is ancient history now. I wish, we wouldn't still be choosing sides, for a battle that should never have had to have happened. It's not like we've got a back-up Princess Elizabeth of York to wed a Lancstrian King and we can put it all behind us or anything.

Most Muslims don't even know their own history to know which side they would have been on. They proclaim ideals out of line with what, historically at least, they are supporting.

This subject comes up with my family a lot, and any non-Muslims, with questions about Islamic modern politics playing out on the global theatre.

Oman being an absolute-monarchy, I am asked by family to compare that to my Islamic political leanings. And to describe how dangerous a description could be if it were written in Oman, as in the days the speakers of our parliamentary government (we are a constitutional monarchy) being killed by order of the King.

I fear no death from my words by Sultan Qaboos, lol, although I don't think he'd agree with everything I write on this blog. I know the two of us have different opinions about which apsects of citizens' lives country-law should rule over, such as who one can marry, basically derived from differing opinions about the benefits and construct of such laws. I also think that I am more scared of parliament in Oman, than I am of a monarchy, as the majority of Omanis who have the power to vote,  have opinion (perhaps uneducated ones) that I think contrary to the benefit of the nation and the people (i.e. let's all get nationally mad about a small expatriate pajama party but who cares about Omanisation of the unskilled labour and poor anti-cheating measures in the education system in the country). As much as I do support perhaps a constitutional monarchy in Oman's future, a doing away with the Council of Ministers and integrating that with the Shura somehow, I think the "monarchy" in Oman will have to be strictly defined if Oman wanted to go this route.

I have been called out by others, and it has been said of me, that I am a liar, for knowing some Princesses and Princes in the middleeast. I laugh at this, since really it is no big deal here. It is hard NOT to meet someone in government or someone from a royal family in the MiddleEast in many professions. My own mother, who Omanis like to politely call "Bedouin" for her lack of propriety and manners, knows many diplomats and government people, because they liked to frequent PDO club's bar. So you can even meet Royalty in bars in Oman, go figure.

The royal families of Gulf states are huge, and in Oman at least, some have no power whatsoever, and few privellages. All the people I know are totally normal people who do totally normal things. You might have seen them shopping at Al Fair. In fact, they seem less inclined to be spoiled than low-lier "classed" Omani women I am also friends with, who delight in brands, and housemaids etc... and they certainly talk about "wasta" less. They may be better travelled and bettered educated, but that is the only difference. Their education doesn't always exceed my own, and I had a very modest middle-class upbringing and education. Even wrting this makes me feel "class" ist and racist lol. But people are very much the same, no matter what. Divisions like wealth and education exist, and those are entirely of our own making and could be remedied. Any other divisions, are made up and fantasy, I swear, at least with all the working royals I know. People defer to them and "embrassingly" court their favour, but that's about it, in way of a difference I notice. I think they are as embarassed as I am when this happens.

"When you are an Omani citizen then you can me 'Your Highness'," one Royal tries to calm some people we are sitting with, as I am referring to her without a title. "Like that will ever happen," I laugh, and she grins, but the people we are sitting with look HORRIFIED. Some Omanis, obviously, still want a monarchy.

And looking at my little daughter, I can't blame them, despite my Islamic political beliefs. Who doesn't love a pretty princess, and a handsome prince, or diginifed looking King? There's a romance to it. It makes for great stories. Especially for young men who grew up on tales of tribal warfare and honour and all that... defending a Princess from possible attack in the parking lot seems to appeal to them, as laughable as that always comes across to me.

...But then, no Cinderella story for me, I am famous for a time I was supposed to meet someone very famous in the royal family of Oman and my shoe broke (I wore a nice pair of heels) and ended up just wearing the ugliest pair of rubber flip flops... which he did notice and grinned about, and I got a wink, so... I have to wonder if his Majesty Himself does not own a cool pair of flip flops.

So defining the royal family in Oman COULD PROVE DIFFICULT for Oman if Oman ever decided to have a consitutional monarchy. Which family members to include and which to disclude...and where to create line for direct lines... like do we only include firstborns? Males? Whatever... that whole old highly sexist and classist monarchial bloodline thing.

That's one drawback.

But the biggest so far is voter's education... Shura has made some crazy assertations... So if, Oman did have a constitutional monarchy, they would definately need a much better constitution (and clearer) than anything they currently have got, and the court system would need to be revised....and the Minster Council needs some form of integration (I guess they are like a senate and parliament in one). I can't imagine how to do that easily, really I can't.

I am glad I am not a Minister or His Majesty because, I get a headache just thinking about it... I can't help but feel that Sultan Qaboos has it in his head that he'd like to go this route from statements he's made in past interviews, but his fears and knowledge of the country should be deeper than mine, and I understand I guess to say, why he hasn't.

I don't think that makes me a "Royalist" still. I wouldn't fight and die for a bad Sultan, just because they bore a name. But I wouldn't trade a decent one for a government of those selected (not all but enough) to appeal to popular prejudices and imprudent aims.

Beyond Islamic complexities, politics and conditions of government are things, which I do confess, I forget about entirely when I am away from my family, I have too many friends of differing backgrounds to be of fixed opinions about anything I suppose. Any friend I know who owns a "vast English estate tucked away in the countryside" is far more impoverished and enchained than I am in my life. My experiences have taught me that people with titles and wealth--- at least European ones, have far more responsibilities than I do, and I wouldn't trade lots with them for more than a weekend, ever. Or marry one of them, no offense if any one of "those kind of people" read this lol. So I have a healthy respect for "nobility" and "monarchy". At least the responsible and goodly kind.

Which of course, enrages my Uncle, and then we discuss for several hours why communism really does not work either, as a form of government (he fought in the Vietnam war, of course, in the side against communism, ironically).

What form of government is best? For any country or for Oman? I could not say. At times a monarchy works well, and a constitutional monarchy still presents the same old flaws at times as an absolute one. A republic, I confess, I do not like much, and find too much rule of ignorant masses therein, and it can become fascist. Communism, we know its err is that men are all perfect, and are content to be the same as others, and that is not so of our character... and the same error is that of so-called Islamic Law for all the Land, I suppose. Someone greedy will always get hold of it, and pick and choose what they want of it, and then we'll be Saudi Arabia or Iran, and I can't see myself well there, though I can't speak for all Omanis on that.

Maybe it is best I won't be staying with my family too long... thinking these thoughts remind me almost ashamedly of the ghost of the old me, the rebel, the fighter, the thinker, the doer, the crusader, that I buried, since that woman was far too an idealistic but fatally pragmatic creature, too divided and unsure of her own leanings to succeed in much action, yet unable to sit still. Muscat is far too easy and slow a place to accomodate such a person. So much is possible there, that possible things become impossible, and I smile and laugh too much now, to take serrious the serrious things.

I wonder if my family notices? How I no longer burn bridges and howler and yell, over past nothings and ancient history, and care little about the future, as if I could never catch it aright anyways, and focus instead on the day.... They say I have not aged, but that in it to me, is proof that I have. When Oman's Shura can say the same of itself, I suppose then we'll be ready for something like constitutional monarchy.

Allah hu allim "God knows best".

Friday, July 3, 2015

Eid Link List for How to Live Like an Omani Princess

Neither OPNO will be in Oman for this upcoming Eid--- we are celebrating Eids in Singapore and Canada this year (weird huh?) so [by request] here are the links to some previous Eid posts;). Hope your Ramadan is going well.

WHAT IS EID in how is it celebrated in OMAN?:

LAST EID AL FITR (eid after Ramadan) for one OPNO blogger:
EID AL FITR controvery in Oman

Eid al Fitr 2013 for one OPNO blogger:

Eid al Adha 2013 in Muscat for one OPNO blogger:

Eid as a single gal in Al Athaiba, Muscat:

Eid gift guides:

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Things Oman Lacks part 1: Bookstores

I have visited real bookstores. I mean, real actual bookstores. Forget about postal service, Other Oman in the US of A;) [ ]. Bookstores are what are really missing from Oman.

Dear Oman, a real bookstore sells books. They do not sell (at least not primarily) stationary, they do not sell toys, they do not sell school supplies. They sell books, paperbacks, hardcovers. Depending on the bookstore the books can be used or new, the bookstore can be specialized (antique tomes, children's, or fiction or travel etc.) or general (as in an assortment of everything). But they still sell books. Real, live actual books. And I have been buying books... too many of course, so scary thought for my suitcase... but how I have been reading again since I have been here. I think I read more in one week than I do in a year in Muscat, and I read and write for a living in Oman...

People ask me how I know a little about so much about so much (at least in Oman among people who've always lived in Oman) and its because I read. As a child I used to be baby-sat by the library... I read everything about everything, especially history, design, archeology, religion, military tactics, ancestry, and literature (with a good dose of fiction thrown in for good measure because it is so enjoyable). Why do people in Oman not read very much or know less than some other places in the world? Because there is nothing to read beyond the internet, I swear! Media is too limited to trust TV to teach much in any way of variation of subject matter.

Unless you order it online, stuff is just not available, and... books are heavy. Shipping sucks. Back to Other Oman's post, postal service sucks. Getting a PO box... can suck.
I loved used bookstores the most... that's where I find the greatest treasures...
 And quaint little specialized bookshops have their charm too of course...
We even have a "haunted" bookshop... back in the land far and away (pictured with green awning behind the local band). It was closed when I got to it, but maybe I'll go back? I've never seen a ghost before;) but I've been in their store... Its slection is pretty solid.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

In the land far-and-away, on their National Day

My last post resulted in some responses, and I guess I used to care about government.. in fact once I tried out a life in politics. Serriously. Wasn't me. There's still holes in parliament carpet from my stillettos. Not exaggerating. But happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadian expats in Oman. I spent my Canada day long weekend at the Lt. Governor of Canada's (or some province) house (ironically-this was the last place I visited while deciding politics wasn't for me over tea and cucumber sandwiches). I came for rose gardens, but wound up in the ballroom which I'd never seen). I guess if you take citizenship they have a swearing-in ceremony here? As far as I know, Oman's interior ministry has nothing of the kind...