Friday, September 25, 2015

Eid's Not so Bad

My husband sent me these photos today, after the last post I made;). The caption was, "Eid's Not So Bad"... Which does mean of course, his English is getting better, that, or he watched an episode of Little Mosque on the Prairie on youtube, called "Eid's a Wonderful Life" and figured you can use Eid for it's.
Eid swag, Omani male style

Monday, September 21, 2015

Life and Eid in Oman: Have I Reached That Typical Nervous Western-Expat-to-Omani-Wife Breakdown Point?

I love Oman, don't get me wrong. It is never cold here. I can wear open-toe shoes (or even flip flops) to work. I drink fresh juice, see amazing culture, get to photograph and design some awesome stuff. Alot of Muslim women I know would be so satisfied with the life I lead, the family I have, the stuff I have, the place I am in, surrounded by mosques, hearing the call to prayer everyday, safe, and still relatively free to move about and do my own thing. I know this. I am not an ingrate.

But maybe I am having a breakdown? I recently freaked out on my Omani husband (who I love dearly and beats any lad from back home by like 100,000,000 meters) saying I hated my life here, it was boring, and I was wasting away!!!! And how I didn't like Eid at all, and since I didn't get like, family Christmas, as I didn't want to spend my Eid cutting meat, wearing stupid hot clothes I don't like (wearing a scarf even around other women ALLLLLL the bloody freakin' time), and sitting politely eating food that just doesn't cut it for me (rice, harees, shuwa---all lovely things but not what I want as a treat on a holiday). And having little privacy, since, like, we don't have a house in his village so I depend on others for the freedom to use their kitchen and when to come and go. I love his family. I like their food. They must think I hate them, but really I don't. It is just hard for me. They don't know, really, what I gave up. Since I don't contact my family or friends much unless someone is sick or dying or getting married and never go home, I must not have much to miss right?

But for me, things I miss, are usually better kept in the back of the mind, away from speaking about, thinking about, going on about. But Eid makes me miss (not another life) but another way of living.

Of course, my Omani husband knows, if I go back to my home country, I hate it there even more. Islamaphobia, racism, orientalism, of my religion, drive me to commit crimes (serrious) or to feel depressed and not want to go out, the cold eats away at my soul and disturbs my health, and the bleakness of being surrounded by polite hypocrisy and deliberate ignorance... it does something very bad to me, eats out the core of me, wounds me, in a way that has not healed yet. Maybe I could live in Ireland? Even though everybody there was pretty much Catholic, they were a lot nicer than home. If someone doesn't like something, they say it, and that's the end of it. I like that. But mostly people don't have opinions on what they don't know, and are otherwise friendly, and that's nice. But the cold.... Nope, I couldn't do it. Plus supersitious people never like me. Something about my family ancestry (we've got banshees or Jinn or what have you attached to us and all our husbands are doomed). Whatever, its nonsense. Marriages are doomed because of much less, I feel. I guess that's why Grandma Grace went away...

But when I compare how I lived there compared to here, is it any wonder I am bored? Or feel I am being wasted?
In the city I had bookshops, vintage clothing, antique shopping, boulangeries, pattiseries, delis, restaurants (that didn't eat up my salary the way eating out in Oman does), architecture, museums, art, parks, gardens, race tracks (horses and cars)... literally I could just walk around and watch my life go by there. If people were better (or less ignorant or cruel) I might have. I didn't even photograph stuff there, or blog much. I had a very full life. I enjoyed it.

In the country I had camping, boating, hiking, biking, off-roading, painting, writing, reading, bookshops too, shooting, hunting, fishing (didn't like to do this but some people do), surfing (I suck), skiing, skating, hockey, motorcross (I only watched), rugby, soccer/football, riding, drinking (some people do too much of this and as a Muslim I refrain of course), and family. I mean, we country (even if it is weekend and holiday only) girls can rock climb, swim, ride, shoot, build a fire, get a 4x4 winched, change tires, paint our own apartments, fix stuff... In Oman, I don't get to do much of this. Not that I CAN'T in abaya and hijab (because I can surf in my get-up and that's hard) but because it isn't "done" or easy or available here. Below are some pics of one of my bestfriend B, doing all the stuff I miss (and I mean, we women did these things on our own, not always with brothers and guy friends and husbands---we didn't just have coffee and shop and sit around dressed up drinking tea):
Now, to Arabs, our Western family is different. When we are close with our family that is. Unlike Arabs, the men and women mix. By mixing, I mean we talk (not about everything but most stuff) I know all my cousins, male, and was friends (as in I spoke to them and knew generally about the details of their lives) with them growing up or thought of them like an Uncle if they were older than me (I still wear hijab in front of them). I have a larger family. My mother comes from a family of thirteen (they were Catholic), and my father from a family of five boys, all of whom married and had kids but one brother. We visit each other every other weekend, if we live close by eachother. Every holiday (Christmas, birthdays, Anniversaries, Easter, Weddings, and Government holidays) we get together, usually for food, drinking, talking, giving presents, and occasionally dancing (though no one in my family but Grandma Grace could sing so we weren't that musical and she didn't believe women should sing in front of crowds so...).
Why I like our holidays in general weddings and Christmases better, is simply because the sexes are not seperated maybe? I can see my husband, feel like a family, share conversation together (which trust me, really is better when it isn't a bunch of women in a group talking about the same polite stuff over and over again ----usually). There are foods and snacks I like. My family gets into ridiculous silly debates. People have memorable contests (like who can catch a watermelon thrown up into the air on a knife point). We relax. We laugh together. We know eachother.

Somehow I feel, that most people for Eid in Oman, are being someone else for their family. Like, they put on their best appearence when they go to village or something, and there's things they don't say, and stuff they don't talk about, and I feel, even if I could speak Arabic, maybe somehow my husband's family would like me less then. Because I have stories, and not a very quiet soul.

Weddings are better because my father can be there with me, and my husband. It isn't like a formal-dress sleepover girls' party, which are kind of what Omani women's weddings are like. It feels... showey... like a photography stunt, or... again something distant. I like having a first dance with my father then with my husband. I like sitting and eating with my husband if I am getting married. I don't want to be alone on a chair with everyone looking at me as a bride... I'd hate that. I'd like for my uncles to make stupid speaches and tease my husband as I know they would. I'd like my husband's family to see how properly my family behave together even mixed (so long as you keep beer and wine away lol).

And family when there is no occasion... I meet my uncles for coffee, go for walks or garden with my Aunts (or paint their house, or makeover an old coffee table we bought at a used store). I have tea with my father, and talk about the news and books we've read. I go to the movies with my sister, and shop (and fight with her publically there;) ).

I think, even an unhappy marriage survives longer in this lifestyle. I could go out and walk places (and there was public transport). I could spend my days in museums and art galleries, reading, window-shopping, sewing stuff, painting stuff, fixing stuff. Here... that's all very expensive or impossible.

My marriage is happy here so my husband asks me if I didn't have to work or constantly mind the kids and had money to do all this stuff... would it be better? I have to watch out, because maybe he is secretly asking me (jealous stupid Omani man that he is), would I have been happier if I married that rich guy who asked me to marry him, who I would rather-be-hit-by-a-bus -than-marry, to have a better lifestyle.... I don't think it would. That would just be less stressful. It wouldn't solve the artifice  and lack of free-movement of Omani-society-tribal-family-based life I encounter outside the walls of our nuclear home. It wouldn't make it okay for us to do our own thing for Eid. It wouldn't make antique stores and easy DIY projects, etc... and cheap entertainment, suddenly appear.

What is the solution for this rant? I don't know. I am still searching for the answer to that, but I can't brush it aside and say that is simply homesickness, or have others erringly define it as regret for the choices I have made.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Shopping for Eid Abayas and/ or dresses in Oman versus the same in Canada

The other day we went out for brunch at D'Arcy's in Shatti, Al Qurum, as we are wont to do on days where I stayed up all night and thus have no desire whatsoever to cook (anything, at all, even eggs or pancakes). While we were there I saw the cutest yellow tweed abaya in the mall where D'Arcy's is, and almost bought it on spot. It was Kooki & Zee, like 100 OMR, and I could probably even justify the purchase to myself saying, Eid Al Adha is coming. Tweed and me go together, well, like tweed and Chanel 2.55's, and I could already see myself styling it. However, I already had made myself at the tailor an abaya for Eid.
Online, this Endemage blush beauty was calling to me. Can't you just see how casually wearable, and yet how easy to dress up it would be?
 Or this funky Aywa dress, with Dama6 clutch, I saw on Haute Arabia's online shop... I could be so funky in that, especially with my new hair cut...

And in the mall in Shatti, these two lovely creations from Hala Bajunaid's label were on the rack, calling my name almost. How classic are they? So beautiful, so wearable. And only, like 60 omr.

Of course, in Oman, you don't have to spend that much on an Eid abaya or dress. You can go to the souq and get dresses for 10-20 OMR that are nice enough. Or get an abaya tailored, just choose your fabric, usually 4 meters, like 1.5-6 omr a meter, and then pay anywhere from 3-15 omr to get it done up at the tailor (some tailors charge more if you aren't just doing sewing work, like 25-50 if there's some handwork). That's what I did. That's what we do in Oman.

My husband's family, they usually buy new clothes, at least two new dresses, and one abaya, and a pair of shoes, for the ladies, 3 new dishdashas for the husband and boys, new hats and musayr for the boys and husband, occasionally fancy schmancy stuff like daggers and rifles and swords because we are a traditional lot. Plus us women get ourselves' henna'ed up. For girls they usually get 2 new outfits, one fancy, one traditional, and usually 2 sets of new play clothes.

Which makes me go, what the hell? Sometimes, at least. It is great when the kids need new clothes but when they have a dozen nice things already hanging in the closet I dislike to buy myself or them anything new.

Because I remember when I was living in Canada and I saved for a month just to buy (and not so nice usually) abaya from online and get like, maybe a shoe or purse or ring to match with it, and that was that. I could afford this because I didn't have kids. I was like, the fashionable one, lol. That was because I knew women who could barely afford a new scarf or like 1 abaya a year.

So buying so much new stuff when there is perfectly fine clothing in wardrobe hanging, reminds me about life in the Gulf.

Relatives say Islam says to wear new clothes for Eid, but I remember, it also says, your best. Your best might not be new.

I am the last person on earth that says Muslims shouldn't spend their money (after all, in Islam, we can't take it with us) or dress beautifully (as Islam says "Allah is beautiful and loves Beauty"). I mean, I probably WILL go back to buy those abayas, Kooki & Zee, and Hala, and Endemage if I can afford to justify that purchase.

But this isn't Eid al Fitr, this is Eid al Adha, and I remember that Allah asked Ibrahim to give up his son, and that boy, to offer up his life. And if I am to wear new or my best, I remember also that the Messenger of Allah told all women to go out to the Eid prayer, even if they had to borrow a jilbab (abaya) from others. So that reminds me of the women in Canada who can't really afford even one abaya a year (so why should I have multiple new fancy ones when I have a perfectly good one that's fine), and places even poorer, where feeding their children, let alone clothing them, is a greater issue?

Eid is a time for Muslims to celebrate, and I am not intending this post to be a downer AT ALL, so in fact, as I am wishing you all a happy, safe and peaceful Eid filled with beauty, know that I think this about myself.  I want always to be a stylish, beautiful, fashionable woman (let's face it, that's how I am, I have a girly personality that expresses itself artistically in clothes and makeup and interior design etc) but I hope I don't even forget the most beautiful thing to Allah, on this holiday that is about sacrifice for the sake of Allah, even those sacrifices, God doesn't require of us in the end, is humility and generousity. The rest of the year, I might have those in short supply, but abaya shopping (which I love to do!) reminded me of that this year.

So thanks to Kooki & Z, Hala, and Nadia and Lubna, whose beautiful creations, reminded me of the beautiful women I knew from a life I lived before I came here, who need something pretty once and a while.  I remember, when I first moved here, and I was robbed, and then I lent someone money who never paid me back, and I met the girls I now fondly refer to as the Shatti girls? Well, they kept trying to buy me designer abayas and take me out for dinner at fancy restaurants, well, because to them, I was the most alone and impoverished person they had personally known, which is LOL right, because, I didn't grow up a poor girl at all. So if you can afford to buy three sets of nice new designer clothes, maybe you can look up a random masjid on a map in Europe or North America, and send some simple but practical (and not a hundred years old in style) abayas to those Mosques to give away to women who need them? Because I knew women who LITERALLY wore table cloths from Walmart on their heads because they couldn't afford a nice scarf, when it came to buying modest clothes for themselves, or buying their kids school clothes and paying rent.

That'd be nice.

EID MUBARAK OMAN, may the meaning of Eid Al Adha touch your heart, and see y'all after the holidays.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

OOTD, with abaya: wearing colour in the Gulf

As promised, an outfit of the day post for one of my recently tailored coloured abayas. This abaya is my own design, and is linen and striped English cotton from Mehdi fabrics in al Qurum near Saabco. The shayla fabric is chiffon from the same store. It was tailored in al muwaleh near a tea shop. The sleeves are seven inches too long but that kind of (since I have snaps at the wrist) gives it a gathered bisht-kind of look, so I am ok with it, even though I know it was an error from the tailor, who sewed the linen to my arm measurement then added the striped fabric as I requested, without shortening the sleeve length. 3 omr, that's what you get.

I wear it with my own pearl bracelets and vintage cameo ring (neither are from Oman or likely to be purchased from anywhere) and a beige purse, which was from the Dragon souq in Barka (like 4 omr or something since I bought the same style in several colours). I think the brand of the purse is Susen, since of all the Chinese purse brands, I have come to trust Susen not to fall apart. It is actually better than Aldo, so...

Also, I am not likely to wear it with these red velvet Michael Kors shoes, but I haven't bought any shoes yet that I love to go with it...so I thought a pop of red looked nice next to all the beige and the orange of the lantern props.
Myself, I really love the airiness of wearing cotton and linen but some people prefer the crepe of traditional abaya fabrics (I know I prefer the weave of black shayla fabric to any chiffon in colours I have yet found). ...My father, would probably hate the fabric I chose, and say with all those little roses and stripes it looks like something he'd upholster a dining chair seat in or something and that I was bound to wear curtains one day, blah blah, but I feel it is so English country, and yet from far away, the stripes are so Arab (my husband said it looked kind of Algerian) that it kind of just sums my personality up. Nothing quite from one place but at home.

I've already worn it out around a little in Muscat (with flats not heels) and no weird stuff from men... ...Though, since I am OBVIOUSLY not Omani, Omani women when they see me with my husband kind of are , errr, more colder, meaner maybe...than usual???

I don't know, they think I am Moroccan or Syrian or Algerian ;) or something, and married to Omani, and not Western in this (and Omani women are usually friendly to Western-convert-me and just laugh about why I would want to marry an Omani) so this is a hazard (for me at least) I guess to wearing some colour (or stripes?) in Muscat.

It is a sad fact...Omani women my age or older generally dislike poor Moroccan women, and I guess I am proof that pertains even to modestly dressed ones, so they can't say it is cuz Moroccans are dressed inapproproately or going out with a boyfriend because obviously we were a family with kids and super covered. So take that, argument against Omani-female-hate for Moroccans;).

I haven't dared try to wear it in the Interior yet where my inlaws live... That we will have to wait and see.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Reading "New Moroccan Style" by Susan Sully and Eyeing Valerie Barkowski's take on Minimal Moroccan

Reading "New Moroccan Style" by Susan Sully I stumbled upon Dar Kawa Hotel in Marrakesh, and fell head over heels for the minimalistic treatment of Arabian decor by Valerie Barkowski on the 17th century Moroccan building. I am in no way a minimalist myself, so I have such respect for people who can treat a space as space worthy of its own emptiness, but also make that space warm, inviting, and human. There is something so intriguing and alluring about Valerie's slightest graceful touch, that my admiration is this blathering you come to read.  

...I also came upon (by way of googling) Valerie's own blog and am now an avid follower: http://valeriebarkowski.com/ .