Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Hostels in Oman? What do you think and who would use them?

One thing people always complain about are the prices for hotels in Oman. So what does my readership think about hostels (i.e a room with two beds that you may or may not share with a stranger depending how many persons you are travelling with, and shared bathroom and kitchen facilities?) ?

I am just curious, since, well, when I ended up stranded in Muscat, I was desperate for a hotel I could afford, and ended up sharing with a bunch of other Muslim girls, and it was very much like a hostel, and I was okay with it. But when one of the girls moved her boyfriend in (and she and I fought about him and how he treated her in general---not that I was the Queen of healthy relationships at the time) I had to move out.

So hostels? What do you think in general?

Who would use them more? Mixed groups of friends? Muslim gals  and other girls wanting to be safe and wanting to travel together but see the Middle East/Gulf on the cheap? Guys who just don't understand why all the hotels in Oman cost 30 rials or more--- which is like, a really nice bed and breakfast in the countryside Europe?

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Another Wedding Weekend in the Village, and a new trend for Omani women concerning divorce?

There were more than a few weddings to attend this weekend in my Omani husband's mountain village (why do you people insist on getting married in the summer?!!!). Being the summer, as most government jobs offer up summer vacation days, this is the regular time for weddings. What was odd about these weddings however, was  not the timing (weekend, summer) but about how many times (and how many weddings endured) these particular brides had been married before. Rates of divorcees getting married again in the Arab world are not the highest. But maybe things are slowly changing for Oman? Afterall, divorce rates appear to be climbing. Remarriage statistics should adjust accordingly.
Now before I go on to that, let me explain how my village is not the most forward thinking in the world. Less than twenty years ago arranged marriages were the norm, and child weddings also, for guys as well as girls. I know a set of brothers and sisters, who were married, first set, when the boy was twelve and the girl was eight, and the other set, when the boy was ten and the girl was six. This is old school even for Oman, but remember we are in the mountains;).

Today, weddings are less arranged per say, but they aren't a whole lot more modern, usually. The groom either grew up with the girl as a neighbor or a relative (cousin or an inlaw by marriage somehow). Both are usually close in age (at least on our side of the mountain). In Jebel Akdhar and Rustaq I have heard of girls in their early 20s or just graduated highschool marrying men over 50+. Now I personally like an age distance in a man and myself, of ten years at least, but that's just me. In village weddings it is usually 2-4 years difference only. Usually the groom knows of the bride, but sometimes his brother or friend or mother and sisters tells him about a potential girl. Often, in cases where a male friend tells the groom about a potential wife the girl is an inlaw by marriage, or a relation through business/work/or a former college classmate. Having a respectable connnection is still key. People always wanna know about my husband and me, since I guess our original connection is always assumed to be something scandalous;)? Who in a quiet village where nothing ever happens, doesn't want to hear about a scandal;)?

Now, to paint you a picture of a regular village wedding itself.
Village weddings in the summer (despite us being in the mountain, since us women are usually indoors) can be hot. We wear headscarves (only the bride doesn't) all the time (because of superstition about the evil eye or to make the bride stand out, I have no idea even after all these years here). Usually we have long sleeves. ACs sometimes are not working because it is the summer, and if an air conditioning unit is going to break, it will always happen in the summer. The dress pictured above would be worn matched with a sweater shrug and a headscarf in courdinating hues. Sweater shrugs and stretch t-shirt, how I loathe theee!!!!

Music will be playing. If you dance, some women will talk about you.... So I don't dance.
Usually I just sit and stare at the eye candy of traditional dress, crazy-ass make-up, and feel bad for the bride, how her photographer usually sucks, and the backdrop of all this expense, sucks. ...And  I eat. I like to see all the traditional Oman dress, and prefer when women wear that, since usually they make modest Western wear look awful. Not always, but usually.

If it is a close relative, sometimes I end up rolling up my sleeves and helping a sister-in-law or my mother-in-law and the housemaid with serving and doing dishes.
More often than that however, women make me give them makeovers. I spend hours doing other women's makeup during village weddings. Sometimes I will rouse myself from being overly resentful about having to wear hijab even in front of other women (culture---not Islam) and will pull AC wires out of the photographer's shots of the bride.

But mostly I visit and eat. My visiting is restrained by my lack of Arabic to formalities and little memorized phrases of politeness. It is probably for the best. A quiet woman, and dumb, is a safe woman:).
What makes these weddings stand out however, from the usuaul, was that both brides were getting married again. For one it was her fifth wedding. For the other, the seventh.

Getting married again after divorce or even widowhood in our village, if you are not over 50 and marrying a man over 80 or more (the unemployed woman for financial provision, the man, because he needs a nursemaid) is extroidinarily odd. Even women who were only married, (had melka) but the marriage was not consumated (walimah usually) have difficulty getting married again, to decent guys.

In the case of these two women, we in the village would say, they are very unlucky. One, when she first married, was divorced the day of the consumation of the wedding. Then, was married to another man, who was a loser, who she divorced. Same, again, and again. Another married a loser, had to divorce him, followed by more weddings and more divorces, and as the last one, was a second wife and the husband was a coward loser who divorced her. 

When you're a Muslim woman in the Arab world, after more than two divorces, people start to blame you. You can't be that unlucky, can you?
In one of their cases, I can blame a brother. He wanted a business deal with a potential husband. This deal was easier with marrying his sister off, without checking the guy's sincerity or intentions. Of course, she agreed, wasn't forced (young handsome rich business man whose charming seems awesome at first) but as sheltered as some girls are in Oman, you really do have to be on guard for them, if you don't raise them to know what to watch out for.

Or if you surround them with a culture that says, if you are a divorcee, be grateful for whatever comes your way, you shouldn't expect to get married again, so be grateful! Be flexible! Know that other women will take eagerly what you question!

This culture doesn't just come from insecure Arab men by the way, who think that a woman will always compare them, so they want a naive virgin etc.... It comes primarily from the culture of other women, in what they put up with or reflect upon their male blood relations.

I am a divorcee too, so I know the speal;). I also know the culture constraining Arabian women as divorcees has no power over me, because I happen to think it is a load of bs, and know my own faults not to limit me to the right to happiness and love, even within a culture containing the contamination of this way of thinking.

The man I married (second marriage) is just as backwards and insecure as any Arab man at times but it wasn't hard to convince him that any comparing I do with an unhappy first marriage and him is that it should make his life easier, and he can only do better in my eyes, not worse. That I do deserve the same rights as any man who went through the same.
In the old days, when the parade of the bride and her trouseau was done by donkey caravan, not decorated sedans in parade (and in Islam) a widow or divorcee marrying again was not an odd occurance.

Most of the original Muslim women we are told to look up to were divorced or widowed and remarried, sometimes they sought divorce, and many of them remarried multiple times!

In times when women commonly died in childbirth, marrying a woman who already successfully birthed kids was seen as a secure investment, since, well, paying that darned maher (dowry) and then having your wife die after less than a year of marriage, would probably suck.

Nowadays, any experience a woman has, has been manipulated into a fault, when generally, it should be seen as a benefit to be brought to the table. For example, even if a woman had faults contributing to the divorce, if she acknowledges them, in a new marriage, she can work to change destructive behaviours before they become habits. That's me to be sure;). 
So what's special about these particular Omani women, is, that despite being born into a village where even widows (who obviously lost their husbands from no fault of their own) are talked about if they contemplate remarriage, they are exercising their right to remarry. They are not accepting the concept that being divorced more than twice means that something is wrong with them.

They are saying that happiness and companionship is worth being brave enough to try for. And try again. And again.

...And that settling for less than that, is not a condition of the Arab Muslim woman. That women can change the ideas of men, when those ideas are supported only by ignorance, or weaker women.

So bravo to them.

Maybe they'll induce me to be brave enough to dance or sing or let my hair down, at the next village wedding;).

Pregnant in Oman in the Summer, Lovely {sarcasm}

So it is summer. Ramadan is coming. And I am pregnant, for it all, again.

I hate being pregnant. Hate it so much. I am such a busy person, I like to be busy and active, and pregnant me, just can't take my usual schedule.

Alhammdulilah anyways, because once upon a time Dr.s told me I might not be able to have children. And I know people who haven't managed to have children. So thinking of heat, fasting, and general pregnancies' crumminess---- like having to eat a certain way and sleep more, and not run around (or walk)---shouldn't be a big deal for me, and yet... I am a complainer. So the bright side?

I like that I wear abayas and caftans regularily anyways, or I'd have to get a whole new maternity wardrobe. At least there's that. However, I miss my silk pant set PJs and feel like a boat in nightgowns. I feel like a boat all the time. I love when I go to move some furniture (which I know the Dr.s will say I shouldn't be doing but I would rather die than be as bored and useless as I am expected to be) I hate when I get stuck. Like I thought I would fit around the edge of the doorframe of that end table I am shoving across the floor, but like, now I can't. I'm like a cat with its whiskers cut off. I don't know where I fit and where I don't. That verged into complaining somehow...

I like that people try to put stuff into carts for me. Like boxes of water. I mean, I know they do that anyways for annoyingly lazy women who probably can manage a trolley with just a carton of water in it, but I like that I can let them without feeling like a lazy-ass. Oman makes us into lazy-asses, especially women. We should only help sick, disabled, and elderly people (or women with two shopping carts, plus strollers and no housemaids maybe), not like, that chic who looks like the only thing she can lift is her phone.

Um, now that the throwing-up stage is over, I do like my heightened sense of smell. People are like, is this bukhoor/attar good? And I can get all the notes in it, whereas usually not pregnant, I suck at perfumes beyond the ones I like. I can mix my own oils and scents now. My husband is loving some of the stuff I've made. He's always like, you smell good. That smells good. When I'm not pregnant he buys me perfumes, which is probably a hint. Omanis love perfumes and scents. Me, when I'm not pregnant the only things I really love scented are towels and sheets.

I like that I like to clean? When I'm not pregnant I don't like to clean. Maybe it is to do with the smells. Give me bleach over mould. Furniture polish (yum). Lavender dish soap. Laundry detergent and fabric softeners and linen sprays. I know I am not supposed to bend, lift, stand a long time, yada yada, but give me a clean smelling home that shines and I feel I've accomplished something. And maybe it has nothing to do with the smell... maybe it is being unable to control so much, my health, my future, my weight, my hormones, my mood swings, my appetite, ect... that being a control-freak neat freak is comforting? I guess it might be that, because usually I am the laziest, messiest, mopper/sweeper/ironer/bedmaker/dishwasher you ever did chance meet. Not a slob, but more the person whose like, why do now what can be done tomorrow?

But the heat in Oman is driving me crazy. I could throw off my headscarf and jump into fountains and all that stuff. I've been tempted. Don't get me wrong, I'm Muslim and actually love modest dress and ordinarily find it cooler than what I wore before I was a Muslim (serrious) but, pregnancy makes me nuts. Plus I know in Islam a husband technically can't divorce his wife while she's pregnant;), so I know if I did something as crazy as all that my Omani husband would forgive me way before he could actually make good on any threat for something as crazy as me diving into a fountain sans a headscarf.  Plus trying to get stuff done and not being able to (like, I have to eat now, or sit now, or sleep once in a while) is driving me crazy! I want to stay up 24 hours, have just coffee and a sandwich, and work like mad, then take two days off and sleep. I can't do that anymore.

End of rant. I apologize in advance to anyone who bothers reading this.

Monday, May 23, 2016

GUEST POST: Going Home (from a girl who grew up in Salalah) pt. 1

Dear blog readers, this is the OPNO blog's editor. Due to how busy our lives have been here is a short new guest post, from a new guest blogger. She grew up in Salalah until her early teens, and since all of us OPNO girls are Muscat or Batinah-region-based, I was personally very interested to hear about her experiences there, me being a Qu'rum girl myself;):
Photo taken from http://iamjustavisualperson.blogspot.com/ whose blogger is often in Oman and whose style of photography we OPNO girls just adore!
I've been to many beautiful countries all around the world, from Brazil to China, from Indonesia to Russia, but none of it can compare to the beauty of the Gulf. Even though I no longer live there, I still think of Oman as my country and Arabs as my fellow countrymen.

I am an Indian. South Indian. Keralite to be more specific. A Keralite is someone who is from Kerala. My family was part of the wave of families migrating to the Middle-east for better business opportunities. I was 2 when we emigrated to Salalah, Oman. I distinctly remember the welcome we were given by the people meeting us at the airport.
"Marhaba! Ahlan wa sahlan! Marhaba! Ahlan wa sahlan marhaba bikum." My first brush with the beautiful language called Arabic.
Any mention of my childhood evokes memories of Salalah.
...The quaint coastal town with its simple large-hearted folk.
...The cool climate throughout the year.
...The Mughsayl beach where we had many a picnic...My mum's kitty parties.
...The Khareef Festival and the Global Village. ...The Museum of Frankincense. ...Indian School Salalah where we could meet people from all over the world.
...The drive to the empty quarter- Rub al-Khali.
...The language.
....Aah, the beautiful vastness of Arabic.
Today, at 24 years of age, I have a working knowledge of quite a lot of languages, French, Spanish, Russian, Italian, Malayalam, Hindi...you name it. But none can compare to the charm and vastness of Arabic.
Sadly, we had to come back to Kerala when I was 14 to care for my father's ailing parents. ...Then I got really busy with my studies and becoming an independent woman.

I still think of those days in Salalah with nostalgia. No, I ache for them. For so long I have wanted to go back.

The ringing of a phone snaps me out of my reverie. I pick up the phone to hear a voice carrying good news. The best news I could have asked for. "Miss Nair? Sorry for interrupting you. I'm calling to inform you that the interview was successful and we're hiring you as our Assistant Production Manager, based in Salalah, Oman. You've been sent an e-mail regarding the details. Have a good day." I can't believe it. I'm going to back to Salalah.
My Salalah.
They say home is where the heart is.
I'm finally going home.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

THE HOUSE: Landscaping ideas

When it comes to the landscaping of the yard of the house, the only thing we are sure on is that we will eventually put a small swimming pool in when we can afford it. It was in the floorplan. It is already approved. I just don't think I have the budget or the time (summer is hot!!!!) to try to put it in as a DIY project for myself. But we have to do it eventually. In the summers in Oman, a pool really is the only way kids can play outside.

I know that I want a pool that is longer rather than wider. I want to be able to do short laps myself. I also want it rather shallow, so that drowning risk is almost non-existent for kids 5 and up. I know my husband finds this concept to be boring, i.e. he wanted a slide, but we'll buy a beach volleyball and water badminton kit so that a long pool still has some recreational value for the boys. But let's face it, mama and the kids are the ones who will really be killing time with a pool....

I also know that I want it edged--- like with an area one can use as a bench. I am thinking to use stone for this, and for lining the sides of the pool, from the area we are in. Kind of like the more rustic raised garden bed pictured below (maybe only tiling the bottom):
Raised edges are important to me, because I also want to do some kind of paving with real stone or pavers so the kids can do laps with small bikes and carts a bit in the yard (while they are still too young to do so on the roads). Raised edges (lined with pavers) also help to keep the pool cleaner). I know I am going to use a little grass and lots of gravel in the yard.
The pool also has to be pretty, so I like the idea of recessed edges for large pots on the corners. It has to be pressed far to the back of the farthest wall in the yard, for privacy, so no one can see in the pool. To make that pretty, I don't know, maybe someday we'll do some sort of arch decor work, with a small decorative fountain behind? And plant ornamental palm trees or cyprus to the sides of it, or something? I dunno. The fountain won't be a working one, but I'll use it as a planter.
Like, not the style of fountains pictured above, and certainly not the same planting, but that's the concept I have so far. I know that I am going to go for a combination of natural stone pavers and gravel, with a lot of lavender and rosemary edging, with a bit of boxwood hedging. Natural stone I'll collect from wadis, gravel I'll buy, and lavender I'll have to start from seeds (ahhhhhh!!!!!). I realized I like mostly white and green gardens with touches of purple, at least in European gardens that can survive Oman. So, boxwood, lavender, a few bushes of white roses, and white begonias, jasmine, white bougainvilla... that's what I mostly have to work with that can deal with this heat. I will do a lot of manicured but simple potted greens. Kids of course, want a patch of grass somewhere (I hate maintenancing grass but we'll see what survives.
 Also, we need a shaded seating area. I think I might go rustic. I am not sure yet.
So plants we have decided on so far besides lavender?: