Tuesday, February 21, 2017

FIGHTING WITH MY OMANI HUSBAND ABOUT HIJAB: so I wasn't going to force a 100-year old dead woman to observe it, is all

My Omani husband and I had a fight about hijab the other day. I wasn't going to force a 100-year old dead woman to observe it, is all.

You can't ask people in the West to support the right of Muslim women to wear hijab, if you don't do the same in the Middle East as well, for non Muslims, and of course, when those non Muslims are my sister and my grandmother (even if she's dead) well then, I'm going to fight for it, even if it seems a stupid thing to fight over.

Because it isn't. It is the start of larger prejudices, and we cut those at the quick.

So here is the story:

I have pictures, photographs, in my house, framed, of my family members. My little sister. My grandmothers. None of them are Muslim. None of them wear hijab.

So my husband is having over an old family friend.

I clean the house for said family friend. We even put away the oil portrait of my little sister since it shows (gasp, almost a flash or shadow or hint of her fake painted cleavage). ...Because like, she totally wouldn't wear that cocktail dress to walk around Mutrah or to visit my in-laws anyways, so whatevs. I carry giant large platters of meat and rice and kids nap routines are interrupted, and I have to eat rice for lunch which I actually don't like to do.

Normal stuff for guests.

But in the middle of this I realize my husband has put away the photograph of my dead grandmother. Only her ankles are showing in the picture. She is wearing a boxey World War II era suit and hat, and her hair is covered. Very modest. Modest enough to visit our village. Super respectful dress. If she wore such to Oman, Omanis wouldn't be offended by her.

So I ask him, why he put her picture away? [he doesn't believe pictures are haraam].

He says out of respect for the guy who won't understand why he (my husband) has a picture of his Muslim wife's relative with her hair out and ankles showing.

I get soooooo mad.

I tell my husband to tell the man the truth.

I don't care if people don't understand or like the truth, but the truth is what good, right, true people use.

The truth is, his wife has and had non-Muslim female family members who are not discriminated against by his wife (me) just because they don't wear hijab. If I have a photos of my grandfather and my father and uncles out, it is DAMN DISRESPECTFUL to hide the photos of my sister, my aunts, and my grandmothers. Islam doesn't tell non-Muslim what to wear, period. It doesn't tell us as Muslims to police them in anyway, or accord them respect  or lack-there-of based on their dress.

If my little sister is dressed too damn sexy for someone to see her in Oman (I can still advise against but it is her choice in the end), well, I won't hide her, or refuse to go out with her...Because she had people make fun of her because I chose to wear black abayas in our non-Muslim country. She even tried to dress like a Muslim woman so she could listen to our Mosque lectures on Fridays out of respect to try to understand my beliefs. No one gets the right to tell me to hide her or talk to her over here about her clothes. Allah didn't ask me to focus on non-Muslim people's bodies. He told us to speak to their hearts.

I have the same respect for her rights, which, my religion protects and respects as well.

If any man has a problem with what non-Muslim women wear they should do what the Qu'ran tells them to do, and that is, have respect, give dawah based on the oneness of Allah nothing else is important compared to that, and if that is beyond you, well then, lower your gaze.

Period.

I told my husband if he has any friends who can't respect these aspects about fair rights for non-Muslim women in Oman, they also don't respect what I am fighting for in terms of rights to wear hijab in my non-Muslim country, and I don't want them in my house, period, if I have to hide the people that make me who I am from them. Period.

Respect is a two way-street. Educating and giving dawah is a two-way street, and I feel a lot of Omanis need "dawah" on what and how they should deal with non-Muslims.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Applying for an Omani Passport: for spouses of Omani Nationals



For the non-Omanis married to Omanis to apply for an Omani passport you have to meet the following criteria:

1.) You should be married and residing in Oman for 10 years. Trips outside of the country cannot have been for periods longer than a couple of months a year without a reasonable excuse and legal documentation of such (like the illness of a parent).

And you have to submit the following documentation (always bring photocopies and the originals):

1.) Your permission documentation. ***Will add more on this section for those who obtained permission after being punished for marrying without permission at the end of this post***
2.) Your current passport .
3.) Photo-copy of the page in your passport with your visa on it.
4.) Letter from your home country that says that they have no legal objection to you obtaining an Omani passport.
5.) A criminal record check from the ROP (they may request one from your home country as well).
6.) Another piece of photo ID from your home country. If your home country (like mine) does not have national ID with photos beyond passport, a photo copy of your birth certificate may be notarized by your Embassy to be accepted.
7.) You exhibit sufficient fluency in Arabic. [This is the one that kind of sucks because there is no standardized test, and some people are interviewed, others are never tested].
8.) Standard passport size photos with white background.

That's what they officially ask for anyways.

***For those who married without permission but went to court and then received allowance to have every allowance of being married to an Omani but not permission, this is where the process sucks, because currently, there is no formalized one. The law basically says you have to "wait" until the Ministry of the Interior decides to give you permission to be able to apply to be on your husband's card (which legally, you can't work if you're on this family visa although I've never seen ROP or manpower be strict on this because they seem to hate the permission laws too).*** For those who do get permission after the fact, the passport application process may decide not to note the number of years you've been married, but will look at the timing from when you got the permission, even if it was 8 years after you've been married and residing in Oman etc., depends on who you get at the Ministry apparently.

Hope this helps some people, and doesn't disappoint anyone else.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

OMANI WEDDINGS: the melka day

Above is a photo of an Omani bride on what I assume is her melka (wedding contract signing) day. It is the actual "Islamic" or legal part of a Muslim or Omani wedding, but the "walimah" party for handing the bride over to the groom is usually the more celebrated by Omanis, and is the part of wedding services expats in Oman are more frequently invited to attend.

Below is a photo of the Omani groom.
On this day (or sometimes---more commonly these days---the occasion is celebrated on another additional day beforehand) the bride receives her dowry gold.
In terms of what to wear for these, in Oman I have been to both mixed and segregated melkas. I usually wear a super dressy abaya with a headscarf to be safe anyways, unless I know for sure women are separate, and then a dressy caftan or something similar is likewise a safe choice.

About gifts, if I know the bride, this is the best time to give her a gift. The walimah party is too hectic and impersonal to manage usually. If we are super close, that's the only time I give a gift, because otherwise I end up with people buying me dishes sets or chocolate trays when they visit me.

For photographs, as most of my friends (and if not them, then their husbands or families) object to having their photo taken, I find, if you ask, sometimes detail shots, like hands and feet are okay (and the room if decorated for sure is) to photograph. Also, maybe the bride can pose with an object blocking her face if culture says she shouldn't be photographed. Ask first, because some brides are okay either way, or are not okay no matter what.
 The whole point of the melka is to sign the marriage contract (pictured above).

The bride may wear Omani traditional dress, or another formal kind of dress (I've seen Omani brides choose Indian saris with hijabs, or sleeved coloured designer gowns like Eli Saab and Valentino with headscarves, but Omani dress is still more common).

At all the melkas I have been to there's rice and meat and snacks like sambusas afterwards, but not to the extent of the walimah buffet-type dinners in halls.

At that's about it. All photos by Abudisphotography taken from the Instagram account: [ https://www.instagram.com/abudisphotography/ ].

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Fatma Al Nabhani wears an Elegant Custom Endemage Gown to a Players Gala Dinner in Doha

Remember I blogged before about Oman's professional tennis player Fatma Al Nabhani? [http://howtolivelikeanomaniprincess.blogspot.com/2016/07/tennis-in-oman-pt-1-post-in-progress.html]. Well, I didn't recognize her at once (my husband probably would) but I was stopped in my tracks by the gorgeous custom Endemage dress she wore to a gala dinner in Qatar. So elegant.

By the way, I was happy to find her instagram, through identifying the dress;).

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Housemaid Drama: are the clean floors worth the heartache?

The problem with me and housemaids is...I tend to become friends with them.

This has often led to intense feelings of betrayal or sadness...because the best of them are bound to want to go home eventually to their families, and you'll miss their friendship. They aren't your friend or your family at the end of the day, despite how much you'd like that to be. They work for you or are the employee of someone that you know, and will one day leave, even after years.

And the worst of them, well...they take you for a ride on the drama-train, and if you were friends with them, you're often on-board when the runaway drama train crashes. You're feelings of trust get hurt, or worse, you lose money or friendships or personal safety over a person you simply invested too much of yourself in: your time, your trust, your generosity, and friendship.

Now don't get me wrong. I despise nothing more than a group of expat or GCC women sitting around ranting about housemaids.

I'm usually mentally like, "check yourself girl, you so privileged that you can sit around and complain about your housemaid, then you don't have real problems in your life, ya know?!"

Usually such women say such things that make me red in the face. Like housemaids aren't people, they belong to their contracts until they've paid back the office-fee etc., kind of like slaves. Like people hold them to standards of being from their own family, but in the end, treat them like they are just an employee.

So this post isn't about them. It's about maids and me.

My father always said, "when you're the boss you have to keep your distance or people stop listening to you", but I always find it is hard to keep my distance with live-in housemaids, my own, or friends' that I visit frequently.
I don't know if this is just me (and I grew up with maids in and out of the home) but I literally have to pretend I am Mary Crawley from Downtown Abbey or something, and tell myself, this is normal. I can do this. This is natural. And then I try to remain coolly confident and bossy in that self-possessed way that people can do in Great Houses.

Let's face it though, my house, isn't one of those places, nor is almost 90% of the peoples homes I know in the GCC who have maids.

Maintaining the Mary Crawley character is hard to do when you have to teach someone who grew up with mud floors how to scrub tiles and care for carpets, or to light a gas stove and not wash your toaster and kettle along with the rest of the dishes. Or when you try to tell her what the incense in the tea canister is, but then you fail to stop her in time from making-and-drinking bukhoor tea, because you realize she didn't understand you.

These incidents always result in laughter and friendship. At least for me.

Or like, everyone is speaking Arabic but that one Philipino or Indonesian housemaid in the house, and you feel like a loser, so you wind up in the kitchen with your tea or coffee, talking to the housemaid, who makes you feel welcome, and is so kind! And even if the maids don't speak English, like the Ethiopian maids in mountain villages. They've all felt like that left-out alien, and I always find myself liking them, and being included by them, although they do, probably think I am an absolute weirdo.

I remember the Mexican housekeepers, and the "Molly Maids" part-time cleaning service girls from North America, and I either avoided them totally by purposefully going out the time they were at the house or friends' houses, or winded up talking with them about their lives while they cleaned, and pre-cleaning before they arrived, even if the house wasn't my own, because it just felt wrong not to.

Friends and family say I am "too nice" in that, I always say "please" before a request, and "thank you" for its completion, and often add "sorry" to the request, if the request is a lot of work, or late at night, or inconvenient from the usual standard of my own requests. But would I be me still if I didn't? I think one can still be a Mary Crawley character and have decent manners.
I am probably the wrong person to have a maid. Like, I feel awkward telling someone to go eat by themselves, but I also feel wrong telling them to pull up a chair and join a party that will not make them feel welcome. I also like my privacy. I feel strange having another woman collect my laundry and wash it, or see my room when it isn't already neat and tidy. Also, I cannot, for the life of me, pass a closed door when I hear someone crying inside all alone. Even I don't have time for the friendship or confidence or drama.

And a lot of maids come with drama. You generally don't become a maid without being driven to it by drama. Poverty. Family trouble, like kids to support or a sick relative, or helping others go to school.

One maid I became friends with had been raped as a teen and got pregnant and had a baby who she loved despite and struggled to support, and was thus an outcast in her hometown. She had one marriage offer from an older man but she didn't trust men really anymore and she basically turned him down, but to prove his good faith, he paid for her to go to University and study and for someone to watch her son while she studied. She is one of the few very educated maids I have ever met. Unfortunately, she chose to study music, and it is hard to find work with an undergraduate degree in music. And, the older man who wanted to marry her? To her regret, she did not marry him, because he died. He was old, she said, but he was kind, and she should have said yes to his proposal.

She always remembered exactly how I take my tea, and how much coffee I drink, and when all the Omani ladies got bored of talking English to me, I could disappear and hang out with her in the kitchen or in the nursery, playing with the kids. I wish I could find her again, but the family sent her back to the office, because on her day off, she met with an Omani "boyfriend". To myself, since they were seen in a public place, I still go, why didn't she have a right on her day off to try and find someone to marry? I mean, Omani man, probably a bad choice, and he'd definitely need a background check, but it does happen. But Omanis usually go "she came here to work, not to get married".

She came here for money, is my answer, and marriage sometimes pays better for the lucky girls who decide to chance that route. I'm not one for chance, but when you have nothing, you don't have much to lose, do you?

At the office she was slapped in the face by the office owner before she was sent home. It made me so angry, how the rules were, she had to act part of the family, but then, in the end, she was just an employee. The hypocrisy still drives me bonkers.

Then I had an Ethiopian nanny for my kids. She saved my daughter's life, but then stole and lied, and said I hit her. It was depressing. And way too much drama. I swore, never again.

So my son was hospitalized recently, and my husband was left in care of the house and kids (and he was on his work holiday;p) and he realized how much work that all is for me I guess. That is, without the full-time job, and working washing machine, because I was hand-washing while working full-time and only just got a new machine. [We're suing our contractor so finances are tight and still have to pay-out-of-pocket for things on the house that should have been done on the meantime, so finances are tight].

So a new maid arrives, and this in itself cause drama, because training a new maid is always confusion and mishaps and misunderstandings. Plus my co-wife's maid was doing the training, and another relative's Ethiopian housemaid was staying over the month with her family, and a bunch of fighting was happening over what housemaid is lazy and which isn't, and if my co-wife wanted to take the new maid or keep her old one.

Drama. Enter me, standing in the kitchen, with maids arguing over who has the right to be my maid, who is lazy, and another Ethiopian housemaid translating for everyone (she's our favourite---she's superwoman and I don't know how she does everything that she does). Plus me, not trying to hurt anyone's feelings, my co-wife's, or the maids. Aforementioned super-woman Ethiopian housemaid finds it to be hilarious. She is a drama-free person, except when she wants a raise;). She's a business-woman, and she handles the negotiations smoothly in the end.

So new maid moves in, we say we want to keep her and her previous family who didn't want her, go to change the papers.

Of course, it couldn't be that easy.

Apparently, she filed a case against the family with the police of abuse. She says she was hit, and was taken by a relative to the Embassy of her country.

Her sponsor, calls us then, for him to take her to cancel the complaint. We ask her, does she want to cancel it? She says she doesn't. She also says she doesn't want to go with the man.

Drama ensues.

Apparently maids cannot actually sue their sponsors unless they have 600 rials for the court and lawyer fees upfront.

Which, really, what housemaid who hasn't been paid their salary and is beaten has that? Like, unless they are a thief or something. We ask all the lawyers we know. No one wants to take her case pro bono and we don't have 600 rials spare to lend her.

So old-sponsor dude starts threatening my husband if we don't return her to him (which I am not about to, if they already hit her---and my husband and her relative seemed to think the abuse was sexual in nature not just beatings but beatings is all she'd confide to me). Like the relative said he thought she was being lent out to Bangladeshi workers as a prostitute {said relative of our new maid worked for the sponsor}.

So sponsor dude says we kidnapped her and are keeping her against her will. (Besides, she was staying in a house with only women in it. My husband has two houses and she slept in my co-wife's maids' room when it was my days so ROP can't claim nothing against my husband). But alas, we still had the texts where sponsor dude says he was lending her to us for a trial period and he wanted x-amount of rials for her to change the papers to our name.

We agreed to his rials, even though he kept raising the price. It went from 300 to 550, and then when we raised that, it went to 600. Even from an office, the girl doesn't cost that much to bring. Sponsor guy paid 230 total to bring her. We know how he did it, and who he did it with. So enter the police, who just ask us to bring her to the Embassy again.

Her Embassy totally sucks because they do nothing and send her back to us again. Which is the wrong thing to do.

By this point Sponsor dude is threatening the relative. He tells him he'll have him kicked out of Oman if he doesn't get the girl back and cancel the "chickwaa" (the complaint).

Sponsor dude and my husband both meet with the ROP, and Sponsor dude agrees to send the girl home, because she wants this if she can't work for us.  She said she doesn't trust him to find her another family and she won't go with him to cancel the complaint. So they agree, the relative will get a ticket from the sponsor, and the ROP will drive her to the airport.

Of course, that doesn't happen.

Relative lies to the poor girl, doesn't tell her any of this, and he also gives Sponsor dude our house address. Coward roles up while my husband is at work and tries to kidnap the girl from the front of my co-wife's house. When that doesn't work because she runs into our yard, he lies and says she has to come because he has the ticket. Which, he doesn't.

Her maid and mine were taking the garbage out, and me and my kids were inside.

Other maid comes hollering, and I come out, and tell the dude to get his car out my carpark. I tell him to call my husband or the ROP but to move his car.

He tells me, "This is none of your business. It isn't your right to keep her. She is under contract to me."

And I am like, "her contract became void the moment you or your family laid a hand upon her. Now move your car."

He's like, "I have the right to take what's mine."

I am like, "Not while it's in my house. Which only has only women inside, so call my husband but move your car. I'm calling the ROP." I've already texted my husband who is on his way.

When he doesn't, I go back in my house and reappear to yell at him from the door-frame: "If you come in my yard or try to hurt any person in my house, I will hurt you, as is my legal right. Do you hear me, I will hurt you. Fair warning. Now. Move. Your. Car."

Exact words.

Coward peals out of there super fast.

Maids' stories that I was holding a rifle at the time are vastly exaggerated.

I wasn't. Empty canvas bag slung casually over the shoulder, yes.

Rifle no.

Also, standing inside my private home. Nothing pointed at anyone. Everything legal.

To my husband: yes, I am hot-blooded, but not always hot-headed. A little dumber when angry, but not totally clueless. Besides, ROP take a long time to show up, don't speak English unless I give the situation 2-4 hours, and I want to be able to walk between my co-wife's house and my own without some creepy kidnapper/stalker parked out front until "the men can solve it the right way".

In the end, sponsor has to buy her a ticket. She doesn't have the money to fight him in court, so she is banned from coming to work in the GCC for two years. She leaves Oman.

I hope she is okay.

Husband asks me why I got attached to her,

I tried not to. I even looked for faults. Like, I think she does quat, that Yemeni drug.

But I've been that girl without money or a passport looking for a decent start in Oman, thrown to the ROP, who seem clueless or useless what to do in such situations. I related.

She tried to teach me to dance and tie a sari. She drank bukhoor tea. She tried to do Irish step-dancing with me when I was bored. My kids wanted to sleep with her in her room. We watched TV together, bad Bollywood soaps and English Action movies. She asked to sleep on the floor in my room because she wasn't used to having a room of her own (that was weird but I get it). The maid next door will definitely miss her. My daughter keeps asking for her.

Try live in a country where you don't properly speak the language, and share a house with another woman, and not get attached, even a little.

I don't know how to, not without turning my heart off.

A worker (electrician) of my husband's friend doing repairs for us during the drama of the near-kidnapping incident decided to ask my husband if we would sponsor his new wife as our new maid, and let her go to his house on her days off. This way is wayyyyyy more affordable than an office, as one pays just tickets, health checks, and visas. Also, it helps other Muslims out.

My co-wife did this before. And it was drama. Poor maid and her husband got arrested on their holiday while in Sumail and my husband had to bring a copy of their marriage contract to the police station there to get them out of trouble. It was late at night. It was a hassle.

I'm glad of my passport and skin sometimes. Privilege.

I remember being in the ROP station after I was assaulted with  a knife by a woman who kept my passport and money and all my belongings, and a friend being molested by an ROP officer while we were there, and us issuing our complaint, and the English-speaking ROP Captain being delighted we two girls were from the country we are from, so our complaint would be taken seriously. He wanted a chance to get this guy but the other complaints he'd received had all been from Philipino housemaids. Yeahhhhhh.

The creepy ROP guys only bug housemaids or Bangladeshi girls. The two times I have experienced attempted kidnappings in Oman both times were by Omani men with ROP identification when I was dressed in crappy house dresses or bad abayas and flip-flops, like housemaids wear, walking by myself.

So I relate to their troubles, especially. I can fight back. I don't need money to sue in court. It just gets done. I don't know if I can NOT FIGHT for them, if the occasion arises. It seems too wrong to sit and do nothing.

So my husband asks me if it is worth it. The trouble of training a person, the lack of privacy, the drama and eventual heartache, for clean floors and a sink without dishes, and some free time, and the ability to go out without kids occasionally.

Privileged people always say it is.

They look at my hands, tell me they're not soft, and that there are toys on the floor, and tell me I need a maid.
But my father had another saying: "People with soft hands have cold hearts". So, up to this point, I don't know if clean floors are worth the stress, the lack of privacy, and the probable drama.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Witchcraft, Jinn, and Human Sacrifice in the Interior, and me, marrying the Sorcerer's Grandson

Of course, I would totally marry into a darkly "magical/sorcerer/witchy/Jinn/demon-related" family in Oman-this-century, wouldn't I? That would be my luck;). ...Superstitious people who totally believe our family's female line is completely screwed in the "cursed" department, would tell me, what else could I expect?
Demon, Jinn, Elemental, Fey, Faerie (Irish faeries are scary!!!)---all different names for the same thing.

Basic Jinn facts: Jinn are "Otherworld" creatures, some are good, others bad. Ones that like to hang out with people easily are generally bad...

I was told, that Jinn or demons like to attach themselves to certain family lines, and only firm belief and understanding of the nature of the Oneness of Allah (or asking for God's protection if one is Christian), can protect one from them and block their whispers....whispers that drive one mad.

The eyes are the tell if you're touched with the mad blood in my family, apparently. I have the bad luck eyes.

Thankfully, my bad luck eyes have no ill-connotation over here;).
Omanis find any colour of eyes beyond brown to be beautiful, in general, based on their rarity in the local population, so mine, and now my daughter's, are happily converted into a blessing, rather than a curse....Omanis in general are superstitious enough without telling them stuff like, "hey yeah, I grew up pretty Pagan. Oh yeah, and my eyes are supposedly supposed to mean that Jinn are supposed to talk to me and tell me stuff and help me do magic if I want. I once worshiped trees and all that for fun. And a couple of summers, I totally hung out with a crowd of witches. Jumped over bonfires with them. Read their stuff, listened to them, learned what they believed and how they practiced their religion, pretty much exactly what I did with Islam. No biggie."

Yeah, but expat wife with an Omani husband?

There's already a bad connotation against other Arab or African women marrying Omanis using magical spells to snag husbands, so I didn't want any of that. Not when my husband seems to have fallen illogically and stubbornly in love with me. I just don't need that. I want my in-laws not to hate me or be afraid of me, thank-you-very-much.

For the record, I didn't do anything to my husband, at all. I opened my mouth and I talked. About Islam. About hijab. About what I miss from back home, and what I love about Oman, and THAT'S why my husband decided to fall in love with me. It wasn't a spell or a charm or even intentional. He was a man I didn't know sitting at a crowded table with lots of others, and I was not looking at him, or directing my thoughts at him. It just happened. It was an accident. Or...Allah wrote it;). Whatever. But it wasn't witchcraft or magic, I assure you. I'm Muslim, and I don't do any of that kind of shirk, and haven't since before I even began studying Islam.

...Although I am totally not against dressing up in Moroccan clothes and whispering fake spells on prejudiced Omani women who think Moroccan women in majority are witches;). That's my kind of fun.

To Omanis, Arabs in general, though, my past experiences would be a pretty "big deal". Anything to do with witches, Jinn, and magic is scary. A lot of people are superstitious to the point of ridiculousness.

My boss believes everything gives the evil eye. Also, when I tell people where my husband is from, they are like, "oh no!" Better always wear hijab, watch out for the evil eye, watch out for witches and magic spells...Because the Interior is famous for magic, and Jinn, and witches, especially Bahla, Nizwa and Al Hamra.

I laugh, because in the Interior/Ad Dhakliyia Region, I've yet to meet a living witch, or see an actual charm, or any magical or pagan practice. And like, every man I've ever seen who people think he's under some magic spell, he hasn't been. Trust me.

I'm the Muslim Girl who would know right?

I've seen archaeological evidence that there was probably pre-Islamic water and solar worship. In Bahla, some tree worship/magic. I've read about acts of magic that would technically amount to real magical practices, although I've seen no evidence of any person alive still doing any of this in the Interior Region of Oman. I'm sure there is, somewhere, but it is actually less prevalent than in present 2017 Canada and the U.K.;).
So I always listen to the stories with some amusement, and when I am presented with the opportunity to look at these "magical books" I'm not frightened to. My understanding of my Aqeedah (my faith and understanding in the Oneness of Allah) is such that I know there is nothing to fear. I'm not going to mess with the stuff.

I remember there were two Canadian Muslim-convert girls, discussing with the PDO security Omani guys, witches and Jinn, and they mentioned to us these books, and we like, named them in Arabic, and they were like, "how do you girls even know about this stuff?!" totally afraid. It was funny. We'd read them. We were not driven insane.

"Because you read it in English," the guys concluded, relieved.

"Maybe," we girls laughed.

Magic totally doesn't work how most Omanis think it works.

I like to make light and joke about everything I know about magic and witches. Most of the stuff is utter crap and nonsense, but there are some truths.

One thing about magic that is universal: You have to believe in it for it to work.

Muslims, as part and par of being Muslim, are told in the Qu'ran that magic is real, and thus, we have to believe in it, and thus, it can work on us. However, being Muslim, I'm not afraid of magic. The Qu'ran also says that the oneness of Allah is protection from any of that, unless we are to be tested or used for someone else's test, or as a proof, and so, I must have faith, that other than that, which would be for a good end, I am otherwise immune to magic. Logically;).

So something I have so loved about becoming a Muslim, just an ordinary Muslim girl, starting out with a fresh blank page, is that my family line now comes with no curses, no Jinn-attachments, no pending sacrifices being demanded of me. I can be that girl that scoffs at witch-tales, and laughs at the improbability of Jinn stories. Such as this gem, which my husband narrated to me:

A while ago, but not too long ago, there were two Sorcerers, one living in Al Hamra up in the mountain, and one in Bahla, and each was having a competition to show who was the more powerful Sorcerer. ...[husband forgets large chunks of the actual magical acts performed by the Sorcerers] but in the end, one Sorcerer walked on chickens without killing them, and the other Sorcerer one-upped him by walking on eggs without breaking them, to win the who-is-more-powerful-than-who competition between them.

Weird, and probably non-magically explainable, right?

That's what I think, when I hear such.

Lots of other stories from our village. And there was that one I'd almost forgotten, about the man who became wealthy by disappearing for less than a few seconds, and reappearing with wares from other places, like fresh fruit from Iran, in an instant. Apparently, he flew by Jinn, to go get these items, to return to Oman, to sell them.

My husband's father collected such stories and books on magic, and used the Qu'ran for healing. He was an Imam, and told my husband that reading about magic actually meant one could possibly-and quite-likely do more harm than good. I may misquote him.

I always thought his particular field of study was interesting for an Omani man in his given time period.

But then this gem:
So my co-wife and I were discussing the uses of the old Omani mud-brick renovated family home. I was like, "why don't we just stay in it when we go to village on the weekend and rent it out to tourists when we know we're not going?"

She was like, "I'm not staying in that place [without our husband] with my kids."

I was like, "why?"

She was like, "I'm afraid to. It's haunted."

I, of course, laughed. "Just read Surah Al Bakurah and burn luban/frankincense," I suggested.

"You do it, then," she dares me.

"I will,when it's fixed. I'm not afraid of Jinn stories."

"I am," she says. "The basement, the dark area... My mother told me stories. She saw an old woman feeding a baby there once. But the woman wasn't there."

"She was a jinn?" I ask. "Tourists from Europe like ghost-stories."

My Omani co-wife looks at me, and hugs herself. "My father was brought down to that place to be sacrificed. He saw the knife. But the Jinn didn't want him in the end. He wasn't the right kind of sacrifice. He was too skinny."

I was like, whatttttt????????!!!!!!
Human sacrifice. In the Interior. In pretty recent history.

Apparently that dude from my husband's story who sold the fruit from Iran and used Jinn to fly?: my co-wife's grandfather. He was a famous sorcerer. Go figure. Couldn't have been more than two hundred years ago or less, from the age of her father.

Apparently the type of Jinn magic he was practicing required human-sacrifice of sons from his own bloodline...According to my co-wife's father, via what he related to her mother.

So I asked my husband more about it, and yeah, totally forgot, they are cousins so like, that was his grandfather.

Apparently I have to go and marry that one Omani boy who is the Sorcerer's grandson;).

...And I wanted to live in that old house, right? Where human sacrifice may have been practiced in the basement?

Or was it?

Will have to ask my MIL and co-wife's mother more about all the other brothers, were there any. Apparently my husband's father was even more skinny, and since he lived, he wasn't enough for the Jinn either;).

Anyways, maybe the knife wasn't for sacrifice, because from what I know of it most Jinn-magic means making circles of protection, and a knife can be symbolic for cutting open between worlds etc... But yeah, my co-wife is no more willing to spend the night down there for the fact.

I started to do more reading about it, because I'm interested in the pre-Islamic history of the region. Apparently two hundred years ago, this was pretty real, at least. BTW, totally contact me up via our blog email opnoprincess@hotmail.com if you are a forensic anthropologist visiting Oman, and you want a tour of our basement;).

Haven't told my boss yet. We're still like, "come visit us in the village" and if I tell him this story, he will so never ever come.

Omani Women's Traditional Dress for 2017 by Nawal Al Hooti

I realize no one has been blogging Omani fashion/traditional dress on our blog recently, so to remedy that, here are some pieces from Nawal Al Hooti (I love her clothes because the embroidery is so light so the dresses are actually comfortable!). Lovely, yes? She has a boutique in Al Khoudh and in the Opera Galleria (300-500 omr generally are the prices for Omani dress but her stuff is comfortable, so...).

Friday, February 3, 2017

Oman's Prehistoric Rock Art---see it before it disappears or is destroyed

These petroglyphs (pictured above) found in Wadi Bani Auf (Bima) are exceptionally lovely. Who doesn't like camels? These are probably 1,000 years old...So they are practically brand new.

British-Arabian explorer Bertram Thomas made first mention of seeing Omani petrogplyphs of camels  [in English] in 1932. He liked the camels.

Apparently, some people don't, because vandals are attacking Oman's prehistoric rock art with chisels and spray-paint. Whether they are just your regular bored tosser-teenagers or are ignorant-so-called-religious-extremists the general authorities have not declared.

Whoever, whatever the reason, I find this to be totally unacceptable. As a Muslim, and a lover of history and archaeology, I find this horrifying!

I understand, some ignorant Omanis don't like tourists, and they don't like their own ancient history maybe for "so-called religious" reasons, but I don't think you get just how many jobs, how great an impact intact archaeological heritage can have on a country's economy. I mean, I've just read three Omani PHDs who wrote their thesis on this very subject in the last twenty minutes of searching for a prospective date on the Wadi Bani Auf glyphs. I'm sure there are more. I've scantly googled the subject. I mean, this is just googling, not even using Google Scholar;p or any other more reliable database system. Omanis should be proud (they usually are) that their history in the Arabian Gulf is so extensive.

INSERT RANT HERE:
Ancient history is not threatening to MUSLIMS!!!! It shouldn't be, because we know, the Qu'ran says this, that there were peoples in all periods, that were not Muslims. Their art should not scare us. Their history should not scare us. If you feel a sudden urge to start worshiping a prehistoric rock, I'd be more worried about you. I mean, if that's the case, you should totally check yourself into a mental health center and go get the treatment you so desperately need. If that is  indeed the case, the rock does not need any kind of treatment, but you definitely do. Seriously. 

And like, before you go and chisel up undocumented or poorly researched rock art containing languages we haven't even translated yet, why don't you go smash your phone (because it also contains pictures) and stop watching TV and the internet. If you truly believe all pictures are haraam and sinful (rather than what we use them for), please, perfect yourself first, and then speak, and convince others (all others) to go with your opinions, and let the country decide together. I've read everything you've read to justify your actions, and more (you should read more) and I come to a different conclusion than you, so maybe you should consider researching the subject further before taking up a chisel. For the religious vandal, there's a hadith that says a man stole a discarded thing by the side of road and he went to hell for that so, if you are wrong, ponder, if stealing the history of a nation or peoples before you is not also a weighty thing to steal.

...And, if you are a bored tosser-teenager with nothing better to do on the weekends than ruin historical sites that could one day help you to get a job somehow so you can, I dunno, do up your Toyota Corolla, I can totally recommend a lot of worthier sites to vandalize if you'd like. Funnier. More meaningful. Make you look actually cool, not like, a total loser. {Ends rant.}

Fossati, A., E. (2015) proposes that prehistoric rock art in Oman spans roughly 7,000 years, and this period can be broken down into several major phases (see also  (Ash Shahri 1994; Fossati 2009, 2013, and 2014).

Fossati (2015) basically goes over how dating is roughly done through analysis of superimpositions between figures and comparing different levels of revarnishing, as well as going through a catalogue of rock-art styles, looking at different weapons depicted in the art or carried/brandished by figures, and by the presence of certain animals in scenes. All pretty logical stuff.

Apparently, according to Fossati's (2015) proposition, Oman's most ancient rock art can be described as consisting of a First and Second Phase, with the Second Phase being broken down into two sub-phases. These combined Phases (1-2) date from the fifth and fourth millennium BCE.

The First Phase commonly features depictions of fish, turtles, and anemones, with the Second Phase depicting gazelles, donkeys, aurochs, other animals, and wild ibex [...further reading on the significance of Ibex depictions through-out the Arabian Gulf can be found in Anati 1968; Insall 1999; & Khan 2003...which I've bookmarked for myself]. Fossati (2015) further breaks the Second Phase into two sub phases, the older sub-phase presenting "pecked" creatures, and the second sub-phase presenting "fully outlined" creatures. This may be purely Fossati's theorizing (artists could have simply had a different style I am thinking, or had more time on their hands during the same period) but I haven't read enough on the subject to know if Angelo E. Fossati's sub-phasing of the Second Phase is based on grounds of other methods used for dating prehistoric rock art elsewhere in his field. 

Point of the above? Basically you can say pretty safely say that fish, turtles, anemones, gazelles, donkeys, aurochs, and wild ibex are, like, 7,000-6,000 years old.

And so I read on, interested in the rock art in the Western Hajar that I know about.

The Third Phase features "angular, stylized human figures, including women, sometimes seated on a throne and accompanied by an attendant"... that are "[s]tylistically related...to the thematic portrayal...[of] women shown seated on thrones...found throughout Near Eastern Officialdom from Egypt to Mesopotamia during this period" (Fossati, 2015). It is assumed in the field that these women shown seated on thrones depict royalty (Queens or Princesses). Meaning, no one knows for sure. Cross-dating on the bas-relief sculpture near Al Hamra (Hasat Bin Salt or Coleman's Rock, depending on your English or your Arabic) with carved tombs in Oman and Abu Dhabi date these to the third and second millennium BCE (Cleuziou, Tosi, 2007).
So all those articles copy-and-pasted on the internet about Hasat Bin Salt saying it is 3,000 years old? Well they aren't too wrong. The range is more anywhere from 5,000-3,000 years of course, but yeah.

The above is the Hasat Bin Sault or Hasat Bani Salt ---i.e Coleman's Rock, bas-relief carving. The rock is limestone and measures 6 meters in height, making it the largest and most important piece of rock art in South-eastern Arabia (at least according to Yule, 2001).

I remember hearing the Omani story/folktale (told in Misfah Al Abriyeen) about it, that a man who gave his name to this rock had a child that was born deformed and the man (and his wife?) killed the child by dashing its head on this rock. As recounted in a magazine article about Al Hamra area by Arnhem (2008) the folk tale holds that Allah stamped the forms of both parents (or trapped them inside) along with that of the child onto the rock so that the crime of infanticide would memorialized for age eternal (although this is probably totally made up, as they have another story about magician trapping his equally magical son inside of it as well, if you ask around in Nizwa apparently).

Yule (2001) ascribes to there being seven figures in total on the rock, and suggests (as other archaeologists do as well) that one of the figures (the violent/warrior one) has been added later (see also, Reade, 2000). ...So the child-killing violent macho-figure father was not present when the mother and child figure were initially carved, alas.

Reade (2000) describes the site in question:

"There is a group of four figures on the south face. Their positions relative to one another may have been partly dictated by the availability of suitably regular rock surfaces, but the central pair clearly look the most important One of them, closest to the centre and dominating the whole group, is preserved from the head to just below the waist (P1. 5). The figure has slightly raised breasts, and is presumably female; she has hair or a crescentic headdress, and a line at the waist may have been the top of a garment; her shoulders are square, and her arms hang woodenly down on either side. To her right (seen by the viewer), striding away from her, is a figure who is probably male (P1. 6). He has prominent humped shoulders; he brandishes in his raised right hand (for the viewer's left) a weapon described by Preston as a mace, and raises his left hand, which is probably empty; he wears a loin-cloth attached to a twisted belt. His head is at a slightly lower level than that of the central figure, while his right elbow is uncomfortably close to her shoulder and his weapon is higher than her head; he is also more deeply cut into the rock. These details suggest that he was carved later than her, though the work could possibly have been part of the same operation, done by a sculptor who had to work within a restricted area of suitable rock-face and who had little or no experience in planning a large-scale composition. There are two more figures in the group. One is lower down, or the right corner, which has been cut away to provide a regular surface for carving (P1. 6). The figure is half the size of the others, perhaps a child, with at least its left arm hanging at its side in the same wooden posture as that of the central woman; the lower half of the body is obscure. On the left of the group, slightly lower than the central pair, is a figure in the same posture, with slightly raised breasts and wearing a belt and loin-cloth; her left hand at least is empty, and her feet may be turned to the right. 

On another face of the boulder, in Preston's illustration (1976: pl .1), there are three more figures of similar size, again full-face and beardless. The one on the viewer's right may have a belt; the arms hang down woodenly, and the right hand, the only one visible, seems unnaturally large. The figure on the left has hair or a crescentic headdress, and the same seems to apply to the central figure, which is at a lower level. One of these last two figures, perhaps because it was left unfinished, is described as having a body that has been indicated by pecking rather than relief carving. This last feature suggests a relationship with some of the many pecked figures that have been discovered on Omani rock-faces elsewhere, some of which have similar characteristics: notably the square shoulders of the " rectangular-bodied" style, and the unusually large hands (Preston 197 6: 2I , 34, pls . 1141). One of Preston's examples shows a figure whose feet rest on a pair of bodies, a feature which could suggest that it is a god. Jackli (1980: 8) remarked, of Hasat bin Salt itself; "Does it depict a myth or a ceremony or is it itself part of a myth or a ceremony?" The likely explanation is indeed that the figures are goddesses and gods, worshipped at this spot. It is perhaps worth remarking that elsewhere two elemental phenomena, fecundity broadly associated with the land and water, and strength broadly associated with mountains and storms, have often acquired supernatural personalities as goddesses and gods. It would be somewhat surprising if there was nothing comparable in ancient Oman, but the identity of the seven figures of Hasat bin Salt remains unknown. The carving of the boulder was evidently a time-consuming process, and it must be regarded as an official monument. Most archaeologists would probably tend to place the carvings in the third or second millennium BC, and Maurizio Tosi in conversation has suggested relationships with the art of eastern Iran and Afghanistan."

According to Fosseti (2015) Phase 4 primarily features depictions of geometric or symbolic patterns such as solar symbols, sub-rectangular [rectilinear] forms, and others, sometimes accompanied by human figures in a few related schematic styles. Phase 4 petroglyphs are often superimposed on Phase 1 animal representations. These are thus, around 2,000 year old.

Phase 5 is warrior art, according to Fossetti, (2015), depicting camels, camel riders, leopards/lions?, ostriches, boats, and weapons from the last millennium BC, so like 1,000 years ago. Some of these contain inscriptions in the old South Arabic language.

I am enjoying Fossetti's work. I really think it will help me out in trying to figure out the dates on some of these I see in the Interior.
OPNO's really google-tastic random rock-art reading:

Al-Busaidi, Y., S. 2008 Public Interpretation of Archaeological Heritage and Archaeotourism in the Sultanate of Oman, Cardiff School of Management, United Kingdom. {Thesis submission}.
Anati E. 1968 Rock art in Central Arabia, Institute Orientaliste, Bibliotèque de l’Université, Louvain, Belgium.
Arnhem, R., 2008 Hamra, Capital of Abriyin. Oman Today, January 2008 issue.
Ash Shahri A. 1994 Dhofar. Ancient inscriptions and rock art, Self published, Salalah, Oman.
Cleuziou S., Tosi M. 2007 In the Shadow of the Ancestors. The Prehistoric Foundations of the Early Arabian Civilizations in Oman, Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Muscat, Oman.
Fossati A.E. 2009 Oman Rock Art. Mission Report, Manuscript on file with Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Muscat, Oman.
Fossati A.E. 2013 Oman Rock Art. Mission Report, Manuscript on file with Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Muscat, Oman.
Fossati A.E. 2014 Oman Rock Art. Mission Report, Manuscript on file with Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Muscat, Oman.
Fossati A.E. 2015 Rock Art in Northern Oman. First Observations. Prospects for Prehistoric Art Research. Proceedings of the XXVI Valcamonica Symposium , September 9 to 12, 2015, Capo di Ponte.
Insall D. 1999 The Petroglyphs of Shenah, in «Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy» 10, pp. 225-245
Khan M. 2003 Rock art of Saudi Arabia: Yesterday and Today, in Bahn P., Fossati A. (eds), Rock Art Studies. News of the World 2, Oxbow Books, Oxford, pp. 82-87.
Reade, J. 2000 Sacred places in Ancient Oman. Journal of Oman Studies 11: 133-138
Yule, P., 2001 The Hasat Bani Salt in the al-Zahirah Province of the Sultanate of Oman. In: Lux Orientis Archäologie zwischen Asien und Europa, Festschrift für Harald Hauptmann zum 65. Geburtstag, R.M. Boehmer/J. Maran (Hrsg.), Rahden, 2001, S. 443-450.

Many of the above were discovered when I looking for the GPS for Coleman's Rock, which I found on this super awesome website http://home.kpn.nl/janm_schreurs/HasatBinSult.htm which I have lazily pretty much plagiarized in some spots because my kids are being super bad and I wanted to finish this post tonight! Go there, if you want a map, the GPS, and directions to this little known wonder of Arabia [unless you are a prehistoric Arabian Rock Art aficionado, a geologist, or a listener of folktales as told by the Al Abri and Al Hattali tribes in Al Hamra and Misfah Al Abriyeen...and then you probably have heard of it, I digress].

{Ends post because kids are beyond bad and bored and I can't concentrate any longer}.