Saturday, May 30, 2009

Who needs Hogwarts?

Dear Muggle (fellow blogger),
I could not believe it when you said you had never been to the South of Oman before (and you’re Omani!). I’ve been thinking about it all morning. Dhofar is such an amazing place. So, I decided to pretend I’ve joined a debate club, and my job is to convince someone that they MUST visit Salalah. How do I start? First of all, it is an obligation if you’re Omani, and no, the monsoon is not the only reason we’re famous, although it is quite attractive.

(1) First of all, Dhofar is the Land of Frankincense! Do a little research on the subject and you’ll realize how special this title is. The history of frankincense is amazing.

(2) Dhofar is a province of antiquity, boasting both the ruins of the fortified town Sumharam, an important port from 100 BC – AD 400 (supposedly used by the Queen of Sheba), and the buried cities of Al Baleed (yes, one city buried on top of the other). Both these sights are on the ocean. The new Land of Frankincense museum in Al Baleed is quite interesting.

(3) Mormons! To those of you who have never heard of the subject, look up Salalah and the Mormon Church online. In Mormon culture, Dhofar is the most popular traditional location of the Land of Bountiful, in the Book of Mormon. This theory has been discussed for many years; however, back in 2001, a Dhofari researcher who studies cave writings in Dhofar was in Colorado attending a conference and discovered that the 20 out of the 22 letters of the cave writing alphabet matched. (yup, the same language in Dhofar and in the USA), and this brought up the Land of Bountiful discussion again. Look up Dhofar, Mormons on YouTube and watch a couple of the documentaries made on the subject.

(4) Dhofar is also the alleged resting place of the Prophet Job (the tomb can be found in the mountains), and the Prophet Imran, father of the Virgin Mary (in the middle of Salalah).

(5) We got witches baby! Many people in Dhofar still practice witchcraft, black magic, and many forms of paganism. It’s a little unsettling but quite fascinating. Read my post on April 27, 2009. The Valley of Khorori is said to be a portal to another world/universe. Witches from all over the world (including Brazil and Egypt) claim to have visited Khor Rori while they were in a trance. The stories are fascinating. Who needs Hogwarts when we have Taqah?

(6)Basic Tourism: What do we have in Salalah that you don’t in Muscat? Miles and miles of white sandy beaches, thousands of palm trees, camels, coconuts, bananas, papayas, etc. In fact, the coconut stalls are so cute these days that they have their own little freezers and you can order a chilled coconut. It doesn’t get better than that We also have good weather.

(7) Another interesting topic: Ice Age. I’m serious here. About a year ago, a crew of scientists working for the BBC were supposed to come to Salalah to take cheek swabs from 50 older members of a mountain tribe in Dhofar. The Reason? DNA testing. Why? Because they believe that during the Ice Age, humans did exist and were living in the Dhofar caves!!!!! The BBC documentary on the subject is called ‘The Incredible Human Journey' or 'Human Traces', not quite sure. If they are able to prove this theory, humanity will be forever changed.

(8) Salalah is one of the most tribal cultures in the Gulf. We live in a very tight society. Yes, it has disadvantages, but I believe the advantages outweigh them.

(9) Have you ever heard Jebbali poetry, the local mountain dialect?

(10) It’s interesting to read about the Dhofar Rebellion.

Life in Salalah is more 'real'. I love going to Muscat, but can never stay longer than a couple of weeks. It overwhelms me. The higways, shopping malls, crowds, etc. Life in Salalah is quiet. We are proud of our one and only Pizza Hut and KFC. We don't have any shopping malls, and hope it stays that way. We have one tiny highway. I could write pages and pages, but then my post will become too long (like your last one, Muggle) and I don’t need readers to become cross-eyed halfway through.

Tell me what you think. These are just ‘some’ thoughts.
PS (the picture was taken at the entrance to Darbat Valley during the monsoon)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I really am a sad excuse for a Dhofari. How have I managed to spend 22 years in this town without realizing that we have packs of hyenas everywhere? I guess I'm never out late at night! I was told by a fellow blogger that when she was out camping, an unusual hyena almost attacked them in Mirbat. Most people say it was a Jinn because the behaviour was rather odd. Check out her blog for interesting comments on Salalah/Oman

Allow me to confess that I don't have anything terribly interesting to write about, so I've decided to complain. I'm not really one for complaining, but my complaints may amuse you, so here goes:

(1) I hate the way some Omanis treat Indians and other Asians. I almost walked over to the office next door to throw my coffee mug at a colleague who was rudly insulting the teaboy because his tea wasn't 'perfect'. Well go make your own tea, jerk!

(2) The new guy in my office (yes, dammit, I have to share an office now until he leaves) is too nosy. He asks too many questions about my personal life, and thinks everything is a conspiracy. This morning the CEO of a contracting company dropped by to give me documents and chat (I studied with his son). My roommate immediately bombarded me with questions when the guy left. He thought the guy was a spy. Or maybe he thought I was having an affair with a 60 year-old man. God only knows. He just thought it was outrageous that a CEO would visit me, a girl! To those of you out there who are thinking 'Why don't you just tell him to mind his own business!', I tell you: he's a relative. You can't tell a relative to bugger off rudly. I might cause a tribal war.

(3) I always tell myself that I'll never drive into town during the last five days of everymonth because of PAYDAY. Yup, payday. Every single vehicle in the whole of Dhofar seems to be stuck on the two main roads during payday. Everyone is shopping. Everyone is spending. Everyone is honking. People here are so predictable.

(4) I have a sore throat.
(5) a senior manager at my company is very gay. This morning he's got pink nail polish on, a white dishdasha with a brown tassle and a BLUE cap (kumma). Has no one approached him about colour coordination?

That's it for today, folks. As you see, I have nothing serious to complain about. Life is good. Today is Wednesday!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Camel Crossing

What exactly is Salalah supposed to do when the 7:30 a.m rush hour is interrupted by a stubborn camel standing in the middle of the highway? Five police cars, 500 vehicles trying to get to work, and one stubborn camel. I was stuck in traffic for half an hour this morning because of the camel. ONE camel. I wasn't annoyed. I had my coffee and my music to keep me entertained. I thought it was rather amusing.
It's Saturday morning, which means my head it a little blank, trying to recover from the weekend. I spend Thursday in the mountains with a family of nomads (well, not really, they have three farms in the mountains for each of the seasons, and they move their camels between the farms). Anyway, I visit this family regularily and without fail I always come back to town in a state of shock. I live a busy life; cell phone, work, car, email, facebook, travel, etc, and sometimes I forget what it's like to be silent (peace within). When I visit my mountain family, I remember. They live a simple life on a simple farm. Every afternoon they sit out on their hill, drink tea, talk about the old days and recite poetry. Men and women sit together in mountain culture, unlike town people. They chat, laugh, exchange news, and sing in Jebbali (the local mountain dialect). During the day they tend to their animals, grow vegetables, make ghee, and take care of the children. I usually take a gift of fruit; something they consider a treat because of its rarity. They only come into town once a month or so. Our lives are so different, yet they accept me as I am and welcome me into their circle of laughter. They remind me that happiness is simple, and life should not be so complicated. I spend three of four hours with them inhaling life, then I am thrown back into my own life once I drive back into town and my cell phone starts working again (no reception up in the mountains, thank goodness). Sigh. How was your weekend?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

If my wife doesn't like the room, I'm moving to Japan..

Hi! I'm back again after several days break. I've been busy at work, and have promised myself that I will get a life and avoid using the computer at home. It's enough that I spend 8 hours a day working on it. I'll try to work on my blog during lunch break at work. I've taken up reading again (I used to read 3 or 4 pages a day before I went to bed at night due to my hectic schedule. Now I'm trying to make it 30 per day). There are so many good books out there. If I don't read at least 30 pages a day, imagine how much I'm going to miss out on in the world! Life is too short.
Hey, remember my post on April 27 about the witches who put a curse on a guy over the water spring? Well, the guy is STILL IN HIDING! People still think he's dead. Eek. I tried to get more information out of my colleagues but no such luck.
So, back to my topic for today, more marriage! It's the season in Salalah, since everyone gets married during June, July and August. So, the gossip these days is all about weddings. Before I start, I wish to inform you that 'no' I do not escape work very often to get coffee, but today I had to because I felt caffeine-deprived, and I cannot touch instant coffee. So, at around 11:30 this morning I decided to slip out of the office and drive over to Brownies (our one and only cafe) to pick up a double espresso to bring back to work. On my way out of Brownies, clutching my caffeine treasure, I heard someone calling me. I turned and it took me a few moments to recognize the face. It was Mohanned (name changed), a guy I knew very well in college. In fact, we were best friends for a while and used to play crossword puzzles together during a very very boring class (in fact, it was so boring that I can't even remember the subject). I haven't seen him for over four years. He left college early to go finish his studies in Lebanon, while I continued abroad. He couldn't handle the cold weather. We stayed in touch by text messages and email, but never actually met face to face again, until today. In Other countries, it's easy to have male friends from Oman because we all stick together and help each other out. In Salalah, it's different. After a few minutes of exchanging news, I noticed how tired he looks. I asked him if he was stressed. He confessed that he is getting married in three weeks. He was beginning to feel that marriage is more of a nightmare than blessing. The girl he is marrying is a distant cousin and a complete stranger. He has never met her before, and has never spoken to her. He has a vague idea of what she looks like. Furthermore, her family asked for a dowry of 10,000 Omani Rials. In addition to that, he has to provide a suite for them (he built a room, kitchen, living room, and bathroom suite next to his family's house), as well as her gold. He is also in charge of arranging the whole wedding (down to the very last flower). He has to purchase six cows for the wedding (each cow costs 400 Rials at least) to feed the hundreds of guests. The list of duties gets longer and longer. He was exhausted, depressed, and hadn't slept for weeks. He ended the conversation by saying 'If she doesn't appreciate all that I've done for her, I'm moving to Japan!", and we both walked back to our cars and said goodbye. I felt so bad for him. I know that this is what most young men go through when they get married in Salalah. They have to provide everything and go to great trouble to prepare for marriage. This is why many young people are choosing not to get married. They can't afford it (i.e. they can't afford a traditional wedding), and it's too risky because they don't want to marry someone they don't know, and end up with a girl they cannot love. I don't know how this situation is going to be resolved. Someone has to take the first step and break out of these useless traditions. It's so unfair. The only thing a girl has to do is receive her dowry, buy clothes and shoes and bags, and slather herself in lotions and whitening creams. Simple as that. Even if a girl works, the guy still has to buy everything for her, and she's not allowed to help with the wedding. Furthermore, everyone here seems to be in debt, so the family cannot support the young men with their weddings. Poor Mohanned; I wonder what he feels. Imagine the anticipation of starting a new life in 20 days with a person you don't know, don't love, and having to share the same bed with a complete stranger on your wedding night. It's AWFUL.
Guys, what do you think? Would you marry a girl you don't know? Do you agree with such traditions? What do guys want anyway?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Change is Coming!

I haven't written for over a week, I know. I've been really busy, but no worries; I've been accumulating notes on things I've observed and will write about them in future posts. However, today I was thinking about a friend of mine who got married three months ago. My friend teaches at a local junior high school, and is quite pretty and 'white' (the most important part for Omani men it seems!). I'll name her Amina. Anyway, so Amina graduated from university, immediately got hired as a math teacher, and has been doing really well for the past three years. Last year, Idiot Head (her husband) heard about her from relatives who also teach at the same school, and decided to marry her because (1) She was white (2) She has an income (3) She drives a Lexus. Thus, the marriage was arranged. They got married three months ago, hated each other, and got a divorce after a month. The guy, Idiot Head, was married before, and divorced his first wife in order to marry Amina. Now, he went back to his first wife (how does she ACCEPT a man like that?), and Amina has discovered that she's pregnant! Yes, pregnant! And guess what? She's NOT going back to him. If I woman is pregnant after a divorce, she usually goes back to the guy, but Amina decided that being an independant single mother is much nicer than being married to Idiot Head. I can tell you, everyone in town is talking about it. It's so 'taboo' to be pregnant and unmarried. I admire Amina for her courage, and I'm sure she'll be a great Mom. Sadly, when the child is seven years old, his father can legally take full custody of the child. I pray that doesn't happen. We have a weird system. Pray for Amina and pray that Salalah can get rid of the small-town gossip element that poisons our society.