Sunday, June 28, 2009

Pure Entertainment

Somehow, I find it very entertaining that a group of Shanfaris' (Shanfary tribe) decided to get married together, and the wedding was so huge it was held in the local football stadium!! Oh WELCOME To Salalah! They even had a banner up saying something like 'Glory to the Shanfaris' or something like that. Don't quote me. I'm so excited for the monsoon to start. Tired of the heat. I'm planning a trip to Mirbat next week? Anyone coming? :-)

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Legend

Dhofari Gucci is supposed to be about life in Dhofar; however, Michael Jackson's sudden death is something I feel I cannot ignore in my modest little blog. I confess I am very sad. He was a true Legend and always will be. People called him Weird, Wacko Jacko, the Madman, etc, but he was creativity itself. He had ups and downs in his life, but in the end, people are going to remember his music and his dancing, not his personal life or his skin colour. He was probably the FIRST Western artist to hit the scene in Oman. I remember back in the early 1990s my brothers were secretly buying his music. Boys on the streets in Oman practice his moves everyday. People loved him. He also had ties with the Middle East. I remember when he first moved to Bahrain and came to visit Oman and expressed interest in buying property here. I remember taking a tour of the Shangri La Hotel in Muscat and being told 'Psss... Michael Jackson owns a room here'.... I remember his odd stage in life where he expressed interest in Islam and released a single called 'Give Thanks to Allah'. I remember a time when everyone in the world (well, almost everyone) was singing 'All I want to say is that they don't really care about us'. He was very active in environmental issues, clear in his music. In the End, he will remain the King of Pop. May he rest in peace. Amen.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

My Second Head

Call it a Second Head, Qamboo3a, Kammasha, Pompom, Poof Poof, ..whatever you like. It is a sign of prestige, of class, of fashion. This photo dictates precisely why Dhofari women consider Abu Tahnoon their second home. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dhofari Celebrities

Hey everyone! You may recall (see post below) that I was thinking about Dhofari celebrities because Mr.Anonymous wondered whether paparazzi would have someone to follow in Salalah. Who is a celebrity anyway? In Salalah a celebrity is someone whom EVERYONE knows. In Western countries the concept of celebrities and paparazzi has reached a disgusting stage. I mean, for heaven's sake, do I really need photos of Brad Pitt scratching his nose on the cover of a magazine when the world is going through so many difficulties? In Salalah, it's quite different, but just for fun I'm going to list some of the people that everyone knows. They are in 'no particular order', and I do not intend anything other than to praise them and entertain you, thank you very much.
Fowzi Bashir: فوزي بشير (National Soccer Team) is Salalah's pride and joy :-) As you know, Oman loves soccer.

Bint Moomin: بنت مؤمن The most well-known makeup artist #1 in Salalah. She's one of the talented ones who turn you into Marilyn Manson if you pay her 100 Rials. (Yes, you heard me. 100 Rials). Check out my post below about makeup.

Fawaz Arafa: فواز عرفة former National Soccer team goalkeeper (back in the 1990s) and Salalah's most famous driving teacher. I'd say 90% of all 'females' with drivers' licenses in Salalah were taught by Fawaz. He's amazing.
Bu Madhi: بو ماضي ha ha :-) one of our amazing singers. I saw him live once.

Doctor Muna: الدكتورة منى Now, she is Salalah's most famous healer and witch doctor, or so I hear. And no, she is not a real doctor. She's a wizened old lady. I have not seen her before, but I hear she can understand medical reports, even if they're in chinese. She does the traditional branding too (burning the skin to cure illness?).

Galal Ghabish from Taqah: جلال غابش Ahh... Galal. Our most famous actor, or so I think. He's been in theatre for quite some time, and he's just the most entertaining comedian I have EVER seen in my life (and I have seen many). I went to four or five of his plays.

Al Fadhiliya: الفاضلية Salalah's other famous makeup artist. She can also turn you into Dracula or Marilyn Manson if you pay her 100 OMR.

Zakiya الفنانة زكية from Taqah: إنغب عني وسافر ... جيبووووه you must know that song. She was so well known back in the 1990s. The first Dhofari woman to hit the music scene.

Abdullah Al Sabbah عبدالله السباح: You know? For so many years Oman TV people have been known to be dull and boring (with all due respect to Basil), but there are two guys so far who I've seen on Oman TV and who are FULL OF LIFE. The first one was Mohd Al Zadjali (or I think that's his name. His brother was Ibrahim Al Zadjali. Both actors, mostly famous back in the late 1990s). However, Mohammed was so enthusiastic and funny and full of life. Too bad he's not Dhofari :-) Abdullah Al Sabah is the same. He's one of those people who managed to maintain their real personalities on TV and he's just so natural and normal. You can actually 'enjoy' watching him.

Tawfiq Nahyan توفيق نهيان: Every peson in Salalah knows his song نور علينا قمر شهر شعبان ... thousands of women and girls danced Tabal to that song at almost every single wedding in Salalah for years. I've seen him live three times. His voice is so smooth and he's just a fun artist to watch. His band are super-cool too.

Abu Qais أبو قيس المعشني Seriously I think he's Salalah most famous poet. His poetry is highly controversial (politics and all) but he's still very popular. I remember when young girls first started wearing Denim Jeans in Salalah. He wrote a long poem about it and the effects of Western civilization on Salalah. I think the poem was called بنت الناس but I'm not sure.

Gosh, there are so many people I can write about. Salim Ali Saeed and Omar Jabran the singers, Dr. Ahmed our NLP Guru & author, Ahmed Majeen the theatre director, the artists, poets and photographers, the fashion designers, the soccer players, ..... but this post can't be too long. I just wanted to say thanks to these people who making Salalah unique. It's best to appreciate our local talents. I mean, who need Paris Hilton when you have Fowzi Bashir? (many of you may not agree with me but I don't care).

Let me know if you can think of anyone else who can be considered a 'Dhofari Celebrity' :-)
PS #1( Coming to think of it, does anyone know the story behind Bu Tahnoon بو طحنون? Is he Dhofari?)
PS #2 (Perhaps one day I'll be known as Dhofar's most famous blogger? That would be cool. Lol)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mission Impossible

Dear All, I've been busy doing research for my next post 'Dhofari Celebrities' suggested by one of my blog followers. After reading my post on Omani Paparazzi, the reader wondered who paparazzi would follow in Salalah? Who are our celebrities? Input, anyone?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Special Thanks

No, this is not a post. This is just a small note of thanks to the readers who have taken the time out to brainstorm ideas for my blog and send them to me. I really appreciate it. Mr.Anonymous has given me a list of very interesting topics to write about. I can tell it's going to be fun. Watch this space amigos!

Omani Paparazzi ...

I thought this photo of Omani Paparazzi was rather amusing. This was taken at the camel races in Thumrait during April. They were stalking His Excellency Fulan bin Fulan Al Fulani..

Today is June 21, the official 'start' to the monsoon in Dhofar, although we've had rain and dark clouds all week. Salalah is getting ready to paaarty! Bring on the toursits!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Tell me about the Ocean ....

Some of you grammar-geeks out there may say 'Hey! Why did she put a capital O on the word Ocean?'.... well, I believe the Ocean is like a person.

The Ocean speaks to us in many different ways. Some people talk to the Ocean everyday! (like my friend Muna ... whom I wrote about in one of my earlier posts). Others visit the Ocean when they have a problem or are feeling depressed. They just sit and stare at the ocean. Sadly, many people are indifferent and can sit for hours in front of the sea smoking shisha and gossiping and not paying any attention to its majestic beauty and power.

I often visit the Ocean on my own just to think. I walk down to a section of the beach where it's ok for ladies to sit, and I dig my toes into the cold sand and listen to the waves. I've discovered over the years that if you're trying to think about 'Life' in general, it's hard to do it between four walls. My thoughts are clearer when I'm in an open space like the mountains or by the Ocean. I begin to comprehend bits and pieces from the great puzzle of life.

This afternoon I drove to the ocean and sat on the cold sand for a good two hours ... thinking. I felt I needed to clear my head for a bit. The ocean helps with that. Natural therapy. I wanted to shout out 'I am here! I am alive! I'm so full of life!'

The picture posted is one taken at Mughsayl (a 45-minute drive West of Salalah), two weeks ago. Beautiful!
What do you feel about the ocean? Does it inspire you? Tell me about it!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Only in Salalah ....

Dear Readers,

I'm having a hard time absorbing what I just heard at work, so I'm going to share this piece of information with you and see what you think. The uncle of one of my colleagues (yes, the uncle) has announced that he's marrying a 19 year-old girl with a dowry of 55,000 Rials. You heard me correctly; FIFTY FIVE THOUSAND. In addition to two Toyota land cruisers for her family and a gift of 10,000 Rials for her father. Kindly note that the man we are discussing here is a 64 year-old geezer with two wives and a dozen children.
Do we really live in the year 2009? Will we continue to hold on to strange traditions forever and ever? What kind of life is the girl going to have? How does she see her future with a man old enough to be her grandfather?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mystery Graves

Dear Readers,
The Anonymous Dhofari Explorer and myself have been arguing about the location of the graveyard in the picture. An American photgrapher took this last summer when he was in Dhofar. Through a friend, I managed to get hold of the picture. However, I can't quite figure out where it is located. All I know is that it's somewhere past Mirbat towards the East of Dhofar.

Many of you have probably heard about the Dhofari researcher, Ali Ahmed Al Shahri, who has spent most of his adult life studying ancient cave writings all over Dhofar (in addition to other things such as graves, old sayings, traditions, languages, etc). I think he has published over four books. Amazing guy. Anyway, the book I own is his book on ancient cave writings published in 1994. Towards the end of the book, there is a chapter on graves in Dhofar. I found a picture of two gravestones very similar to the ones in this mysterious photo, but these two graves are location next to an old mosque in Mirbat. He says that the graveyards become more exciting and the carvings more detailed as you head East.

Dhofari Explorer and myself believe they are old Islamic graves judging from the writing on them. Has anyone seen this place before?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Blogger's Block

Dear Readers,
How often do you check the blogs that you follow? I check almost everyday. It's kind of depressing, but what to do! I follow 8 blogs regularly. I wonder how often people read my blog? I stole an application from Sting's blog to monitor the number of times people upload my blog. 300 in two days isn't bad, eh?

My weekend was rather dull. I had to bring work home for the weekend (ugh) and spent most of my precious time working. I also *drumroll please* tidied my room (a task I usually dread). I did four solid hours of reading. How can one ever get bored of good fiction? Thank you

I spent some time in the garden talking to the birds. The flocks of parrots are leaving Salalah for the monsoon (or so I think. I'm not a bird expert). While I was out there, I took a couple of pictures of trees. The flame trees are so beautiful at this time of year. Sadly, they only blossom in May. The rest of the year they're just dry boring trees. During May they burst into flames (literally) and turn red.

I then had to take a picture of a new lemon that has grown on our lemon tree. We rarely get lemons, but in this humid weather, the trees seem to be having a blast.

Finally, to conclude my dull weekend, I drove through town and while stopped at the 23-July-Nahdha street traffic lights, managed to QUICKLY snap this picture of our beautiful new mosque. The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque Salalah is supposed to be inaugurated sometime in June, but we haven't heard anything yet. It's not 'open' yet although it's well-lit during the evenings. Rumor has it that His Majesty is coming down to Salalah to inaugurate the mosque. How wonderful that would be if it's true. Dhofar misses him very very much.

So, basically that's the end of my dull weekend. I need to travel. I seriously need to travel. I'm one of those people who loves airports, suitcases, passports, airplanes, and boarding announcments. I intend to spend the rest of my life travelling and exploring the world. How that is going to happen, I don't know, but I'll give it a try. Yes, I am a Dhofari girl, and it's kinda TABOO to travel alone, but you never know, I may strike a deal with someone and tell him 'I'll marry you if you'll travel with me'.
Travel where, they ask me? Well.... here goes:
(1) India: I want to travel through India (in the North) and visit temples. I also want to visit the Lotus Baha'i temple. An Ashram would be nice.
(2) Austria: this is a must. I want to visit Vienna and eat ravioli and visit anything related to Mozart.
(3) Brazil: Amazon is a must. Actually, I'd like to visit several countries in South America.
(4) PARIS! No, I'm not interested in having my photo taken in front of the Eiffel Tower. I want to explore Paris through the 'back door' (i.e not as a tourist). I also want to spend quality time sitting at small cafes watching people.
(5) Prague! City of intellects.
(6) I want to visit the valley of Angkor in Cambodia. Feasible? YES!
(7) Definitely Egypt.
(8) Northern Lights in Canada!
(9) An Amish community in the US
The list gets longer .....
Do you love travelling? Where would you like to go and why?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Father of the Tail and Dish Detergent

Good Morning Everyone! It’s Saturday, the day I usually dread merely because my alarm clock goes off at 6. By 7 o’clock, I’m past the sulking stage and ready to tackle the day ahead.

How was my weekend? Ahh….. The Wedding.

So, you see, weddings in Salalah drive me crazy. On Wednesday I told you that one of my cousins was getting married. Each female who ‘attends’ the wedding is called a ‘Hadra’ (attender). Hadra means you gotta paint yourself white (we’re talking electric white here) then buy heavy oil paints and a thick paintbrush and start plastering your eyelids with Picasso-style colors. You then cover your eyebrows in wax and paint a new set of eyebrows two inches above your real ones. You also manage to double the size of your lips somehow. To top it all off, a blonde wig will do. (by the way, I’m serious). Finally, you put on your heavy black velvet thobe bodhail (Father of the Tail Dress) with heavy embroidery and tons of glitter, and 2 pounds of heavy jewelry. You end up looking like an uglier version of Marilyn Manson (and you thought HE was ugly? Come to Salalah!).

Do I sound like I’m sulking? Well, I am. I had to wake up at 5 a.m on Thursday, head to the ‘salon’ by 6:30, so a nosy woman could interrogate me about my life for FIVE HOURS while she turned my sister and I into Marilyn Mansons. We then rushed back to the house (yes, I was driving with all the makeup on. Don’t ask me about the stares), and while my sister was getting dressed, I plunked myself down in front of CNN to watch Obama’s speech to the Muslim world. I wasn’t going to miss it. Not for a wedding, that’s for sure. So, I sat in front of the TV for 54 glorious minutes before the wig lady arrived! Yes, we have a ‘wig’ lady who comes to pin on the blonde wigs. No, I did not wear a wig, but my sister did because she doesn’t have the patience to spend two more hours at the hair salon creating perfect curls and ringlets. I’ll get back to the speech later. Finally, we’re both ready to go. Checklist:

- Ugly makeup (check)
- Wig (check)
- Velvet father of the tail (check)
- Blue contacts (check)
- 3 pounds of jewelry (check)
- Six inch heels (check)
- Car keys (check)

Ok, we’re set. Both of us hop into the car (my mother had been threatening to kill us if we were late). We stop by my uncle’s house to pick up two of my cousins. More Marilyn Mansons pile into my car. We get to the wedding (groom’s family’s house), and are immediately told to get up and start dancing Tabal (dig diggee dig diggee dig diggee …), so my sister and I did without cracking up. We sat down and another couple of girls got up to dance. This went on until 6 p.m when we were finally fed dry rice and dead cow (forgive me for phrasing it that way, but that’s how I feel about it). At midnight the bride was brought in to be stared at (after everyone was sick of staring at one another). They set her up on her marriage bed in her velvet thobe and makeup (worse than mine) and wig. Three hundred ladies went in to stare at her. She sat looking blankly at the wall without moving (tradition). Finally, everyone went home. End of wedding. The groom finally came in at 2 o’clock in the morning.

However, it wasn’t the end for us. The process of removing the makeup and hair and everything takes at least an hour and a half. The only way to remove Salalah makeup is dish detergent. Yes, dish s.o.a.p. You slather your face with dish soap then you get stainless steel or a thick sponge and a spoon and start scraping it off. The eyes take extra long because it hurts to scrap your eyes with a spoon. You end up looking like a tomato but your skin is clean. We finally collapsed into bed at 4:30 a.m. I spent all day Friday recovering.

Ok, back to Obama’s speech. I love it. I was close to tears several times but managed to control myself (because of the makeup). He spoke very well, and chose his quotes from the Qur’an, Bible, and Torah carefully. Perhaps a new chapter can be opened. I hate it when people say ‘Oh, he can talk all he wants, but will his words become actions?’ Negative thinking is NOT going to help. If we listen to his speech and believe that change can happen, then we’ve taken that step within ourselves and that is the purpose. He is one man. He cannot change the world, but we can. He can influence people, inspire them, encourage them, and motivate them to build a better world. His speech was inspiring and honest. He chose his quotes and examples carefully, and -remember guys-, he is a human. Humans aren’t perfect. He made a couple of mistakes here and there, but that’s no big deal. His message got through. I enjoyed the fact that he chose seven issues and discussed them one by one. He is such an amazing speaker. How he managed to speak so carefully without a paper for an hour totally baffles me. President Obama promised that he wanted his Cairo speech to be the start of an "honest" dialogue with the Muslim world. When it comes to how he handled the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he fell short in a couple of points, and I’m sure the critics are busy attacking. However, no matter what he says, the Palestinians aren’t going to like it, and the Israelis won’t either because both sides don’t seem to want a two-state solution. Each side seems to think the other should be wiped off the face of earth. It’s not going to happen. It’s an unfortunate situation, but one has to deal with it positively and try to make the best out of it. Any solution is fine as long as the killing stops and people can have regular lives again. Children need school, families need homes, everyone needs healthcare, clean water, food, and peace! I’m ashamed of the World and of the Arab countries in particular that have done next to nothing to fix this. Ok, enough politics. Please watch the speech if you haven’t already:

Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Weekend Post

Hello Y’all!

It’s Wednesday! Yay!!! Not quite sure why I’m so pleased. Nothing very exciting is happening this weekend except Obama’s speech to the Muslim world on Thursday. I’m really looking forward to that. He’s such a unique person. I mean, honestly, would you believe that he gave Queen Elizabeth an i-pod? He did. Remind me again how old is she?

The local newspapers have stated that the monsoon may be a little early this year. What blessing. I’ve almost reached the end of my patience with this heat. It’s not really that hot (only 33-34) but the humidity is plain murder.

Official wedding season in Salalah has started (June 1 – August 30). I still don’t understand how some people end up going to five or six weddings on the same day. There are SO many weddings. I guess because families are big in Salalah (average 8 kids per family?), so they usually try to marry two brothers off on the same day. This is the case with a cousin of mine who is getting married tomorrow to his first cousin on his mother’s side. They announced to the whole town that two brothers were getting married on June 4th. However, guess what? They couldn’t find a bride for brother number two! I love Salalah. Imagine announcing a wedding without a bride.

It’s quite unsettling that our society still encourages marriage of first cousins. I know it’s acceptable in Islam; however, in Oman we have a serious autism problem and other genetic disorders because of intermarriage. I know so many people who married their first cousins, and who now have autistic children, or children with special abilities and needs. It’s because their parents before them were first cousins and the generation before that. When intermarriage goes on for a long time, problems happen. I read a horrifying article in the newspaper a few months ago that 33% of children in Oman have genetic disorders, and 13% of children (in the South I think) have some form of autism. The statistics are shocking. Yet, we still go ahead and marry first cousins. That is the main cause for these disorders. I think they’re more common in the South of Oman and in the interior because of strong tribal traditions and family ties.

The problem is that once a child with a disability or mental disorder is born, the families (especially in the South) aren’t relaxed about it. Many of them hide the child in their house and never allow it to be seen my strangers. They refuse to send their child to any of the centers for children with special abilities and needs, because they think people will ‘talk’. It’s a difficult situation. Furthermore, the women who work at these centers are not qualified to deal with handicaps. They’re volunteers with big hearts but not enough experience, especially with autism. Autistic children are so special and needs extra care and attention. They are most certainly not retarded. They’re unique and very gifted. A two-week clay and pottery workshop was held at Dhofar University for these children in Salalah, and my goodness they are SUCH talented artists. I saw some of their work in the newspaper and was very impressed.

It’s Wednesday! (yes, I know I already said that at the beginning of my post!) I seriously need to chill in front of the air conditioner with a book and perhaps a good movie.
PS (Pray for the families of the 228 people on the missing Air France plane. What a tragedy)