Monday, August 31, 2009

Note - Omani Media

Hey everyone, I don't have much time to write today. Totally over-worked. However, to keep you entertained, check out Bader Al Hinai's campaign towards 'Better Media in Oman'. Seems the Omani Ramadan television series have caused an uproar! Stay tuned ..
I'm hungry!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Freakin Fabulous Award

Not quite sure how these things work, but I've been awarded the Freaking Fabulous blog award by my friend Shahrazad ( Well, Shahrazad, I'm Freakin Honored!
Rules of the Award:
  • List Five Current Obsessions
  • Pass the award on to five more fabulous blogs
  • ON your post receiving this award, make sure you include the person that gave you the award and link it back to them.
  • When you post your winners, link it back to them as well.
  • Don't forget to let your winners know they won an award by leaving a comment on their blog.

Allrighty, so ... five current obsessions, hmmm....

  • Obsession One: Reading. I've been reading too much lately. Until 2 or 3 in the morning.
  • Obsession Two: Travelling. I'm getting itchy feet. I actually have a notebook where I'm keeping notes on the places I plan to go to. Need ... to ... travel.
  • Obsession Three: Nutella. I haven't had Nutella for months. In fact, I don't think I even like Nutella in real life, but because it's Ramadan and I'm fasting, I keep daydreaming about it.
  • Obsession Four: Yet again, because I'm fasting right now, I'm imagining a tall glass of home-made lemon iced tea with seven (yes seven) ice cubes. Yes it's an obsession and yes it's killing me.
  • Obsession Five: Discovering cool blogs. It has become an obsession. I'm so impressed with all the freakin' fabulous blogs out there, especially the ones about Oman.
Ok, so my winners are: *drumroll*:

(1) Shahrazad , not because she tagged me, and not because she's my friend, but because she's the best 'writer' among all the Omani English bloggers I follow. (and yes, I follow many blogs)
(2) Muawia Al Rawahi: .. The one I follow is in Arabic but he also has an English one; not as good as the Arabic one though. I know it seems weird, but that guy has a unique sense of humor. I actually found myself laughing out loud at his August 25th post. However, don't attack me here; I don't agree with some of what he says, but I'm not denying the fact that he's an excellent writer.
(3) Organica: ... again, an excellent writer with a great sense of humour. I follow her blog on an almost-daily basis because we share many of the same interests.
(4) Muscat Confidential: the one and only Muscat Confidential! .. We seem to think along the same lines.
I'm going to stick with 4 for the moment. Listen, I follow around 25 blogs on a regular basis. They're all great (because I don't read crappy blogs), so it's pretty hard to pick. I'm more attracted to blogs that are updated every day/couple of days. Impatient soul.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Oman TV - Part 3

Ok, I give in. Although I am not a fan of Oman TV, I have a soft spot for animation, and guys believe me, Omanis in animation are funny. Meet Eid & Saeed, Oman TV's Beavis & Butthead. They don't talk. They just grunt and go 'Huh?' every three seconds. Your average caveman. Yet again Omanis being portrayed as dumb villagers. But, hey, yesterday's episode of them trying to crack open a watermelon was kinda amusing. Although I was ashamed to see that many of the graphic designers and artists behind this creation are not Omani. Why weren't young talented Omanis hired for this?
Note: (Anyone can watch this. It's not in Arabic)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Oman TV - Part 2

I discovered that many bloggers have written nasty reviews about Oman TV and the Ministry of Information this week since the beginning of the beyond-horrid Ramadhan television series, namely Moawia Al Rawahi, Bader Al Hinai, etc. I smell revolution in the air. I received several comments and emails from readers regarding my Oman TV post (below). Fellow blogger (of Muscat Mutterings Blog) Sythe's comment was by far the best:
" Something I was going to blog, but decided against it, just because absolutely no one will be interested, was that Oman Mobile have recently announced that you can now watch Oman TV on your mobile phones. About the most practical extension for this that I can think of is either for people having trouble sleeping at night, they can whip out their phones and drift off to the sleepy programming on OmanTV, or it can be used as a mobile interrogation / torture device, where unsuspecting criminals are subjected to random forced viewings of Oman TV"
Forgive me if you don't find this funny. I went into at least three fits of hysterical laughter (one in the bathroom, if you really must know) imagining Oman TV being used in interrogation rooms. My imagination can run wild sometimes. Thank you Sythe for making my day.

Monsoon vs. May

I just realized I have two shots of the same place. The photo above is what Mughsayl (45-minute drive west from Salalah) looks like now and during the monsoon every year. The shot below is what it looked like at the end of May! Amazing contrast.

Our Greatest Shame: Oman TV

Dear readers, I do not watch television. Every once in a while I’ll see something on television that reminds me of the reasons behind my decision to boycott the stuff. Last night was one of those occasions. For various reasons, I ended up watching 20 minutes of Oman TV’s Ramadan drama series ‘Darayesh 3’. In the beginning I felt the need to be polite and make excuses for the Ministry of Information. After five minutes, I began to feel ill. Fifteen minutes later my face is green and I’ve got nausea. What a load of crap. Effin garbage. For the past what … 10 … 15 years, Oman TV has been making the same damn shows for Ramadhan. These shows usually involve a bad-tempered old man, his wife, and kids, and perhaps a couple of goats. Most stories take place in villages. Same actors every year also. Omanis are portrayed as dumb villagers who eat too many dates and who have stupid problems. Hello? When is someone at Oman TV going to finally wake up and see Oman as it is now? Oman is an amazing country. We are not stupid villagers. We are not dumb. Yet, Oman TV chooses to tell the world we are. We have become the laughing stock of television.

Take a look around. We are a country rich with different cultures (compare Ibri to Salalah? Thumrait to Muscat?), most Omanis speak some English, and a large percentage are fluent, well-travelled educated people. We are a developing country with doctors, scientists, engineers, researchers, lawyers, etc. Omanis have jobs, cars, laptops, blackberries, and are keeping up with the rest of the modern world. We are a country of thinkers, writers, bloggers (yes!), photographers, artists, and talented individuals. Just look around you! We are not mentally-retarded villagers, nor do we live in a village! Look at Oman! Highways, businesses, opera houses (soon), skating rinks, stadiums, cinemas, shopping malls (not that I approve), five-star hotels, yacht clubs, universities, restaurants, cafes, art galleries, museums, research centers, and so much more. Look how much we’ve progressed over the past 30 years! We didn’t even have a paved road back then. We didn’t have electricity or schools or hospitals. Look how much we’ve grown! It’s AMAZING how fast our country was built. Are we not proud of that? Hell we are! So what’s wrong with the Ministry of Information? What’s wrong with Oman TV? Ok, so everything is censored and we do not have freedom of speech in the media in Oman, but can we not at least have decent television? It doesn’t have to be outrageous, it doesn’t have to offend the government, and it certainly doesn’t have to offend the people of this beautiful country. Aren't there creative young people out there who studied media? Why aren't they working at Oman TV? We want fresh talent.

Tell me honestly, how many of you watch Oman TV? If you don’t, then why not?

Ok, on another note, last night another H1N1 victim passed away in intensive care at Sultan Qaboos Hospital in Salalah. A young woman. She was buried shortly after midnight. May Allah grant her family the strength to get through this tragedy. Will her death be reported in the newspaper today? I doubt it. Oman’s hush-hush policyسياسة الهدوء

Send a prayer out to her family. May she rest in peace. Amen.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dhofari Ramadan Menu - Do you really need 300 bottles of Vimto?

Ok, here it is; Dhofaris exposed at last.

What is it about Ramadan anyway that makes people obsessed with food? Why is it that you spend more on groceries during Ramadan yet you're fasting and you only eat one meal a day? Why is it that every house in Salalah eats the same damn thing every single night of the holy month? They eat the same thing every day for a month, but never during the rest of the year. When am I ever going to figure it out?
Yesterday I walked into the Lulu Centre (our major supermarket) to buy two miserable items; tomatoes and milk. Ok? I should have been out of there in about three minutes, right? Wrong. I swear to you I was in there for 50 minutes, in a lineup of 18 people (note: there are five counters). Every shopper had one or two shopping carts filled with the exact same products. I almost gave up but I really really needed those tomatoes for my Iftar cooking. To kill time, I got out my camera and starting taking photos of the Ramadan displays (see photo)

Yup, what you are looking at my dear friends is the Leaning Tower of Crème Caramel. Believe me, Dhofaris only eat creme caramel in Ramadan. Same with oatmeal, dumplings, vimto, samboosas, jelly, etc. So, what exactly is the Ramadan menu? Let me explain; every afternoon during Ramadan every kitchen in Salalah is busy producing the same dishes. Call to prayer comes at sunset, and everyone gathers around the mat/table to eat the same dishes. I'm telling you, it's true! I've asked all my friends and they all eat the same thing. They have an eating marathon from the moment the call to prayer comes and for about ten minutes until it's time to pray. During those ten minutes, every person will stuff as much food into their face as possible, and in no particular order. It's a free for all. You want to eat jello with your samboosa? Go ahead! How about watermelon and beef soup? Be my guest.

Dhofari Iftar Menu: The Everyday Basics:

Samboosas سمبوس (usually filled with spicy vegetables and ground beef)

Luqaymat لقيمات: (sweet dumplings dipped in sugar syrup)

Soup شوربة: ( Ramadan soup made with beef, vegatables and oats. Quite delicious with lemon)

Vimto فيمتو: (red poison)

Coffee & Dates

Thareed ثريد : (a traditional Omani dry bread soaked in a beef sauce. Tasty)

Sandwiches: (usually most families will have an assortment of small sandwiches)

Creme Caramel!

Custard مهلبية


Usually a dish of spicy macaroni

Watermelon (to ensure you have the worst case of Digestive Volcanos in the history of mankind)

Kindly note that all of this is eaten at the same time. Some families are brave enough to introduce new dishes to this menu. Lots of families have a variety of cold desserts (usually a mix of creme caramel, custard, jello, swiss rolls and dream whip. Lots and lots of dream whip). Also note, dear friends, that most families will have a heavy meal of rice and meat/chicken later on in the night (anytime between 10 p.m and 1 a.m). I can only imagine what their sleep/dreams must be like after such a heavy meal. Oh, well. This is our culture. We developed these odd eating habits (our ancestors certainly didn't eat like that) somewhere over the past 20 years I suppose. What do you eat in Ramadan? Give me proof that there are people out there that eat normally!


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Why We Love Ramadhan - Dedicated to Muslims in Western Countries

Hey Everyone! Ramadan Kareem! Before I start talking about my Ramadan thoughts, I should give a mini-introduction for my readers around the world (and yes, there are many) who may not know what Ramadan is. First of all, most of you know that Muslims follow a lunar calendar. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is a month of fasting, in which Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, sexual conduct, smoking, and indulging in anything that is ill-natured from dawn until sunset everyday for a month. Muslims all over the world love the month of Ramadan and look forward to it with mounting excitement. In the weeks preceding Ramadan lives are scrutinised, and plans are made for a month of serious worship and supplication. The countdown begins and conversations start with how many weeks it is until the blessed month arrives. Perhaps non-Muslims wonder why we look forward to fasting days and sleepless nights. Ramadan offers the chance of redemption and great rewards. It is a month like no other. A month of spiritual reflection and prayer. Hearts are directed away from worldly activities and towards God.

Fasting is meant to teach us patience, modesty and spirituality. Ramaḍān is a time to fast for the sake of Allah, and to offer more prayer than usual. During Ramaḍān, Muslims ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance and help in refraining from everyday evils, and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds.

I follow several blogs written by young Muslims living in Western counries, namely Muslim Kid, Organica, Living in Layla Land, Jasmine's Yard, etc. Living in countries like the USA and the UK is not always easy for Muslims, so just IMAGINE for a moment what it's like to fast a full month in a country where everyone around you is eating, partying, and focused only on fun, materialism, money, drinking, etc. How do they manage? What difficulties do they face?

I feel so blessed to be living in a Muslim society where everyone fasts and the whole Arab/Muslim world goes into Ramadan mode (shorter work hours, no open restaurants, tarawih prayers for everyone, Qur'an in hand, making the extra effort to pray together 'Salat Jama'aa', etc). It really is wonderful. Yesterday everyone was glued to their television set in the evening waiting to hear if the moon had been seen! Then, it was announced 'Hilal Ramadan had been spotted. Tomorrow we start fasting!'. Immediately family and friends started texting one another to make sure everyone heard. Mothers headed into the kitchen to prepare the dawn meal. Men and women alike headed immediately to the mosque to pray the first set of Tarawih prayers. Many people put away their music, cigarettes, sheesha pipes, and anything else they'd decided to give up in Ramadan. Children who would be fasting for the first time hopped up and down in excitement. Festive!

This morning alarm clocks all around the world went off at 4 a.m; mothers got out of bed and woke their children and husbands up. Everyone ate in silence, still half asleep. Slowly, one by one, they made their way to the washroom to wash for prayers. The father lined up Sijjadas (prayer mats) on the floor in two rows. Males in the front row, females in the back. The family lines up to pray together and start the fast. After praying, usually the older ones stay up and read Qur'an. The younger ones head back to bed. Peaceful Dawn. The mother may stand at the window and watch the sun come up.

Morning comes, everyone heads to work/school. Everyone greets one another with 'Ramadan Kareem!'. Work ends early. Families head home. Some rest. Some read Qur'an or pray. It's quiet-time. A couple of hours before sunset, the mother and girls head into the kitchen to start preparing Iftar, the breaking of the fast meal. Everyone has a pile of new recipes ready. Men hang around the kitchen door hoping to see what's being cooked. Finally, the call to prayer is heard 'Allahu Akbar!' and everyone grabs a glass of milk or juice and three dates (or five or seven, etc - uneven numbers is the Sunnah). They sigh. Bliss. Oh, how we take food for granted when so many people around the world starve every day of the year. Family gets up to pray together then they dive into the yummy dishes. After Iftar, the older family members get ready to head to the mosque to pray Tarawih with the rest of the community. Everywhere you go, people are heading to the mosque. It's such a beautiful and inspirational time.

Everyone is thinking about opening a new page; spiritual renewal. Ramadan is the perfect time to review your life, renew yourself, get rid of bad habits, and build up your strength for the coming year. The first few days are hard, as always. You're thirsty and hungry, and would much prefer to do something mindless like watching TV, but instead you choose tp pick up the Quran and do some serious reading. After a week or so, you suddenly feel it. I'm not sure how to explain it. A sense of clarity. Like you've reached another level of Consciousness. You feel light (spiritually) and suddenly you are able to think very clearly, in a way you haven't for months.

That is the beauty of Ramadan. There's so much more I can write about but I don't have much time. My next post is going to be about the 'Dhofari Ramadan Menu'. Brace yourselves.
Note: That photo is of the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Salalah - I took this photo while I was driving! The sunset was too beautiful to miss.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

H1N1 - Part Two

I heard this morning that the official start of the school year is back to August 29. Long Live Oman for loving education so much! Let's pray the flu doesn't spread anymore than it already has, and Insha'Allah Salalah will go back to normal. Amen!
Yesterday I drove by the corniche at noon. It was so ... magical. Yes, ok, so I love fog and mist and crashing waves and rain! Don't have enough drama in my life.

Hey, random question, does anyone know where I can find a set of i-pod speakers in Salalah?

Monday, August 17, 2009


I've been trying to ignore it for the past couple of months, but slowly it's beginning to affect people around me. My cousin is a doctor at the hospital. Three weeks ago (I think), someone died from H1N1 in Salalah. This morning, again, a young woman died. No previous illness. Just H1N1. So many people I know have had it and were tested positive. According to sources from the hospital, there are over 25 swine flu patients in intensive care on oxygen masks. Just an hour ago, it was announced unofficially (and I assume officially later on today) that the beginning of the school year has been postponed a month. It's too risky to send kids to school.
What totally baffles me is how some people totally recover and others die. No one understands it yet. I understand how young children and older people with weak immunity or with previous illnesses can catch it and die, but what about healthy people? What about the girl who died this morning? Doctors say she didn't have health problems.
What the hell is happening in Salalah anyway? EVERYONE is sick. It's either regular flu, colds, or swine flu, but half the people I know are sick. And numbers are increasing at a slightly alarming rate. Maybe the heavy monsoon weather is triggering it? Helping it spread? It is the tourists?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Gogub & Categories

Yup, this place is called Gogub. High in the Dhofar Mountains!
It rained all morning. Cool and misty Salalah. Compared to my Airnoot session yesterday, I'm in no mood for humour today. I'm in a quiet thoughtful mood. Brainstorming mood. Inspirational mood. Dark mood. Would you believe that I still don't have any idea what I want to do with my life? C'mon Nadia, grow up, you should have SOME idea. But seriously, I don't. And guess what? I'm happy about it. The future is full of possibilities and you can never know what's going to come up in your life. If something comes to me, and I get 'that feeling', then I just go for it. I'm one of those people who wants to try and do everything. There are so many things I wants to experience; I don't have to follow the crowd. Creating my own path is more exciting. I hate it when people meet me and immediately want to label me or put me in some category. Do we all have to be categorized? People get nervous when they can't fit you into any of their categories. I'm like 'I work in this field, but that doesn't mean I'm an X ... I write but that doesn't mean I'm a writer ... ' It's weird; the world we have created for ourselves. I am me. Try to have a clear focus in your life and don't get so affected by other people.
I have something to say to a couple of people who emailed me. Ok, so my email is available through my blog because I'm open to any ideas and suggestions from readers. I have received SO MANY emails over the past five months from complete strangers all over the world telling me how much they enjoy reading my blog. Sometimes, I get emails with ideas for topics. It's great, and I thank everyone who writes to me. You inspire me, even if you don't know it. However, I did receive emails from people who just wanted to criticize. I did not answer them, because they don't deserve an answer, to be frank. So, my message is, 'If you don't like my blog, don't read the damn thing'. So many people in Salalah are totally taken aback by the idea of a Dhofari girl writing for the world wide web. Many of them find it indecent and outrageous. Many have written to me trying to find out who I am. Who cares what tribe I'm from, or who my family is or what connections I have? Who cares which university I studied at or what toothpaste I use? I'm writing to entertain you! It gives me pleasure.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Sleepy Saturday

I had an odd dream last night. Oh, well. How are you all today? Pleasant weekend? Me, myself and I are totally bitten! Yes, bitten. Thursday afternoon my family decided to go on a picnic to Iteen. Beautiful green spot, lovely weather, zaatar tea (thyme), and kites. Perfect, right? NOT. Let me introduce you to picnickers' worst enemy: *drumroll* The EVIL Airnoot! (3airnoot)...
So, here's how it works. You get to a perfect picnic spot, ok? (see picture - this was our picnic spot)
You get your chairs out of the car, spread the mat, bring out the tea, cookies; whatever you brought. Get the kids set up with their kites or their ball. Everyone settles down in their chairs and sighs. Everything is perfect. Then .... suddenly (and I'm really serious here. We're talking a few seconds) .. 3 million little insect-type-monsters attack you. They're so tiny you can't even see them. They head for your eyes, your nose, your mouth. You get up, shout, wave your hands around like a maniac, scream; and that excites them even more. You spend two or three minutes fighting for your life, then you quickly pack up your picnic and run for your life. You spend the next twenty minutes speeding in a pathetic attempt to get the remaining monsters out of your car. Here's how I imagine it:
A group of Airnoots sitting on a rock polishing their little wings:
Airnoot One: Dude, I'm like so bored.
Airnoot Two: Yeah, tell me about it man.
Car drives up. We (humans) start getting out.
Airnoot One: Hey! Joey, look! Humans!
Airnoot Two: Wha? Where?
Airnoot One: Over there! In that ugly big Nissan Armada!
Airnoot Two (jumping up and clapping its wings): Yay! A-C-T-I-O-N, baby!
Airnoot One: Ok, let's call the Chief and rest of the group.
Airnoots assemble in front of rock. Chief Airnoot speaks.
Cheif Airnoot: Fellow, Airnooties, humans have just landed on our planet Iteen. We must defend our space from these creatures. Wait until they unload the car before you attack. When they sit down and expose the food (loud cheer), Team A will attack the humans, and Team B will head to the food. Am I clear?
Airnooties: Sir, yes, sir!
Cheif Airnoot: Ok, everyone, get ready to rumble. They are now exposing ... oh, WOW, a huge platter of Basboosa!! Oh, our lucky day! Ok, ATTACK!
So, you see what I mean, right? Ok, end of my Airnoot drama. While we were escaping from Planet Airnoot, I caught this photo of a Cotton Candy Boy:

The Cotton Candy Boy phenomena started quite recently, only a couple of years back I think. Wherever you go in the mountains area or picnic areas, you see one of these young boys, usually barefoot, selling you plastic bags of cotton candy. I find it a little depressing, but does anyone know if these boys are benefitting? Are they making any money? Is it helping them?

Just thoughts. It's raining outside. Have a great day.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Random Salalah Scene..

Only Asians (us included) would know what this photo is all about ..... (read below!)

Cricket match of course! India and Pakistan .... right there in the middle of the road. These are die-hard cricket fans! (note: the television showing the game is actually on sale in that tiny little shop. I love Salalah). I took this photo a few weeks ago on my way to ... somewhere.

Tonight is Salalah's first soccer match at our huge (well, huge to us) new sports stadium out near the mountains. Saudi and Oman. I figure all the tourists from Saudi Arabia are out there cheering.

Brings back memories of the Gulf Cup 19 in January. That was so much fun. I don't have a photo of the completed stadium because I haven't been out there yet, but this is a photo of the model. So, I want to send out a shout to our boys; the National Soccer Team .. 'Go guys!' and pray that they win.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

You don't get much cuter than this..

Ok, so I like cows. You got a problem with that? I think they are cute creatures; and furthermore, they give us milk, cheese, yoghurt, ice cream, butter, brie (!), cream, etc. I don't really like beef, so I'm not going to praise them for giving up their lives for our appetites.
I hope you guys are having a great day. Went for a drive up to Iteen yesterday (that's right under the mountains) and was pleased to see that everything really did turn green finally.

I heard rumors that they cancelled Women's Day at the festival forever! Is it true? For years and years, Sunday was female day at the monsoon festival. It was the 'safe' day when families would dump their girls at the festival for several hours to play on the rides, chill out in the restaurants, and do their shopping. It was the highlight of the summer for many girls. I never went on Sunday because it was too crowded (i.e too many women pushing and shoving), but it's kind of shocking to hear it was cancelled altogether. Here's a photo of the festival on women's day, all abayas and not a dishdasha in sight!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sunday Bits & Pieces

(1) I love Salalah. However, naturally it frustrates me sometimes. In our society, as well as other Arab societies, there isn't a clear distinction between 'culture' and 'Islam'. Sometimes I feel people here are more devoted to their weird traditions than they are to Islamic ones. I'm thinking about this today because yesterday I was talking to some people and they were criticizing a guy in Salalah who hangs out at the Hilton bar consuming alcohol until the early hours of the morning. It was all like 'What will people say?' .... Ummm.. Hello? Who cares about people??! What happened to religion? It's as if they 'forgot' that the Qur'an forbids alcohol, not people. Yet, they really do worry about what 'People will say'. And also, note they are 'gossiping' about him. Sheesh.

(2) I've always been fascinated by the lady who sits by the side of the road on 23rd of July street under an umbrella selling 'Qashat' (Salalah sort of sweet/hard/candy .. made from burnt sugar, coconut, saffron, what else?). She has been there for YEARS. In the same spot, under that one umbrella, selling her Qashat. What is her story? I know a local professor, Dr. Ahmed Al Mashani wrote about her in his book 'You are the greatest secret' or "أنت أعظم سر" (he's the coolest NLP practitioner in Oman), and I should read it and find out about this woman. Does anyone know anything about her?

(3) Where do you see yourself in five years?

PS (I took this photo on the way to Mughsayl on a misty morning not long ago)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Who would have thought...

Who would have thought that such beautiful grapes are actually growing right here in Salalah? I took this shot a few months ago because I couldn't believe it. I went to one of the colleges for a conference and these grapes were being grown (by one of the college Deans!) on one of the walkways between buildings. Charming.

Monday, August 3, 2009

High in the Dhofar Mountains...

Ross Hayden (the photographer) wrote a beautiful poem called 'High in the Dhofar Mountains'. He sent me the link, but I thought it was too good to keep to myself; so I suggest you go ahead and check out his blog too because it's interesting and dedicated to Dhofar.

High in the mountains – no sound…
Except for chirping sparrows, and clacking crickets,
Until the cadence of distant voices
Drifts towards me through the mist -
It lifts and, lo, a beautiful panorama unfolds:
Rolling green hills, trees and rocks growing through.
And across the next valley I spy the voices –
Picnickers perched on top of a little hill
No doubt thinking that they too were all alone…
High in the misty mountains.

As I sit and ponder the peaceful scene
‘Midst gently falling rain and friendly flies
I first hear the buzz then feel the nuzzling
Of a very hungry mosquito,
And, a few of its relatives!
Quickly I spray hands, feet and neck
With a liberal coating of anti-insect spray.
It does the trick
And I continue enjoying the pastoral setting…
High in the Dhofar mountains.

Clouds again descend
And cover the nearby hills,
And my face, with their wet kiss.
I sink into a reverie
And dream of friends and loved ones in distant places…
Only the shishing of passing vehicles on the damp road,
The gentle lowing of contented jebali cows heading home,
And the far off laughter of happy excursioners,
Tell me that I’m…
High in the green Dhofari mountains.

The peace and tranquillity of the rural scene
Soon settle the small worries of the day,
Clearing my thoughts
And reminding me of the One who made it all.
Just then a new sound enters the audio spectrum –
The distant cry of a muezzin in a mountain mosque
Calls the faithful to prayer
And I too bow my head…
High in the lush green Dhofar mountains.

© Ross Hayden, Salalah, Oman. Khareef 2000

PS (I found it rather interesting that his poem was inspired by Dr. Salim Tabook, a very interesting person. I should write about him in Dhofari Gucci. Need to gather my information first. Tips anyone?)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

La Vache Qui Rit

I've always wanted to defend our cows. The time has come. Over the years, whenever Westerners come to Oman, I hear them laughing at our cows:
'They're so tiny!'

'Look at those skinny legs'

'Black cows! Ew!'

'What's with the skin-on-bones?'

'Oh, look at the cute baby cow with its cute little horns!' ... .... uh-oh, Lady, you've just insulted a fully-grown bull.

Our cows are tiny, dark, cute, and we like them. So there!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Monsoon Post

I thought I'd be full of ideas and things to write about during the monsoon, but no such luck. I've been feeling quite blank lately (and busy), and figure I shouldn't waste my time on the computer. Salalah is as it always is during monsoon season; crowded, muddy, and in party-mode. Picnics and camping trips are in, everyone's out at their tents (see post below) during the afternoons and evenings, no one is in the mood for working or studying; but sadly we all have to make a living. It had stopped raining for three days, and I was beginning to get worried, but thank goodness this morning sure enough there was rain and I could use my windshield wipers again!

I visited the Salalah Festival last week and was quite impressed. It's definitely better (if only a little bit) than last year. I'm not a festival person and don't like crowded places, so it's a wonder I even went! I watched traditional dancing in the old village, drank fresh pomegranate juice in a traditional Omani style tent-turned-restaurant, visited friends working at the different booths and stalls, and last but not least I visited the photography exhibition! Finally something decent! 15 very talented Dhofari photographers (sadly all male) with 4-6 photographs each. I guess I was blown away by the photographs of faces. Some guys captured wrinkles and eyes so well. In the past, photography exhibitions usually were about scenery, scenery, and more landscapes, but this year I've noticed unique photography styles and subjects. I was intrigued by a photograph of a spider, and a lotus, and the doors were amazing too. Lots of wonderful black and white shots. I recognized several names of local photographers and am really proud of our talent here in Dhofar. I wish more women would participate.

I heard rumors that there were 35 weddings in Salalah on Thursday. No kidding. Didn't I tell you it was wedding season?

We have an odd tradition in Salalah of weddings payments. When a young man gets married, he pays for his house, the dowry, the cows, the wedding, etc, etc. It can sometimes be very very costly. However, we have a great social system where all the men who go to weddings will put a certain amount in a box at the wedding to support the groom. Usually it's 20 Rials for distant relatives and more if you're close to the guy. It all works out very well in the end. If a guy spends 20,000 OMR on his wedding, he may very well receive 14,000 OMR back on the wedding day just from tribal donations.

HOWEVER, what happens if a man has to attend five or six weddings every week during the monsoon? He's paying 100-200 Rials a week on weddings? A man has to pay because people are expected to pay if his sons get married. So, usually, monsoon is crisis time because of all the weddings. This doesn't even include paying for his wive(s) and daughters to get dressed/dolled up for the wedding (dress, gold, henna, makeup, hair, etc, etc - see post below 'Father of the Tail and Dish Detergent').

You see, life can be a blessing and a crisis. Why do all people decide to get married during the same two months?

Welcome to Salalah.
PS (This photo was taken near Zaik, in the mountains)