Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Times of Oman Interview Questions

Might as well follow the Dragon's example and publish my answers to Sandhya Menon's questions (intelligent reporter from the Times of Oman) before the paper is out. I was asked by Sandhya (also a blogger) a couple of weeks ago if I would be willing to participate in a piece she was writing on bloggers. I agreed, for the sake of all newspaper readers who crave something interesting every once in a while.
She also asked for recommendations and I immediately sent her the links to some of my favorite blogs. Muscat Confidential was at the top of the list and it amused me terribly to hear that he was banned by the Times of Oman and thus could not be part of the article. Shame. However, fear not, for someone must have gotten in a good word somehow and he was invited to answer a set of questions. I will say no more. Part One on bloggers is in today's newspaper and part two will be out tomorrow. Stay tuned.
PS (please note that I chose mild/polite/friendly answers for the newspaper)
Will you ever blow your cover?
No. Blowing my cover will limit the topics I can write about. Anonymity gives me the freedom of writing honestly without worrying about being labeled.
Are you afraid you might be found out?
Not really. I'm not committing I crime, you know? Being anonymous is just more convenient.
If you are, what do you think the consequence would be? I chose not to answer.
How was it for you to have moved back after living in environments that afford women much more freedom that Oman?
I do not feel that I lack freedom in Oman. I am proud of being Omani and I would never choose to live anywhere else. However, I do live in a conservative town and unlike Western countries, social networking is huge. Everyone knows everyone. It bothered me at first that I seemed to have no privacy, but I just needed time to adapt. It was hard moving from a country that values individuality back into a society where collectivistic thinking rules and people are afraid of anyone 'different'.
Apart from realization of writing skills and a wonderful level of comfort with English, what was the reason you started to blog?
I started blogging because I want to write a book on society in Dhofar sometime in the future. A friend of mine (an author) told me that in order to work towards this goal, I had to write one good page a day. Writing for yourself can get depressing after a while, so I thought 'why not find an audience?'. Blogging was the perfect solution. I needed to write about real issues and I needed feedback in order to stay motivated. My readers are my inspiration. It has been an amazing journey.
Do you think you can bring about a change in society, however slow and tedious, with your writing and the awareness that your blog spreads?
Definitely. When I first started blogging, I thought I'd be writing for myself, but within a month or two when Dhofari Gucci became more popular, things changed. I'd meet someone for coffee and they'd immediately ask 'Have you heard about Dhofari Gucci?'. It was insane. I came to realize that whenever anyone Googles anything about Dhofar or Salalah in English, inevitably a link to my blog shows up on the first search page. That's how most people find it. I feel a strong sense of responsibility, especially after I discovered that my articles are being used as teaching material in colleges and I even discovered that someone quoted me in their Ph.D! This is why I try to do a little research before expressing my own personal opinion.
Has your blog ever been noticed by anyone who has objections to what you write in there?
Yes indeed. I get hate mail on a regular basis. I can't please everyone, especially since I'm writing about sensitive social issues. If you're asking about objections from higher authorities, I pick my topics carefully. My intention has never been to offend anyone. (I know that I've annoyed some officials from the Ministry of Information in Dhofar on several occasions. A lot of people don't appreciate my spreading Dhofar's dirty laundry - as they put it- on the internet)
If yes, how have you responded/reacted?
I had to start moderating comments a few months back when Dhofari Gucci started gaining publicity.
How far do you plan to take your blog in that that it reveals a side of Dhofar/Oman and its people that is not very well known?
Last year after doing a little online research, I realized there are absolutely no blogs about Dhofar written by Omanis in English. In fact, it's quite hard to find any information about life in Dhofar online unless through expat websites. There are many aspects about our culture that expats do not understand. So many people come here as tourists but don't have any idea about our history and society. They're shown the green mountains, beaches, camels, coconuts, etc, but where can they find 'real' information about the people? Dhofar is such an amazing place. I feel it's my responsibility to live up to the role of Dhofar's ambassador to the English speaking world. I try to stay real without sounding like a tourism website.
Do you have any ambitions for the blog?
Yes! There's so much I want to write about and there are so many issues that need to be tackled. I'm hoping Dhofari Gucci will become the most reliable online source of information on Dhofar. In order to reach that goal, I need to find more time to do research write. At the moment, obligations and duties in my 'real' life have taken all my spare time and I find I don't have an hour or two a day to write.
Does it bother you that you have to be anonymous to tell it like it is?
Not much. Sometimes it gets frustrating when I have to change details around before publishing posts in order to conceal my identity. However, the advantages of being anonymous completely outweigh the disadvantages.
Does anyone know of your identity? Family, close friends?
No. However, I have met other female bloggers in person for coffee and a chat. We're now great friends. Bloggers cover up for one another because we're all on the same boat. I have met some very enlightened young women. We all have a lot in common and after following each other's blogs for a while, it only makes sense to meet in person. I'm constantly fascinated by the number of young Omani writers out there who are capable to expressing themselves so easily in English.
How does having this unlimited space affect your personality? For eg: Are you more interested in the goings-on of things so that you can have material for your blog? Are you more socially aware because you realize you can't put up something that you don't understand?
Yes I definitely feel that I'm more tuned in to my surroundings. I'm always looking for topics to write about. When I'm with my friends, I'm constantly asking for their opinion on anything from polygamy, witchcraft, divorce rates, local traditions, to local food and music! I carry a notebook around with me wherever I go. I definitely feel more passionate about Dhofar and I find that I'm more interested in reading about the history of this region. I find that I am able to zone out and look at Dhofar from an outsider's perspective as well as from a local girl's point of view.
Do you write in Arabic as well?
I'm fluent in both Arabic and English, and I do write in Arabic. However, I'm more comfortable writing about Dhofar in English because I'm dealing with a completely different audience. The English-speaking online community in Oman is very different than the Arabic one, and there's plenty of information available in Arabic, so why not explore new territory?


  1. Hi,
    All you bloggers are killing my story! :) But thanks for your responses. "For the sake of all newspapers who crave something interesting to read." :D How kind!
    But I am commenting here because I wanted to clarify that no one put in a good word for Muscat Confidential. I was just perseverent and had to reluctantly promise I'll be mostly unbiased.

  2. Very interesting interview. Your English is actually so good that the person who recommended your blog to me thought you were Canadian.

    'Are you afraid you might be found out?
    Not really. I'm not committing I crime, you know?' lol

  3. Nice one Gucci!

    You do write very well.

    And no-one had a good word to say about Mr. Dragon... sigh! So mis-understood...

    Oh, You had a good word! Careful, you don't want my hate mail.

    I'm looking forward to Part deux.

  4. Well done and way to go Nadia. Lately you have been writing in a more reasonable and more responsible way. As Dhofari I feel great that someone like you can present this part of Oman to a totally different audience "as you put it" and to take this presentation to another higher level away from tourism advertisement. I hope that your blog become more and more famous and you continue writing about our culture and the way we live right here.

    Another wish is that you do some research on people you write about and topics you pick to investigate and present in your blog, in order to keep your credibility as good as and not to fell down like other bloggers who follow their emotions. I know that this is your blog, or to put it in another way, your personally dairy, but when you write about culture and history it becomes another story.........don't you agree?

    Any way good luck and GAMBATE KUDA SAI (good luck in Japanese).


  5. Hi there,
    Interesting read the article made in today's paper. I've been trying (or rather thinking!) of starting to write a blog since last couple of years...but it needs solid commitment to keep updating regularly. Also, it was nice to see so many bloggers from Oman...refreshingly great actually!

    Cheers - Junaid (Muscat, Oman)

  6. GOOD GOOD Ya Nadia.
    We are proud of you.
    Keep writing... keep posting.. show us to the world as we are not as we wish.But fro time to time we need you highlight good things in our culture and values..

  7. I like how you write with a sense of humour about the good and the bad and the mundane. And your writing style IS Canadian, LOL. Personally, I've never felt like internet was too well controlled in Oman as it is easy to download foreign IP addresses and the stupidest things are banned. Like fashion sites (I remember Polyvore being unaccessible once, and animal rights on facebook LOL), but I'd be interested on how Omani newspaper writers feel their content is controlled. In my country, media sources were owned entirely by two companies/families, so despite people thinking writers there had a lot of freedom to write, they did not in reality.

  8. I thought I've already commented on this O.o

    Great interviews everyone.

    Hey Anon2, dofa-rijin ka? mou, nihongo wo hanasu koto ga dekimasuka? sugoi naa! Interesting to see another Dhofari speaking Japanese^^

  9. To The Non-Crowned Princess

    Hie watashi wa Dhofari-jin des.

    Demo, Shoto Nohongo wa hanasusimash.

    Dozo Uroshiku onigai shimas

    .......Ga matta