Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Family Bookshop Closing

I realize the post is a little late because news spread around town like fire a couple of weeks ago. The much beloved Family Bookshop, Salalah's only English bookstore is closing tomorrow. It was the only bookstore in Salalah where you could buy English books, postcards, English publications, magazines, and also the only guaranteed bookstore where you could purchase books on Dhofar in Arabic and English. You would always find books by local authors on sale as well as other treasures on Oman. The bookstore has been running for as long as I can remember. However, the sad truth is that Dhofaris don't read. I'm not surprised they closed. As far as I know, they had been struggling for years to keep up the business. Most customers were expats. All I can say is, it's a true disappointment.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Five Years

Five years ago today Dhofari Gucci came to life. I was sitting in my living room fuming at something (ok .. someone) and I was scribbling furiously in my diary. Unfortunately, my hand wasn't moving fast enough. This is when I decided to start a blog since my typing skills are top notch. I told myself "Nadia, honey, why not start a blog to write everything down... don't worry, no one will read it but at least you know your thoughts will be preserved somewhere out there on the world wide web". 

So I sat down at my laptop and created Dhofari Gucci. The reason I chose the name is a long story that I'll save for some other time, but the idea behind the blog is something I will share. 

You see, I love writing. As a child all I wanted were paper and sharpened pencils. I started scribbling down notes and thoughts and ideas from a very early age. In fact, I wrote a 237-page novel at the age of 13 about a girl called Sarah Spindle, my alter-ego. I liked the idea of having an alter-ego, particuarly in Salalah where girls are constantly told to act and behave in a certain way. Having an alter-ego meant I could live something that I couldn't in real life. Going to a public girls' school in Salalah was not my favourite experience. 

Books and writing to me were often more real than anything in my own life. I have spent half my life with my nose in a book, but one eye peaking over the top taking note of what is happening around me. The other half has been spent scribbling notes. If you peak into my purse, you'll find paper, notebooks, and at least five pens. I write everywhere. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to write a book or novel about Dhofar. A human being close to my heart once referred to Dhofar and its people as a 'Living Museum' which is the truest description I've ever encountered for my region. 

Dhofar is fascinating. Its people, traditions, culture, landscape, insanity, connections, tribes, contradictions, things that drive you crazy, conformity,support, everything. I've been taking notes for my 'book' for years. One day I'll write it, even if I'm a little old lady.

 In early 2009 I read a novel by award-winning author Isabel Allende... well, I've read all her novels actually, the first being House of the Spirits. For some reason beyond my comprehension, I wrote to her in early 2009. I told her how much I loved her books and then I proceeded to describe Dhofar and my dreams of becoming a writer. Lo and behold she wrote back within half an hour. She was sitting at her writing table in San Francisco early in the morning and my email was the first to grab her attention. Maybe I was lucky. She wrote to tell me to WRITE WRITE WRTIE. She told me I could do it and that the secret was to write one page a day. She then asked for postal address so she could send me some books that would help me. Yes, this story actually happened. I still have the big brown envelope that arrived at my little post office in Salalah from her. 

Because of this encounter, I  toyed with the idea of starting a blog. I figured it's the easiest way to write one page a day. Over the past five years the changes in my life that have taken place because of this blog have been overwhelming. I met some of my closest friends ( V & W!) and closest humans (WP) through this blog. I have attended many blog meet-ups in Oman and have met some incredible human beings. The number of journalists and researchers who have contacted me is insane. International and local publications have contacted me to do some writing for them on Oman/Dhofar/Salalah. Sometimes I obliged and other times I had to turn offers down because of time. 

My inbox was overflowing with emails, requests, questions. People moving to Salalah for the first time would email me for advice and tips. I would put them in touch with other people I know who could help. I have been invited to attended countless conferences and workshops around the world. Many times I accepted and went, other times I had to turn down offers due to the time issue again. When you Google Dhofar, chances are I'm the first thing that pops up. My journey through Dhofari Gucci has been CRAZY and WONDERFUL.

I know I've been slow with blogging lately but that's because I had to prioritize in life. You see, I'm doing a graduate degree on a topic that I'm passionate about. Those of you who know me understand. For the readers who complain that I've been a lazy blogger, please forgive me. I intend to return to blogging full-time in the very near future. I totally love this blog and everyone who reads it (excluding the internet trolls who constantly accuse me to hanging Dhofar's dirty laundry for the world to see). 

My focus in writing has always been Dhofar and particuarly the struggles of women. Female empowerment, change, marriage, love, working, society, tribalism, female genital mutilation, and any taboo subject out there. It's what I'm passionate about. Occasionally there has been the viral post here and there (hint: my letter to the CEO of Oman Air, who resigned recently). My posts have been a mix of humor, anger, and passion. I know they're not everyone's cup of tea, but you can't please everyone. 

So, the bottom-line is, thank you for reading my outbursts. Thank you for passing through. Thank you for emailing me. Thank you for adding me to your blog-roll. Thank you for inviting me to your conferences in all corners of the earth. Thank you for getting in touch and meeting me for coffee. I'm a busy person but I try my very best to make time for people. I'm a firm believer that everyone who passes through my life (even for a cup of coffee) was brought to me for a reason. I wouldn't be who I am today without you (yes you, reading this). It has been a wonderful journey, a very personal one, and one that will continue. 

Yours truly from my little corner in Salalah, Gucci