Saturday, 16 February 2013

al marhajan Muscat: The Muscat Festival(s)

This month there is a marhajan, or festival, happening in Muscat. It’s like a fair in the Middle East mixed with a heavy cultural and country pride exhibition. There are two parts of it. Two different locations. The one in Nisim Park focuses more on the carnival aspect of the festival, and this is the one that I had the opportunity to go to with my family yesterday. It was very fun, and the kids all had a blast playing on all of the rides. 
Then today I had the opportunity to go to the other marhajan with my conversation partner from my school. The entire night in Arabic, and it was great. Speaking is still difficult, but I understood most of what was happening. Understanding is really getting better. Conversing is too. Conversations are easier then short topic changes.

At the marhajan I was reminded of something I was talking about the other day with some friends. I’m not one to further preconceived judgements, but there are in fact troubles that the Middle East has with women. Being here, although in respect it’s much better for me, I can perceive little things that just show how present it is.

Things develop , though, and as much as the existing problems surface, little moves can be seen, too. An example of this is dress. In recent years, there have been apparent shifts in dress. Abayas, look fitting, black, floor length jacket/dresses, are what almost all women wear in Oman. There have been changes being made with many starting to have splashes of colors and belts. At the marhajan, I even saw a few women wearing white. It’s all a process.

Last night, though, I was reminded of some of these problems. The most prominent of which was probably when we drove home from the marhajan. It was dark, and to get the main road back to Muscat, we had to drive down a dark dirt road. There was no founded reason to be scared, but Haifa, my home-stay sister, and I were rather… unsettled. It was just me, Haifa, and her son Laith. I drive on dark roads all of the time in America, and there was no one that could have hurt us. We were in a car. No one made us afraid, but the environment was present. It’s the atmosphere here. My host sister even told me that this is why it’s not good for women to drive alone, and chastised our brother Mohammed for not coming with us. Just differences.
It’s all things to think about. 

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