Sunday, 24 February 2013

al-3a2ileh: The Family

People always told me, and it certainly was always implied, but living with an Omani family has given me a whole new perspective on the extreme importance that family has in the Middle East.

Almost every day there is family coming over to our house. I live in the main house where their mom lives. There are five brothers, three of which with families outside of the house. They visit all of the time with their kids. On the weekends, at least one of the cousins stay for a night or two. My sister Haifa lives here with her son Laith, and this house seems to be the house to visit.

The brothers are the most common visitors, or more specifically, their wives and kids. Visiting with family seems to be the main pass-time here. Yesterday we spent the morning with Samia, Basm’s wife in the morning. Visited Arfah, one of Haifa’s cousins, downtown for lunch. We sat around and talked for a while, watching movies. I saw part of a crazy love triangle Indian movie. Then we went around Muttrah for a while, looking at all of the parks. I had the opportunity to play on rides there! A mini-carnival J

But after, we went home, and Ahmed, Arfah’s brother, and his family came over for a little while. I had one of my favorite Arabic conversations as of yet. I made a joke about women being amazing because they’re women. But mostly, good Arabic conversations come from those with the quiet patience and understanding and interest in learning more about me. And it’s an amazing feeling.

But still the visiting wasn’t over until after they left and Samia returned with her daughters.

My experience is limited because I am a woman. Mohammed and Marsal are gone frequently, I assume with friends and outside of the house adventures. But this is how it is, and I think it’s quite nice.  Always a warm and friendly environment. 

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. 

Sunday, 10 February 2013

tabei3eh o3manieh: Omani Nature

So much has happened in the last week. Too much to fully catch up on. I started and completed my first week of classes. I moved in with my home stay family. I went on an amazing camping trip. I went to a party and had henna done as well. I feel like I can officially claim that I’m in the Middle East. Bas kul she2 tamam. All things are good.

This country is seriously incredibly beautiful. It’s so strange to be somewhere where things are still so natural. The mountains and the sea. The sunsets are to die for. The mountains turn into paintings as the sun slowly drops behind them.

It’s strange, though. Just being here, you can feel the development. Ten years, twenty years from now, the country will be entirely changed. Not in the way that I know that Howell, the small town where I'm from, will change. It's different here. Here it's changing something that hasn't yet been touched. 

We went camping on the beach of a little bay off the coast that we had to boat to. It was beautiful, but even now it’s plainly evident that things are developing. The location is currently under construction for becoming a tourist attraction.

The neighborhood where I live is extremely new. It’s a small corner of the city right next to Sultan Qaboos University. There are a ton of half built homes and many more empty lots. The neighborhood mosque is half finished.  

I can’t imagine coming back here. I know that I will, but I can’t imagine what Oman will be like. Until then, Oman is as it is.