Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Natural Arabian Buidling Materials---Moroccan Tadelakt Plaster

Tadelakt is a plaster traditionally used in Morocco as an alternative to plaster and paint. It is waterproof, can be tinted with colours, and I absolutely love it as a building material. Its history is in the hammams (bathing houses) of the Arab world, but its purposes are many. Myself, I fancy a tadelakt kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom;). But to be true to Oman;) I have to go for the Omani equivelent, which is sarooj (post on that in the works).
But tadelakt is longer lasting than sarooj.

What is it exactly? It is a lime plaster that is 100% water resistant: natural lime, marble powder, quartz sands, clay, ashes, and cellulose.
Tadelakt in raw form…

What is the building process for using tadelakt? The tadelakt powder is mixed with water and left to ‘ferment’ . This used to be necessary for 2 or 3 days, but the mixture now requires less time. It is mixed well and when ‘fermented’ it is at this stage that natural pigmentation is added if the finished tadelakt is to be coloured. 

The base for any shelves is made in brick and concrete first before plastering with tadelakt. The walls (or shelves) are then smoothed and prepared and then doused in water before 2 layers of tadelakt are then applied using small trowels. The walls are then scraped firmly to flatten and smooth the surfaces and eliminate any rough grains.
The first layer goes on…
The scraping …

A polished river stone with a flat side (usually basalt or similar) is then used to painstakingly polish every inch of the walls to further compress the plaster and extract the moisture.
Tools of the tadelakt trade…

It is then left to dry for a couple of days and you’re left with a gorgeous, slightly mottled and undulating, polished walls that are dirt and water resistant and look fabulous. It is labour intensive, but definitely worth it. Photos & commentary courtesy of awesome sustainable development in the Atlas mountains

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What We [married to an Omani but considering I have to follow the same rules] Omani Women are Forbidden

Talking of what is forbidden in Omani society :) ;) ;)... I remember reading a post from an American Muslim woman living in Saudi {}:

"[It] is obvious to me that the submission we have to Allah [God as a Muslim] is of the highest order and that we cannot possibly submit to a human being in this fashion. ... [When it comes to Islam and allowing the husband to be head of the family] I think it just means that you should trust your husband enough to trust his decisions for the family.

This trust can be violated when control is exerted in means which are detrimental or in situations in which it is not warranted. The man has to illustrate that he is capable of handling the responsibility of these decisions in order to be trusted.

Where do you draw the line between protector and maintainer to abuser?

Is your husband allowed to bar you from traveling?

From leaving the house?

From wearing a certain outfit?

From speaking?

From speaking to other people?

From eating certain things?

From exercising? [or to exercise when you don't want to]

When does “this is good for you” become “I control you” or “I own you”?

I thought that basically sums it up for Omani women as well as Saudi women.

Talking about where these restrictions come from, and us saying as Muslim women, the restrictions only supposedly come from Islam, but are usually from culture, where do the restrictions/forbidden things take root at?

I would say tribe and family. Occasionally, society as a whole, but rarely is it that for Omani women. Usually, it is the family and tribe or region (which is why we all escape to Muscat). From family, education, exposure, travel, and independence over communal thinking are the things that determine the freedom of a woman from within the tragic net of her family and tribal obligations/restrictions.

Even in Muscat, family can be a restrictive scourge. A woman isn't allowed to work, or have a phone, or have the right to free movement, because her father or husband decided that was "the best thing for her".

I allow my husband to say when and how I can travel because his decisions are truly protective of myself. And I have the choice to disobey him. I have free movement. If he locks me in a room against what is best for me or without a cause I'd agree with;) he'd better know I'd burn it down and myself with it before I'd be locked for life, that's just how I am.

I tell my husband where I am going before I leave the house. But I expect him to do the same for me. Wanna know where I am 24/7? You better be as transparent honey.

My husband doesn't always like my makeup or my clothes. His decision matters. It doesn't control me but 90% of the time I let it guide me. The other 10% of the time, I think he's being overly jealous and is wrong so I ignore him. But 90% of the time he's right. I love red lipstick afterall.

From speaking? Oh definately my Omani husband controls that. The volume at which I speak, what I speak publically about, is guided by regionally and tribally acceptable dictates (which is why I blog). I let this slide. It is beyond annoying as hell but if he went to my country he'd have to put up with the opposite so I can concede. This is for the best (or the easiest way) through life here. It is boring, but it's Oman. It's the safest thing, not the bravest, or the truest.

From speaking to other people? Not really. Men who try to isolate their women have something deeply psychologically wrong with them [ ]. They focus what is wrong internally with them by blaming the women in their life and other people around them. They are, in fact, insecure losers. There is no other more suited term for them. Their insecurity and failings are supposedly hidden under a guise of paternalistic all-seeing wisdom.

From eating certain things?---My Omani husband is annoyed I am so picky but he is kind about it---but I remember my sometimes emotionally manipulative Saudi ex-husband threatening to divorce me if I did not eat seafood (which I had to swallow with milk like a pill because I am semi-allergic to fish). Why in hell did I allow myself ever to be so degraded so have someone control what I put into my own body? I have to wonder. I truly believe that 80% of the time women allow themselves to be suppressed. The other 20% is having no support structure (physically, logistically, and legally) to escape suppression.

From exercising---I suppose. Even in Islam it is halal to swim to run etc... women in these Gulf states don't regularility do these things. I can, but I have to be strong about it. My husband supports the idea but the cultural him frowns upon it, like he's at war with himself. As a compromise, I skate, I don't bike (like the Sumail Women's Banned Cyling  Club ).

I agree with Yankee Doodle Saudi, that there is a very fine line between being controlled emotionally and physically/intellectually suppressed, and being provided for/protected if these things are not in one's best interest (TRULY---not culturally or familialy or misogynistically).

Not everything a woman allows to be done to herself is ok (for example, me swallowing shrimp). But there is little chance of changing anything for this type of woman until she realizes and changes herself and what's around her. Once she's made the move to change what's around her, that's where a support system kicks in, and sadly, as much as I love this country, I have to face it, for Omani women, beyond family, and tribe, legally, despite government law, none really exists.


Women Working in Oman: Individual Choice and Cultural Constraints by Dawn Chatty
International Journal of Middle East Studies, Volume 32, Issue02, May 2000, pp 241-254

Cross-Cultural Features of Women's Place in Society by Unni Wikan
Universita degli Studi di Roma "La Sapienza", Vol. 46, No. 3/, December 1990, pp. 1-16

Monday, March 30, 2015

Marella Agnelli's Marrakesh Home

Ever since I first saw that first iconic picture of her swan-like grace, captured by photographer Richard Avedon, I fell in love with the style of Marella Agnelli. I know her Marrakech home has been posted a million times all over the net, and is also featured in Vogue, however, I love it so much I am storing these lovely images right here on our blog. Marella's pink bedroom informs how I want my daughter's room to look (since she insists on pink).  But the gardens, and English-country style take on Arabian design always tugs at my heart strings...It isn't often I could say that I would  move right into a space without making any changes, but this house would probably be it. Of course there is one thing wrong with it... it isn't in Oman;).
Living room love. I like the warm chocolatey-mocha colour of the focus-wall with its fireplace and Arabesque-built-in shelving. I like the thick beams, the brass-punched pendant, and relatively relaxed colour palette. While I'd probably add more lighting and open up the space to the left, I have to say, this space is giving me some serrious ideas;).

MARRYING AN OMANI MAN: Getting Your Children Omani Passports

Whether or not you have recieved permission, any Omani male citizen [as long as you have a valid aqed nikah (Islamic marriage contract)] has lawful right to apply for citizenship, and Omani passports for his children. ***This does not apply to Omani women who are married to non-Omanis even though that is disgraceful for Oman***.

1.) The aqed nikah must be a government issue. If you did not recieve permission before you married (Islamic marriage) then the woman must sue her Omani husband in local court for not having gained permission before he married her, to have the judge issue a legal (to Oman) copy of the aqed nikah. A court date must be applied for at the local wilayat court. Both couples work or national IDs, passports, and aqed nikah documents are required. Photocopy everything and provide originals, even if it is not required. Dress traditionally and respectfully to attend court (abaya and very modest scarf covering all hair and chest is best), and talk minimally and quietly while waiting your turn in court etc... Most judges are having a horrible day since they are dealing with property disputes and divorces all day so be the happy light---the modest love story of their day---keeping in mind they may be skeptical about your success (divorce and custody battles all day). For the court date, both husband and wife must attend when called upon. An Arabic translator (who usually cannot properly translate since a husband is not allowed to speak for his wife) will be provided (most judges can speak English but for legal purposes all is done in Arabic). The judge will accept (usually). Then the aqed will be issued from the certification office at the court. Read everything over. Typos are normal and will make the process harder. Make sure the date of your marriage is correct, nationality, etc.... 

If you married outside of Oman but had permission the same process must be followed, although the wife does not have to sue her husband, merely both attend the local willayat court certification office together with all required documents, and  this case does not require scheduling a court date.***

Following this, if you have not recieved permission your case will then be transferred then to the interior ministry (follow this) and then to the police (ROP) and finally the higher court (who will issue any punishment to the man who married without permission---loss of government job, fine etc.).

2.) For those with permission, simply go with the court aqed nikah, the hospital registration paper for the birth of your child, both mother and father's passports, and ID cards (photocopies and original) + 4 passport photos to the ROP station in Seeb where all visas are issued, for the birth cerificate. This takes a week or less usually.

For those without permission, after the court process is finished, the case will again go to the interior ministry who must issue a letter for the ROP to issue a birth certificate (they will probably require all previous documentation and the hospital birth attestation letter). If they insist at the Interior Ministry this is not the right process, ignore them and keep at it. That's something meant to discourage you;) or they don't know their own work. Once the letter is issued: Aqed nikah, hospital letter, Interior Ministry letter, original passports and government ID +photocopies for both parents, and four passport photos of your child are required. Apply with these to the ROP for a birth certificate.

3.) For those with permission, once the birth certificate is ready and national ID card etc., the same office that issued the birth certificate can make the passport for your child. Along with birth certificate, aqed nikah, permission documentation, both passports and photocopies of passports and both government ID cards, you will need 4 passport photos of your child.

Without permission, once you have the birth certificate you need to go back to the interior ministry to ask them to write a letter allowing the ROP to make your child a passport. This, you will probably need to follow up personally or it will never get done. Eventually they will issue a letter for you to take to the ROP to allow for a passport for your child. You need this letter, the birth certificate, original passports and photocopies, original ID cards and photocopies of, the government issued aqed nikah, and 4 passport photos for your child. From here on in, the follow up and hassle is done. Passport usually takes a week.

For those without permission, this process must always be repeated  for every additional child from step 2 onwards, until the wife (if ever) is issued an Omani passport, kind of as a punishment for not getting permission for marriage---paperwork from hell.

Hope that helps some people. For those with permission this process takes about a month if you make timely visits to the police station etc, for those without it can take a year for the first child, and 4 months for all others.

All my best to you all;). Have fun with the bureaucracy.

Eye-Candy: Copper Sand, Copper-toned Stone, and Red Metal Sheen


Sunday, March 29, 2015

From Far Far Away: Notes on Leaving Oman

I left Oman to continue my education. Continuing education in Oman meant settling for private universities, that's let's face it, myself as an employer, generally wouldn't be elated to see on a resume.

The whole point of continuing my education was being able to stay in Oman and get a better job. Omanis can live like kings on what I got, but without a family behind me I had no social or financial security, and the Wave was a hell of a lot more than bying land and building for Omanis.

At first, I thought about studying in the UAE---they have a few more to choose from---but in the end I decided, why limit myself? I bought a book from Turtles "Personal Statements for Dummies" and applied to some of the best in the world, almost as a joke, as if, anything is possible in Muscat held true for me, as if, as long as I stayed in that enchanted place, anywhere else in the world would look at my application as if it were sprinkled with golden faerie [Jinni] dust, or something else equally magical, like my application would be a Genie in the envelope.
I am the first to admit that expats from my country in the "land far and away" are given oppurtunities in Muscat they wouldn't find in their home countries. English is an awesome benefit, and myself, always having to apologize for the actions of my home country, found it refreshing that Omanis were always referring to me as European.

To me, as a child, Europe meant cultured, sophisticated, educated, everything I admittedly, and where I hail from, is not.
So I dreaded going home, where people still advise me "be careful, it's not safe in the MiddleEast, watch out for bombs."

By some miracle and magic genie-in-the-bottle-luck-with-postage-from-Muscat I got into one of my top universities, and headed for the heart of 9/11 thinking---New York.

I can honestly say that a "New York State of Mind" does not apply to me. I hated it, the cold, the cold, the people, the cold. The mix of cultures, the museums, the art galleries, the shoppping, the food, yes all these--- I can understand--- make New York great, but the cold made it all awful, and made me a good student I guess...because I never went out. I burned bukhoor in my little awful grey dorm room on an electric bukhoor burner, wore Amouage perfume, sometimes slipped heavy Dhofari black velvet on top of jeans (with leggings under those) and slippers from Zara always hugged my frost-bitten feet. How I missed open-toe weather and culture!

For what I studied, basically one has to do assistant work and internships before one is hired anywhere in the world, and I was rather surprised when I got a long distance call from the U.K. for a job offer in London.

London is a dream to backwoods girl like me, who found Muscat to be the center of culture and heritage compared to a childhood in "rich folks do that not us" and "why bother to get educated, there is no work" nowhere's land.

However, London also being cold, took a while to get used to.
However, there are a million Omanis it seems, in the UK. I can even find chips Oman.

Mostly I am overworked, so I experience less of the culuture than I did in Oman, but that in itself, is part of the culture, yes? It took me a couple months to get into work-mode. In Oman, work-mode usually means the last couple days of the work week, or when the work itself forgets to mention something is urgent.

In the U.K. and the U.S. everything is done at an urgent pace, and this is actually normal pace. Urgent pace is freakishly mindboggling as if everything you do, every breath you take to focus, is a waste, and there isn't a moment to spare, even the evenings or weekends at times (U.S.A even more so).

However, I kind of learned that I love this. While I will never love the cold, I am a career girl. I am the woman who buys stationary for herself for work like other women buy manicures and spa treatments. I prefer being busy to waiting for a mistake to fix or on someone else's part to come in, or for people to show up for meetings that are cancelled, or trying to predict my boss's whims (although he was an awesome boss).

While I miss those little toilet sprays in Oman, and think North American and European hygeine is sickly gross compared to Arab, and I miss the smell of everyone wearing perfume and the sight of every person so immaculate in a uniform of black or pressed white, London kind of grew on me.

The food seduced me. The night life seduced me. The lack of creepy men at work seduced me. Not that I couldn't always repurpose that creepiness to get better results;). I can always take a train to hear the adhan (call to prayer) on the weekend. Some neighborhoods in England are more Islamic than anywhere in Oman, or the GCC.

I still planned to return to Oman, however, getting engaged here, in the U.K, to a local, from work, changed my mind, the way other OPNO girls got married to Omanis and that made their stay in Oman permanent, this made my mind for me. While I am saddened the Bedouin will probably never welcome me again as they did before if I come again to Oman, and my odds of seeing a camel race in London are all up to His Majesty presenting something to celebrate Regina Elizabeth II, I could luck out you know? Oman is still possible in London.

I hope to welcome another OPNO girl soon (okay, so she is going to the boonies where people talk different, like the North, or Wales or Scotland) who hopes to continue her education in U.K., maybe next year this time, provided nothing changes. Then there'll be one;).
Funny how life changes. Funmy how a hurricane, and grocery shopping, in Oman could help one to make friends and meet such interesting people. As we used to say, "everything is possible and impossible in Muscat", and that remains.... but I could probably say the same about London.