Monday, November 20, 2017

SHOPPING: Omani Pottery in Muscat

If you happen to like authentic Omani pottery (my mother did) and you suck at bartering (my mother thought she was great but really she always got ripped off) then the Handicrafts Centre in Ruwi might be your best bet, if you can't make it out to Bahla.

I used to go here to buy Omani helwa dishes (I collect them and never ever seem to use them for helwa) and Omani-made finjans (Arabic coffee cups) sets. My mother like the bukhoor burners and the big containers for plantings.

Their prices are not the best but they are decent, and if you do custom orders, they are better than anything besides meeting the craftspeople in person and bartering soooo... thus I am writing this post.

I didn't take many great photos since I was passing by on Friday and they were closed, trust me, their selection is very good, unless you want something specifically Dhofari.

Their phone number is 24791454, and their hours of operation are shown in the photo below.
And below is the google map I used to locate the shop:

Monday, November 13, 2017

MY WEDDING IN OMAN, our long-term inspirations & plans to one day have the party part

When I married my Omani husband we basically eloped. Marrying an Omani without permission was illegal (and so it remains) so our wedding date depended upon an Imam or Shayukh in Oman willing to perform the ceremony, and act as my wali (male guardian, as I have no male Muslim relatives). This meant, that sometimes I'd be all dressed up, make-up done, in my cream and orange Nawal Al Hooti Omani wedding dress, with green beadwork and silver threadwork, and then the Imam would back out at the last minute... which was disheartening. Because most Imams in Oman are paid a government salary, witnessing, and performing a wedding for an Omani with a non-Omani means many are in fear of losing their income.

The time I actually got married, because there were numerous, almost-wedding-days, one Imam had already backed out that morning. I'd washed off my make-up, put on my sweat-pant-type pajamas, and been prepared to go to bed early because I was super depressed. 

...Then I got a call. 

An Imam in Barka was willing to perform the ceremony, if I could make it out there from Athaiba in a certain amount of time. No time to phone friends and family and arrange some guests. No time for make-up. No time for changing even. I threw on the best designer abaya I owned, which was plain black actually, and got myself out to Barka. 

The Islamic service took place with me sitting in the backseat of a car in the alley behind the Imam's house actually. Very romantic;). I watched bin cats while the men did the talking.

I was only really involved when the Imam/my wali came to ask me if I understood what everything entailed, and to try to ask me to ask for more maher/dowry. I told him I was fine with what I was getting, and then the ceremony was done. Omanis call this the melka. It was also my "party"/going-away night.

The Imam's female relatives heard of this, and were super anxious for me, that my wedding was kind of sad, so they insisted we come inside to their majlis, and ordered a chicken dinner with rice from a restaurant for us all to have and celebrate. I ate and celebrated with kind strangers.
So basically my husband and I always said, once we got our marriage permission we'd have a big party.
So planning for that, I always maintained, I'd wear Omani dress. There would have to be a mandoos Omani chest somewhere. The flowers would be pink or white bougainvillea, with some pomegranates, and maybe some limes, to symbolize, our Muscat/village lives joined. There would have to be a lot of brass candle-sticks. I love brass candlesticks.

There would be a place with a carpet set as a runner, and another carpet area, for the Islamic part of the wedding (which we already did, but our family and friends didn't see).

There would have to be a donkey, because that was tradition, and it also is something scandalous in modern times, so that is so me;p.
For the food, I actually have no idea still. If it gets closer to the date, I'll settle for a menu. Omani village way is usually meat and rice, and salads.
 I love this  lay-out for the seating.
See, the pomegranates and brass candle-sticks are so pretty as a runner!
Omanis don't typically have flower girls, but my girls throwing bougainvillea petals to line the path would be so cute, I think I have to do it. 
For the non-Muslim female guests I'd have scarf favours in Omani baskets. I think the Muslim girls would like this just as much;). And flower crowns, if I could get around to way I'd pay a flourist. I am super cheap;).
 If there was no bougainvillea on the table, I'd find a way to decorate the seating areas with it.
I really don't know if I'd do Western or Arabic-style make-up, but I would do henna on my hands and feet. I am not really an "arms" henna kind of girl.
I would take pre-wedding photos of my rings, shoes, and dress, like this kind of..but over an Omani gate.
I totally don't know if I'd have bridesmaids, but I'd make them awesome dresses in the same tonal scheme. Omani brides usually have only one attendant. 
I love the idea of having a globe as a guestbook.
The invitations would be simple and hand-written.
And cake isn't really an Omani tradition, but all Omanis I know love cake, so why not?
And I have no idea HOW I would work it out, but I'd love to have SOME live entertainment at the wedding. It isn't really done in my husband's family, but my non-Muslim guests would want to see a little of Oman's culture if they traveled all the way to Oman for a wedding.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Exploring the Tower Ruins in Hail Al Gaf'h, Bait Alqabed

Driving past the village of Hail Al Gaf'h, we saw this tower rising above the hill, and were determined to come back and explore it the next day. We did, and later learned it is called Bait Alqabed. That basically means, to take the house/tower, then you take the village. Being a narrow way through the mountains, that means being able to take this particular tower means access to other villages in the surrounding areas.

The locals my husband talked to claimed that they had asked the Ministry of Heritage to manage the care of it, due to its historical military importance, but that nothing had been done since the requests were first applied, over a decade ago.

It is quite a ways off the tourist-path, I suppose, and reading online, we couldn't find anything much about it except some government speal about it being a "house" not a military stronghold for a garrison. However, my mother-in-law recognized it immediately, and agreed with the locals' version.

Apparently there is some Arabic poem telling the history of this historically important structure, but we couldn't find it.
The first thing we noticed after climbing up to Bait Alqabed was what was once a water holding pen apparently, and the crumbling wall. More interestingly, we noticed the wall on the adjacent mountain-side, which means likely this was the entrance to the pass, and the whole area was walled.
My husband and kids really enjoyed climbing it (it is sooooooooo NOT safe for kids by-the-way). 

****We are bad parents.****

The roof however is unstable and I didn't go out on it. I did warn my husband not to, but he managed alright.

My kids really liked the bats. The bat poop did not bother them at all.

My son threw a temper-tantrum when I wouldn't let him go up on the collapsed roof. Try climbing down a non-existing staircase wearing an abaya that is too long, with a screaming kid in your arms, and your camera-strap gripped in your teeth. That makes everything so much more of an adventure, doesn't it?
The entrance door is typically small, which shows a military function. As one has to duck down to enter, one's neck would be typically exposed to a sword stroke.

No one guards the tower anymore. We had free range.

Inside the tower is a front room, and a back room, and stairs to the roof to the right. Not very "house-like" really.

There is a rather remarkably large clay pot intact in niche in the wall, entering directly in. Our photo does not show its true size.

You can see from our photos though. the ruinous state of the roof.
It isn't a site that takes long to explore, unless one were to survey the original wall and structure. In fact you may not want to. It isn't safe, and there are a lot of bats, and there is the bat poop. Still, the beautifully carved door had us wondering what lay inside.

If you are also curious about this particular tower, the google maps GPS we saved reads as 23°33'56.6"N 57°11/06.2"E. If you know anything about this place, I'd love to hear about it, thanks!