Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Bookstore Offerings, and Modern Interior Design in Oman

Trying to find a decent bookstore in Oman is like, well, trying to do anything in Oman when you are used to doing it so much better elsewhere.

...I do love Dar al atta's chairty book shop in the former CCC complex (Qurum complex is it now?). I came away with a couple of novels last visit. And when Al Fair was in Al Bahja mall I came away with a dozen... Why do grocery stores in Oman have better book seclections than bookstores?!

Sadly, I find the magazine section at Spinneys in the Wave, to be more satisfying than visiting the supposed bookstore in the same mall.

Recently there, my husband and I set ourselves in the magazine section of Spinneys. I bought the launch issue of Architectural Digest Middle East. It was disapointing: too much fashion, not enough decor. I do hope Vogue Middle East is better.

I also read the American AD, and the U.K House and Garden, and Veranda. These are my faves in Muscat... Sometimes I can also find a decent archeology magazine but that's rare.

I watched my husband reading over my shoulder. He is attracted to cottage and Country House style.

"How can anyone live in a modern home?" he wondered, and I don't know if he meant me to answer or no.

"Says the man who grew up in a heritage-listed 500 year old house," I remind him.

"Useless Ministeries," I hear him mutter under breath. "It's only 200 most likely."

"Okay, they're not my style either," pointing to a lovely example of an artful and elegant modern room, "but I'd like to stay here, like at a hotel."

"But not live there," he ammended.

"I suppose not. But then, I grew up in old houses too. And I've travelled too much."

Most Omanis believe they want modern due to having grown up in old houses a lot. Most do it terribly, like one is walking into an office, rather than a home.

But I do have one friend, and her style is modern gallery chic+contemporary. I think this is the region's It-girls signature style. Her home isn't for me, but I love to hang out there. It's like, there are no rules, only possibility. Sometimes, soft or sweeping elegance as well. That's the best of modern Arabian design.

Failed modern design in the GCC is soulless and soul-sucking. Or trashy, as owners give up on modern, and put other crap there as well. We end up with bad soap opera homes. This is what my husband means.

He doesn' like me to voice opinions on relatives' homes or friends' homes, even if they ask me, because he is afraid of what I'll say.

Apparently people think I think that I think that I am better than them if I don't like their sofa, or think something doesn't match, strange as that is, lol. As if opinons of people and places are connected at all in my mind...

Of course my style is of a classic bent. It has plenty of rules. There is math involved in furniture placement.  But I like it to have no rules in terms of collections and art. I buy what I like, then make sure it matches or is arranged in formal English Country style to match. Most things in old houses don't match. The charm of Nacny Lancaster's rooms, are of course, the hint of decay lain against modern inviting comfort, and grand everything else.

A lot of Omani girls I know have interesting and rich contemporary taste, and I only think, with a little more design related reading, or travel, especially to international capital cities, then Muscat could hold a very talented interior design set.

Many Omanis I suspect, have a deeply suppressed creative streak;).

Sunday, October 16, 2016

SABLA STORIES: Practical Joksters

As everyone knows, there was a time when many Omanis went abroad to work. So I heard this story about one of the meanest practical jokes ever:

A group of Omani men were working in KSA (Saudi Arabia) and of the group, most had just come back from a holiday in their village back in Oman. I guess one of the men stayed behind. Maybe he was cheap, maybe I don't know, but for whatever the reason, his friends decided it would be hilarious to tell him his father had died back in Oman.

So, he goes back to Oman right, for the funeral, but when he reaches his village he finds that his father is alive. Alhamdulilah right, but he is like, fuming at his stupid friends, for both the trip, and the emotional turmoil of thinking his father is dead.

So... he gets his revenge.

Returning to Saudi, he sits with them to have qhawa, and they are all like ha ha, congratulating themselves for being so clever. He just sits there all quietly. When they're done, he tells them they'd better pack and head to Oman. And to be quick about it.

He told  them that back in their village, he had told their wives that they had died in Saudi.

So he's sitting there all smug now, reminding them to hurry or their wives' mourning period could end, and their wives might end up remarried before they make it home.

Meanest prank... ever.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Reasons Why I love my Omani Husband: He TELLS people I am not his servant

A kuma, in case you didn't know;)
Reasons I love my husband No. I have no idea, but simply had to blog this:

Omani Husband's Omani workmate (has only one wife): How can you have two wives, and still, come to work with your clothes not ironed?

My Husband (Omani male with two wives): My wives aren't servants.
Omani Husband's Omani workmate: ... {doesn't understand of course}.

This has happened before. People ask him how he can have two wives, and still no one to handwash his kuma for him. Those guys, really need to learn about how the original muslim men acted, in terms of expectations upon women's duties towards them.

Now of course, Westerner that I am, who was raised to believe household duties should be shared for the most part, and Muslimah that I am, with education enough to know that, Islamically, I am actually required to do even less in the house than I was raised to do, I do not hold a husband in high regard simply for ironing his own clothes. But I do admire the one who is brave enough to tell other men, proudly, that he does, despite their ignorance.

Expat Wife Married to an Omani Problem Number 1: apologies due for not getting what you paid for

Expatwife_marriedtoOmani_problems no.1: Your Omani husband apologizes to the staff of shops and stores because you insist on getting exactly what you paid for.

Sunday, October 9, 2016


Since people who can’t read often get mad at our blog and rage “you’re not a real Omani princess!”
...I thought it would be interesting to interview a couple “real” Omani princesses, and any other GCC royal that we are accidently connected to through our real , not on-screen lives. This is the first of the series.

My interviewees in the following series will remain nameless so that they, like me, can say whatever they want. I also won’t reveal their GCC nation. Some of them, that would make it too easy to identify. I do assure our blog’s readership however, that people actually do call them “Your Highness”, or follow them around with bukhoor. They really do get assaulted with vases of flowers and ambushed quite regularly with cases of Patchi chocolate. Some of them make important decisions, one of them is rich, one does have a body-guard, but other than that, the point of this series is to show you that they are quite regular, down to-earth people. ...If not that, then, they are people who are wholly aware of the irony of the farce surrounding them.

---And just to iterate, it means nothing of us OPNO girls... despite cruelly mean anonymous commentators...that we’ve met or deal regularly with these people. As white, somewhat educated, and employed, Western girls, you meet people in small oil rich nations, like those of the GCC. GCC royal families are BIG. At some point, if you live here as long as we have, and go to places like, I don’t know, a given club or restaurant, or work for a Ministry or Charity, eventually you are going to meet someone called “Your Highness.” IT REALLY ISN’T a BIG deal. It’s a fact of freakin’ life, not anything we could brag about. If you’re not in the GCC, you might not understand.

So, towards my first interviewee, to introduce him without giving away too much:

 He’s a dude. A royal one. I know how he takes his coffee, but that’s not really newsworthy, now is it? 

Maybe what’s interesting is he makes his own coffee, never asks an office girl or the “company tea boy” to do it, and to be honest, I never knew that he was that “His Highness” our floor kept referring to, for three years almost.

Lots of {insert nationality+s} ask me to make tea or coffee for them, even though that’s not my job at all. I don’t work for them, or in the general area of an office girl whose job also does not consist of serving tea or coffee, but who might be better mistaken for having that task assigned to them, than, well, me.

 ...So a busy someone who could have folks fussing over him regularly, who does things himself despite... Well, to me that is a character mark worthy of a journalist’s note.

For three years I just knew he was someone who used the same coffee machine I used. I knew that he was rather well-educated, with flawless [spoken anyway] English, and wholly more proficient in polite small-talk than I. I do long talk, and lots of it. Busy people, with full work schedules, like I knew him to be, I do not engage them in regular conversation, unless it is to warn them that an elevator is broken or something.

We had been introduced to one another on many occasions, but busy person that I am, I was always only ever half listening. It is actually very difficult to figure out our very fancy tea machine, I assure you. It’s not a kettle to simply boil water, regrettably. Thus, as I knew him, he was but to me, in possession of one of those highly irritating Arabic first names with a letter in it that people make fun of me for attempting to pronounce. So, I avoided learning or using his name altogether.

I eventually had to add his name to a document, so I remember asking him to spell his name out for me. This is what I always do when I can’t actually remember what someone’s name is.

And there it was: the Royal last name. I must have sounded like a total loser because my reply was only “oh,” because I had finally realized who he was.

 ...Of course, it doesn’t change anything to me. He’s still that guy from the coffee machine, but would I even be writing this stupid anecdote if he had been from another ordinary {insert nationality} family?

Of course not!

So that brings us to my silly little interview, which, needless to say, he was just as surprised to learn that I am an OPNO blogger, as I was, that coffee-guy was from such-and-such family:

OPNO: So, do you read the “How to live like an Omani Princess blog”? {Because that is an important question, right}.

HIS HIGHNESS #1: Not terribly often. I don’t follow, but I had seen it before. If you search ‘Oman’ it comes up quite often on google images. {OPNO is terribly flattered}
OPNO: How do you like to be addressed? I mean beyond correctly, the your Majesty/Highness mix-up of old-fashioned ettiquette aside...How do you prefer to be addressed? Do you like people to use "Your Highness" or your given name?
HIS HIGHNESS #1: My name.
...But it is a form of respect, so if I were the leader of a nation, or a crown-prince on a state trip, and not a person you bump into at the mall, I'd probably expect "Your Majesty/Your Highness." If I'd earned a Ministry Position, or Judgship, I'd like "Your Excellency". It's like that. I didn't earn "Your Highness" for anything yet.
OPNO: Which brings us to, 'what does being a member of a ruling “royal Arabian” family in your given country in this modern age, mean to you?'

HIS HIGHNESS #1: While I am definitely proud of my grandparents, it means surprisingly less than you might think. Since I am not, to my awareness, being considered for {Sultan/King/Ameer/Head Honcho Sheikh} I actually do not think of it as a responsibility or privilege of any kind... Unless someone else treats me as if it should be.

OPNO {interrupting}: And does that happen often?

HIS HIGHNESS #1:  {Just smiles, before continuing to answer the previous question}...I do think that it does allow a directed, well-intended individual, however, greater scope towards accomplishing their given pursuit. ...So I have always found.

OPNO: Are there any goals for your family and country that you personally would like to act towards?

HIS HIGHNESS #1:  Many. {...sadly, does not elaborate}.

OPNO: Does being an {insert royal family name} go towards aiding you in achieving those goals whatsoever?

HIS HIGHNESS #1: As you well know, I get to be more controversial than others when questioning the how and why of the way things are done. I, however, do have to be careful, that I am not the person doing any of the actual “changing” if we get to that point. Being from the family means people will think you are meddling, or only trying to look good or to get something out of it all, if you are in the middle of any great action or change, no matter how good your intentions.

OPNO: Would you like to be a Minister one day?

HIS HIGHNESS #1: No. But it would be useful if a useful person was, whom I could call ‘friend’. Saying that, please don’t twist my words!---Let's clarify. Such a person would be someone wise enough to listen to whatever I could suggest to help out, but who wouldn’t be blind or fool enough to ignore anyone who could come up with something better, even if, that someone were, say, {insert name of Indian car washer} who washes cars in the parking lot. [Again, note, he knows the name of the guy who washes his car every morning].

OPNO: Is there anything you find or believe you can’t or shouldn’t do, that other {insert nationality} people of your country do?

HIS HIGHNESS #1: Meddle, or ask for favours.

OPNO: Do you think the oil boom has led people in your country to become lazy and expecting of hand-outs from the government?

HIS HIGHNESS #1: Yes, but should I really express that, given the ease with which I can stick my hand out and beg for something I have not worked for as well?

OPNO: You don’t have to answer, but do you think the government or your family is corrupt then?

HIS HIGHNESS #1 {laughs}: Do you love all your relatives? Is your country’s government perfect? It is a loaded question.

To an extent, yes, I will be brave, and say I do,  but then again, all nations and all families are. But I still find {insert country} to be better in these terms than other countries. I mean, we don’t have an Arab version of Donald Trump running for President, now do we?

 ...But for the most part we are working to acknowledge and eliminate this aspect. That is for the people of {insert country} however. They cannot say an important person called so-and-so uses wasta, but then, the first moment they are in a position to do so, become just as despotic, or maybe even more so.  

There are more {insert nationality(s)} than there are {insert family name(s)}. Tribes are the issue. Sheikhs are the issue. Alhamdulilah, not for us, but for other GCC countries, religious counsels insisting upon physical and ideological superiority are an issue. As long as these remain important to the people of {insert country name}, then either a royal family or a dictating military presence, will play the leading role in the politics of this part of the world, corruption of any given party aside.

OPNO: Again, you don’t have to answer, but what do you think the role of the media should be in {insert name of country} towards making it a greater country?

HIS HIGHNESS #1: I’m definitely the wrong person for this, but better regulation should exist. Clearer, regulation, for both the media, and the bodies overseeing the media. Islamic concepts of dealing with slander are well carried out in {insert his country’s name}, but these need to be balanced with truths and facts. Maybe I am not a scholar in the subject of ‘backbiting’ but I do believe truth and fact have a right to be printed at a certain point. Is there not a hadith somewhere saying it is not backbiting if truth is told pertaining to either a man’s character regarding his business dealings, or his eligibility for marriage? So, given that, some laws touching on media slander, deserve revision.
That said, I don't want our media to become as sensationalist as I encounter in other countries either, where news is more entertainment, than it is relevant to how one should go about their life the next day.

OPNO: Okay, onto lighter questions. What do you drive?

HIS HIGHNESS #1: I am definitely not going to answer that. After the last question, that is far too sensitive!

OPNO: What is your marital status?

HIS HIGHNESS #1: Married.

OPNO: If married, was it an arranged marriage?

HIS HIGHNESS #1: Not really, but both families were made happy by it.

OPNO: If married, how did you meet?

HIS HIGHNESS #1: School.

OPNO: If male, what is your inclination towards taking multiple wives? If female, have you or would you ever, contemplate being involved in a marriage with a man willing to take on or wanting more than one wife?

HIS HIGHNESS #1: ...And I was worried about the sensitivity of your political questions?
Not female so... Never seriously, so no. I have friends who have though.

OPNO: Do you work?

HIS HIGHNESS #1: Um, yes?

OPNO: Do you have twitter, facebook, snap chat, etc.?

HIS HIGHNESS #1: I really don’t want people I don’t know to add me on anything so let’s say no.

OPNO: If you could trade places with a royal person from any other family, living or dead, who would it be?

HIS HIGHNESS #1: Alhamdulilah, I wouldn’t. I praise Allah to be born the person I am and living in the time I am in.
OPNO: How many languages do you speak?
HIS HIGHNESS #1: Three fluently. More, terribly.
...Four, acually, if you count math as a language which I wish they would. I am really, really good at math.
OPNO: Do other people annoy you about being from such-and-such family? I mean, do you actually like opening yoghurt stores, and Opera galleries and the like?

HIS HIGHNESS #1: Yoghurt stores? I’ve never.

 ...If I worked really hard on a concept and contributed to it more than others but it was a wholly collaborative effort, I’d be flattered to be asked to put my name on a report or to cut a silly ribbon. But I’d do it, if I was asked because of what I’d done and what I stood for, rather than being “one of those {insert family name}”.

OPNO: No, what I mean is, does anything about being an {insert family name} annoy you?

HIS HIGHNESS #1: I won’t complain about anything when the lives of others I have known are wholly more challenging.

OPNO: Since you refuse to complain about people always bukhooring you to death, what do you think is the worst habit or trait that you possess, that people let you get away with, just because you are an {insert family name}?

HIS HIGHNESS #1: I’m a very busy person. People, very busy people, always make time for me, but it is rare that I am able to do the same for them. Also, some people, laugh at what I say, even if it isn’t funny, and they believe me to be joking. That is... rather tragic.

OPNO: Okay, last question. What is the oddest favour someone has ever asked you for, or the craziest thing someone thought you were capable of doing, just because you are an {insert family name}?  

HIS HIGHNESS #1: You know us so well...It would have to be arranging meetings. People seem to think I can arrange for them to meet a head of state or a Minister, and really, I can’t.
But really the crazist thing? Someone thought I could ask to make the weekend longer over the holidays. That was...something.

OPNO: Last, last question. What do you think we should blog about? I mean, what would you want to read our blog for?

HIS HIGHNESS #1: Beyond Omani traditional dress, which I think you have covered quite well, you mentioned something about highlighting research finds in Oman? I’d probably read that.

Also from a tourism aspect, I saw your photos and read your descriptions of some of the places, that I, an {insert nationality} have never visited, and you could add to that with GPS coordinates really.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Local Blogs are Getting Dull?: Do We Still Dare to Write/Translate the Truth/or Happenstance?

I read a comment recently on Muscat Mutterings ( ) about how blogs are getting dull as of late and found myself nodding along with MM's reply:

"If I had the time I'd love to wax lyrical about a whole number of things, but with journalists being thrown in jail for 3 years and newspapers being shutdown, it's just simply not worth it to poke the bear."

So when it comes down to politics, is it worth it for us Muscati-based English bloggers to translate the news, from Arabic to English, even?

For example, I know a lot of bloggers will think it daring of me to mention that a very famous privately-owned Arabic Omani newspaper (Azamn) was shut down, and that the assistant of Oman's head of the courts (Chief Magistrate, Ishaq Bin Ahmed Al Bousaidi) was interviewed (assistant is in jail now too it seems), saying that all the evidence people were recently bringing forward in Azamn to prove that man's corruption "is true".

****-----Not that I am saying any of that is true;). I wouldn't know right? I am just a girl who reads a lot, loves abayas, and posts GCC related eye-candy right?

Though an interesting read was.....

Tajer Ceramica twitter anyone?*****

....And more recently, it could  be supposed brave to mention the sentancing of Azamn editor Zaher al-Abri to one year in prison, and Azamn Editor-in-Chief Ibrahim al-Maamari and Deputy Editor Yousif al-Haj to three-years in prison, but it isn't really brave... They are the ones going to prison afterall, and the courts did announce it so why can't we too?

[ ]
[or this link: ]

Anyways, I suppose I can dare to say this because I am sure that somehow I've met a female relative of persons accused of corruption, and it looks bad to send a friend of your daughter or what not to jail (or deport her) for just saying in English what Omanis are twittering in English right? Even if I am using a "sly" tone.

And the usual intimidation of maybe a police officer 'touching' females who dare relate with scandals and slanderers really doesn't phase me at all. I live in Omani and Islamic culture, but I don't let the culture change truth for me, and right and wrong. A wrong done by others, will never colour the lines of this woman, that's for sure...

...It would bother my Omani husband a lot though, come to think of it. It'd make him do something dumb. ...Can't have that.

****Not like I am personally claiming to have evidence of anything. Or stating my own opinion on anything. I don't speak Arabic afterall;). What do I know? I am being contrary and gossipy you could say, couldn't you?****

So when it comes down to it, do we bloggers dare say our own opinions (slander, courts in Oman could say), or more dangerous still, post evidence (also slander, courts WILL SAY, if not presented in [supposed corrupt] courts first) of, well, anything?

Like, for example, my contractor who built my house will sue me if I post his company and family name here, mentioning that they tried to cheat us out of 4,000 omr in building materials and labour....Even it is true, and backed by evidence. That's a paltry issue compared to, say, accusing the head of Oman's courts of (multiple, and terrible) corruption on a grand scale, and still, I'd probably be fined, and maybe jailed for it;).

So people who want to accuse the old guard of Muscat bloggers for being dull, well, do by all means, open your own blog, and dare.

I just personally don't expect Expat bloggers like MM to speak dangerous truths and opinions for me (I am in Oman for the long term). He does, afterall, have a wife and kids to support, beyond, well, not being Omani or committed to staying in Oman long term.

I also don't expect Dhofari Gucci to stick her neck out for me or you or this country just to be a content-based "interesting" blogger. She can, but it is her neck. She should do it for more than "interest" or "readership".

Would I? Probably, if I didn't have an Omani husband and Omani kids. I'm dumb like that. I'd do it for all the wrong reasons then though. Easy to get rid of dumbasses doing stuff just because they can;).

Yes, we'd (the English blogging set) probably get away with it with minimal injury, but a dare should be worth it. It should gain something, be for something. It should be said by someone who loves Oman long-term, not just someone complaining or wishing well without commitment. Ideally, that person would be unattached, without people left behind to suffer if, well, they "didn't get away with it."

Prison without trial, or closed trial with no real means to defend yourself, sucks.

If you are that person, by all means, dare. But if you are not, do not accuse others of being dull because they can not, or should not.

Much love,

-a very boring OPNO

Saturday, October 1, 2016

BOOKS ABOUT OMAN: Sons of Sindbad, by Alan Villiers

While one OPNO contributor was researching China patterns with the sole aim of designing her own service set, she came across the photographs of Australian Mariner, Alan Villiers (1903-1982). They are also available documented in a beautiful coffee table book about Oman, the GCC pre-world war II, and sailing, entitled "Sons of Sindbad, the Photographs".

Many of Villiers' original photographs are on display in the Greenwich Museum in the U.K., which is, in case nautical history is not your thing, the foremost museum in the world archiving and documenting nautical history, probably because it is also the site of the Greenwich Meridian ...Which is totally why the 'dark elf' alien guy in the 2nd Thor movie has to destroy the universe specifically from case the 2nd Thor movie is your only known reference to Greenwich...and that part of the movie made you scratch your head a bit.

Back to the original topic...Lucky for us, not only did Villiers photograph a fading way of life before it disappeared, but he also recorded his own impressions of the experience with great clarity. The result is "Sons of Sindbad" the book.

Villier's book is one of the few books written about Arabian Maritime History, and I highly recommend it. I felt like I was on board with the Kuwaiti crew, gripping the rails, admiring the superior sailing knowledge of Captain Ali ibn Nasr al-Nejdi right along with Mr. Villiers, and experiencing Oman and the rest of the GCC's seaports as they were in the late 1930s.
In Oman we are lucky, because Oman's historical ports are preserved for the most part, but for Kuwait especially, it is a look at a world that is entirely faded away.

The story: Villiers believes that the dhow will be the last sailing ship to dominate a sea route, and so he sets out to experience a reality fated to fade away. In Aden he finds a Kuwaiti dhow captain and crew willing to take a Westerner on. Departing from Yemen, they sail from the Gulf to East Africa with a cargo of dates, and return from East Africa, to Kuwait. If world war II hadn't broken out, Villiers might have had time to record more.

My take: Often described as the 'Thesiger of the Sea', I enjoyed Villiers way of describing his experiences. Not only is it a fascinating book on sailing, it is one of the few books that are a window into Arab life pre-world war II in the Middle East. Title is pretty awesome too;)