Archive for February, 2010

Driving Lessons

Finally back to browsing the internet, which has been down for the past couple of days at work! Thanx OmanTel! yea, GREAT service!

So, I am back to taking some driving lessons. I started taking lessons in the summer of 2006. I went back to the States, got my license, and it expired right before I came back. I couldn’t exchange it here, so now I have to take a driving test.

Driving Learner's car (except mine is old and shakes a lot)

On my first day of driving, I managed to be “almost” hit by a car and driven over by two trucks! All at the same time! No, it wasn’t my fault… Not like my first driving test in 06 where I almost hit a truck (The police officer freaked out and asked me to return to the parking lot!).  Anyway, my driving teacher has a character of his own!

First day: apparently he is in the mood for talking, and I sometimes get tired from driving AND listening to someone blabbing about how good people they are. He was annoyed that I wasn’t as talkative! (Sorry, I was concentrating). Plus, he is from Jama (very inner Oman) and apparently learning to speak in a Syrian Accent (It was just weird)…. “Sho banaaaa”.. and the “La haykaaaaaaaaa”… the elongation part at the end of each sentence was unbearable, especially when you know it’s fake. “I’m learning the Syrian accent now, and before I was learning the Lebanese accent. It’s hard for me to talk normal Omani now”…. yea, right! show off!

Ohh, and I told him I failed my test last time (a few months ago) because I got nervous. My teacher is now determined to take away all that fear by screaming at me for the whole two hours! “go! Go! I said GOOOOOO NOW!”… ” I can’t turn now :'(, there is a car coming towards me”… hands on the steering wheel “I SAID NOW”…. “okay! OKAY!….” … “Tomorrow when I pick you up, YOU BETTER LEAVE YOUR FEAR AT HOME!!!”…. “fine”…

Second Day: well, yesterday I decided that I’m not going to take his crap and keep silent! … Did I mention he has an obsession with the “danger” signals!? .. I HAVE to use it even if I am in the parking lot waiting for a car to pull out.. “Danger Signal” … “huh! why?”… “I SAID signal!!”… ugh! Well, yesterday, a car pulls out and I press the danger signal.. and go “Oh my GOD! danger people .. DANGER!! a car is pulling out!! watch OUT!”.. “ahaaaaa, you are talking now and being smart I see!!”…

So anyway people, tonight I’m going out again.. so if you see a girl with an old guy screaming at her.. be nice.. and give me a break! don’t try to hit me or HONK at me because I HAVE to follow the rules…thank you!


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Reality on the Times of Oman

As you all know, a couple of the bloggers have been interviewed by the Times of Oman. Big thanx to “Sandhya Menon” for her time and effort. Here is a list of us all:

Reality in Oman

Dhofari Gucci

Muscat Confidential

Sleepless in Salalah

Other Oman

Omani Cuisine


Sew Chic and Unique

Oman Stimulus

The article was published in two parts: “For the love of change and blogging” & “Keeping it real in English

Copyright @ Times of Oman

Here are the Questions I have been asked and the answers…

1) Will you ever blow your cover?

I don’t think I will. My identity does not define my ideas and I find that I have more freedom of expression writing in anonymity.

2) Are you afraid you might be found out?


3) If you are, what do you think the consequence would be?

4) How was it for you to have moved back after living in environments that afford women much more freedom that Oman?

I love my country, but understandable had a difficult time adjusting when I first returned for living abroad. A big part of having this blog is to maintain a sense of intellectual freedom. In the US, I did not have the family ties and obligations that I have here. Most of my friends were other students at my university, who were of different nationalities and religions. In the course of my studies I had to answer many different types of questions about my culture and beliefs. That allowed me the opportunity to reflect on my own feelings and to form my own independent ideas. Oman is a very social-centric and family oriented society and it is often difficult to form a solid sense of individuality, or an identity that is distinct from that of the immediate family group. The primary difficulty that I face  here is having freedom in being an individual with my own “identity”

5) Apart from realization of writing skills and a wonderful level of comfort with English, what was the reason you started to blog?

Well, before I moved back to Oman I was aware of the difficulties many of my Gulf female friends face. I decided after considerable thought, that it might be beneficial to my own mind to write a blog where I was able to reflect on and discuss the issues faced myself and others.

6) Do you think you can bring about a change in society, however slow and tedious, with your writing and the awareness that your blog spreads?

My purpose is to spread awareness through my writings. I do not shy away when it comes to talking about sensitive issues in Oman. I believe we can and should talk about love, divorce, racism, and gender roles in society without feeling we should be embarrassed or ashamed. Real change is often slow and tedious, but I hope to encourage others to think outside their comfortable zone and to form their own opinions.

It certainly gives me great pleasure and a sense of accomplishment when someone reads a post and replies with “this is thought provoking” or “I never thought of it that way”. Also, personally, my blog also allows me to continuously develop my thoughts and opinions, which allows me to grow intellectually.

7) Has your blog ever been noticed by anyone who has objections to what you write in there?

Of course. With writing, you can never please everyone, but this is often a blessing as it allows you to see things through other people’s eyes. Even though at times it contradicts your own beliefs, other’s opinions are not less valid. We all form our beliefs through our own experiences and that’s what makes us so diverse and complex.

There are, however, times where people have responded to my blog in a negative an non-constructive way, calling it useless, or stating that it does not add any value to the writing sphere in Oman. With these comments I disagree.

8 ) If yes, how have you responded/reacted?

I do moderate the comments that I receive. Any comments that are in any way constructive or pertinent to the post or general topic I publish, even if these comments disagree with my point-of-view. However, I do not tolerate the use of insulting or profane language. The purpose of my blog is to initiate a discussion and debates are welcomed. At the least, I hope that my posts allow people to look at certain issues in a different light, but it is important to me that people feel the blog is a safe place to express their ideas and post their thoughts.

9) How far do you plan to take your blog in that that it reveals a side of Muscat/Oman and its people that is not very well known?

There are many aspects of the Omani culture that foreigners find hard to understand. I like to provide my own interpretation of what goes on in the society and I base it on my own observations and readings. In my experience, many times people prefer that foreigners see our society from a narrow perspective, such as saying “dating is not allowed, and abaya’s are for showing modesty”. However, dating does happen in the society and many times abaya’s second purpose is fashion rather than modesty alone. Here, foreigners become confused and my role as an intellectual is to show this side of the culture rather than cover my face and be embarrassed that normal behavior exists in the society.

10) Do you have any ambitions for the blog?

Yes. I look forward to the day where my blog becomes a hub for discussing the different issues we face in the Omani culture.

11) Does it bother you that you have to be anonymous to tell it like it is?

Not at all. Being anonymous is exciting because it allows me to give my opinion and develop different ideas without having to worry that my opinions will be seen as the opinions of my entire family or friends. Being anonymous allows me to more fully express myself as an individual with my own ideas.

12) Does anyone know of your identity? Family, close friends?

Very few do.

13) What is their response?

They follow my blog, but rarely ever comment. I think it allows them to see the other side of me. Most choose to discuss “offline” the issues that I raise.

14) How does having this unlimited space affect your personality? For eg: Are you more interested in the goings-on of things so that you can have material for your blog? Are you more socially aware because you realize you can’t put up something that you don’t understand.

Since beginning the blog I have certainly become more outgoing and I pay closer attention to what happens around me. I think the advantage I have is that I lived outside of Oman for almost ten years. I was out of the culture, which in turn allowed me to question different behaviors and have a different view at my surroundings when I moved back.

I have to confess though that sometimes my views and experiences are limited to my environment. This does not make them less valid, but it might contradict with another fellow blogger’s experiences. For example, I talked about female circumcision in Oman, and how the act is more of a symbolic ritual that does not involve any sort of deformation to the female’s genitals. However, I came to know that in certain areas in Oman, deformation of female’s genitals is the common practice of female circumcision. We live in a diverse and varied country and I though I can only provide my own viewpoint I hope that in doing so I am able to hit on wider societal and cultural issues.

15) Do you write in Arabic as well?

I speak and write fluently in both English and Arabic, but at this time choose to write the blog only in English.

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I wrote about the Nook before, and apparently my blog has been getting many hits from people wanting to know about e-reader’s support for Arabic.
Currently, I have a Kindle with me. So, I hope this will be helpful:

In general, the main problem I found with the Kindle is that apparently the international version does not include Oman!! (That’s a big thanx to Omantel of course). You can’t even download updates for the Kindle in Oman because “There is no version available for Oman”.. yea, no clue! So, if you are in an Arabic country, please check this website before buying a Kindle. Even if you don’t plan to “purchase” e-books through Amazon, it is important to have a supported 3G network (for updates) cause lovely Amazon doesn’t think we need good-old wireless.

No stupid support for Oman "Unfortunately, we are currently unable to ship Kindles or offer Kindle content to Oman" .. Of course!!

Yep, no 3G network support for Oman

So, 3G network is supported for UAE, KSA, Israel (sorry no Palestine 😦 .. ), and Egypt.. and maybe some other countries.

Arabic Support:
Alright, Kindle supports .txt and .pdf files. I tried to enter Arabic text for both formats. The Kindle does not read Arabic text saved in .txt. The whole thing comes out as “???? ??? ????? ??? ?? ??????? ??? ?? ?? ? ???? ?? ?? ???? ??? ??” I’m sure that is not what you are hoping for.Now for .pdf files, here is a picture of how Kindle handles PDF files in general with images (I know, the Times article looks cool there..). It took a couple of seconds (maybe 30sec) for it to load, which is considered slow, but that is only because of the images.

"The Date Debate" article on the Kindle

Now, I added an Arabic .pdf file into kindle. Here, unless each page has 5 lines, the text would be hard to read. It is like reading font size 6 or 5. Like this:

إذا تقدرو تقرأو هذا الخط من غير ما تقلعو عيونكم فهذا فشيء جميل جدا

Anyway, point taken right?… Here is an image of how it would look like:

Arabic e-book in Kindle, a very small font size

Now, with all pdf files, you cannot make the font larger (English and Arabic). What you can do is press the “Aa” button and it will give you the option to view the pdf horizontally. A bit of a hassle, but if you don’t mind it then this will not be such a huge problem. With this however, you will have to view a single page in three sections (so you have to press the next button three times to read a full page). This of course will effect the battery life, and if you are a fast reader.. it will not be pleasant. Here is a picture of how it will look like:

Horizontal view of the Arabic e-book

Last thing, when you think about getting an e-reader for your Arabic e-books, consider the size of the screen. I can assume that all e-readers that support .pdf can view Arabic text, but with the screen size.. hmm.. it results in tiny font for all languages! unless you get a 9 inch e-reader!

Hope this helped some!

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Many of you have seen women walking around in some inner parts of Oman wearing these very colorful dresses. From the picture below, the three women there are wearing what we call “wael, sweesri, or landani” I have no idea why they got these names, but that’s how we identify them.

Copyright© 2009 Travel with a Challenge

These are mostly worn in the inner parts of Oman and some “lower-to-middle class” areas in Muscat. Well, one thing about these dresses is that they are very popular with female teachers. Almost all teachers in the inner parts of Oman (some in Muscat too) wear them. If you go to the fabric store, you would find some.. just ask for a “wael” or “wayel”..

There are usually many designs, sometimes of different colors. The fabric is very light and sometimes transparent. So you can imagine the kind of torture a woman goes through to make it less see through. Once you get the fabric (5m I think), you chose the kind of lining you want. Some women use regular cotton while others prefer silk.

You take the fabric to your regular tailor and he does the needful, which is making the dress and the long scarf. Some women like to add their own touch, so they take it to local girls that do some bead work for about R.O. 8. Not bad if you wanna look hip at school!

Also, the thing with this fabric is that new designs come in every week. However, this does not mean they become out of style that fast! maybe after a year or two.

Anyway, I love this kind.. I even used to make some and take them to the US with me (only wore them at home though). I know some girls (many) that think this is “un-hip” and “backwards”, but I think they are the coolest thing ever. Wearing a traditional Omani dress is another option (I need to explore that more often), but this is great for wearing something nice and looking modest at my grandparents house with minimum effort.  I hate the other kind of dresses that are full of bead work where you can ONLY have them dry cleaned!

I prefer these… wash, dry, wear! that simple! and the patterns are just cute! I also refuse to wear an abaya at my village when I put them on! another bliss!

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Park Inn’s Loud Music

Alright, this is the one time (maybe) where I truly believe that I have the right to say…

All those past sleepless nights.. I THOUGHT it was a bad neighbor! Unable to sleep at 2am when I have WORK at 8 in the morning. I didn’t realize till TONIGHT when I went to the roof to try and figure out which BAD neighbor it was to call the COPS!

I didn’t realize it was YOU guys! Never mind that the weather is so nice, that I CAN’T have fresh air in my room, that I CAN’T sleep without the AC on so I don’t hear you guys.. Today, I found out that SO many people have COMPLAINED .. just how INCONSIDERATE you are! All this, and I DON’T even live close to the hotel!!!

Can’t imagine the kind of HELL those who live near LuLu are in!

Having an outdoor Disco is nice for those who want to go there, but for those who have a LIFE, WORK… and my god.. KIDS… don’t need your super cool hits!


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Reality on “The Week”

Before I start, I would like to give my “thank you” to Emma Williams (from The Week) for writing an article about Dating and for including my views in it.

I think the article depicts the true state of dating and getting married in Oman, so check it out tomorrow or you can read it online at (http://www.theweek.co.om/). I also attached a .pdf file of the article here The Week

Oh, and B.. please don’t forward this to all your friends saying “This is my wife”.. There is a reason why I’m being anonymous.. :-p..

Those with slow internet, here:

The Date Debate: Dating in the City
by Emma Williams

Picture the scene. You are in a popular restaurant in Muscat when you notice a beautiful Omani woman dressed up in her best abaya but alone in one corner of the restaurant texting  away on her phone. She finishes writing her message and places her phone back on the table. Moments later a young Omani man, who is sitting on the opposite side of the restaurant to the woman, picks up his phone after a text tone goes off loudly. He smiles and starts replying; the woman meanwhile sips her drink and toys with her pasta.
Maria, an expatriate from the UK working in Oman, thought this was just a coincidence until a second after the young man put down his phone, the girl’s loud door bell style ring-tone announced she had a reply. The messages continued throughout the meal until the girl paid her bill and left, the youth following minutes later. After raising the incident with some local friends of hers, Maria was surprised when they said these types of encounters were becoming increasingly common as young men and women try to date or get to know each other without risking damage to their family name or distress to their traditional parents.
‘Reality-in-Oman’ is a young and popular Omani blogger who is married and thinks there are a number of problems facing young people in Oman when it comes to finding a partner. “One problem is that dating is looked down on. Good girls don’t date and good boys never marry girls who have been in previous relationships. The idea of absolute purity and innocence seems to be most dominant when it comes to selecting your future partner, which is not  possible,” she said.
Reality-in-Oman’ feels that it is a lack of communication and understanding between young people and their parents that cause problems for those trying to date. She finds the kind of secret relationships like the one described above to be unfortunate. She said, “Sometimes the hardest part is not finding
love, but finding a healthy relationship that allows two people to grow.
“Once love is found, young people face another huge obstacle that they have to pass, which is presenting that love to their families in the hope of receiving a positive response. Instead, many couples are faced with angry parents who
reject the marriage proposal. Hence, you find couples looking for ways to deceive their parents into  believing that the guy just happened to see the girl somewhere and fell in love.”

—- Emphasis mine, if you want to read the rest, then go through the pain of downloading the pdf file.

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Omanis and Traits

Alright, for this post, you all need to relax. It is a fun post :p .. nothing serious.. and to all those who like to be offended.. NO I am not generalizing.. so calm down

Just a taste of my life at work..

Muscat people:

Call me weird, but I find this category to be the most respectful. I usually ask the guys from this category to follow orders and they do. Once, a guy was making a fuss, and I just went up to him and said “get up and leave, now”. To give you a better description of this guy, well.. he is in his early 20’s. He wears those low cut jeans with the “love theme boxers” showing, the fake LV belt, and listens to rap and hip hop music… But this guy.. left the room as I have asked… No fuss

Later he came in to my office, and apologized… signed some forms and before he left, said.. “thank you”… when I looked at the form, his signature was … “cool thug” .. I almost cracked out laughing, but my point is.. he is the type of guy we see in the streets and stereotype him into the “bad-wannabe” category.

The females are harder to deal with. They get offended easily and I have to be gentle. However, I have a harder time with the spoiled ones, since they expect me to do everything for them.

Batina (till Sohar) and Dakhilyah people:

These guys are harder to deal with. I am usually gentle at first. I give a warning, and they just think its funny, ignore me, and continue with what they are doing. Sometimes I explain the obvious to them, and they show great interest, but still do not want to follow the rules. I kick them out, and they start talking loudly and become offended. “This is OFFENSIVE” they scream sometimes. They do leave at the end, but with warnings of filing complaints (which they never see through), or never coming back (which they do because they have to).

Now, these are the good males from the inner Oman. They wear the well ironed Omani dishdasha and the nice cuma (head cap) with the  “good manners”. Maybe they are, but I have certainly seen the worst from them. Everything to them is a joke. (That applies to my cousins too!!)

On the contrary, the girls in this section are respectful. They are usually shy, but in general, they have good manners. I do find a few that like to be offended for the heck of it, but not many. Some of them think I hate them and that I’m mean, but generally it is because sometimes I do..

Sharqyah and Batina (above Sohar) people:

I think I can describe these people in a single word… politely, I would say they are “loud”, at my line of work I would describe them as “obnoxious”. To be honest, these are the people I have the most difficult time dealing with.

I have tried to be gentle, and I have tried to be strict. It does not work. These are the guys that wear the UAE dress (Al Ain dress to be specific) and the neatly folded musar (head turban). They go to great lengths to make their (shoulder length) hair straight . They usually walk slower to make sure their neat figure is not ruined, but they are just LOUD. They treat every single costumer service area as a qahwa (coffee shop) where they like to give hugs and kisses (nose kisses) to every one they know. You ask them to follow the rules and you end up being in a long debate. They like to chit-chat and answer your questions and with questions.

May I add, these guys DO NOT get offended easily. They flick their wide eyes like a sad puppy and ask.. “what’s wrong?” in a flirtatious manner.. it is annoying.

On the other hand, the females in this category love to be easily offended. They tend to take everything personal. It doesn’t matter that I ask politely and cut them slack most of the, they just find a way to get offended and act out. They do exactly the opposite. Some, I found out, do it because they dislike me. These females also get offended when my other co-workers talk to them. They would slur some offensive words in Arabic to my Indian co-workers thinking it is okay, and become highly offended when I say: “Do as they SAY”… ha ha

Dhofari people?… I’ll leave that to Nadia!

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