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Posts Tagged ‘Culture’

Okay, I need to talk about this because I absolutely have to. Being engaged to a non-Omani has its “small” challenges… I will have to get used to giving many clarifications from now on!

So yes B, I am dedicating this post to you. There are times, B, when I call you and give you a missed call, or what we call here a “Ranah“. When that happens, the response I expect is for you to call me back, and not for you to send me a msg saying “I missed your call, can you call back?”.

Sometimes I forget that there are certain aspects of my culture that can look silly to others, but nevertheless it is part of the culture and after this post.. I really hope B responds to my missed calls “appropriately”  so I can continue with my normal life and take this part of the culture for granted.

Okay, so the “Ranah” culture started a while ago, early 2000, when the younger generation started having prepaid cell phones (maybe even before that, but this is when it became popular). At that time, many young people who did not earn money would give their parents or friends a missed call, which means “Call me back”. The second party would call using either their cell or home phones.

Sometime, too, the “Ranah” could mean.. “Wanna say Salam” or “I’m thinking of you”.. but I don’t have enough credit to call you.. sort of thing.

Though the practice of “Ranah” started to fade in recent years because of the cheap msging, it is still out there. There is even a song by Salman Hameed that is called “Raneet lek Ranah“.. meaning, I gave you a missed call. The song goes:

“I gave you a missed call
and you didn’t give me a missed call,
you say you love me,
No no, you don’t love me.. “

As far as I know, this song has been very popular, and it still comes up in the radio stations.

So, dear B, next time you get a missed call from me and you wonder how come you didn’t have enough time to answer.. then don’t txt me explaining… just, call me back .. cause you didn’t really miss my call..

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Since I held my job in Oman I have been having a hard time adjusting to the male-female boundaries and relationship at work. Yesterday, I complained to one of my male relatives (who is more open than others) about a male co-worker who always finds a way to be inappropriate.

After listening to my complaint, my relative concluded that it was my fault. I am not strict enough with my co-worker. Though I view my relationship with him as formal and sometimes casual, apparently I must never assume that he should always respect me. Here, women have to constantly demand respect and never be lenient. Not once because that one time would be the key to inappropriate conversations.

I told my relative: “Why do women always have to protect themselves from inappropriate male behavior? Why can’t men assume that they have to respect women up front, instead of women constantly having to prove themselves worthy of respect?!” Then, I told him that this was not the experience I had in the US, well, the reply I got was harsh: “This is the culture you live in and you have to adopt a new attitude if you want to live in it. If you don’t like it then move to another country that fits your culture!”… ouch!

The problem I am facing is that I do not want to be that girl that is constantly thinking about what precautions I have to take to not cause the opposite sex to disrespect me. I want to be respected. Period. This culture surrounds the male’s animal instinct. Women have to build walls and walls just to gain respect. Those walls have to always be maintained because a woman can never fully earn respect. It is an ongoing process that never ends.

Tired!

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Its been a while since I blogged about stuff here in Oman, but there has been some certain things that I see that annoy the hell out of me. As you see from the title, its about people showing off their slaves in Oman…Yes, slavery is abolished.. but apparently this tradition is still alive and well..

A few weeks ago I went to an engagement party “Malka” for someone in the family. The male was a cousin of mine and we were going to see his bride to be. So, we walk in to the living room, sit down.. and I see all these older black women. At first, I thought they were part of their family. I think I was hopeful or being wishful that these people intermarry with Omanis of various ethnic background. Well, I was wrong.

There were many of of these women sitting, then they started serving us food. Going around to give us coffee and sweets. I didn’t think much of it then.

On the way back home, I asked a relative of mine if those women were their relatives, and the answer was “NO!”. They were their “khedaam”, meaning slaves. “Huh,” I said, “we don’t have khedaam in Oman!”, well.. apparently, they were their slaves at one point in time, before slavery was abolished. The “bride to be” family apparently used to own many slaves and whenever they have an occasion they invite their ex-slaves to come and serve the guests. They do pay them though, but the idea was to show off how many slaves they had in order to impress us.

Some people do that in many occasions, such as funerals, weddings, eids, and large gatherings. It gives them a sense of power and importance because back in the day, you only had slaves if you were wealthy and an important person within your tribe.


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When Culture and Law Do Not Meet

Today I dedicate my post to the death of a dear person that society and law failed her deeply. This is a story of a woman, who was born with a simple disability that should have not prevented her from living her life fully and with no drawbacks. Her story -my friends- marks her family, her society, and the law with shame.

She was young when her parents divorced and her father married another woman. That mother in law punished this young girl for her disability. Using the word “punishing” does not justify what happened. Tortured and abused for almost 40 years is more descriptive and close to reality. The abuse began when her mother in law had children and could not handle them. This girl became the enslaved servant of the house. She cleaned the house all day and was whipped at night. She ate leftover and slept under the stair case.

After her half brothers and sisters started growing, her abuse increased. They took turns, and learned the all sorts of torture techniques on her. She was theirs to insult, to beat, to enslave. She started to develop a mental illness. How would you not if you sleep in your own shit every single day?! She was forbidden from even going to the bathroom, taking showers, and having clean clothes! She was a walking trash bag and was definitely treated like one.

You might wonder, where were her extended family? Where was the law?

One of her cousins tried to take her away from that house. He managed for a small while, but he was faced with cultural pressure. “How can he take her while she has a living father and brothers?”. In Islam, a woman’s guardian is her father followed by brothers and uncles. Her cousin (married with kids) was causing a lot of gossip. He was making his uncle look weak in front of people. So, they fought to have her back under their roof.

Basically, abusing a girl looked so much better than questioning her abusive father’s ability to support her. Culture, in this instance, sheltered the abuse to maintain the father’s honor. However, the abuse was not sheltered from society. Every one in that neighborhood new about it, but what can they say or do. She lived under her guardian’s roof. The police turned a blind eye to the abuse. To them, it did not lead to major bodily injuries. She still walks (though hunched), and don’t forget, she had a disability. Also, he was a man of wealth and influence.

At the end, this is an instance where culture and law do not meet. She is dead, may God rest her soul in peace. To those who think our culture is perfect, then I would like to say that that same culture has given so many excuses to the father and brothers of this woman. That same culture was “okay” with her abuse. A culture that had nothing to do with the teachings of Islam. That same culture that killed her 40 years before she had died.

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The Wannabe Empire

Today, I was watching CNN international on Japan and their diesel-producing algae. They have mentioned that Japan has been producing diesel from algae, and have been used in cars already which is great, but it got me to think. If the world started to rely on algae for diesel, where would the Gulf stand?

For the past forty years, the Gulf has been exporting petroleum to the world, but it did not take advantage of this opportunity to flourish intellectually. The Gulf now, and will stay for a long time, a rich region with poor minded people (in general). Oman; for example, has been a very poor country before 1970 and when its economy started to become better, the people became a bit more educated. The root of the problem is the mentality and the culture that people are so intertwined with. For example, as a child you have many questions about God. Even though faith allows you to question and explore, the culture condemns you if you did. Every one would give you the “how dare you!” look. You are shut down from a young age. You learn not to ask and not to think critically. You would hear people answer you by saying “Well, that’s just how it is” or “its our culture”.

I want to have hope for the region to change positively, but I doubt that would happen in my time. Once money started to flood through the region, people became too good or too proud. For example, if you ask someone to work in construction, they will reply, “Are you serious! You want ME to work on construction?”. So, basically, the mentality here is that we are too good to do hard work. “And why work hard if we can have lower people do it? Or if we can just pay for the service?”. We have been paying a lot of money for these services, and our money has been going out of the country instead of circulating in it. So, basically we are making other countries rich. We rely on them. The reason we have about 6% unemployment rate (I don’t think they count the unemployed women) is because the country needs services that its people cannot fill.

Also, the region has a negative attitude. They look at the advancements of the West and far East as a result of being far away from God. “They are advanced because they have no fear of God and have no morals”. As if morals have been given to the Gulf people only. Unless you live with them and are part of them, you won’t see the extent of their negativity. Complaining is part of the culture and they dedicate an enormous amount of time to complain about their misfortunes and bad luck. Not that they are working hard to change it or to achieve. No, they want it to come to them.

But most importantly, its a culture that does not read. At least not beyond the religious books. A regular day in an Omani life does not include reading. Probably the newspaper a bit because we are in a region that is in the middle of war zone. Or at least we are close that it concerns us and we need to know what is going on. Oh, some people but mostly girls read translated romance books. I remember my cousins hiding those novels from their parents because they were taboo. However, the average Omani stops reading once they are done with school. No wonder we are so behind.

So, why do I call the Gulf region the “Wannabe Empire”, well its because people build their own empires..not so much here. We have the wealth to be an empire but not the attitude!

Note: I know the post is negative, but its my dedicated “complaining” time of the day!

Here is an article about the algae producing gasoline.

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Let me give you all an intro about myself for you all to understand why I’m writing this entry. I come from a family that is considered middle to high class in Oman. My fortune made me be one of the “Orbis” that I talked about before. My parents taught me that everyone is equal. However, the rest of my family are the social climbers. They think that they are better than everyone else, and try soooo hard to distinguish themselves from the “those” who are “lower” than them. Its annoying..

Anyway, in the last couple of weeks, I have been getting these lame comments from them.

Don’t dress like this you look like a Baluchi girl.

Don’t act like this you sound like a Zanzibari girl.

Even with nail polish, I can’t put it because they don’t want me to look like the “others”..

All I do is give them a WHATEVER attitude. So what I look like a Baluchi girl. Everyone knows that Baluchi girls are cuter than original Omani girls! This whole culture is built on gossip. They are all afraid that other people will say something bad about them. They all want to look perfect and act perfect Omanis so that they intermarry with the best of the best…I’m talking about blood line not merit.. focus people!

I don’t mind people saying.. “I don’t want to marry from this culture because I’m not into it” or “it does not suit my needs”, but don’t make it sound like you will be stained if you did. Everyone is equal… equality is a word that has a vague meaning in this region!

They also try to control everyone’s fate in their family. People always talk about the positives of having a close extended family but no one talks about the negatives.. If someone from the family wants to marry someone that is not from their “baseless and stupid” bloodline status, they gossip about that person to no end. They also become involved in their affairs and try hard to stop the marriage. Not for fear that the person is not suitable or anything that has the merit of “good intentions”, another vague phrase here, no. It is because they fear of what other “social climbers” might say about them, and that their honor might be stained.

My comments… Give me a break! The world has advanced in soooooooo many ways and you guys have a mentality that is stuck in 600 BC!

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Many wonder, how are weddings in Oman. If you are a male foreigner.. then you’d have a hard time finding out since men “in general” are not included in weddings as much as women.

However, there are two general kinds of marriages in Oman: the Traditional & the Modern.

Traditional Wedding:

This wedding includes men and women. They are in separate places however. Traditional weddings are usually in the inner parts of Oman where people like to keep practicing them. It is also a lot cheaper than modern weddings because it takes place in both “the bride and the groom’s” houses.

Before I start talking about what happens, I would like to explain the concept of a traditional wedding. The wedding takes place in two houses. Then, the groom goes with all his family and friends on buses to pick up a bride. The girls go in to see the bride and greet. They pick up the girl and put her in the groom’s car. Then all of her family come along on buses to drop her off at his house. Once she is there.. greetings are due, then wedding is over…. simple and short.

Now for the extended version!

As I explained before, both families have a celebration of their own. People from around the neighborhood come a long to chat and eat. Some get a sneak peak of he bride, but traditionally you do not get to see her. I think traditionally she is too freaked out to meet anyone!

Before the westernization of weddings and introducing the white dress, women usually wore an Omani traditional dress that is heavily embroidered and I think it is red in color. I am not sure if it is specifically red. Anyway, she would wear her gold, and even though it is her wedding, she still wears a scarf and covers according to Islam.

Now, what happens after that is simple..

In both houses, the women would sit inside the house on floor mats. The men would sit outside in an open area in floor mats too. There would be about over 400 people that would come. Half of them come for the food, and the other half come for social duty. They all sit, and the rice with meat comes out. They eat and feed their kids. Then, the traditions Halwa comes out with fruits and coffee. They all drink and eat.

During this time, family members are serving the food and the sisters of the bride and groom are all dancing (remember in separate houses). After they eat, people who came for food only will leave at this point (with their 20 kids). The rest stay to get on the buses.

Getting on the buses requires a lot of work. If you are a young girl, you wouldn’t want to be sitting with the older lady’s because they are boring and wont let you sing and dance away in the bus. If you are an old woman, you would want to sit next to young girls to feel young and to make sure they are behaving, which they don’t want to do.

After people are on buses (between 3 to 5 buses), and others are in cars, ALL drive behind the groom’s car with danger signals on. So, the haunking begins and the loud music too. Everyone is singing and making noise.

They arrive at the brides house. They are greeted. Some women might stop and eat, others are in a hurry to leave. Once they get the bride in the grooms car (always a hassle), then people from the other family start organizing themselves and getting into their buses. Sometimes the groom would start driving so the women would hurry up. Ohh.. Most of the people that go to the brides house are women. Men are only escorts and you only need one or two in each car.

So, they drive back. Here, the bride’s and the groom’s family in the buses try to beat each other into being behind the car that has the bride and groom. They are trying to prove who is better!

Once they get at the groom’s house, they go into a room where there are chairs. The bride and groom sit next to each other and pictures start to be taking. More pictures then more then more. Then, the groom escorts his bride to his bedroom with everyone behind them. He gets her in, they shut the door…. and everyone leaves. At this time all leave, and some linger around to gossip at other women.

The end!

If you wonder what girls wear.. well, some wear Omani traditional dresses, and others wear prom dresses (usually very young girls). Women don’t really reveal their hair and arms..etc because men in these wedding can go inside the house to get food for men guests. So, women keep covered..

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