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Posts Tagged ‘Women’

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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Female Circumcision in Oman

Female circumcision in the Gulf area is widely practiced, maybe not as popular anymore, but it has been practiced for centuries. Now, talking about this subject freely might have some stigma to it, and many expats wonder about it but are too polite to ask.

To make it clear, female circumcision in the Gulf is not the same as that practiced in some African regions where women’s external parts are all cut off leaving small openings. Also, it is neither required nor sought after in Islamic teachings. Female circumcision is a cultural aspect of the Middle East. When I asked some relatives about circumcision a few years ago, the explanation was that we live in a very hot weather climate, and the Arabic women usually have external vaginal parts that are larger than the normal size. The combination of hot weather, no underwear, and the large sizes made women uncomfortable or rather (frankly) aroused.

This explanation may sound naïve and unrealistic to many of you, but it is a valid reason to many here. Now, what is female circumcision in Oman and the Gulf region? As far as I know, circumcision varies from cutting parts of the clitoris to making a small cut that makes no impact (I guess the sight of bleeding = purification). I do not believe that there is a certain cultural event or a ritual that happens during the circumcision. Women just call a known lady to their houses when men are absent. She makes the cut, gets paid, and leaves.

Now, is female circumcision wrong? Yes, and the younger the generation gets, the more they are aware of the repercussions. The idea that circulates now-a-days is that female circumcision is the result of females’ inability to enjoy sexual activities with partners. Many mothers these days refuse to circumcise their daughters.

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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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Men Behind Walls

Today I would like to talk about the roles of men in our society. Please note that this is not meant to generalize, though I think it is true for the majority of people here.

I had a conversation with a co-worker a few days ago about his daily life. He works in Muscat but lives in the inner parts of Oman. The conversation went as follows:

“Do you cook?” he asked, “Yes, sometimes” I replied, and in an attempt to bring up a discussion I asked, “Why? Do you?”.

“Nooo!” he replied with a tone of disbelief as if I have hurt his honor. Knowing him, I kind of expected it and I continued, “Why not? There is nothing shameful in cooking”. “But I am a MAN!, I should never touch a pan!”… huh, If cooking is shameful, then is starving honorable?.. just wondering

Then, he went on to describe how things go with him once he arrives his village, “Once I enter my house, I put my bag of dirty clothes on the side and sit in the living room. A few minutes later, my lunch arrives. Of course my mom or my sister brings it to me. Then, I sleep. I barely enter our kitchen, and even if I needed to drink, they would bring it to me. At the end of the weekend, I find my clothes cleaned and ironed, ready for me to take back to Muscat”…. Thinking while not being shocked, that hardly makes you a man!

“Now what you are saying is that you are a man because you do nothing and let the women in your house serve you?” I replied.

“No, its not because I do nothing, but women are supposed to serve men. That is their duty. The Quran says ‘Men are in charge of women’ (Surat al-Nisa, 34).” He continued.

“That does not mean men are above women!, and it certainly doesn’t mean that women are servants to men!”

Here, the phrase ‘Men are in charge of women’, is widely used in the Gulf area. In our local Arabic, the term “in charge” has changed to mean that men are above women. Now, if we look at the whole verse concerning the “in charge” part, the Quran says: “Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded.”

Now this makes me wonder. Women, in many times, work and too spend part of their salary (sometimes all of it) on their household needs. So, in another light, and may I dare to say this: men being in charge of women is somewhat not needed as much with those that work and are independent.

There are many men that would not marry a non-working female because their income alone is not enough. Then, they expect their wives to work (same hours as they do) and run back home to cook, clean, and look after the kids. On top of that, if the wife is not looking after herself – as in being attractive– then she is not a good wife!

So, my question is… in this society, where does the men’s role fall behind the walls of houses?

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Omani Women in 1977

Here is a picture that I have received that I wanted to share with everyone. It is “astonishing” to see fully grown high school girls in those days (Some might already be married). I wonder how no one labeled them as “sluts” !? hmmm

I mean look! they are not wearing SCARFS!!! OMG!! Only “bad” girls do that these days!
and look! they are wearing BELTS!! Defining their waists..!!! HOW DARE THEY!!!!? bad bad bad girls!

Oman National Day in Buraimi 1977: "Jameela Bu Huraid High School Congratulates His Majisty Sultan Qaboos for the Seventh National Celebration"

Oman National Day in Buraimi 1977: "Jameela Bu Huraid High School Congratulates His Majesty Sultan Qaboos for the Seventh National Day Celebration"

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The Qur’an states that a man can marry up to four wives. There are many restrictions and conditions for polygamy in Islam. However, here I will talk about polygamy that has been taken out of its religious context into –my favorite of all – the cultural context. Yes, there is a difference.

Polygamy in Oman is, well, acceptable by most men and rejected by most women. You might find the practice common to some families and rejected by others. Personally, I would love it if it were illegal. But –and that’s a big but – you cannot ask to change God’s laws. So, how do we women manage to work around that? Well, women really don’t, or better.. they can’t other than ask for divorce. So, let me tell you what happens in this culture.

Many men, here, believe that it is their religious right to marry more than one despite their wives feelings. What some do –many of them- is marry a second wife in secret. The whole thing goes on for months or even years. Some men dare to take money from their first wives to pay the expenses to marry the second one. Build a new house under their names, dowry, wedding expenses.. etc. Once the scandal is out, then the woman either tries to divorce the husband or lives with him for her kids’ sake.

Why do men marry more than one? Well… because they want to. Some of the excuses that you might hear is… “There are too many unmarried women in the country and we just want to do a good deed”, or “I felt sorry for the girl, she was unmarried”, or “just because –the only honest one”. So, how do first wives feel…. Hurt, stabbed in the back, regret, and all other emotions that go in your head once you find out that someone cheated on you!

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Last night I was checking CNN to see what’s new out there. I stumbled upon an article written about Muslim women and the hijab. After reading it, I thought it was ironic how different people view certain things. Alright, let me start my rant!

What the Muslim high school senior wants you to understand is that she doesn’t wear the hijab, the head scarf worn by Muslim women, because she is submissive.

Hmmmm, I thought the whole idea of Islam is to be submissive… Well, to Allah (God) of course!

“My mom says a girl is like a jewel,” Abdelaziz says. “When you have something precious, you usually hide it. You want to make sure you keep it safe until that treasure is ready to be found.”

EXACTLY! Aren’t we all “women “precious diamonds! They’ve been trying to keep us in that “safe” for a looooong time! I have heard that explanation (and truly believed it) for a long time. Examples, “Mom, can I go to the cinema?” “No you can’t” “Why” “Because there are guys there” “But who cares” “You should take care of yourself more, you are like a diamond and we only want your safety”… uhuh!

You people hear that explanation for the first time and you say.. “I can understand that view”, well, I don’t. At least not anymore! When you have a diamond, you show it off and take care of at the same time! People here need to understand how to be moderate!

Plus, what’s up with this “keep it safe until that treasure is ready to be found”. Are our men treasure hunters? I take that back, they are… especially when they find more than one map!

“You can sometimes feel like you’re in a zoo: locked in the cage of other people’s stereotypes, prejudices and judgments, on parade to be analyzed, deconstructed and reconstructed,”

I like this quote! I wonder how non-Muslim women feel when they are in a Muslim country….
hmmmmmm …. Any thoughts?

“It gave me a sense of identity,” she says. “I really liked the purpose behind the hijab — a woman covering herself so that a man should know her for her mind, not her body.”

By far this is my favorite quote ever on the idea behind the Hijab because it illustrates exactly the mentality for wearing it.  It’s all about ….. guyzzzz… I dont know! Maybe I’m just weird, but the way I look at this is that a GUY should respect a woman and “know her for her mind” whether she is wearing a Hijab or not! But you know! that’s just a crazy thought….

Okay, that’s it for now.

Here is the source: Generation Islam: Hijab

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