My Top Five – Senses Version

This is officially my last blog post in Oman. My flight is tomorrow evening but today is the last time I will have Internet while in the country. In commemoration I’ve made a list of the top five things I will miss for each sense. There are so many more things I will miss than just these and many of them I can’t even put into words. It was fun to make this list and think about all the little things that I don’t always notice but now wish that I had paid more attention to. I hope you enjoy a few of the more sensory!

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Sight

  • The ocean view from my classroom
  • Huge mountains rising up from nowhere and surrounded on all sides by desert
  • The Grand Mosque (or really any mosque) lit up at night
  • Street signs in English and Arabic
  • Men managing to look positively regal while wearing long white dresses

Sound

  • The idhan, or call to prayer that happens five times a day
  • The honk of the bus outside my house every morning
  • Arabic, English and Swahili intermingling in conversation on a daily basis
  • The laughter of my friends every lunchtime
  • My siblings shouting, fighting and laughing throughout the house, even when I’m trying to study

Smell

  • Bukhoor, or the traditional incense that can be found in any home and has soaked into all my clothes
  • Barbecue smoke on the beach
  • Lingering Arabic perfume in the bathroom letting you know that it has been recently occupied
  • Cardamom milk tea boiling on the stove
  •  The air freshener that goes off every thirty minutes at AMIDEAST

Taste

  • Dates and Omani coffee served in a tiny ceramic cup
  • Freshly made chapatti and other breads such as mandazi and chaliat nahal
  • The “Omani sandwich” with spreadable cheese, Chips Oman and hot sauce
  • Banana smoothies from the coffee shop that cost less than $1
  • Freshly cut green mangoes eaten with salt

Touch

  • The feeling of my abaya being blown by the breeze
  • Getting a warm, sweaty hug from the air every time I step outside
  • Finally getting home and being able to untie my hijab
  • Hand shakes with everyone in a room upon entry
  • The sticky aftermath of a tray of dates
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In Oman Video

My friend Liz sent me this video today and although I had a different blog post planned I loved this video so much that I decided to rearrange. I don’t really know a ton about the guy who made this but he does an excellent job showcasing the beauty, and diversity, of Oman’s geography. It’s not every day that I find viral videos about the Persian gulf and this one is a great summary of a lot of what I love about Oman. I also like how he’s mixed the traditional sights and sounds with more modern adventure shots. I’ve been to almost every place featured in the video which was an exciting thing to realize! I hope you all enjoy it 🙂

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When One Door Opens…

Well, I think it’s time I tell you all about my doors. I feel comfortable calling them my doors because I’m pretty sure nobody else cares very much about them. For my capstone project I have been documenting and analyzing the various types of doors in Oman and have amassed a collection of over 200 photographs!

It’s been a lot of fun and although the fact that there is almost no prior research on the topic was challenging at first it also meant that I got to create a lot (i.e. all) of the classifications myself.

The doors in Oman are incredibly unique and do a great job of demonstrating Oman’s progression as it has transformed from a traditional Arabian oasis to a modern, 21st century country. I’ve been drawn to the doors since I first got here, I think because they are just so different from anything I’ve seen in the U.S. Also I think its so interesting how doors – the epitome of the mundane and everyday – have been elevated to the status of art here. I’m not sure if this has been done purposefully or just out of a desire for a little extra style but there can be no arguing that they are something very special, even if most people don’t really notice.

In my project I have put the doors into three categories: Traditional Wooden Doors, Metal Doors and Modern Doors.

Here is a selection of photographs from each category:

Traditional Wooden Doors

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Metal Doors

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Modern Doors

 

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I loved taking the pictures and having the opportunity to study the doors more in depth but even more than that is the excitement in knowing I’ve helped other people become a bit more aware of the specialness in something so ordinary. And I always appreciate when people here come up to me to let me know about an especially interesting door they saw over the weekend, or even better Whatsapp me a picture of it!

I’ve abbreviated this project a bit for the blog post so if you have any other questions, let me know!

Tariq Stories

My host brother Tariq is three years old and he’s been mentioned on here a few times before but I thought I would take this opportunity to highlight some of his more amusing and unusual antics. For some background, as the youngest of five kids and as the only boy he is literally the king of the house and gets what he wants, when he wants it. He is also one of the cutest kids I’ve ever met, even though he is somehow perpetually sticky and dusty.

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            He often likes to talk about going to school with me or one of my sisters but because I’m the last one to leave in the morning he has occasionally realized that I am his last chance and so tried extra hard to get on the bus with me. I’m usually able to distract him long enough for us to pull away but one morning he did manage to jump on the bus, in his pajamas, with no shoes, and demanded to be taken to school. It took Muhammad and me a few minutes to convince him to get down and go back inside to watch Tom & Jerry on TV.

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One morning during my first week in Oman, when I spoke about five words of Arabic, Tariq and I were hanging out in the kitchen. Everyone had already left so it was just us and in an effort to help me out Tariq started taking all of the drinks out of the fridge and lining them up on the table. He then tried to teach me the names for every one, from juice to milk to Mountain Dew (that one is just Dew in an Arabic accent). I guess one of the unique parts of a host family is having the chance to learn Arabic from a three year old.

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Tariq’s absolute favorite place in the whole world is the dukan or corner store that contains any and all chocolate and is understandably a three year olds paradise. Our corner store however isn’t actually right on the corner and is about a five minute walk away. One day when I was out with my sisters and dad we got a call from the storeowner. Guess who had just sauntered in, pajamas, dusty feet and all? Yup, Tariq. And of course he was given a free candy bar and sent home with one of the neighbors.

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This kid is ridiculously messy and looking at his clothes is like looking at a menu of what he’s eaten that day (hint, its usually candy) but one of my favorite ways for him to make a mess is by drinking soda. But he doesn’t just drink the soda out of a cup. No, he prefers to take a spoon (the one time we use them!) and carefully ladle it into his mouth. Most of it ends up on his shirt but watching him try is adorable. I think I only find it funny because I don’t have to clean it up but regardless its hilarious, and very sticky.

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As two people who are still learning Arabic, Tariq and I have some hilarious conversations. I was once trying to do my homework when he came up to me insisting that he had to tell me something. After I finally relented and paid attention to him he informed me that he knew what my sister Zakiya and I were up to. He pointed to the window and said that he knew we went out with harami (criminals or bad people, coming from the Arabic word haram or forbidden, particularly in Islam) at night and that we should really behave better. For some reason the fact that he then told me that all harami live in the moon didn’t make me take him any more seriously.

 

I could go on forever with stories about Tariq but I’ll restrain myself for now. Instead here are some other completely adorable photos of him doing what he does best – being the cutest, messiest three year old I know. I can only hope that he will remember me when I come back to visit in the future!!

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane!

It's a Bird, It's a Plane!

This is also a pretty old photo from the Muscat Festival in January. I went with my family to see a flight show by a team of planes from the UAE. It was really cool to see, I had never seen anything like it before and the pilots were amazing! They were all perfectly in sync, although it was stressful because you knew that if they made even the slightest mistake then things could go very wrong. The colored smoke was supposed to be for the UAE flag but except for the black they also happen to be the same as the Omani flag!

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Qurum Slow Roast

Qurum Slow Roast

This is actually a really old photo – I took it at a charity walk for the Oman Cancer Association ( I wrote a blog post about it if anyone remembers…search Undercover Dance Parties) but never did anything with it. I like the way the light hits the gazebo from the left, as the sun is setting and how the lamps look like they’re burning with real fire. But my favorite part is how this park was actually filled with people except in this one moment, in this one spot, making it look completely deserted and almost abandoned. It’s a good reminder of how you can’t always rely on just what’s inside the frame – what’s right outside can be just as important as well, if only for its absence.

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For Many Moons

My grandmother (American, not Omani) has always told me that whenever I’m far away or feeling lonely I should look at the moon and know that no matter where we are in the world we will both be looking at the same moon.

This advice was helpful to a six year old returning home from a visit to Grandma’s house, a ten year old at summer camp, a thirteen year old taking her first solo flight not under “unaccompanied minor” status and a fifteen year old going to Europe by herself for the summer but I think that it is the eighteen year old living in the Middle East who has appreciated it the most.

Eight months can sometimes feel like a very long time and something that has helped me keep my bearings while I’m here has been tracking the cycles of the moon. We left on a full moon, so every full moon I know we have been here another month. I took this as a sign of great things to come because although the moon in general has always been special to me, a full moon is somehow even more magical in it’s aura of completeness and invincibility.

Each month I watched the moon wane until it was a barely visible glimmer in the sky and then slowly grow round and full again, a process that was comforting in its enduring reliability and structure. No matter what happened or how I was feeling the moon would always be there to greet me at the end of the day, like the perfectly reliable friend that nobody actually has.

Maybe it’s just my own bias but I am thoroughly convinced that the moon is more beautiful here. It could be because of the lack of skyscrapers and tall trees meaning that there is little to obstruct the view but it still seems to shine brighter and more proudly than in any place I’ve ever been. Since I’ve been using it to track my time I’ve also become much more aware of it than I usually am. Something about how when you’re far away you realize all the little things at home that you used to take for granted – except that this one came with me and not only does it connect me to home, it also connects me to Oman.

In a way it connects me even more to Oman because of the way it is so visual and natural. It’s true that you can see the same moon anywhere but at the same time when I look at the moon here it is possible to feel as if it is shining only for me, and only in this particular time and place. And although it may be the same and look the same everywhere else in the world it is also uniquely mine to experience.

I have watched, sometimes in quiet apprehension, in excitement, in suspense or in dread as the moon has dutifully completed its cycle, each month bringing me closer to my trip home. Now it is a full moon, and my very last one in Oman. And so I feel as if things have come full circle – eight moons have come and gone, carrying my various experiences with them and now it is time for me to leave and view the moon from a new place. It might not have the same vibrancy as it does here but then again maybe now that I’ve learned to pay attention and see it more closely that vibrancy will accompany me home.

My very last full moon in Oman! Taken from the bus on my way home

My very last full moon in Oman! Taken from the bus on my way home

One thing I know for sure is that when I look at the moon in the future I will not only think of my grandmother but also of those many evenings on the bus home watching it rise up from through the back window and feeling that even if everything was wrong, at least the moon would always be right.

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