(From last weekend: May 9-May 11)
It’s so weird that everything is coming to an end for me here in Oman. Last weekend I saw Al Hamra and Bahla for the last time (though hopefully in the future I will visit these places again), and I tried to memorize everything in my mind as much as I could.
Friday my host mother and brothers came to pick me up from school (my host father was in Dubai for the weekend to meet a friend) and we drove to Al Hamra (my mother’s village, which is about half an hour from Bahla) to spend the night. I have visited Al Hamra a few times before, but this was the first time that I spent the night there. All the women sat together and we ate dinner outside on a matt (rice and fish) and we hung out there for a while. During the evening, several neighbors came and bought clothes from my host mother (she has a business that sells clothes on Instagram). Fun fact about my host mother’s parent’s house: the toilets aren’t Western-style; they are holes in the ground with a porcelain cover!
Saturday after breakfast, we hung out in the house and I talked to some of my host mother’s sisters. We ate lunch (rice and chicken) and then drove to Bahla to my host father’s parent’s house. At their house we hung out in the living room and throughout the afternoon, different neighbors stopped by to buy clothes from my host mother. One of my favorite things about Oman is that each time one has a guest, coffee, dates, and fruit are offered to the guest. So the evening was spent with different periods of delicious snacking on coffee, dates, and fruit. After dinner, my host mother, host cousin and I went for a walk around the neighborhood.
Sunday I hung out in the living room with host family or sometimes with host aunts in my host cousin’s room (rooms here aren’t really private like they are in the US. Family members walk in and out of different rooms, regardless of whether or not it’s a bedroom. I think that this is because culturally in Oman, privacy is not considered something as positive: being with others and sharing things with others is considered positive. Therefore, from what I have seen, bedrooms are quite simple with not a lot of decoration (just mainly a bed and storage), since it is not really considered to be one’s private sanctuary as it is in the US).It was a cool winter, so it was weird being hot again in Bahla (since I am dressed conservatively in Bahla, but I finally have mastered how to wrap my hijab, so that has made things a lot easier!!). My host mother and I went to a big wholesale discount store in Bahla and on the way back to their house, we passed men selling meat in little stalls set up in parking lots. After lunch, we got ready to go and I said bye to a lot of members of my extended family (they were so surprised that I was leaving so soon). My host grandmother, cousin, and one of my aunts gave me a present of two fabric sets to make Omani dresses, so I am really excited about that because the fabric is gorgeous and I gave it to the tailor to make dresses! Then I took one last memory glance of my Bahla house before we drove back to Muscat.
Time for the cheesiness: I think this was one of my favorite trips to Bahla because it seemed to bring my trips to Bahla to a full circle. I remember my first time in Bahla (during Eid) I was so confused, out-of-place, and completely awkward. I understood almost no Arabic, was uninformed about Omani culture, and did not know anyone in my extended family. This trip was the first time I felt no awkwardness: I felt comfortable with the etiquettes and norms guided by Omani culture, knew everyone there from my extended family, and my Arabic has improved a lot since my first trips, so I was sometimes able to contribute to conversations and occasionally understand some of the jokes. I have developed friendships with many members of my extended family and this trip, felt as if I belonged there. It’s funny how much has changed since my first visits and I am so grateful for the hospitality that my extended family has shown me.