Monday, June 16, 2014

My Omani host family

We're supposed to spend every other weekend with our host families (the speaking partners I mentioned previously are our host siblings, for the most part, or otherwise members of our host families - it's an awesome system). So last weekend, we all visited our host families. We visited their farm, and I've too many pictures from that, so I'll write on that tomorrow, but below, let's talk about what the family was like and how their house was and all.

The Family
I'm sharing my speaking partner with another female from the program, which means we share a host family. Two other females from the program are also currently in the same household with us because my host parents are currently out of the country (vacationing in Indonesia, returning in a few days, inshaAllah). So my host cousins are living with us, making it four of us from the program having the same host family for some time. Our host aunt is the sweetest woman ever! They hosted an American student last year, someone they still keep in touch with, and our host aunt speaks so highly of us. We feel like we've got standards to try to meet, so we're going to try to be really, really good to them now and afterwards. 

Arabs have a reputation for being hospitable people, possibly more so than even South Asians (who also have a reputation for the same thing). From my experiences in Jordan, Morocco, and now Oman, I have to say that I think Omanis are the most hospitable so far. They're like Pashtuns. I PROMISE I'm not being biased. It's just that Pashtuns' style of hospitality is really the best ever. And Omanis are just like that. So as a Pashtun,  I totally appreciate it. I understand it may be uncomfortable for some who are not used to such hospitality. So Omanis rock. God bless them and their country infinitely, aameen!
Also, as happens with most Pakistanis in Pakistan and I hear the rest of South Asia, Omani women cover their hair even inside their homes in front of their immediate male family members. It's different from what I've seen Arabs do in Morocco and Jordan and those in the U.S.  But it's not something surprising or shocking to me.
And, most importantly: the family's really cool. I'm happy I got blessed with a good one because they're pretty open-minded and recognize and appreciate diversity and people's different choices and preferences. During my speaking sessions with my host sister, I've told her about myself and have asked her to please let me know when I'm saying or doing something socially unacceptable here, and she tells me, always, that "No, no, no problem at all. Here in Oman, you can do whatever you want." (lolz. Not true but I appreciate that she understands that just because one society might discourage something doesn't mean it's actually in reality wrong necessarily as well.) But this specific family does let us do what we want, say what we want, eat however we want, dress however we want (we're still conservative in our clothing but still - like they don't tell me to cover my head when I don't want to). The reason why this matters to me is this:

My roommate's host sister told her that a man's fast breaks when he sees a woman's hair, so she (and her roommate at the host family's home) will have to cover their head during Ramadhan. This is actually a popular opinion among some Muslims, and I think it's nothing short of controlling women, but we'll talk on that another time. Fortunately, my host family is more accepting of women's choice not to cover their hair, even the Muslim ones like me, because, as my host sister / speaking partner said to us the other day: "Here in Oman, a woman can do whatever she wants, dress however she wants, no problem." (And that's not true to any measure at all at least in Ibri, LOL. But you just nod your head and say, "Alhamdulillah" or "Jayyid, jayyid" (good, good).) Earlier on, the program advised us that our host families MIGHT expect us to dress a certain way while with them, especially during Ramadhan, and that they might also want us to eat with our hands as is the norm here. I grew up to eating with my hands, so I wouldn't have any problem doing so, but it turns out that our host family doesn't really care if we eat with our hands or with spoons/forks They seem to expect us to eat with spoons/forks, in fact.

The House

Omani homes, like in (some?) parts of Pakistan, are designed such that the larger area is for the women only and there's a smaller area for men only, which is a large room with its own bathroom and all. This area is specifically for male guests, visitors, and non-immediate relatives. So two of the females here have the same host family as two of the males here, but the females say they never got to see the males at all... well, except their shoes because the shoes have a shared space. (Insert heart icon here.) Men aren't supposed to leave their guest area at all. Supposedly, women are lucky that they have so much freedom around the house. k, yeah.
So I'm interested in what kinds of houses people live in each region of the world, and it looks like ultimately, a person's house reveals a lot about their socio-economic class. There's absolutely no doubt, for instance, that my host family is rich, mashaAllah. (May God put more barakah in their wealth, aaameen.)
They have two houses. One is the main one where they all live. Omani families generally live in joint families and have lots of kids, at least the parents' generation does. Rumor has it that there are also lots of weddings going on, especially these days, and so I'm going to one this weekend, some of the student went to one last weekend, and I expect there are many others coming up before and more after Ramadhan as well. I hear it's an interesting experience, especially the make-up part for women, so I'm looking forward to it. Oh, yeah, so their other house is right by their farm. That one's so well-equipped, so beautiful and all. I'll share pictures of that in the farm blog tomorrow or something, ka khairee.
Now some photos of their main house.

The outside... .wait, this might be a different house. Um.

MashaAllah. Say MashaAllah, bleeze. Thanks.
Then when you enter:

Inside the gates...

Right inside. Everyone seems to have a date tree here - so many of them, mA.

Um. So I forget if this was one of their houses (they've 2) or if the cousin's house we visited ... you get the picture, though.

Lots and lots of chickens! There are more chickens at the farm, too.


Those dates, though ...
When we arrived there, it was around 2pm, I think. We ate (food photos below), and then a little
That door is to the room where we were to take our afternoon nap.
while later, it was time for a nap. We were asked to wake up at 4pm so we could all go to the farm. They'd prepared this really nice room inside a bigger room (with AC and all) that was actually in another part of the house, like totally separate. We weren't to sleep there for the night, though, because the bathroom in this area wasn't functional yet. They're still doing construction around the house, I think.
So we go to our temporary quarter of the house, and since it's four of us, and we weren't sleepy or tired or anything so we just talked and bonded and bonded and did some more bonding. (Insert heart symbol here. okay.) Hamdallah for good friends and good people and story-telling and lots of good and bad experiences to be shared with others. And hamdallah for bonding sessions. And for girls.

Like, to get to that part of the house where we were supposed to be napping and all, you see all this stuff (and keep in mind that this is all still inside the house):

And then this is how the inside of the house looks like - sorry if the pics aren't good; they're from my phone. I'll take better ones through a better camera next time, inshaAllah. But try to note the intricacy of the design. The architecture is so beautiful here, so elaborate. (It's like this in Morocco, too. Remember those sidewalks and the center where I was studying? (Also this link.))

Laa ta7zan - Allah ma3ana :) Don't be worried; God is with us.

Mmm boosboosah and tea! I love the carpet design.
 I asked them about what kind of houses the poor people live in, and they pointed to this shack where their goats and other animals live. They told me that the rich people keep their livestock there while the poor people live there themselves. Poor people don't own any farms. I would like to visit a couple of the poor families at some point and see what their lives are like. I'll share details of that when/if that happens.

But here's the host family's animal's home. It's not clear enough, I know, so I'll get a better pic next time. The point is that it's not at all elaborate and all, compared to what you saw the richer house to look like. It's just walls and then inside the place is probably some covered space for the animals to stay in in the cold or in the rain, I onno.
The Trip to the Farm

So I'll write about this tomorrow, inshaAllah. I'm tired and sleepy now. Stay tuned.


  1. MashaAllah so beautiful :)) more pictures.

    And that fast-breaking nonsense. Ugh.

    1. Laa you, Finderella! (Gosh, you're so creative with your names lol) I'll share more just for you!

  2. Mashallah! Lovely! The ceiling work is so cool, too. I noticed the date palms...will you still be there in August? Cuz that's when the fresh dates (raTab) are ripe...yummiest thing ever.


Dare to opine :)

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