Thursday, July 3, 2014

Iftar at the mosque and a visit to a wonderful family

Yesterday, Wednesday, July 2, 2014 was a beautiful, beautiful day! Alhamdulillah for good people and for generosity and for Ramadhan and for Oman and for Muslims and for fasting and for all other goodnesses out there!

You know how I told you guys that there are tents set up by mosques in Oman during Ramadhan where anyone but especially travelers, the poor, and people who live away from families can break their fast and eat a beautiful meal with others? (And mosques are all over; people should be able to walk to one conveniently. This is the case with all Muslim countries, I want to say.) And then it turned out that there were no women in the tents but only men, and so I was disappointed and all? Yeah, well, I was told that iftar (the fast-breaking meal) is served for women inside the mosque, so I decided to try it.  While I do appreciate free food and all, the one thing I go for and am seeking here is a community. I don't prefer eating alone in general but especially the iftar meal. I really prefer that it be with others. More blessings that way, more fun that way. I love people and I love talking to people, and considering how funny being a foreigner is especially around Omanis, I'm always looking to meet more Omanis. I was even recently complaining to CLS that there aren't enough opportunities for the girls at CLS to meet and interact with local Omani women. All this time, I thought women don't go to the mosque here except in Ramadhan (THAT IS WHAT OMANIS TOLD ME!), so I didn't even bother visiting it! It's the Sultan Qaboos mosque, the largest in Ibri, although the actual Sultan Qaboos mosque is even bigger and grander and more beautiful and is located in Muscat, Oman's capital. We're going to Muscat today in a couple of hours, inshaAllah, and we'll visit the mosque and I'll share pics on my blog then.

Anyway, so I wish I'd gone to the mosque this past month before Ramadhan began and met more Omani people that way! Such a beautiful thing, really.

Importantly, though, before I tell you the story of how I met this non-Omani Muslim woman.

The food provided at the tents is donated by local Omanis/Muslims for Ramadhan.
The food provided at the mosque in Ramdhan is from the government. Anyone and everyone is welcome to eat it. Doesn't this just melt your heart?! God bless these people! I wish all goodness upon Oman.

Now, the story ...

So I got my roommate to go with me to the mosque to break my fast and pray. We didn't get our phones or anything else with us because we didn't think it'd be staying there for long so it wasn't necessary. Then the moment I got there, I wish I had my camera at least because I knew I'd be blogging about it, and who reads blog without pictures, sahh (right)? But the thing is that I didn't even know if there'd be any iftar at the mosque anyway, so we were like let's just go check it out, you know? And then we get there, and there's actual food and all in the women's area, and no one is there. So my friend and I just sit there in front of the tons of food (lots of rice and lots of meat - Pakistani style, like what we eat during weddings, funerals, and other major events!) waiting for the adhaan (call to prayer) to come on, right. Eventually, a woman whom we'll now call Kareema joined us. The name/word kareemah is Arabic for "generous."

Kareema, of course, could tell immediately that were not Omanis. We started talking and laughing and all, and then we ate together.

She asked for our phone number to invite us to her house, and we didn't have our phones and neither of us knows our Omani phone numbers by heart. So we decided that we'll each memorize 4 digits of the number. We did. Then after prayer and some Qur'an recitations, Kareema was leaving for her home and she insisted we come along with her. We told her that we don't have anything with us and it might not be a good idea and that we'll just do this when we return from our Muscat trip. She still insisted, and we decided to let's yalah it!

Kareema has three beautiful little children - God bless them with beautiful, safe, and healthy lives, along with their parents, aameen--and an extremely welcoming husband. We took turns playing with the littelest of the kids. HE WAS SO ADORABLE I WANTED TO EAT HIM! Also angry the whole time - which is what made him even cuter. Oh my God, I died playing with them! 

Her husband welcomed us in, interacted with us in a deeply respectful manner, and insisted that their house was our house and to please feel comfortable to roam about and to please, please let them know if we ever need anything. When Kareema left the living area for something, she came back and said, "My husband says to ask if you guys have enough money to survive on while in Oman and if not, please don't hesitate to let us know." She also insisted on giving us lots of food to take with us to our place when we were leaving, and it took a lot to decline the offer because they wouldn't accept. Eventually, we manged to convince them that we were fine and didn't want anything but the company of the people around us.

The family left their native country several years ago . Their first two kids were born in Oman and the third during their visit to their homeland. Kareema said, "He was born back home. That's why he has a problem," referring to his being cross-eyed. (I've seen images of birth defects in war-torn countries, and they're extremely disturbing. Check these out: Iraq war anniversary: birth defects and higher cancer rates on a devastating higher in Basra and Fallujah; foreign doctors raise alarm over Syrian birth defects; Afghan health link to uranium; Examining the link between chemical attacks and birth defects in Syra.) God curse all wars and all war-mongers. I wish we'd put an end to all wars already. The only people who end up suffering are those who least need the war!) They all had such beautiful eyes and hair and faces that all you wanna do is stare at them and pinch them and annoy them! MashaAllah.

As I mentioned in my previous post, in Ramadhan in Oman, neighbors and relatives visit each other after the long night prayer (taraweeh) is over. Some of her neighbors came over, but before they did, she told us that we must introduce ourselves as Kareema's friends from her past in her homeland, that she'll tell them we met there several years ago and that being here in Oman, we got in contact and decided to meet. That's the narrative we told all her guests and neighbors. The reason was that  Kareema didn't want any of the neighbors to turn us into the police or ask too many questions about who we are or what we're doing and all, especially since we didn't have our passports on us while visiting her. Her concern meant so much to us. May God bless this woman and her entire family with peace, happiness, and good health, aameen. May God never deprive them of each other or their other loved ones, and may God shower them with all kinds of blessings. Aameen.

So we got to meet her neighbors and all. One of them brought along her Bengali domestic worker/nanny. This Bengali woman seemed malnourished, didn't know any Arabic, and seemed to be in at least her mid-50s. They told us she has older kids back in Bengladesh. I wish I knew Bengali so I could've communicated with her. There's a Bengali student with us at the program, and I'm going to try to learn some important phrases to use with domestic workers in the future. There are a LOT of them here. Kareema told us that she hates how Omanis treat their domestic workers generally and that "they are the worst people ever when it comes to their treatment of their workers." (Quite contrary to what you're going to hear some Omanis tell you.)

Since we didn't have our phones on us to watch the time, time flew by. Before we knew it, it was 3am-ish, or time for suhoor (the pre-dawn meal that starts the fast for the day). We decided to leave around 4:30am for our place, so my roommate and I went to sleep for a little bit. The kids were up as we were about to sleep, and the littlest one wouldn't let go of us as we slept. And we didn't mind. But he later gave in to leaving us to sleep. I miss those precious ones so much right now!

They asked us to live with them, and it wasn't like, "It'd be so cool if you guys could live with us!" It was more like: "No, you need to live with us. You're going to live with us." My roommate and I are going to discuss the possibility with our director and see what he thinks about the idea. Roommate, most of the other CLSers, and I are currently in Muscat, and Kareema just called us to ask how we're doing, if we've arrived safely in Muscat (we'd told them of our plans to Muscat), if we needed anything, and to please visit them again on Sunday or Monday once we've returned. I'm gonna go die of gratitude right now. Whoever's reading this, please send good wishes this family's way. Thank you so much! Generosity always melts my heart. It's such a beautiful thing, isn't it!

So we're gonna try to visit this family at least once a week, and we're gonna take presents and other things with us so that we don't feel as if we're taking advantage of their kindness. It'd be so wonderful to see those itty bitty faces of the little kids and play with them and annoy them and it's always such a great moment interacting with Arabs and speaking in Arabic (in case it's not obvious yet, I'm crazy in love with Arabic, and I love talking in Arabic).

All right, I'm gonna go to sleep right now and wake up to an exciting and adventurous day in Muscat. The weather in Muscat is worse than it is in Ibri. Far too humid and hot in Muscat, but that's the least of my concerns right now. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to be here.


  1. You made me cry! this is both happy, heartwarming and sad, wars and treating domestic help part.

    Ameen Ameen to all the prayers. Alhamdulillah for all the good people. And yeah stop annoying kids man! There's no way I can afford that, not till the end of this month :(

    So when you meet the pumpkins again, take pictures with them?

    I love you!

    Muscat news next :)

    1. I love you, tooooo! YES, Muscat news next.
      Kareema insists we visit Monday or Sunday, and we're going for Monday. Will definitely take pics this time, inshaAllah. Missing the angry kid so much lol.


Dare to opine :)

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