Saturday, August 16, 2014

Funny things I heard and noticed in Ibri, Oman

None of the following observations are intended to generalize about Oman or Ibri or to at all suggest anything negative about Omanis. Every society has similar ridiculousness (if anything, I think some Pakistanis and other South Asians can be really ridiculous in their ideas about women when as well - and just other things, like "Running disturbs the jinnat and the earth, and God will punish you for running on the Day of Judgment" - I KNOW!), so let's not jump to any unfair conclusions about an entire population that I'm sure is more diverse than they appear in Ibri (they don't seem diverse in Ibri, though, according to my experiences). Common unfair generalizations are mentioned below not because I think only Omanis generalize about other people and groups but just because I find all generalizations to always be ridiculous.

Still, the below is simply to share some funny things I've come across in Ibri. I wouldn't suggest reading more into them. Thanks.


- A friend of mine was told: "I know of a woman who shaved off her eyebrows and died." (Pointing to a commonly accepted ruling that women are not allowed to shape their eyebrows, be it through plucking, threading, shaving, etc.) My friend told this person, "I have a friend who shaved off her eyebrows when we were in 6th grade, and she's still alive." The girl's response was more like a, "Hm... strange."

- Men can't wear gold because "scientists have discovered that it increases female hormones."

- A woman was getting her eyebrows done at a salon, and one of the hairs refused to come out, even with plucking. So she told the stylist to pluck it out hard, and when she did, the girl who was getting her eyebrows done died. Because the eyebrows are connected to the heart.
 - A man's fast breaks if he sees a woman's hair (or legs or arms or feet or any other part of the body besides her face and hands). Some Muslims who believe that face-covering is also obligatory in Islam are likely to say that even seeing a woman's face breaks a man's fast.

- After an iftar with a family here, I went ahead to pray with the hostess. She said to me, "You need to renew your wudhu [ablution]." I asked, "Because it's been a long time since I've had my wudhu?" She said, "That, too, but also because your hair was showing and my husband saw it, so your wudhu is now broken." I laughed (she's become a good friend, so I feel comfortable laughing at things like this with her), and she laughed back and said, "No, seriously. Islam says this." I said, "All right, lemme do my wudhu." But we laughed about it coolly.

(Note: Many Muslims I know believe this outside of Oman, too. Like hellzers.)

- When a woman's on her period, she cannot wash her hair (or otherwise take a shower or bath) because of something poison- and hormones-related. A teacher confirmed this. We asked for details, but she only kept saying "Because of poison and hormones."

- "The reason Ethiopians are banned here as maids is that they have this ritual in Ethiopia where they are supposed to kill one person each year." The person hearing this asked, "But wouldn't that mean ALL Ethiopians would be dead by now?" Response: "No, because there are some non-Ethiopians in Ethiopia."

- "You have to eat dates in odd numbers because if you eat them in even numbers, then all you absorb is the sugar - with odd numbers, you absorb all the benefits."

- "Eat only odd number of dates or else, you'll get sugar, cancer, etc. And odd number of dates also repels jinns. Scientific studies have proven this."

- Married women cannot ride rides, such as the ones in amusement parks, because their hormones  change after marriage. (I'm not sure what this means, but I'm taking a little guess.)

- A man and woman are completely equal (in spirit, value, etc.) and of course they can pray side-by-side next to each other in the privacy of their home, BUT the woman must still be just a liiiitttle bit behind the man, just slightly. Because.

- In Ibri, Oman, there are no sports socks for women.  Only very stereotypically femininized ones like pink with laces and stuff.

- I'm constantly told how strict Pakistanis are in their practice of Islam. Bless. I think it's ironic considering the strictness of Islam in Ibri.

- This is actually not funny at all (it's more ridiculous and ignorant than anything else), but anti-Shi' rhetoric is extremely common at least in Ibri. At least the speaking partners of all the females and my two teachers are entirely anti-Shi'. But these exact same people will also insist: "Everyone in Oman is equal. There's no racism, no prejudice against any group of people at all." What do they say about Shi's, you ask? They may vary from person to person, but the more common unacceptable lies include: "Shi's worship Ali, but we, the actual Muslims, worship Allah. Shi's don't believe in Muhammad. Shi's don't pray at all. Shi's don't fast at all, and if they ever do, they break it mid-way through the day. Shi's hate Sunnis." I asked a teacher once for the difference between Shi's and Ibadhis and she goes, "We Ibadhis are Muslims." When you suggest otherwise or try to explain that that's not true and here's what the truth about Shi'sm is, they go, "No, no, listen. My friend told me this! She saw it with her own eyes!" Or "I had a Shi' friend in college who was like this." Or "My brother's friend went to Iran and found these things out." And you don't know what to do with yourself because of how sick generalizations like these are. But, yes, yes, I know we all generalize. Still, what we do with that generalization is probably what's different for all of us.

- As in every other country and society in the world, there are a lot of misunderstandings and stereotypes of people of other religions and races (and clearly sects and sub-sects of Islam as well). So that things like "Sudanese are a naturally lazy people" is believed to be completely true because--get this--"My friend went to Sudan and told me this" or "My friend has a Sudanese friend." As for a stereotype about Oman? "Omanis like to keep to themselves; we don't like to socialize with people," according to the same person who was telling us about Sudanese and people of other nationalities and what they are famous for. And then he tells us much later on that "Egyptian people lie a lot" whereas "Tunisian people never lie." By this time, I'd had enough with Oman and these sick generalizations so I spoke up and gave a long rant about how I'm really fed up of the prejudice here.


  1. Okay, I'm sorry to say but Omanis sound really really stupid! Where do they get those ideas from??

    1. Thank you for your readership, Anonnie - but I completely disagree that these things indicate that Omanis are stupid people. We have such myths, racism, sexism, other prejudice in every country, including the most "civilized" of them all, like the U.S. and the U.K. Such beliefs don't make a nation stupid or smart. But, yes, stupid and smart (and all those in between) people are found everywhere, and Oman is no exception.

  2. odd number of dates. i heard it first from my cousin, this ramadan it was funny. she had a date, wanted another and to make it an odd number she had three dates, after seeing me eat, she felt like having another, she had one more to make it five :| she regretted it all :P well it was funny. this is the secret behind it i see, sugar.


Dare to opine :)

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