Ramadan is the Islamic holy month, and fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. This means that from the pre-dawn prayer (Fajr) to the sunset one (Maghrib) Muslims may not eat, drink, smoke, or have sex. If you’ve ever wondered what Ramadan is all about, how it works, what happens, and what it’s like to be in a predominantly Muslim country as a non-Muslim during Ramadan, read this!
We all make cultural faux pas when we arrive in a new place, until we learn what the norms are and even well beyond that sometimes. I’m more than nine months in and still adjusting to what’s expected of women in Oman, still learning what’s appropriate for me and what’s not. Read on for some of my stories of culture shock in Oman!
I found an opening, took a deep breath, and ran, squeezing myself through the crowd on the steps. I managed to get out of the way just as a man in a pale blue dishdasha came along, shouting and yanking his goat behind him. The Nizwa Goat Souq is quite a spectacle, and if you have a chance to be in Nizwa on a Friday morning I highly recommend that you go take a look.
I didn’t get groped in India on the first day. Not once. On the second day I even took the metro, and forgetting about the women-only car at the front, crammed myself in with all the men. But no groping. One man even accidentally brushed against my forearm and then held up his hand in apology. What was going on?
Every year Lonely Planet publishes their ‘Best in Travel’ list for the upcoming year, and this time a reader suggested that I should make my own list! At the time he mentioned it, I was actually in the process of seriously thinking about my holidays for the next year or so, so it was timely and appropriate! Of course by just now when I’m getting around to publishing it, it’s the holiday season and everyone is shopping and making Christmas wish lists. I have one too, it’s just not stuff. So here’s Jenny Far Away’s Travel Wish List for 2017!
My coworkers and I ate, and ate, and ate, picking away at the mausoleum as if it didn’t contain the pickled, preserved remains of the beloved former leader of the country we currently were calling home. Sugar highs ensued, and as the Vietnamese staff laughed and praised our creation, any doubts my friend and I had had about possibly offending the locals quickly melted away.
I’m driving slowly along the street, looking carefully at the shop names while also dodging haphazardly parked cars and wayward pedestrians darting out in front of me. Suddenly my destination is there, on the right, and I am a little astounded that it actually exists. I park across the street and get out of the car, heart pounding, already feeling a little ashamed of myself. My face reddens a little as I walk towards the shop. I feel as if all eyes are on me, aware of what I am up to.
Did you know that in Oman, if you run a red light, you can face a fine of 500 rials (about USD $1300) and four days in jail? Yup. They take their red lights seriously here. This is just one of the many, many things I’ve learned about life here in Oman. I’ve been in Sohar for two weeks now. I’m adjusting, slowly, and will be really settling in and doing more exploring as soon as my home is ready to move into. I can’t wait for that. But in the meantime, here are a few of my first impressions of Oman.
Daisy stared at me from behind the bars of her enclosure, curious, willing me to come closer. Robust and healthy, she looked just like the owls I saw in the wild a few weeks ago. The difference? Daisy can’t fly, can’t hunt, and thus can’t survive in the wild. So she’s here, at the Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society (OWL), a non-profit raptor and owl rescue centre that takes in injured and orphaned birds of prey.
The panorama from the top of Knuckle hill is incredible; from 342 metres above sea level you can see most of Whanganui Inlet, and in the other direction nothing but trees. The drive to get here isn’t too shabby either. The road winds around the inlet, crossing streams and small bays. At low tide it is stunning with tiny channels snaking their way through the mud flats and seaweed and the late afternoon light giving it all a silvery glow.