A Warm Welcome to Oman
Muscat and Rustaq, Oman, 2009-11-25 12:00 by Laerke
Muscat is at once very modern with excellent infrastructure, big shiny cars, and a few MacDonald’s here and there, but then there are the moments when you get a whiff of frankincense while walking through the crowded souk or when walking along the cornice at dusk and handsome men and cute boys hurry past you in long, white dishdashes while the call for prayer sounds from the nearby minaret – and you truly feel like you are in Arabia. We have been lucky enough to have found a host in Khalid; a young Omani man, and even though his wife was in labor when we arrived he still took time to set us up in his apartment before rushing back to the hospital. The next morning there was happy news as a healthy baby boy had been born during the night!

It is Eid now which is a Muslim holiday where the family get together, and we have gone with Khalid, his wife and little Said to their small village in the mountains about 2 hours from Muscat. Many Omanis work and live in Muscat but go back to their birth home and families in the villages in the weekends and for holidays. Here we were welcomed by the extended family of many brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles. On the second day of Eid we got up early in the morning to witness the slaughtering of the cows, each house in the village had bought a cow that was now going to be slaughtered! All the men in the village were in high spirits as the cows were brought out, everyone – men and cows – were jumping around and yelling and muuh’ing :-) The cows said their last muuhs and then a short while later all the meat had been cut up, cleaned and brought back to the houses.

What came next was a massive beef-feast that was to last for many days! Some of the meat was cut in little pieces and put on skewers to be barbequed, the barbequing was done communally and we watched in awe as one huge plate of skewers after another was carried from the various houses down to the grill. Each household seasoned their meat in different ways, using various spices, salt and chili – we can testify that they were all delicious!
The rest of the meat was prepared and packed to go into a huge hole in the ground! A big hole lined with stones was used as an oven, first they lid a big fire in the hole to heat up the stones then when there was only coal left the meat packages were thrown in and the hole was quickly sealed with a big lid to deprive the fire of oxygen so that the meat wouldn’t burn. Two days later you take it out and vupti – meat ready to eat!

As mentioned earlier Eid is about getting together with your family, and boy does Khalid have a lot of family! We were taken to the houses of this uncle and that uncle and everywhere we were treated as royalties and fed halwa (a traditional sweet), fruit was cut in small pieces and offered to us along side dates, tea, coffee, Pepsi, nuts and of course more meat!

It is the tradition in Oman that men and women don’t sit together, often I sat with the men though and many of them spoke really good English and we had many interesting talks, but I was also invited to join the women and what an interesting peek into the lives of Omani women! I especially got along well with Khalid’s wife, his youngest sister and their grandmother who was an absolute treasure! The grandmother and I had some good talks despite my complete lack of Arabic and she of course only spoke Arabic. She convinced the other women they should dress me up in traditional Omani dress (oh my…!) and it was so much fun, one of the sisters found her second-day-weeding-clothes and jewelry and shoes were also brought out. I thought I looked a tad weird but they all assured me I looked lovely… Judge for yourself! (Pictures below) :-)
Then Martin of course had to wear the traditional dress too so that we could have pictures taken together.

Otherwise time was spend doing henna, playing with the kids and more eating, I am not sure what Martin did together with the other men, but I’m sure I had more fun! :-) But it was a bit strange to be separated like that, and Martin never got to meet most of the women. We said a teary goodbye to everyone, it is always sad to say goodbye and we had really started to feel part of the family. In the end we drove off down the small dusty roads clutching a bag of meat the grandmother wouldn’t let us leave without. The Omanis have got to some of the most hospitable people in the world and we felt privileged to have celebrated our first Eid together with these lovely people!
Eid however wasn’t over yet and we had another invitation. We had met a family one evening in Muscat who invited us to come visit them, and so we drove towards Sinaw another village some 200km away.