Friday, April 20, 2012

How Did I Wind up in Oman pt 1: Abu Dhabi

Boxie and me waiting for our connecting flight to Abu Dhabi in Germany after the worst flight in recorded history that DID NOT end in a crash
How did I ever end up in Oman?

...That hot boring place I loathed as a teenager pining away for Africa on a certain fateful summer… where I first heard the adhan called and an Omani check out girl from Qu'rum Al Fair named Intisar bought me my first Qu'ran and gave me some advice on the translation of it. And two Ras Al Hamra security guards bored out of their minds explained how Omani girls were spoiled brats (i.e women's rights in Islam). Every time I was to come here, it was never where I desired to be at the time, but always what I needed. Indeed, Allah is the best planner. Now, inshaAllah, I would never choose to leave.

When I wound up in the Sultanate I'd been planning to work teaching English and start a business based in Abu Dhabi exporting abayas to Canada. The first photo is my travelling partner (Boxie) and I in a European airport terminal waiting for our connecting flight. That is our flight itinerary written on my hand. Despite that precaution we almost missed our connecting flight because we were beyond out of it. Our last flight was possibly the worst in the history of flights that don't end with crashes. I had been a cheapskate when booking our tickets so with all the stops and waiting around we turned a 26 hour flight into a 48 hour one. US security felt us up, asked us if we'd had our clits cut out (what that has to do with why we were travelling I don't know), and was really really unnecessarily mean. We had niqabs on so I guess that's why. At least the baggage handlers were nice and wished us a happy Eid and said "salaam alaykom." Also, on the flight, the air pressure in the cabin went so badly that my eye was popping out of my head (I am not exaggerating) and Boxie's ears were ON FIRE. Having landed, and unwilling to splurge on a Red Bull marked the same price as a Canadian one but only in a currency nearly double the value of that, ear drops, eye drops, and waters were our treats.

From there, the flight to Abu Dhabi was uneventful.
We were picked up in the Airport on the last day of Eid by Aalia of and taken to our hotel.
We spent the first couple days there and then were moved to somewhere a little more personal.

Aalia had been on the hunt of an apartment for us to rent and had told us we had a place to stay before we got our tickets to come but in the end decided that building as filled as it was with prostitutes was not the thing for us. So we were a little homeless so she did her best to help us out by calling around to find us an alternate game plan.
In the meantime we started to see what there was to see in Abu Dhabi...We pretty much just saw malls and Restaurants when we first arrived. A popular air-conditioned wandering spot was Marina Mall. Not really my fave because the Emirati men there were all accursed stalkers [I began to wear abaya ras and walk with a faked limp to avoid getting followed]. If you wear an abaya and shayla and a niqab but have light eyes or are at all pretty it doesn't seem to be enough. Also, the air stung my eyes because of this popular chlorine smelling fountain. All us girls (including a non-Muslim American friend we made who could read the Qu'ran better than us!) hanging out there in our early days in Abu Dhabi before things went CRAAAAAAAAAAAZYYYYYYYYYYYYY:
My only pic with my girl Aalia that ya'll are allowed to see;)
I DID however like this little Accessories store, so chic!:

Away from the fountain the air was better and we hit up the abaya shops on the top floor, like First Lady, and stared at all the overpriced jalabiyias. I got a great flip niqab with a nose string from Habayeb here. Loved it. It only just broke on the nose string recently. Honestly, I didn't want to spend much because I was saving for Abu Haleeqa and Arabesque over in Abu Dhabi mall.
 View from the top (and the last time we saw our Ikea towels which were oddly enough stolen):
One activity I DID enjoy from Marina Mall was iceskating.

But what sucks was they don't let you do it in abayas so Aalia had to sweet talk the Moroccan skate supervisors in French into letting us just tie our abayas up a little. In Canada they let you skate in abaya. It would be discrimination if they didn't. Discrimination laws don't exist in UAE, I was later to learn. But at this point on our trip the injustice hadn't hit us. Same exists in Oman to an extent, but the class system in UAE was so pronounced it really, really raked me.

Hearing some Emirati chicks call Aalia a "witch" and "bitch" because she resembled a Moroccan woman (maybe, I dunno, Aalia doesn't resemble ANY of my Moroccan friends AT ALL) IN THE MALL'S PRAYER ROOM OF ALL PLACES, drove me near insane.

No wonder she felt the need, since they were all bratty (I could say worse) anyways, to speak in French just to provoke them.

I pass maybe as Syrian or Russian, but since my dressing style wasn't really Emirati no one was mean or in my face (which is usually from jealousy over non-Khaleeji girls being married to Khaleeji men I have found).

Back to the ice rink: skating in abaya is easy and we rocked it out good enough that the Moroccan and Russian skate crew let us skate as long as we wanted since we were helping little kids out and giving lessons ect. . Skating usually ended though if some lochal eejit started lamely trying to take an unnoticed snap shot or better, tried to rent skates in tied up kandouras to make their way over to talk to us. Usually the Emirati jerks deservedly ended up smacking their heads on the ice and we'd just get off the ice as soon as they'd made it too far on to get back with any major embarrassments. When they'd take off the skates, we'd glide back.

Area of Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi near Patchi where it "rains" insdie. Something I found super annoying but that all the Emirati children seemed to love!J
But honestly, by the time we got to Oman, I never wanted to see another mall again.
One of the tragedy's of our earliest days in Abu Dhabi was us girls waking up to what we thought was the adhan, which we were all so excited to hear, and opening the window to determine it was a woman screaming as she was being burnt in an apartment fire in a building across from ours.

One brave man in the apartment across from the burning one helped two people escape from the blaze across to his balcony.

The fire blazed on horrifically way past fajr, for the fire department could not reach the building due to all the lochal eejits parked in the fire parking zone.
An event not so horrifying was being sucessfully guided to Sheikh Zayed Souq by Aalia. I had numerous afternoon adventures walking attempting to walk here by myself, including being mistaken for a beggar by an Emirati bank teller when I came inside to ask directions in my sunnah-style abaya and worn out tribal-style Saudi niqab {I guess it wasn't stylish enough for UAE;)}, and defending a Pakistani girl from being molested by an Emirati man in the middle of the street! Ever since Aalia mentioned this souq I wanted to see it, images of Mutrah dancing in my hand. Of course, Sheikh Zayed souq is more like Seeb Mall in Souq Seeb here in Oman, but that doesn't mean I left empty-handed!

Sheikh Zayed souq is a place I'd definately recommend if you are on a budget. We bought elastic halfniqabs and abaya ras here for practically free. It is also a place you can get a design of your own tailored. Just make sure you know your fabrics and handwork so you don't get ripped off and choose a suitable tailor. Barter barter barter!----which poor Boxie CANNOT do.
Boxie & the jalabiyias at Al Gatwa

One place all us girls purchased something was 'Al Gatwa" and I'd definately recommend it as on parr with the abaya stores in Marina Mall when it comes to quality. I got two jalabiyias like the ones pictured in the window, ordered one custom abaya, and got a pretty lace shayla (the least blingy I could find).
Modelling my new bisht-style embroidered abaya from Al Gatwa. If I had a do-over I'd be less cheap and go for bahraini silk
Aalia purchased a gashwa and a bahraini silk style abaya and Boxie picked up a few super pretty shaylas (which I borrowed alot in Muscat).
There is also a tailoring goods store right next to the souq and we picked up items to customize our abayas and shaylas like the finished example of a shayla I sewed when we got back to where we were staying.
Leaving the Souq...
Dropping our goodies off and making a quick change (the weather makes you icky and sweaty) and Boxie got sick of her niqab & gamboo3a [we both were wearing them then, undecided on the whole haraam versus halal thing] and switched for an African abaya since for her the Khaleeji look caused more stalkers than going sans...

 A walk in the park...

...Then dinner at the Lebanese 'Automatic' {my fave the fatoush salad}.
 Walking down to the Corniche.
The Corniche.
To be honest, I found Abu Dhabi to be pretty culturally void. Except maybe Indian culture which was not something we delved into. Shopping is nice. Corniche is nice if men in their cars wouldn't slow down and try to check you out.

Maybe I didn't see it at the right time, I don't know, but I found it to be just like any other big city the world over with nothing to distinguish it as anything special (to me anyways). I DO like aspects of Dubai and think I'd like Al Ain but this particular Emirate isn't much to me.

I DID meet some local Emiratis here from AD, but found the only parts of their culture they cherished were the bad ones, and this was negatively affecting us all while we were visiting.
I didn't find the majority of people we met could be real friends, and only liked an honest few. That said, it created a distance between us all that has since alhamdilah despite troublemakers been bridged. At the time though, Boxie and I became more independent, and began to make plans on our own for what to do next.
I also became happily devoted to my abaya ras since it was the one thing that seemed sucessfully drive creepy playa men away :) in UAE. Except for the ones we wanted to catch ;)

End part 1 of 2. TO BE CONTINUED


Boxie said...

lol you jacked my photos :P. haha. Ah that was one crazy trip.

Pixie said...

Boxie: Yes, yes I did. You ARE the best;)

Anonymous said...

wow, great read! yes wearing an Abayaah Ra'as in the GUlf will definetly help to keep creepers away! In Saudi I wore the traditional batwing overhead abaya over a colorful, printed shaylah and I look conservative enough and foreign enough that the majority of men-Saudi and Expat stayed FAR FAR FAR AWAY FROM ME!!! alhamdullah. I only got bothered if I wore niqab or a shoulder abaya...but since saudi women dont do overhead abaya without niqab (usually) or a colored scarf (never ever ever!) and foreign women never wear overhead abaya I was just soo odd and unplaceable that I was alhamdullah LEFT ALONE!!! At most people assumed I was fresh off the boat from Iran which worked to my advantage as that esp helped to keep any creepers away too, as they see Iranians as very staunch and no-nonsense...

hehehehe. I recommend if you go to the GUlf...adopt the overhead! Its not hard, very comfy, airy and protective!

Pixie said...

Umm IbrahimL For UAE I say it is a MUST. My friend got away okay with coloued shaylas non-khaleej abayas but I have a problem with men to begin with.

So light and airy and inexpensive at Sheikh Zayed souq. If worn with or without niqab works great in UAE. but with niqab one is always respected like an Emirati grandmother, so one never gets the taxi they've been waiting for jacked;)