Cultures in General
Two people were sitting outside one of the shops smoking enormous water pipes. I asked where I might get one and they pointed to the small grocery store across the street. Unfortunately, they cost 12 BD (about $30). This was probably not worth it, since not only would I not be permitted to use it in the house when I get home, but I would have no place to put it. (Not to mention that I have no room in my luggage for carrying it home.) They look really nifty, though. (Sigh.)
Iíve decided that the Arabic script is really quite lovely ó all squiggles and swirls. I wish I could understand it. I am afraid I havenít done very well in learning the language. My vocabulary is still limited to "Sabah el Khair" (good morning).
That's my son Bob standing next to his new friend.
This business of different cultures is intriguing. Part of the time now (now that I can find my way from one place to another) this is just another place. It looks different, but the people are in many ways the same, and I go to work, just like always. Then the differences pop up. Today when I was walking into the hotel, two women dressed all in black were coming out. One had her face exposed, but the other was diligently trying to keep hers covered Ė which was kind of a trick because it is pretty breezy out now.
What is this business about keeping their faces covered? Of course we have our own rules for modesty. Most of us wonít go out into the street with our midriffs exposed. Thatís a fairly basic feeling that we were taught as children (in spite of our inclinations to do otherwise). I suppose that in a different culture, modesty could be defined differently and you could be trained to be just as protective of some other part of your body. Still, itís strangeÖ
Yesterday, with my Omani friends, we were comparing notes on love and marriage. They said that the rules arenít quite as strict as they used to be, and it is possible for a boy and girl to choose each other before getting married. The old ways are still around, though, with some families still pairing up children when they are small. This business of the groom not even getting to see his bride until the wedding night is apparently going away, too. That would be scary. Finally, after you have said the vows, then you get to see who youíve married. That could be terrifying.
Although of course marriage in our society is not exactly without surprises, either. (Aaack! Who is this person I am living with?)
Today I learned that the handkerchief they wear on their heads around here is called a gatra, and the band is called an agol, so the combination is called gatra agol. The nightshirt (excuse me, robe) is called a thoub. I have been interested in the fact that most of the headpieces are white, but there are some that are red and white, looking somewhat like bandannas. I asked the significance of this and was told that apparently some people just like to strike out and be individualists.
The agol is always black. Except for some old people who wear white ones. Thatís it. None of this business of having to decide what color to wear today. You know, there is something to be said for that. And the men are lucky. They get to wear white. The women have to wear black. And it gets damn hot here!
The Japanese once came in with a great marketing idea. They tried to sell bands that were blue and red and all kinds of different colors. Bad idea. It died deader than a codfish (as they say around here). Ah well. So much for innovation.