Friday, January 31, 2014
Georgia: Ashley Potter arrived at Muscat International Airport in full army-green frizzy-haired traveler’s glamour. After insisting we each buy large 1.5L bottles of water and take the week’s first “Ashley of Arabia” selfies, I led her out to my semi-legally parked and slightly dented Nissan Altima rental. Living in the Gulf has made me decidedly more posh (at best) or vain (at worst), so naturally I showed up to the airport wearing gold hoops, a neon green shirt with a black and gold blazer, black leggings with leather stripes up the sides, and black stiletto boots. Undoubtedly was Ashley perplexed at my choice of ensemble; nonetheless, the vagaries of appropriate dressing as a white non-Muslim woman in this part of the world are remarkably difficult to navigate.
Ashley: Imagine, arriving in Oman, which you have been told is one of the most conservative countries of the world, and you’re scanning the airport arrival room for the face that you recognize, and all of a sudden it’s just a blur of 6ft of neon green running towards you. I just had this moment of – to my left, someone wearing some sort of traditional Omani garb that I don’t even know what it’s called, and in front of me is Georgia wearing this outfit that is just the MOST (I don’t know how else to describe it), and I’m just like…this makes perfect sense. This is Oman. I know everything I need to know.
Georgia: We drove back to the hotel, Ashley on the phone with Adam, planning the narrative of their married life (#yolo) and history of their rapport in order to tell my host family. After making a quick stop for Ashley to shower (in the locker room of the Intercontinental because her room was not ready), we drove to my host family’s house in Seeb. We said hello to my host family – Adam ultimately did not join us – and ate (with our hands, on the floor, in traditional Omani fashion) Shuwa and fish, tea and coffee, cakes and dates.
Ashley: I promise there is a really logical reason for pretending Adam and I were married. But it’s super confusing so just trust us on this one and roll with it. In the end, Adam didn’t join us for the lunch, though since the host family now thought I was married I did have to commit to the ruse. Nada agreed with me that since I am married to someone of Lebanese descent, it’s really about time that I improved my Arabic, but she was willing to give me a pass since I’ve devoted so much of my energies to learning Chinese. As I picked up from my delightful 22-year-old cousin over the course of our trip, “lols”.
The other highlight of the trip to the host family’s house was having a traditional Omani meal. For those not in the know (this would include me prior to my arrival in Oman), lunch was eaten on the floor with our hands. I actually initially picked up a fork, thinking that since utensils were put out they were meant to be used, but it turned out these were only serving utensils so I stealthily (ha, as if! Totally not stealthily) scooted the fork off my plate and went for the hands. By the end of the meal, I was using both hands in an attempt to get a ball of rice into my mouth, and had a new appreciation for my hosts, who deftly managed the lunch one handed. The food was really delicious—there was a special meat dish that had been cooking in the ground for the past two days (shuwa), spicy sardines, another type of curried fish, salad… plus, Omani style cardamom coffee and tea to wash it all down at the end. Really lovely hospitality from the family, and great to see where (and with whom!) Georgia is living these days.
Georgia: Next, we headed to the Wave to meet up with Adam and Nayif for shisha and coffee (Ashley gets hot water).
Ashley: (This is all the rage in China. To me, totally normal to order hot water. To Adam, Georgia and Nayif, the funniest thing they’d seen in a while. Again, lols.)
Georgia: Ashley returned to the InterCon in Nayif’s car, I went and changed.
Ashley: For reasons that again made sense at the time, it was better for me to get a ride back to the InterCon with Nayif, who also lives there. All I can say is that within my first 6 hours in Oman—scratch that, my first 6 hours in the Gulf, EVER—I managed to snag a ride in a bright yellow sports car. #winning
Georgia: We went with Adam and Mohammad to dinner at Ubhar, a fancy Omani restaurant, where we ate more beef shuwa, shark curry and minty lemonade that would have made NHT proud. Speaking of NHT, we went over the juicy details of the infamous south-eastern Utah NHT/APG desert adventure. At this point Ashley was faltering, so we dropped her off and went off to a party without our esteemed Gosnell guest.
Ashley: We all have our strengths. Staying up past 10 pm is not mine. #oldlady