Sunday, January 30, 2011

Observations on Entertaining in Oman

Omanis are very famous for their hospitality... which is a very great thing if you are an expat or a tourist.

Invitations for meeting Omani families abound with a "come for a meal" or just for "qhawa" [i.e Omani coffee], usually accompanied by dates, helwa [Omani sweet], tea, pistachios, almonds, cashews, and various sliced fruit. Probably Mountain dew, Vimto, and Tang, as well.

If you are an Omani, you MUST, absolutely MUST keep all these things on hand at all times for your guests, which could arrive at any time, without notice, and for certain, without a phone call

Which is fine, if you are a bored housewife, and have little else to do right?

I am no bored stay at home house wife, but Omani entertaining varies VASTLY from the kind of entertaining I am personally skilled at. I have no skill at Omani entertaining because a. I need notice for people to come. [I was the girl who hand-made, and then hand delivered invites to build hype for my soirees once-upon-a-lifetime-ago]

b. I like to be dressed nice. [Now, I'm lucky if I have time to brush my hair and smear on some eyeliner let alone try on a nicer dress than the one I wore for cleaning and cooking].

c. I like to have the house nice. [When your guest just shows up at your door, you hide your knickers, and kick anything embarassing behind the couch cushions/musada].

d. I like to plan special little details to be appreciated for my guests. [If it is a movie night with girlfriends, I make popcorn, and cute appetizers, and make the room more comfy and glam- in Oman, the only details people get to notice is I don't have much ready for them, not even sliced fruit or nuts in a bowl!!!!]

e. I need time to go grocery shopping because I don't keep things that can go bad on hand. [Honestly, I eat out alot, and don't really keep alot of fresh fruit in the house that can turn in a few days.]

and f.: I generally like visiting to have a reason. [In Oman, it is part of the culture to visit for absolutely no reason, and to not even have anything new or worthwhile to talk about when one visits]. If it is to catch up with a neighbor or friend, and little prep need be involved, I am ok. For a stranger, I want time to clean the house (at least the majlis/living room ect).

Omani entertaining usually involves no time for prep. If you are lucky, you get a day.

For those back in the home country who liked to tease me and call me Martha Stewart with all my do-it-yourself work, projects, and plans, it would surprise them vastly to hear I am a horrible hostess. Me, who once got paid just to show up at parties or host them for others, what seems a thousand lifetimes ago now.

Yes, dear non-Muslim friends and family of yore, I am a horrible hostess by Omani standards. I hate the whole process, and I cannot abide to listen to women gossiping about eachother or talking about the same old same old boring on repeat.

You may not believe it, friends at present, that while I was never famous for my cooking (I famously poisoned many Muslim women at an Eid dinner by not defrosting some meat before cooking it), I was a rather lauded hostess. I did get paid to show up at parties (my great style and conversational skills I am sure [which are no avail in Omani hosting being I am not a conversationalist in Arabic, and my dress has to be a form of Muslim dress] being the reason), and friends and co-workers always coerced me into hosting and planning their affairs.

A visit with other women to me is a few things:

It is to chat: and thus non-alcoholic cocktails, girly clothing, and cute appetizers should be the order of the day, or a tea party-esque adventure.

It is to eleviate boredom. Numerous kinds of these bits.

Or for occasions:

I am just no good at this no planning but a little thing. To be honest, it gets very, very boring to me. A repeat of the same, on the same, on the same.

And where I am moving in a few years (have to, my house is there) same will apply with multiples of 2-3 guests a day, the only variation of daily routine in entertaining possibly being related to rather traditional Omani white weddings.

How I miss harvest themed festivals, and friends that threw Marie Antionette themed parties!

Aalia, from "Chasing-Jannah " was once my favourite host, as her tea was immaculately delicious, and her cute Marie Antionette movie party with pink cream soda and cake from Daniel's Pattiserie was wonderful [though I loved the new conversations and lack of gossip]. Remember that rainy boring day Aalia?

Anyways, I think I will try to creative-up my Omani girlfriends and their family members, and an OPNO or two. A party is planned this summer to unveil my new back yard. Theme: of course garden party.

Anyways, for once I will post pics:)

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