Thursday, September 22, 2011

Going to Mattrah!

Every week, my host sister Manal goes to a class in Mattrah (neighborhood/city on the south side of Muscat) and this week I got to go with her! In Oman, the majority of people are Ibadhi Muslim, with a minority being Shi'a or Sunni. My host family is Shi'a which is why Manal goes to her classes, to learn a bit more about their specific views on the religion.

Mattrah is one of the oldest regions in the area. It has be best harbor, and has been inhabited for hundreds (if not thousands of years). Stepping into the alleyways of Mattrah takes you back. It is a place that was clearly made for a pre-car era. The alleyways are cobblestone, very thin and twist around endlessly. The houses are all built close together (connected, really) and are 2-3 stories tall. There is also a mosque centrally located within Mattrah.

Mattrah is the traditional home of the Lawati tribe. Non- Lawatis are discouraged from coming in. I'm considered an honorary Lawati, because of my host family. To go in, I had to wear my abaya and cover my hair.

Manal and I walked through the alleys for about 5 minutes and then we went into a building where the class was. We entered the building and took off our shoes before going into the room. It's a long room with the traditional pillows against the wall, where we sit. In the class are a few girls who I know from school--other 11th graders.

The teacher had me introduce myself, but otherwise the class was in Arabic, so some of the girls from school translated for me. Afterwards, we went to the mosque. Manal went in to pray, but as a non-Muslim I was not allowed to enter, so I sat in a room with several other women who could not pray--women on their periods are considered too unclean to pray.

After Manal finished playing we went to walk around the souq!This was really exciting for me, because I'd been looking forward to that since before I came to Oman! The Mattrah Souq is the biggest in Oman, and it winds around for kilometers. I didn't get to delve too far into it, but it was beautiful. All of the little shops were still open at 8:30pm. Although the shopkeepers often see foreigners in the souq, it is very uncommon to see one of us in an abaya and shayla. Of course this generated stares, but I am getting used to that aspect of life here. I didn't buy anything from the souq, but I plan to go back! Apparently my host mom is an excellent bargainer, so I plan to go back with her to get the Omani price as opposed to the jacked up tourist price!

I'm sorry that I don't have pictures of Mattrah, but I will try to get some when I am back there next Thursday and the Thursday after!

Also: The American hostages in Iran were just released on bail paid by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, and are currently in Oman. Kind of cool for me to be in the place where a major world event is taking place. 

1 comment:

  1. This is a really neat post! The souq sounds great--I've always loved that kind of old-city mystery, it's such a disappointment that not many places in the US have that kind of...ominous?...history. :/ Ah well!