After an absence of 39 months, Omaniphile is ready to write again. In the interim, I have completed all classes toward a degree in Middle Eastern and North African Studies, lacking only my thesis, and have returned two more times to Oman, both times to study Arabic. I am told the language is from heaven – on that point, I remain skeptical. I am convinced there is something wrong with me; why else would I punish myself so much, so long? But I know the answer: is for love.
My love for all things Omani has not faded over time but has transformed. I feared returning the second and third time, afraid the magic would pass and a different reality would reveal itself, but, with increased intimacy, my love has only deepened. On my most recent visit, I felt a part of the people, the places, the rhythm of life all around. I felt like family coming home. And, I learned a new set of skills for traveling on my own: how to pick up and return a car Omani style; how to buy a card for my phone; how to recharge my phone; how to honk for service outside a restaurant (being female has its benefits); and how to have my car washed (by a crew of six young men – three washers and three dryers).
It warmed my heart when the Kerek-tea vendor would recognized me as I drove up and would bring my favorite flavor and size without being asked, or when the shop attendants at the Nizwa Souk smiled happily in recognition at my return. My first visit to Oman, I wanted to know only Omani citizens, but this time I realized that all these other people are part of Oman also, even more so than I was becoming. I prefer traveling alone because, while doing this, I meet kind, gentle, generous, and friendly people everywhere from all stations of life and cultural backgrounds. People are freer and more relaxed when I am alone. I learned to love so many people! And they seemed to like me back. Or, so I choose to believe.
The relationship has changed. I learned a phrase in Arabic that captures how I feel – translated verbatim into English in means, “I feel warm.” Adding a little connotative meaning, it says, “Omanis make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.”
So with this, I begin writing again. Today is May 14, 2019, four years after Sultan Qaboos changed the direction of my life by sending a delegation to my little village.