Camel Races – Part 2

Our host told us that in addition to camel and horse races, there was an exhibition of “Omani Traditional Dance.”  He asked if we would like to watch, so we walked down to the end of the camel race lanes – near the finish line – and saw this scene.

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Note the loud speakers and microphones…and yards and yards and yards of carpets and rugs.  Remember, the entire event is out in the middle of a field of sand and palm trees.

This was almost too mesmerizing for me to remember to take pictures!  🙂

I honestly don’t know what the story is that the singers and dancers tell.  The voices are beautiful and harmonious and there is serious attention paid to the steps of the dance, to the direction they turn as they circle round and round, to their facial expressions, to the different ways they hold their “camel canes.”  It seemed that certain men only danced part of the time – and periodically, some of the dancers were boys.  I thought there was some self expression exhibited by the dancers, but, I don’t know if they were performing specific steps and hand motions or if there was an element of free expression.  Ron thought they could dance anyway they wanted – I don’t think there was complete freedom of expression.

The singers repeated phrases over and over…one side would sing a phrase and (it seemed to me) the other side would repeat it.  Occasionally, the singers would bow as a group – or gesture their canes in certain positions.  For the singers, all words and actions were uniform.

Both singers and dancers were dignified and intensely concentrating on their performences.

I stopped a good distance away to take pictures, but our host assured me I could go closer, so I took off my sandles, walked as close as possible without being within the dance circle, sat down and started snapping pictures as quickly as possible.  (Thanks to Ron for this picture.)

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Attending this event – taking pictures – surely a privilege.

I hope the pictures speak for the eloquence of the Omani Traditional Dance.

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About this time, our host said, “Mr. Ron, do you remember where you parked your car?”  We took that to be a polite way of telling us not to wear out our welcome!  LOL!  So…I did not have time to learn the meaning of the songs and the dancing.
As we started toward the car, an older man stopped our host to speak with him.  Our host looked at me intently and said, “This man wants you to take his picture.”  So I did…

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Bird Watching

052051050Hazel, one of my friends here in Oman, is an avid bird watcher. Seems that the Sohar, Oman area is a great place for omithologists – people who study birds with a more scientific approach to bird watching.

Hazel has a professor friend from the local university here who is more of an omithologist, but Hazel, she just bird watches for fun.

Hazel does “know her birds.”

Friday afternoon Ron and I were sitting in our “lounge” (translation: “living room”) watching television. I looked out the window into the back “garden” (i.e., “back yard”) and saw these birds.

They looked like part zebra/part bird to me. They were searching for grubs, I suppose, and apparently, found a few in the soil. They hopped and pecked the ground for several minutes.

Because of the heat here, windows tend to be somewhat tinted and reflective. So, we could easily watch the birds but they could not see us.

Ron and I both were snapping pictures and I quickly emailed one of them to Hazel.

She said the birds are named Hoopoes.

Hazel told us that hey are common in this part of the world, but not in the Americas. And, according to Hazel, it is rare to see two of them in the same place at the same time. Her presumption? It is nearly time for the mating season.

First Christmas in Oman – 2012

First Christmas in Oman - 2012

In November, I thought, “I’m not going to put up a tree…no need to invest money in Christmas decorations when we will not spend more than a few years here.”

As Thanksgiving passed – and after I saw the artificial Christmas trees and decorations at the Ace Hardware in Dubai, I thought, “Well…maybe just a small tree.” 🙂

Within the next week, the local department store had received their supply of trees and decorations – and even lights! Really and truly – it was exciting to see lots of evidence of Christmas in Sohar, Oman.

Nearly every store began to stock trees and ornaments and stockings and candles and garland and assorted door and window decorations – including wreaths. Lots of sparkly stuff and glitter!

Decorated trees were in nearly every store and the hotels – and I saw one in the window of the local hospital!

Store clerks wished us “Happy Merry Christmas!” and also occasionally said “and Happy New Year!” It was a festive time – and although we missed Christmas in the North Carolina mountains, it was still fun and enjoyable. Not “just like home” – but we still made a great memory.

For me – the only thing missing was Christmas music. There was no Christmas music in the stores, no Christmas musicals on TV, no Christmas music anywhere. Oh! How I missed listening to “Silver Bells” or “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” – or “Silent Night” or “Away in a Manger” or “Joy to the World!”

We did sing the old familiar Christmas songs in Church and it was reassuring and heart warming.

But I wanted to listen to the Carpenters sing “Merry Christmas, Darling” or Bing Crosby sing about dreaming of a White Christmas – or even Elvis sing “I’ll Have a Blue Christmas.”

It made me so sad.

I would hum Christmas songs when I shopped or even (very softly) sing the songs to myself – it was a decidedly pitiful substitute for the real thing.

Then, thank the Lord, one of my ex-pat friends told me about “Tune-In” – an app I could download to my iPad.

CHRISTMAS MUSIC – all the time!!!!

Just about the best gift ever!

With that app, I can listen to any music from anywhere at anytime! What a blessing!

But-sorry about that – back to the tree….For those who have known us a while, we had an artificial, lighted palm tree “Christmas tree” when we lived in IN and SC. It was decorated with a huge variety of frog ornaments – and some airplane ornaments and one pink flamingo.

When we relocated to NC we gave that tree to another family to enjoy….but, I must admit, I wished for it back this year! Talk about “period and location correct!” It would be perfect here!

So, with no artificial, lighted palm trees available, one night, we went to Home Centre and chose this artificial tree for two reasons:
1. It was small and scruffy – kind of reminded us of a “Charlie Brown” tree. It needed a home and someone to treasure it.
2. Real pine trees are only available for purchase in Dubai.

We purchased purple and gold plastic ornaments (no glass ones here) and lights (thought we bought white – turned out to be red – and one blue strand we gave to someone else.)

Each ornament came with a string – no ornament hooks available for purchase here. The strings had to be tied to each ornament individually. I did experiment with using hairpins and that worked very well. Note to self – bring back hooks for next year!

Another friend gave us a fir-scented candle…and with addition of a few gifts we found the Christmas holiday in Oman.

One Sunday in December, the speaker at church told us,
“The real reason for the season is us.
Jesus was born to die…for each of us.”

The true Spirit of Christmas – believe me – it is everywhere – and especially so in Sohar, Oman.

Thank you, Lord. Amen.

Camel Races!!!

Thursday before last, Ron and I were invited to attend a camel race in Sohar.  This was the most fun and most interesting thing we have done  – so far.  🙂

We arrived at the race site about 8:30am.  As is the case (with us) regarding most events here – if you did not know the event was being held, you would never have known that there WAS a race, much less known the location…although it was just a short distance from the expressway.  We followed the Omani man who invited us – we drove along a paved service road that is parallel to the expressway, then turned onto a dirt road and essentially drove out to an open field.  First sight of the race was…

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Camels everywhere!  So many camels!

Random observations… Camels are very, very big.  A camel’s running gait is much like a horse.  Camel poop does not stink. Camels will pose for pictures.  Camels are very different in appearance one from another.  Camels growl when they do not like their situation.  Camels can hurt you…we saw one camel leave the race track and run over a man.  The man was badly injured.  I held one camel by the leash but I am not certain (now) that I want to ride one…maybe a tandem ride.

I asked permission to take pictures.  Our host graciously allowed me to photograph whatever I wanted.  I was the only woman there…so I was thrilled to be there AND be allowed to take pictures!

The camels are made to kneel at the beginning of the race track.  Apparently, camels do not like to kneel, so that was an event in and of itself.  It is so chaotic that I could not get close enough for a good picture.  The Omanis force the camel to kneel, the riders mount the camels at the same time – the camels QUICKLY rise to their feet and the race is on!

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The race “track” consists of two lanes that are parallel.  The sand on each side of the lane is about a foot above the actual race track – the track is “sunken.”  The camels run in the same lane, side by side  – at least that is the goal – and it occurs to the extent that the riders can control them.

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Our host explained that the goal of these races is to control the camels so that they cross the finish line side by side…obviously a difficult feat as you watch riders pull on the reins trying to keep their camel speed in check.

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These men were as nearly side by side as anyone we saw.

So many times, I find myself at a loss for words as I try to explain these experiences – so, I will just add a few more pics…

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Apparently, they also have horse racing, but although we saw the horses, we did not see those races.

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Note the horse back rider watching the camel race…

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I loved this day!

Next post – the traditional dance event – also held at the camel race.

 

 

BBQ at the Camel Farm!

Last Tuesday (November 28) we had a new experience!  One of the employees at OARC has an uncle who breeds camels…the locals refer to it as a camel farm.

I had never seen a camel “up close and personal” – and obviously (duh) had never been to a camel farm, so I was excited!  Several OARC employees and their families were also invited, so there was a good crowd at the farm.

The farm is not far from town – but as is often the case in Oman, the drive involves passing by the farm enroute to a round-about where you can turn around and go back the way you came…except in the other lanes of traffic (much like our interstate system of highways without the exits.)  We left the main highway on a dirt road and drove another mile or so to reach the camel farm.

This particular location is a “camel farm for beauty.”  These camels are bred and raised to participate in events where the condition and appearance of the camel are judged.  The owner of this farm also has another location where the camels are bred for racing.

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It was fascinating.

A wide assortment of camels were in pens with tethers on their front legs.  Camels will make a “break for it” if their front legs are not tied.

This mother has a two day old baby:

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This camel is the winner of numerous beauty contests:

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This baby is two months old:

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This old guy fascinated me:

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A very pregnant mother:

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One of my fav pics:

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Camels are huge and growl and hiss when they are not happy.  They do not smell at all.  Their “poop” does not smell, either.

I like camels.

More to come…..BBQ at the Camel Farm…and I KNOW you are wondering what we ate!

BBQ at the Beautiful Camel Farm

As the sun began to set, we made our way up a short rise to a structure with four walls and a covered area in front.  The building looked to be made from canes with a large covered area – like a carport, except the area under and around the covered area was covered in huge rugs.

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The structure itself…from the outside, it looked like the walls were made from cane – like cane fishing rods.  BUT, inside….take a look…

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Note the flat screen…broadcasting television via satellite with a sound system.  Also note all the pictures – these are the “winning” camels raised by the owner of the farm as well as some pictures of the sultan.  The farm owner owned a camel who was purchased as a present to the Sultan.  One of the other pictures shows a camel that was sold for $400,000.

Camels in Oman = Thoroughbred horses in Kentucky

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Next, time to eat…and eat…and eat.

I have never seen so much food – and it just kept coming and coming.

As you can see, the meal began with several covered pots placed on plastic covering the carpet rug.

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As soon as people began to sit on the carpet and pillows scattered about here and there, paper plates were filled and passed and filled and passed until everyone had a plate of appetizers!  This was the appetizer portion of the meal!

Shortly thereafter, we were served skewers of grilled chicken and shrimp and calamari and beef  – and grilled goat chops and grilled whole fish.  All of the grilled food was prepared by a couple men on a very small charcoal type grill that sat on the ground…sort of a disposable camping grill.  Amazing!

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We had french fries and chocolate cake and frui t-  and skewers and skewers of meat…and finally – a sip of camel’s milk.  (We had been warned to take a small sip – camel’s milk can cause immediate colon cleansing!)  Really and truly – it was very good!  I had two sips with no ill effects.

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We had a blast – the camels were amazing – and the food was incredible!  Something I will always remember…

A final view from the desert into town…

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