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Integrating a Travel Mindset into Your Daily Life

copyright Steve Evans from Citizens of the World CC-BY-SA-2.0

copyright Steve Evans from Citizens of the World CC-BY-SA-2.0

Too soon after returning home from a trip, we slide into our former pace of life. Our adventures fade into memories. Many of the benefits of the cruise, such as lowered stress, higher levels of physical activity, and multiple interactions with others, that brought many moments of laughter, joy, and interesting conversation seem no longer to exist. They’re gone. After a few months back home, we don’t even notice that we’ve lost touch with the new friends we enjoyed so much on the cruise.

The wistful thoughts of one world traveler capture a portion of these feelings:

Even though I thoroughly enjoyed taking photos on every shore excursion and around the ship, I didnt continue to pursue that interest after I returned home. I let myself get caught up in matters of consequence. I have so many opportunities to photograph animals, birds, flowers, children––almost everything I photographed while on the trip. However, once I returned home, the photo outings ceased and my camera languished in a closet.

Birds of Prey copyright Carolyn J. Wood

Birds of Prey copyright Carolyn J. Wood

What about being on a vacation inspires us to photograph every day, but not take that opportunity at home? Why are we satisfied with inactivity, even being couch potatoes at home, while on the trip we enjoyed being physically active? We simply get so caught up in our daily lives that we leave behind those newly acquired habits and engaging activities. However, it is essential to keep practicing travel behaviors at home:

 Its like elite athletes who practice and work out in the off-season to prevent getting so far out of shape that their game would suffer.

The same concept applies to us travel photographers. If we dont practice in between trips, we get rusty. 

                                                         –Bob Krist, professional travel photographer

No intervention will magically integrate your travel mindset into your life at home, but the following five suggestions may prove helpful.

First, turn your fascination with cultural differences in the countries you visited into a keener awareness of these distinctions locally. Enjoy cultural festivals, visit ethnic restaurants, and try cooking some of the dishes you tasted during your travels. View international art at local and regional exhibitions. Continue to embrace cultural diversities in your everyday life.

Native Americans copyright by Derek Bridges CC-BY-SA-2.0

Native Americans copyright by Derek Bridges CC-BY-SA-2.0

Second, strike up casual conversations with others while standing in line to purchase groceries, waiting for a table in a restaurant, and so forth. Those brief conversations can lead to new acquaintances and friendships.

Third, continue the wellness and exercise behaviors you adopted while on vacation. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park your car a little farther from your destination and walk. Don’t amble as you walk the dog, pick up the pace a bit. Listen to music while you clean the house or wash the car.

Fourth, you engaged in entertainment opportunities while on vacation. With just a little effort, you can continue to enjoy many of the same types of offerings: plays, musical performances, lectures, demonstrations, and many other forms of entertainment in your hometown or in a major metropolitan area nearby.

And finally, keep your travel attitude alive by adopting a mindset focused on discovery and spontaneity in order to re-explore where you live. Take a different, less traveled, route so that you discover new places such as parks, shops, and unfamiliar scenery; choose a form of transportation that you don’t normally use: ride a bike, take a bus or a train, or simply walk. Most of all, take the opportunity to be in a different space by disconnecting from the noise of your smartphone or cellphone.

Cox Farm bridge copyright Kathy (from just livin' in a small town in SW PA, USA) CC-BY-SA-2.0

Cox Farm bridge copyright Kathy (from just livin’ in a small town in SW PA, USA) CC-BY-SA-2.0

Wooded walking path in Erie Bluffs State Park, Pennsylvania copyright Yinan Chen in public domain

Wooded walking path in Erie Bluffs State Park, Pennsylvania copyright Yinan Chen in public domain

Objects that are usually the motives of our travels by land and sea are often overlooked and neglected if they lie under our eye.

We put off from time to time going and seeing what we know we have an opportunity of seeing when we please.    

—Pliny the Younger

Sheldon ruins outside Beaufort, SC USA copyright Mary Jane Wood Zabinski

Sheldon ruins outside Beaufort, SC USA copyright Mary Jane Wood Zabinski

When you return home from a vacation, integrate all those positive experiences into your day-to-day journey. Continue to be a traveler throughout your life, not just a tourist on the sidelines watching life pass you by.

ENJOY LIFEIT HAS AN EXPIRATION DATE!

 

New Year Wishes Last Longer Than A Day

A Thought For the New Year

Travel so Life not Escape us

 And Two Suggestions for 2015

tourist vs. traveler

 Fill Empty Jar

May 2015 Be Your Best Year Yet!

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NYE Sydney Harbour Fireworks

© Rob Chandler (own work) CC-BY-SA-2.0 creativecommons.org

Stunning, But Not Sunny, Seville

Seville, Spain is one of those beautiful cities you could visit again and again and still not see all you wished to experience! It is a city with a very high “WOW” factor. As but one feature, all of the streets are lined with orange trees (used in Britain to make bitter orange marmalade). Our excursion in Seville focused around four major highlights + a Starbucks where we enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate and shelter from the rain. 

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Hotel Alfonso XIII (5 star hotel)

The immense Roman Catholic Saint Mary of the Sea Cathedral, better known as Seville Cathedral, is the largest Gothic cathedral and the third largest church in the world. Built on the site of an ancient Muslim mosque, it was constructed from 1402 – 1506 to “demonstrate the city’s wealth” as a major trading center. The Cathedral is also said to be the final resting place of Christopher Columbus . . . but then there are seven to ten other places in Spain that make the same claim. As you can see by the photos that follow, the exterior is quite ornate with extensive carvings, flying buttresses, towers and ornate doors.

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 Royal Alcazar or Alcazar of Seville is a royal palace that was originally founded as a Moorish fort in 913 and has been expanded or reconstructed many times over the last eleven centuries. Today Alcazar is a magnificent palace, intricately decorated with horseshoe arches, marble columns, and gorgeous, extensive gardens that contain numerous fountains, grottos, and full hedge mazes.

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Plaza de Espana using a Renaissance Revival style of Spanish architecture was built in 1928 for the Ibero-American World’s Fair of 1929. The complex is a huge semi-circular brick building, with a tower at either end (tall enough to be visible around the city) with tiled alcoves, each representing a different province of Spain; tiled fountains; pavilions; brightly colored ceramics; ponds; benches; ornate bridges; paintings; orange trees and flower beds along with numerous buildings constructed for the exhibition.

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Casa Pilatos, an Andalusian palace, served as the permanent residence of the Dukes of Medinaceli and is said to be one of the finest examples of Andalusian architecture of 16th century Seville. However, it is easily missed because its nondescript front blends in with other neighborhood buildings. Although it may be plain on the outside, the opposite is true of the interior with its courtyard, floor-to-ceiling tiled rooms, and the intricate craftsmanship evident throughout. 

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Intricate carved inlaid ceiling 

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Story of Ozymandias (Rabat, Morocco)

Rabat is the capital of Morocco and home to Morocco’s Royal Palace. The large estate can be described as a walled city that not only houses one of the King’s Palace’s but also the minions who work there. Though we were excited to visit the grounds, we were more than disappointed with the reception we received. Neither buses nor taxis were allowed within a reasonable distance of the Palace; and thus, everyone had to walk approximately three to four blocks to photograph the palace. Actually we didn’t mind the walk; however, when we arrived, we didn’t appreciate the attitude of the many armed guards that kept us more than several hundred feet from the entry archway by blowing their whistles and using hostile gestures indicating we must not go further.

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 OK so let’s photograph another building. How about the King’s personal royal mosque. However, the moment we stepped on a grass like carpet that covered the cement outside of this building, the whistles began blowing again. Our advice is to forget visiting the King’s Palace if you go to Rabat. (We later learned that people are treated this way at all seven of the King’s Palaces in Morocco!) Better to spend your time at the ruins of Sala.

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In contrast, the Roman ruins of the town of Sala were delightful! The mosque, cemetery, and walls are largely ruins (some merely large square stone blocks stacked on top of each other).   Some of the towers are, however, in relatively good shape and are well used by the storks as building blocks for their large nests. We were not the only ones enjoying Sala that day. Students have a half-day of school on Fridays, and several teachers brought their primary school students to visit the area. They ran about having a great time, getting lots of exercise, but learning little history. The children and their teachers were all anxious to have their pictures taken; so much of our time was spent photographing them rather than the ruins. But it certainly was an experience we will remember! 

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 Another interesting site was the Hassan Tower, a reminder of a great mosque that was never completed. Begun in 1195, both the mosque and the tower were intended to be the largest minaret (tower from which people would be called to prayer) and mosque in the world. Instead of stairs, the tower was intended to be ascended by ramps that would have allowed the muezzin (a man who calls Muslims to prayer) to ride a horse to the top of the tower to issue the call to prayer. The tower reached 140 feet (about ½ of its intended 260 feet), however, neither it nor the mosque were ever completed because after four years of construction, the sultan died and construction was halted. What is left are the tower plus the beginnings of several walls and 200 columns. Leaders in olden times certainly had grandiose ideas!!! . . . but at what cost were they to the people? 

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Barbara Wood Cook at Hassan Tower

 So many times during this trip we have seen monument after monument, ruin after ruin . . . On so many levels I have been reminded of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem, “Ozymandias.” A traveler describes what he saw upon his visit to a spot where ancient civilizations once existed: a broken statue with the face of a stern and powerful man. On the pedestal, near the statue’s face, the traveler reads an inscription:

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings.
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Tahiche and Teguise on Lanzarote in the Canaries

In the port city of Arrecife, on Lanzarote, Canary Islands, we visited three very different venues: Tari de Tahiche that houses the work of Cesar Manrique, Teguise, and the piracy fort that overlooks this small city.

Cesar Manrique is known world wide for his contemporary art manifested as paintings, sculpture, murals, and architecture integrated into and adapted to various natural environments. We were able to view a collection of his works housed in Tari de Tahiche. The site was actually his very impressive home that he remodeled into a museum prior to his death in 1992.

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Not only did Manrique build the two-story house on a lava flow from volcanic eruptions (that took place between 1730 and 1736); but also, he literally carved out the basement/lower level from five very large natural volcanic bubbles or lava caves. These bubbles are connected by means of small passageways (painted in black and white) that were bored into the lava flow. The cave in the center of the lower level includes a pool with a free-form stone bridge from one side to the other, a small dance floor, built-in cushioned benches and more, all decorated with abundant plant life.

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 The upper level contains large picture windows that provide panoramic views of volcanic lava. Also included are terraces, gardens, and many of Manrique’s work including paintings, wood pieces, and other materials.

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Actually, neither description nor photographs can do justice to the building and surrounding environment designed as a home to be lived in, not as a museum to be visited. It simply has to be experienced.

Next stop was the fortress of Santa Barbara that dates back to the middle 1400’s, when it was built as a defensive watchtower against pirate attacks that plagued Lanzarote during that time. Today, the fortification has been turned into the Piracy Museum that focuses on the “study of piracy in Teguise and international piracy in the Canary Islands.” The fort has a commanding view over the city of Teguise out to the Atlantic ocean.

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The city of Teguise also provided a feast for our eyes, with so many pieces to photograph that were reminiscent of cities long ago.

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The Power of Bom Dia

The history of Cape Verde is reflected not only in the music of the islands but also in the souls of the people. As but one example, the songs of Cesaria Evora, harken back to earlier times expressing the sorrow and grief experienced by the women whose husbands, primarily slaves from Africa, left Cape Verde in search of jobs. The men promised to return but most were unable to do so, particularly if they became indentured servants to those “employing” them. Evora’s music expresses the “women’s call to home.” Her style, dubbed as “morna,” consists of slow, pensive ballads conveying nostalgic longing and sorrow. An internationally known artist, she is called the “barefoot diva” because she never wore shoes no matter where she performed — a gesture of solidarity with poor women. (Go to iTunes to listen to songs from her award-winning albums such as “Cesaria,” “Cabo Verde,” “Miss Perfumado,” and “Voz d’Amor.”)

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By necessity, the women of Cape Verde in those early years had to find work, and they often did so as prostitutes. Given that the women consorted with the Portuguese as well as the sailors and merchants passing through, generations of Cape Verdeans thought of themselves as bastards — as lost, not knowing who they were. Were they Portuguese? African? Or perhaps a member of another nationality that stopped by the islands? More recently, they have resolved the dilemma by coming together and calling themselves, “Cape Verdeans.”

It is said of Cape Verde that it is “a place not to be consumed but to be understood.” And, indeed, we found ourselves in the midst of putting the pieces of the puzzle together as we strolled around two of the islands. We had been told that the people didn’t want their pictures taken. Thus, we took along our cameras expecting to limit ourselves to photographing buildings.

As we wandered through the cities of Cape Verde, we smiled and said “bom dia,” (Portuguese for good morning or good day) to the people we met along the way. As we passed by an older stern- looking couple, we greeted them with “bom dia.” The man grasped my hand and began vigorously shaking it, and his scowl turned to a grin as his eyes danced in the morning light. I didn’t understand all of his animated speech, but I knew without a doubt that he was exceedingly happy with our greeting. And yes, of course, he indicated that he wanted us to take their picture.

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Another curious event occurred in Assomada. We had been taking pictures in the market, with most people agreeing to be photographed. I stepped out on the street for a few minutes and a woman began speaking to me. Although I do not understand Portuguese, I was able to understand that she wanted me to take her picture, indicating to me that she wanted to be remembered.

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The following day, after greeting Mr. Totasch, an 85-year-old man who spoke English, we asked if we could take his picture. He responded, “Yes, because then you’ll remember me.” A few minutes later, a woman we hadn’t seen before, but who obviously saw us taking a picture of Mr. Totasch, walked up and motioned for me to take her picture. After taking it I gestured for her to follow me into the shadow so I could show her the photo. As I brought up the picture and turned around to show her, she was gone. All I can glean from this is that it wasn’t that she wanted to see the photo of herself; she simply wanted me to have her photo – again, to be remembered.

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Later we discussed our experiences in Cape Verde. We came to the conclusion that you show respect for people by speaking their language. Even if it is just give a brief greeting, it will make a difference to them and will open doors for you.

If you talk to a man in a language he understands,

That goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language,

That goes to his heart.

                           –Nelson Mandela

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amidst Poverty We Found Community

On our visit to Cape Town in 2013, we wrote about several excursions we took including one to Bo-Kapp that covered a great deal of information on Apartheid. But more than a decade after the end of Apartheid, the majority of South Africans still live in dire poverty. We were pleased to have the opportunity to visit one of the townships, Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay.

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 In some ways, a person might describe Hout Bay as a picturesque seaside suburb that is like a microcosm of South Africa, with a wealthy (mainly white) community living along side both the black as well as a “coloured community” within the township.  

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Imizamo Yethu is an informal settlement established in the early 1990s when 450 families who had been squatting in “shacks” or temporary shelters around Hout Bay were moved to this area. Prior to that time blacks could not afford, and by law were not allowed to buy, property or homes in Hout Bay and had no choice but to look for vacant land on which to build their temporary homes.

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This was done without permission and led to struggles with white residents. In 1989 the local government intervened and a piece of land was developed with basic services on which blacks were allowed to build their temporary shelters. As mentioned above, however, the land was set aside for 450 families and now houses over 34,000.

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Imizamo Yethu (in the Xhosa language) literally translates to “Our Struggle” and is also purported to mean, People Have Gathered. It covers 18 hectares. The settlement has dismal water facilities; few toilets and a sub-standard sewerage system. However, the streets were free of debris, and we did not detect any noticeable small as we walked through the community.

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 The Niall Mellon Township Trust, a non-profit organization based in Ireland that sent volunteers to build several hundred basic homes for people in Imizamo Yethu in 2002, improved the living conditions. The community also includes a health clinic that is sponsored by two Rotary Clubs, one in Hout Bay, South Africa and the other the Rotary Club of Coolamon, Australia.

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Afrika Moni, was the ideal person to take us through the township as he lives in Imizamo Yethu; and therefore, explained the way of life and enumerated the problems within the township from an insider’s perspective. Additionally, he seemed to know everyone we met along the way.

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Within the community we saw a hair salon/barbar shop, convenience store, as well as an oil drop-off collection point for used automobile oil to be picked up by the city and a waste drop-off facility for sorting waste for recycling. These provided some employment for residents. 

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However, most people are dependent on outside establishments for their jobs. A young man we met had been promised construction work that day, but no one picked him up for the job. He did not exhibit bitterness; rather he was spending the day doing volunteer work in the community.

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 The children appeared to be well taken care of, healthy, clean, happy and content. Day-care is provided in one of the homes; and when we arrived the kids had either just awoken or were sleeping. In contrast, the children in a two-room primary school were wide-awake, enthusiastic, and both sang and danced for us with a great deal of animation and gusto!! 

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One aspect of our experience that neither of us will ever forget was the manners displayed by the children. We had brought chocolate squares that they viewed with interest. However, on no occasion did a child put out his/her hand to receive until it was obvious that we intended to give. And then, rather than grabbing, they put their hands together so we could drop the chocolate into their awaiting palms.

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Despite their poverty, lack of education, and their economic prospects, the people we met couldn’t have exhibited more camaraderie nor could they have been friendlier and more welcoming to us.

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Shamwari ~ Conserving a Vanishing Way of Life

The Shamwari Game Reserve located an hour and a half from Port Elizabeth, covers 25,000 hectares of land. Surrounded by imposing cliffs, it is one of the largest private conservation initiatives in Southern Africa.

 

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Among the photos below are a couple depicting the environment as well as one of the fencing to keep the animals out of the lodge compound.

 

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Integral to the reserve are three centers:

The Rhino Awareness Center that highlights the devastating effect of rhino poaching facing South Africa and the rest of the continent. 

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The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center’s purpose is to rehabilitate and reintegrate orphaned and injured animals back into the wild. Pictured here is a week old orphaned impala found at a nearby farm.

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On an international scale, the Born Free Foundation raises public attention to the plight of wild animals, particularly the big cat species, confined in impoverished captive environments.

Story of Brutus.   Brutus was confiscated from the run-down Cirque Vitalis in France where he was living in a trailer with cage space less than two meters, from which he was never let out. He arrived at Shamwari in 2008 and, perhaps for the first time in his life, he could experience the sky above, grass underfoot and the ability to walk and run in a straight line. 

Story of Marina. Marina and her sister were found abandoned outside an apartment block in Bucharest, Romania, when they were just four weeks old. While the import and export permits were being arranged, the cubs were quarantined in an animal shelter where they were prepared for their new life, with their dependence on humans slowly decreased. They were also played recordings of the African bush complete with lions’ roars.

The cubs arrived at Shamwari in 2008, both very curious and outgoing. A year later they were introduced to Brutus. Marina’s sister died in 2010 because of complications from surgery to treat a blockage in her intestines. Since that time Brutus and Marina have developed a close bond. 

Pictured below is a leopard that has been rescued.

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PHOTOS OF OTHER ANIMALS AT SHAMWARI

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Tradition and Cultural Beliefs Continue to Hobble Woman’s Rights in Middle East

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 “Read one book, and you know everything; read two, and you’re not so sure.” I was reminded of this quote after we sent off our blog post on “Piercing Cultural Stereotypes in Oman.” Our experiences there were followed by excursions in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai. These tours made me rethink the liberal/modern interpretation I had adopted about the lives of women in this part of the world. I listened to one tour guide with interest, but have to admit that I joined in the chorus of women near the end of the trip who gave a resounding “boo” to him for saying, “Women in the UAE don’t have any hobbies or interests outside of the home. The only interest they have is SHOPPING, SHOPPING, SHOPPING!” Rather than simply dismiss him, I did a bit of investigating on my own to better understand the lives of women here. What I found was enlightening, but more than a bit disconcerting.

Susan Mubarak, an HR professional in the private sector of Salalah, Oman wrote about the advances of girls and women in the past several decades. Forty years ago, there were no schools for girls in Oman. Today there are more women than men enrolled in institutions of higher education; participation in the labor force increases daily; and the Basic Law of Oman prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender. However, family matters are governed by a Personal Status Law, which assigns men and women very different rights and responsibilities. Other articles I perused report ways in which women still face legal discrimination under the Personal Status Law. Let’s look at some examples in terms of Oman and the United Arab Emirates:

Any male member of a family can marry her off without her consent. 

A man can legally take on an additional wife without informing his first wife. He can also have up to four wives.

Muslim women are forbidden to marry non-Muslim men unless they convert; the reverse does not apply to Muslim men. 

Muslim women are free to choose their own marriage partners, but are expected to obtain family approval before marrying. 

Legally and traditionally, fathers and husbands are considered to be the heads of household. In the event of divorce, fathers retain custody of the children, except in certain circumstances (e.g., if the mother is breastfeeding). 

Women are only able to initiate divorce within a narrow range of circumstances (e.g. abandonment), whereas men have the right to divorce wives unilaterally.

Pregnancies outside of marriage are illegal, and children born to unmarried women are taken from their mothers and placed in alternative care, in order to ‘correct’ the woman’s immoral behavior.

Women can inherit, however, their share is generally smaller than that to which men are entitled. For example, female heirs inherit half as much as male heirs, unless a will specifies otherwise. Often, women’s inheritance rights are not respected, but women are reluctant to bring inheritance cases to court, for fear of causing conflict within the family.

Domestic violence is unacknowledged in the media or official reports, but is thought to be common. Despite the existence of shelters and hotlines to help protect women, domestic violence remains a pervasive problem. The Federal Supreme Court has upheld a husband’s right to “chastise” his wife and children with physical abuse. No methods permit women to report violence confidentially. Furthermore, women are discouraged by societal pressure from seeking help outside the family in domestic violence cases, and prosecutions are very rare.

Rape is a criminal offense; however, if a rape is reported, the victim may find that her actions are criminalized, as well as those of the perpetrator (for example, she may be viewed as having provoked the rape because of what she was wearing or her behavior). 

There is no legislation in place relating to sexual harassment, and women are often reluctant to report sexual harassment in the workplace for fear of being blamed themselves for “immodest” behavior.

While women’s culture in Oman and the UAE may be inching toward a more modern treatment of women, the role of women is still very much like old times and is dictated by the beliefs and culture in existence for hundreds of years.

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Piercing Cultural Stereotypes in Oman

 When many of us see Middle Eastern women whose faces are veiled and who wear floor-length black burqas, our minds immediately translate these scenes into examples of injustice and oppression.

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For enlightenment on the burqas worn in such countries as Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and those known as abaya worn in the United Arab Emeritus (UAE) and Oman we turn to a blog (OH MY, OMAN) by a lawyer friend who writes about her experiences living in Muscat. In her 8/20/2014 post she stated that the Qur’an (the Muslim bible) requires both men and women to dress conservatively. She continues by saying:

 

           There is nothing in the Qur’an requiring women to veil their faces, and what “modesty” means is up for interpretation. So how Muslim              women in Afghanistan wound up covering their faces and wearing a burqa has more to do with ideological and political reasons than               purely religious reasons.

          Most women in the UAE and Oman wear an abaya and hijab. The abaya is a loose-fitting robe (generally black, though in Southeast                   Asia they are very colorful) that is worn over normal clothing and the hijab is the headscarf that covers everything except the face.

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          While it may seem like a boring outfit, the opportunities for customization are endless and some abaya and hijab cost a fortune. Below             is an example of a abaya and hijab available for purchase.

red_abayajab

 

           So while the customization of the abaya and hijab might be interesting and even fashionable, none of the above makes me want to                       trade in my normal wardrobe in exchange for a long-sleeved robe and a headscarf. But then I have second thoughts about this — my                  normal morning routine for work consists of washing and blow drying my hair, finding an outfit where everything matches and then,              throughout the day, making adjustments (trying to figure out how to get my skirt to look less wrinkly, maybe adjusting a waistband                after eating too big a lunch, etc.). Meanwhile, my coworkers grab an abaya, throw it over comfy clothes (usually yoga pants and a tank          top), put their hair in a ponytail and hide it under their hijab. I’ll admit – there are definitely days when I’m jealous that I can’t wear an          abaya and hijab to work.

         The other thing to consider is the whole reason behind the abaya and hijab – dressing modestly. I can’t count the number of times when            I’ve wanted to snap my fingers and say, “Hey buddy, my eyes are up here.” Or how many of my girlfriends have complained over the                years that men never look at their faces, only their bodies. Here, a woman’s body isn’t constantly on display. So while I don’t wear an               abaya and hijab, the more modest style of dress is nice, and it’s certainly more comfortable. 

         Most of my Omani friends don’t mind wearing an abaya and hijab. For them it’s a cultural uniform – just like a lawyer might wear a                  suit to work, they wear an abaya and hijab to work. . . . One of my Omani colleagues dresses completely Western, except she wears a                 hijab to work. She started doing that because it saves her time in the morning and because some women at work gave her a hard time               about not wearing one. I asked if she wears an abaya. She said she does so fairly often when she doesn’t want to attract male attention,           particularly at busy places like malls. 

         In my experience, most women in Oman don’t see the abaya and hijab as a demeaning method of keeping them subservient to men (as               many Westerners perceive), but rather as a way of diverting unwanted attention. . . . 

        But I personally think the abaya and hijab can make it difficult to garner respect in a professional environment. I’m a lawyer, and in                 order to be a good lawyer sometimes I have to give people advice they don’t want to hear or to drive a hard bargain. I have to be able to             look someone in the eyes and speak with authority. And if I need to look very authoritative, I’ll wear a suit since a suit is much more                   official than my normal business clothes (I’ve even read advice that you should wear a suit even during a phone interview because the             mere act of wearing a suit makes the interviewee feel more serious and important). I think it would be much more difficult to do my job              successfully if I wore the equivalent of a hooded bathrobe, especially if I were wearing yoga pants and a tank top underneath.

       In sum, the way that many Muslim women dress in Oman and the UAE isn’t about oppression; it’s about freedom. Freedom from being             ogled by men; freedom from being judged on their bodies or their clothes; freedom from having to style their hair in the morning or wear        uncomfortable “professional” clothes to work; and freedom from even needing a professional wardrobe. But if you’re worried that they            may be missing out on all the fabulous fashions in the magazines . . . don’t worry; they’re wearing them under their abayas.