Thursday, February 4, 2010

Local Color

This really is the most perfect time of year in our little Sultanate - long warm days, balmy evenings, and the most wonderful cool, crisp nights. While there are apparently prospects of more rain (making this the wettest winter in a very long time, with upwards of eight or even more rainy days), for the moment things are blissful.

The above was snapped during Miss Rheba's Christmas visit, in the garden of the Grand Mosque; the profusion of flowers everywhere is one of the distinct features of the local winter, not just in snazzy public places like the Mosque, but along the roadsides, in massed quantities on hillsides, and decorating intersections and traffic circles (the latter an endangered species as they are replaced by red lights). That they're all the sort of northern flowers - petunias and such - one finds in suburban English gardens only makes it that much more picturesque.

As usual, Mr. Muscato, Koko, and I have spent part of our weekend at our favorite seaside spot, joined this week by visitors from Europe (stunned at the sunshine) and the Emirates (stunned at the dire local nightlife). There is always great people watching at the beach - the Western tourists cluelessly wandering about in inappropriate swimwear, the gaggles of subcontinental gentlemen and local youth ogling same, and the wide variety of family outings - from nuclear families of three to extended clans of ten or more times that - enjoying sun and sand.

I'm particularly interested in how women deal with the competing and contradictory demands of modesty, fashion, and comfort. One solution is standard sportsclothes under the enveloping black abaya and headscarf - teen sisters racing along the beach after smaller siblings with the abaya sailing behind them, inevitably recalling comic pre-Vatican II images of nuns at play.

Another, very common in the Muslim world, is to try and meet all three priorities via layering. When I was living in Cairo, the fashion among junior misses was to go with the then-stylish strappy mini-sundress - over skin-tight jeans and turtleneck, creating a kind of slightly slutty (but totally covered-up) jumper effect.

Yesterday we encountered a remarkable local variation of that look that saw both the comfort and fashion angles taken to new extremes: a matron frolicking on the beach with her tots, resplendent in an ensemble that consisted of a scarlet tracksuit (the type with stripes down the sides, previously more familiar to me on elderly Italian gentlemen in South Philadelphia or perhaps on third-tier rappers) worn under a form-fitting metallic-silver jersey cocktail frock, complete with ruffled handkerchief hemline, the whole completed up top with a gold fishscale-pailleted scarf and down below with rainbow-striped platform espadrilles. Yes, the combo led to a certain amount of unavoidable lumpiness, but on the whole, whatever else you can say, Madam was fierce.

On a different note - why is it that, whether in times of boom or, as now, shall we call it lack-of-boom, that local building contractors don't seem to take any special advantage of the more comfortable weather? A very high percentage of the many high-profile projects around town seem more or less stalled - not only the ones with reputed Dubai-related money woes that clearly have been knocked awry by the financial crisis, but the publicly financed ones like the long-pending opera house.

A few are proceeding apace, but in general the city presents a silhouette of still cranes, a six-story high mini-version of Dubai's sixty-story skyline. If previous years are a model, come the summer, things will rev up significantly, because, of course, as much as possible has to be done and perfect by National Day in November. I think it would be a mercy to the workers, if nothing else, to reassign that deadline to the July accession anniversary, just so the rush could be going on now, when it's not pure torment to be outdoors.


  1. So who is he and what is the point of this posting?

    sorry, i couldn't resist

  2. Nor should you - in fact, I have a feeling it's going to become a recurring feature hereabouts...