A New Beginning

This is my last column for Muscat Daily, a wonderful newspaper that has hosted my musings, feminist outbursts and social analyses on Dhofar for the past four years.

I suppose I owe it to my readers to explain how this column was brought to life in the first place.

It may sound very cliché, but five years ago I started an anonymous blog to get over a bitter divorce. I never expected anyone to read it but it felt good to vent anonymously into cyberspace without fear of being recognised or criticised.

To my horror, before six months were up I had thousands of readers and was listed among Oman's top ten English blogs. My blog focused on being a woman in the conservative south of Oman. I gave detailed and humorous descriptions of all the terribly annoying yet wonderful things that make Dhofar unique. By now you've probably guessed the name of the blog. After much deliberation, I named it Dhofari Gucci.

A few months into the blog, I was invited to write a column on Dhofar for a new newspaper that was to be named Muscat Daily. At first I automatically thought I'd reject the proposal since I assumed no one beyond the blogosphere would be interested in hearing what a young Omani woman from the south had to say. I was wrong.

My column has covered everything from education, food and humorous personal anecdotes to things like the Omani version of the Arab Spring and black magic in the south of Oman. However, my main focus has always been women. The topics that I care mostly about are female empowerment, marriage traditions, polygamy, female genital mutilation (FGM) in Dhofar, women’s rights, and anything concerning women.

Over the course of the past four years this column has opened up countless doors and introduced me to some of the world’s most amazing individuals, many of whom have become very close friends. Countless journalists and researchers have also gotten in touch to seek advice on doing research in Dhofar.

My work for this newspaper has taken me to conferences and forums all over the world. In fact, this column influenced my choice for a post-graduate degree. It was my window to the world, and the world's window to Dhofar. It has been overwhelming but fantastic. As I sit here and review my older columns, I am surprised at how much I have changed and how much Dhofar has changed compared to my early days of blogging when it was still taboo for women to sit on the beach and enjoy the sunset without a chaperone.

Balancing a full time job, a column, postgraduate studies, a blog, and other commitments has not been an easy task. The column was my censored and more serious public self. Nadia, my alter-ego and the character in a black face veil and pink shades behind the blog attracted a following of loyal readers from all over the world. I intend to return to blogging full time at Dhofari Gucci in between thesis-writing sessions. If it’s of any interest to you, my research is on understanding the leadership gender gap in Oman from the Omani male leader perspective.

If you have enjoyed my column (or blog!) do drop me a line. The positive feedback is what kept me fueled from the very beginning. If you were one of the hundreds of readers who wrote to me or approached me in random parking lots or at hotel reception desks over the past four years, I cannot thank you enough. I may have not been able to get back to everyone as soon as I would have liked to, but I tried.

In the faraway future or in another life I hope I am able to write about subjects that are currently off-limits in Omani media like religion, how the Dhofar War shaped the south of Oman, tribalism, the political future of this country, certain issues concerning women, and other sensitive topics. For now though, I thank you again for taking the time out to read this column. Adieu!

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