Suddenly Eid al-Adha in Bahla

On our way to Jebel Shams in Oman on Saturday, we stopped in Bahla to have a look at the old fort there. We inadvertently missed the turn-off and ended up on a side road. As long as we were there, I got out to take some photos of the old city walls.


That's when a young Omani man named Abdallah drove by, then stopped and invited us to his house to celebrate Eid with his family.

Pause. Eid al-Adha was last weekend, and it is a huge Muslim holiday celebrating the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael. A central part of the festivities is the slaughter of a sheep, goat, or cow and then eating the meat and giving some to poor people. (In Damascus, the slaughter was often done in the street and if you were queasy about seeing animal blood flowing freely, it was not a good day to walk around town.) It's kind of like Muslim Christmas in that it involves getting together with family, eating lots of good food, and handing out money or gifts to the children.

Anyway - Abdallah insisted that we five random foreigners on the side of the road come with him to his home to celebrate Eid. And, choosing the crazy straw, WE TOTALLY SAID YES.

He took us to his house in town and the kids and I were immediately separated from Jeremy. He went to sit and chat with the men in the men's majlis, and the kids and I went to the women and children's majlis. It was a large room lined with floor couches and what seemed like a few dozen women and children of all ages. I found out that Abdallah is one of 12 siblings, and these people in the majlis with me were sisters or cousins or in-laws.

Over the next couple of hours, Sterling (Sultan to them) got passed around and admired among the women. We sat on the ground, dipped our hands in water to cleanse them, and then ate fruit, chicken, and rice off huge platters with our hands. We talked, sometimes in Arabic, sometimes in English, always broken-like, because Syrian Arabic doesn't go too far in Oman.

Then the children took us outside to see the animals. They had chickens, ducks, and goats. They also showed us the cow they had slaughtered for Eid. It was the only picture I dared to take - most of the women and the older girls were veiled, so it would have been rude to take pictures of them though I wanted to so badly. I settled for a great shot of Abdallah's brother and father hard at work.


I like how the cow head is observing its own carving up. We watched this process for a good long while - it was fascinating.

We hung out some more in the majlis and Abdallah's mom gave my kids each some Eid money, along with a toy for Sterling. They were thrilled. I was so touched by their generosity.

When it was time to go, we were reunited with Jeremy and sent on our way with a bag of fresh fruit. By the time we were in our car, continuing on our drive to Jebel Shams, I could hardly believe what had happened. Without any advance notice whatsoever, Abdallah had invited us to what was essentially Christmas dinner with his family, and they took it all in stride. It was an intensely cultural experience for us and the kids and it's not one we expected to have, at all.

Oh, and the best part is that Abdallah's brother goes to the University of Oregon! We're going to see if my parents can return the favor and invite him to their house for Thanksgiving.

Camping on Jebel Shams

The ruins of Al Suleif