Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Facets of Oman 4

The pit loom weaver spins his threads:

The Batinah potter; one of the last who handmakes clay water pots:


Muscat Souk on a rainy night:


Indian Mosque near Muscat Souk:


February 28, 2007 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, ExPat Life, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Lumix, Middle East, Oman, Photos, Travel | 3 Comments

Facets of Oman 3

Nizwa mosque shot from Nizwa fortress – even more gorgeous in person. This isn’t the best photo, but I like the bird in it:


The desert weaver had cuffs she had embroidered herself. Cuffs everywhere were a work of art:


The women welcomed photos – this desert woman was the mother-in-law of the weaver. She was delightful.


February 27, 2007 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Geography / Maps, Lumix, Oman, Photos, Shopping, Travel, Women's Issues | 5 Comments

Facets of Oman 2

The Mountain Weaver’s Brother, Jebel Shams:00mountainweaversbrother.JPG

The Indigo Grower:


The Nizwa Fort at night:


February 26, 2007 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, ExPat Life, Holiday, Lumix, Oman, Photos, Travel | Leave a comment

Facets of Oman

At a mountain pottery making village:

The Omani weaver in Jebel Shams:

The Jebal Shams weaver’s grandchildren:


February 25, 2007 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Lumix, Middle East, Oman, Tools, Travel, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Barcelona to Abu Dhabi: Salalah, Oman

We have a history with Oman – we love it. Once, when my husband and I were visiting in Oman, we traveled to an oasis, where a small boy asked to guide us. The path was clearly marked, but this young man was so charming and spoke such good English, we hired him. On our way into the falls, he asked us if we knew John Thomas. LOL, we knew John Thomas!

On that same trip, in our lovely hotel, I bought a silver thimble. It cost way too much for a lowly thimble, but it was exquisite, beautifully crafted, and to this day I am thankful I overcame my frugality and bought it, because it has given me years and years of heavy usage, and I feel joyful appreciation every time I look at it.

I visited Oman again, later, with the Kuwait Textile Association, visiting craftspeople all across Oman.

We are thrilled to be visiting Salalah. Neither one of us has ever visited Salalah, a port city, famous for its lush greenery, bananas, coconuts and its long history as a trading crossroad between Africa, the Middle East and India.

The day is off to a hilarious start. It’s been so warm, AdventureMan had decided to sleep on the balcony and early in the morning got thoroughly soaked as the ship was hit by errant wave. He dries off and crawls into bed as I head up to Horizons to catch up on e-mail. I come back down later to see if he wants to hit breakfast, then we head off for Salalah trip; Scenic Salalah.

Bus #1, full, heads off for “souks.” Ship is docked 14 miles from Salalah. Shuttle bus takes people to gate, then you can pay $27 to go to Salalah to a taxi driver, then $27 back. 

We are given a special card to keep on our person, which we must turn in when we come back to the ship.

It’s a long drive. We stop first at a mosque, which we are told has restrooms. We are free to enter the mosque as long as we take our shoes off and leave them outside. The guard near the restrooms won’t let us in; he tells us they are closed. The guard at the entrance to the mosque won’t let us in. One woman has her shoes taken while she is trying to get into the mosque.

We drive into town to “souks” which are all primarily frankincense, signs in English and Arabic, all pretty much the same merchandise. I bought some rose perfume and two keychains for gifts.

The restroom is very clean, with six regular stalls and two “traditional” squat stalls with hoses.

Next is Biladi Museum, really nicely done, the entrance is like coming into a fortress. Inside are rooms with displays of very early history, meteorite hits, and maritime history with all kinds of boats, bows, and knots. I went to find the books and crafts shops, which were closed, but found some beautiful spaces still being built, with waterways, facsimiles of old boats, picnic areas, shady areas, and seating areas – this place has a lot of potential. 

This cannon, below, blew me away. It is probably the earliest example of a cannon I have ever seen, and although it is primitive, it is amazing in the advantage it could give to the one who could wield it.

Then we go to drink coconut water, from a small open shop full of bananas, coconuts, and other fruits. There were many similar small shops, but somehow this entrepreneur seems to have a contract with the cruise ship lines. I think he had figured out how to get us in, give us each a coconut and get us out in time for the next bus to pull up.

Miguel, our next-door cabin mate, bought bananas for Marguerite, his wife, who is ill with a stomach bug. He had shown us a scarf he bought her at the Frankincense souks, camel colored, and told us he had known Marguerite in Cuba from the time he was twelve years old. They have been married now 59 years. They are so sweet with each other. Miguel also told us that his new heart medicine is also a diabetic medication and has helped his health greatly, also it helped him lose a lot of weight.

The coconut water was not that tasty, but the shops were full of so many different kinds of coconuts and bananas, and behind the shops are acres of banana trees bursting with bananas, and coconut trees with coconuts, in a dry and arid land, with wonderful places where water is abundant.

All in all, it was a short excursion. We were back at the Nautica for lunch, where they had a wonderful bouillabaisse. Next to our boat was a specialized boat, fueling our boat. It took a long time, and we could smell the petroleum. We imagined that we probably hadn’t fueled since Haifa, and were happy Salalah provides that service to these large cruise ships which have begun to stop in Salalah.

We would have been interested in time on our own in Salalah, but the cruise ship port is far from the actual city, and the ship’s shuttle only takes you to the gate, where you can catch a taxi – $27 each way into Salalah, and back to the ship. We are headed for Muscat and Dubai and Abu Dhabi – we can wait.

Back before I ever dreamed of blogging, we lived a while in Saudi Arabia. AdventureMan would come home from work, pick me up, and take me to the Souk Dira where I might buy buttons to teach my little students names of colors and shapes, or I could comb through the antique (junk!) souks for old camel milking bowls, afghani beads and jewelry, old silver leg bracelets, etc.

Saudi Arabia taught me a lot about assumptions. I had always told AdventureMan it was my one big NO, I wouldn’t go there. So he invited me for a visit, and I had a chance to rethink. Then I went to live there and discovered that there were many layers. Saudi Arabia was complex. It could be brutal. I also met Saudi women who were educated, and began a whole new kind of education for me, as I listened, observed, and broadened my understanding. One of my favorite things about Saudi Arabia was those evenings at the souks. We would get there shortly before the sunset call to prayer. We had a favorite felafel stand where we would get a sandwich and a fruit drink, and find a place to sit while all the shops closed. The call to prayer is magical in itself, and as the sun set, the sky would go purple and then get darker and darker shades of purple until it was black. The stars were brilliant, even though Riyadh was a highly neon city. Those moments eating our dinner as the sky went purple, and listening to the call to prayer, left an imprint on my soul.

As the sun went down, and we departed Salalah, the sky went purple.

February 14, 2023 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, ExPat Life, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sunsets, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Arian or Athanasian?

Remigius, today’s saint written up in The Lectionary, has so many interesting facets. Kiefer starts out explaining that the common Cajun name Remi is short for the French saint Remigius, who converted Clovis, one of the earliest kings of France, to Christianity. Not just to Christianity, however, but to Athanasian Christianity, the branch that believes Christ is of the same substance with God, and is one with God, as opposed to Arianism, a predominant belief at the time, which proposed Jesus was not the same as God.


by James Kiefer

(This photo cracks me up because one of the demons looks a lot like Ronald Reagan. I don’t know where it is, but it may be the Cathedral in Strassbourg)

St. Remi (or Remigius)
A 1987 motion picture, “The Big Easy” (a nickname for the city of New Orleans), and a current (1996) television series of the same name based on it, have as the male lead a Cajun police detective named Remy McSwaine. In the first episode of the series (I am not sure of the film) we are informed that “Remy” is short for “Remington.” I fear that this shows that the scriptwriters have not troubled to research Cajun culture. Remi is one of the three great national saints of France (the others are Denis (Dionysius) of Paris and Joan of Arc, or Joan the Maid (Jeanne la Pucelle)), and it is thoroughly natural for a Cajun to be named Remi. How is that for a topical introduction?

Remi (Latin Remigius) was born about 438 and became bishop of Rheims about 460, at the remarkably young age of 22. (Both he and the city were named for his tribe, the Remi.) In his time, the Roman Empire and the Christian church were jointly faced with a serious practical problem — the barbarian invasions. A series of droughts in central Asia had driven its inhabitants out in all directions in search of more livable territory. This brought the Goths, for example, across the Danube in the early 300’s.

Now the Emperor Constantine had died in 337, and during his lifetime the Church had debated the question of whether the Logos, the Word who was made flesh for our salvation in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, was (as Arius taught) the first and greatest of the beings created by God, but nevertheless not eternal, and not God; or was (as Athanasius taught) fully God, co-eternal and co-equal with the Father. At the Council of Nicea in 325, the Athanasian position had been endorsed by an overwhelming majority of the bishops assembled from throughout the Christian world. But the Arians refused to accept the decision, and there were attempts to re-negotiate and find a compromise that would make everyone happy.

Then Constantine died, and his Empire was divided among his sons, with Constantius Emperor of the East, and eventually of the whole Empire. And Constantius was an Arian, and made a serious attempt to stamp out the Athanasian position by banishing its leaders and pressuring churches into electing or accepting Arian bishops. During his reign, missionaries, led by one Bishop Ulfilas, were sent to convert the Goths. And naturally, Ulfilas was an Arian. He preached with great vigor and eloquence among the Goths, and translated the Bible into their language (omitting, we are told, the wars of the Hebrews, on the grounds that the Goths were quite warlike enough without further encouragement). In fact, the portions of his translation that have survived are the only material we have in the Gothic language, and as such are highly valued by students of the history of languages. So the Goths became Arian Christians, and so did the Vandals. And these two highly warlike peoples were most of the time either making war on the settled peoples of the Empire or hiring out as mercenaries to defend the borders of the Empire from the next wave of invaders.

You may remember that Ambrose, bishop of Milan (died 397, remembered 7 December), was commanded by the Empress Mother to hand over a church for the use of her soldiers, who were Goths and Arians, and that Ambrose refused, and filled the church with members of his congregation, who sang hymns composed by Ambrose for the occasion, and the soldiers did not attack. You may also remember that when Augustine lay on his deathbed in his town of Hippo in North Africa (near Carthage or modern Tunis), the city was under attack by Vandal troops, who had come into Africa out of Spain, and who captured and vandalized (that is where we get the term) the cities of North Africa, and Sicily and Sardinia and Corsica (which they made into bases for piracy) and the southern part of Italy. Long after Arianism had died out elsewhere, it was the religion of the Goths and Vandals and related peoples, and being an Arian was the mark of a good Army man.

Now a new people appeared on the scene, a pagan warrior tribe called the Franks. In the late 400’s, they were led by a chief called Clovis, a pagan but married to a Christian wife, Clotilda. His wife and Bishop Remi (remember him?) spoke to him about the Christian faith, but he showed no particular signs of interest until one day when he was fighting a battle against the Alemanni, and was badly outnumbered and apparently about to lose the battle. He took a vow that if he won, he would turn Christian. The tide of battle turned, and he won. Two years later, he kept his vow and was baptized by Remi at Rheims on Christmas Day, 496, together with about 3000 of his followers. (Rheims became the traditional and “proper” place for a French king to be crowned, as we learn from the story of Joan of Arc. It remained so until the French Revolution.)

Now Clovis was converted to the Athanasian (or orthodox, or catholic) faith rather than the Arian, and this fact changed the religious history of Europe. The clergy he brought to his court were catholic, and when the Franks as a whole became Christians, which did not happen overnight, they became catholic Christians, meaning in this context that they were Athanasian rather than Arian, and accepted the belief that it was God himself, and not a particularly prominent angel, who came down from heaven and suffered for our salvation.

During the preceding century, the Arians had had a near-monopoly on military power, and now this was no longer true. The conversion of the Franks brought about the conversion of the Visigoths, and eventually (about 300 years later) the empire of Charlemagne and the beginning of the recovery of Western Europe from the earlier collapse of government and of city life under the impact of plague, lead poisoning, currency inflation, confiscatory taxation, multiple invasions, and the assorted troubles of the Dark Ages.

As noted above, Clot(h)ilda, a Christian princess of Burgundy, married the pagan Clovis, King of the Franks, thus preparing the way for his baptism by Remi in 496, and for the conversion of the Franks. Their great-grandaughter, Bertha, married the pagan Ethelbert, King of Kent, thus preparing the way for his baptism by Augustine of Canterbury in 601, and for the eventual conversion of southeast England. Bertha and Ethelbert’s daughter, Ethelburga, married the pagan Edwin, King of Northumbria, thereby preparing the way for his baptism by Paulinus in 627, and for the eventual conversion of many in the North of England.

October 1, 2012 Posted by | Africa, Biography, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Interconnected, Lectionary Readings, Spiritual, Technical Issue, Values | Leave a comment

John the Baptist / Yahya ibn Zakariyya

Most westerners don’t have a clue that John the Baptist, as well as Jesus, are featured prominently in the Qur’an.

Today’s reading in The Lectionary starts of the magically lyrical Book of John, and, if you read between the lines, you get a clue to the mystery of the holy trinity – not three Gods, not at all, but three facets of the one God we people of the book believe in:

John 1:1-18

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life,* and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.*

10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own,* and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,* full of grace and truth. 15(John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) 16From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son,* who is close to the Father’s heart,* who has made him known.

(This is the tomb of John the Baptist / Yahya in the Ummayad Mosque in Damascus, Syria)


So we ask ourselves, what exactly does the Qur’an have to say about John, and going to Wikipedia, I found the following (I have added paragraph separations to make it more readable):

According to the Qur’an

According to the Quran, Yahya was the son of Zakariya, and was foretold to his father by the angel Gabriel. Yahya is called a righteous, honorable and chaste person, as well as a Prophet of the Righteous ([Qur’an 6:85], [Qur’an 3:39]). He came to confirm the Word of God ([Qur’an 3:39]). His story was retold by Jafar to the Abyssinian King during the Migration to Abyssinia [2].

In his recent article, Agron Belica say’s the following: this prophet has been overlooked and misrepresented. One reason he has been overlooked is because there are five words used in the Quran to describe Prophet Yahya that have been misinterpreted in translations of the Quran. The first is the word hasur which is usually translated “chaste.” My research shows that the Arabic word hasur does not mean “chaste” with regard to Yahya; rather , it means “a concealer of secrets.”

Why the mistake in translation and commentary? As there was no extensive information given in the Quran about the life of Prophet Yahya nor in the hadith, the commentators then turned to Christian tradition and simply repeated what they found there. Nonetheless, the commentators of the Quran have placed considerable emphasis on this word.

Al-Tabari interprets the word hasur to mean one who abstains from sexual intercourse with women. He then reports a hadith on the authority of Said ibn al-Musayyab which has Prophet Muhammad saying the following: “Everyone of the sons of Adam shall come on the Day of Resurrection with a sin (of sexual impropriety) except Yahya bin Zechariah.’ Then, picking up a tiny straw, he continued, ‘this is because his generative organ was no bigger then this straw (implying that he was impotent).’” Does this mean that even the prophets outside of Yahya will be raised up with this sin of sexual impropriety? How can we accept that this was said by such a modest human being, comparing a straw to another prophet’s generative organ? Was Yahya impotent?

One commentator, Ibn Kathir, a renowned Islamic scholar , rejects this view and adds, “This would be a defect and a blemish unworthy of prophets.” He then mentions that it was not that he had no sexual relations with women, but that he had no illegal sexual relations with them. Indeed, the whole discussion is unseemly. It is known that prophets of God are immune from major sins, so this statement makes no sense at all when interpreting the word, hasur. In addition, I would like to mention the fact that in his commentary, ibn Kathir says he (Yahya) probably married and had children. He said this on the basis of what was related in the Quran of the prayer of Zachariah. There are at least three reasons why interpreting hasur in this context as “chaste” is a misinterpretation: First of all, there is another word in the Quran for “chaste” and that is muhasanah. As God used a different word with hasur, it must mean something different. Secondly, God says in the Quran that Islam did not bring monasticism but that it was something that they (the Christians) invented. Therefore, God would not have sent a Prophet who was celibate. In addition, it is contrary the exhortation in the Torah to “go forth and multiply.” Thirdly, Yahya’s father, Zechariah prayed for a protector who would provide descendants (dhuriyyat) for his family. “There Zachariah called to his Lord; he said: My Lord! Bestow on me good offspring from Thy presence; truly Thou art hearing supplication.” (3:38) God gave him Yahya.

God would not have sent a son to Zechariah who would not carry on the line of Jacob’s descendants because then God would not have answered the prayer of Zechariah. The word hasur is used only one time in the Quran and that is in regard to the Prophet Yahya.

A major Arabic-English lexicon, that of Edward William Lane (Taj al-Arus) states that when hasur is used alone, it means “concealer of secrets.” In his translation, of Ibn al- Arabi’s Book of the Fabulous Gryphon, Elmore also translates the Arabic hasur “as consealer of secrets.” In the referenced passage, “chaste” would not have been appropriate. (Gerald T. Elmore, Islamic Sainthood in the Fullness of Time, Brill 1999, P. 482)

The second word that has been misinterpreted is waliy (19:5) which in this verse and many others in the Quran means “protector” not “heir or successor.” In this specific case, Zechariah prays to his Lord: “And truly I have feared my defenders after me and my wife has been a barren woman. So bestow on me from that which proceeds from Thy Presence a protector (waliy).”

The third word that is misinterpreted is that of fard in (21:89): “And mention Zechariah when he cried out to his Lord: My Lord! Forsake me not unassisted (fard) and Thou art the Best of the ones who inherit.” It is usually translated as “heir,” but the same reasoning applies as above. The word “unassisted” refers to the fact that Zechariah did not want to be left alone without any protector. He feared for those who would defend him and his honor after he died, that they would be left without a protector and thereby could not defend his honor.

The fourth misinterpreted word in relation to Prophet Yahya is sayyid. Prophet Yahya is referred to as a sayyid, chief in the Quran. The commentators have interpreted this to mean that he was a scholar of religious law, a wise man, a noble wise and pious man, and so forth. This was a prophet of God. Knowledge and wisdom were given to him by his Lord. The title given to Yahya by his Lord shows that Prophet Yahya is one who has authority over his people and not “noble” or “honorable” as this word is usually translated. Honor and nobility are good qualities but they fail to indicate that Prophet Yahya is given a role of leadership by his Lord.

The fifth word is hanan which means “mercy,” which is part of the compound name Yu’hanan (in English “John”), meaning “God is Merciful.” The word hanan is used once in the Quran and that is in reference to Prophet Yahya: “And continuous mercy from Us and purity . . . .” This is singularly appropriate to the circumstances of the Prophet Yahya. The names Yahya and Yuhanan are not the same as many assume. They have two entirely different roots. Hanan and hanna both derive from the Semitic root h n n. While the word hanna means “mercy or tenderness,” the root word for Yahya is h y y. It means “life” or “he lives.” One does not need to be a linguist to see the obvious. In addition, I would like also to mention that this name and attribute given to Prophet Yahya can also be found in Sabean literature. The Sabians are mentioned in the Quran in verses (2:62), (5:69) and (22:17).

In their canonical prayer book we find Yahya Yuhanna. It has been known that it is the practice of the Sabians to have two names, a real name and a special name. According to the Sabians, this prophet’s real name was Yahya (he lives) and his lay name was Yuhanna (John). Prophet Yahya is the only one given this name as the Quran clearly states: “O Zechariah! Truly We give thee the good tidings of a boy; his name will be Yahya (he who lives) and We assign it not as a namesake (samiyya) for anyone before.” Again, another word that we need to pay attention to is samiya. It is used twice in the Quran, once in reference to Yahya (19:7) “O Zechariah! Truly We give thee the good tidings of a boy; his name will be Yahya and We assign it not as a namesake (samiya) for anyone before.” The other time it is used is in reference to God. “. . . Knowest thou any namesake (samiya) for Him [God]?” (19:65)

In the famous Arabic lexicon Lisan al-arab the root word s m w means elevation or highness. “Then the angels proclaimed to him while he was in the sanctuary that God gives you good tidings of Yahya-one who establishes the word of God as true- a chief and a concealer of secrets and a prophet, among the ones who are in accord with morality.”(3:39) See The Sublime Quran Pocket Size translated by Laleh Bakhtiar (2009)

So here is what I am thinking this morning . . . We have so much to offer one another. We use each other’s books – Jewish, Christian, Moslem – and studies to illuminate our beliefs. Why are we niggling over trivialities? If we were to clasp hands and fight together against the forces of darkness, what a mighty force for good we would be!

June 7, 2009 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Community, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Random Musings, Spiritual | 10 Comments