Monday, December 22, 2014

Here a Wadi, There a Wadi...Dog That Is.

My husband and I were hugely unsuccessful at dog ownership here in Salalah. First, honestly, I don't like them very much. They have hair, and they smell and need a lot of attention. They chew things. Lots of things.

But he likes dogs. And dogs like him. Fortunately they often give me a wide berth, sensing my disdain. A year ago, we saw an advert for a six month old dog who needed a new home. I went and got him. Why? Because I love my husband, and he really wanted a dog. It was hell. The dog reverted back to peeing and pooing all over the house, and while I was in America, got into my things and destroyed a school picture of my daughter (it had her little handprint on it!). I never forgave the dang thing. 

I am softer than I act though. Last Spring, we saw a tiny puppy lost in traffic. Of course we stopped and brought her home. She had a bath and food. After acclimating to the house, she started barking. Her bark was a high, piercing bark that made our neighbors wish to strangle us along with the dog. Warnings were issued by the owners of the complex, and we had to find new homes for the dogs. I try not to think about it. Ever. Dogs are easily heartbroken, and I'm sure the older dog was deeply traumatized. Moving with a dog wasn't an option...we tried. No Omani landlord will accept tenants with a dog..not that we could find.  Jako even had to move up north, after unsuccessfully living on this family's farm. To this day, I feel sick over it. I didn't want Jako, but I didn't want him to suffer either. 

Enter Tita. We live in an apartment building now, and the other morning I opened the door and saw a puppy of about 10 weeks sleeping on the doormat. We've heard a dog crying sometimes in the alleyway as local children torment any puppy they find. Omanis, for the most part, absolutely loathe dogs, taking cultural Islam to extremes. Wadi dogs are shot for fun on the beach, kicked, and beaten. Puppies on the farms are put down, because packs of wild dogs here are a real problem for farmers. They go after goats and calves, even baby camels if the pack is big enough. I think there is a huge difference though between shooting wild dogs because they are a danger to your livestock and just hurting them for fun. 

So the new puppy. Mehdi said to feed her. I did. The upstairs neighbor brought down a steel bowl and two cans of dog food. Her ears are twizzled when they walk by. I vowed the dang dog was NOT coming in the house. Two days ago I went and bought more dog food. Saturday night she went on a merry jaunt in the truck to the Oasis. Last night she went to Lulus and waited for me with the husband.  I looked at the dog while she perched up by the window, tail wagging, then sleeping happily with her head on Mehdi's leg. Things have come to a pretty pass haven't they? And guess who slept on a nice blankie last night INSIDE the house? Yeah. Tita. I'm doomed. 

I booted her out the door this morning and closed the door to the building. I have my limits. I can't get attached. She/he (believe it or not I can't tell an inny from and outy on puppies) has to keep some of her wild flair, because I'm not walking a dog. I'm not. I am not going to worry if she's gone for several hours. I'm not going to jump up if I hear crying in the alley to see if the neighbors are hitting her. Yeah. No way. I'm too tough for that. How she knew from down in that alley that she would find a dog loving Arab in apartment 3 is a mystery. Bugger. 


Luckiest dog in Salalah. Eatin' off me fine china.

Like I said, I made four cakes Saturday. I also made a cake the day I posted my thoughts about Peshawar, but couldn't bring myself to talk about it. Since I didn't get pics of the four amazing cakes Saturday, I will give you my recipe for chocolate frosting from last week. It's a nice frosting, light and easy to make. If you find a ganache or dark chocolate frosting too rich, this might be the frosting for you. It easily makes enough for a double layer cake. 

(stolen from Mel's Kitchen)

1 cup unsalted butter, softened but still a bit cool
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup (6 oz) good quality dark chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature

Whip the butter on medium speed for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy. Gradually add the powdered sugar. Add the vanilla and continue whipping. Drizzle in the melted chocolate and continue whipping another 3 minutes. 

Frost cake. Voila!

My pictures are horrid as usual. I made two single for home and one for a friend. 

I am trying my best to blog, but my laptop isn't connecting. Anywhere. I do what I can at work, but it isn't really enough. Rest assured I am thinking all the time about topics, and bake much more now than I write about. I'm just not eating them. 


Felicia El Aid

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Today's post was either going to be about the dog that showed up on our doorstep, or abalone diving here in Salalah. Instead many people here are stunned by the news that the Taliban murdered over a 130 children in a school in Peshawar, Pakistan.

We have a large, varied population of Pakistanis here in Salalah, from educated professionals to underpaid and undervalued laborers. I promise you, every one of them is in pain. We know that children die every day all over the globe. Syria and Yemen, for example. Unfortunately all this death becomes an abstraction as as a result of so much information. I don't watch the news anymore. It's a form of cowardice I know, but it makes me cry. I tune out so much that when a dear friend changed his profile picture on Facebook to reflect his sorrow about the tragedy in his homeland, I went "huh" and had to start googling.

I almost wish I hadn't. It's heart wrenching. I am sure it's all over CNN back in America, but as awful as it looks on the news to my American friends, not a lot of the people I know back home are part of a Pakistani community. I look around here and wonder if the fellows walking along the street in their tired kameezes know someone who lost a child. It seems so close to home you know? This wasn't a monsoon or a natural disaster, difficult as those are to endure, but grown men slaughtering children. What the hell were they thinking?

The Taliban (a large amorphous group, not all of whom approve of this action it seems) released a statement to the effect that the massacre was retaliation for the Pakistani army killing THEIR children. Well that makes sense doesn't it? Who was it that said if we follow the "eye for an eye" edict then the whole world will be blind? Ah..right. Ghandi. Now Malala has weighed in condemning the attacks, and honestly I wish she would just keep out of it. She is certainly beloved by Western media and celebrities, and is surely a composed young woman, but her input for the Pakistani community is divisive at best.

The proud avengers? Come on.

Words fail.

I haven't said anything in this post terribly profound, or anything that adds to the discussion. I am simply very, very sorry for the pain my Pakistani friends are in here, and abroad. They have been good to me. I am sorry for all of it. A friend of mine, an Indian friend, is going to the police tomorrow to see about a permit for a flower vigil outside the Pakistani school. No flags, no politics. Just a candle or a flower. I think it's a laudable idea. Assuming the permit comes through, we can meet after Isha prayers on Friday. If you do not live in Salalah, I think a moment of silence for ALL the wee bairns killed as collateral in an escalating global conflict would be nice. Don't you?

Honestly, I did make a cake. I just don't think today is the day to write about it. Tomorrow there will be time for dogs and cakes. But not today.


Felicia El Aid

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The End of Hafa

On December 15th, the water and electricity will stop. The demolition will, supposedly, begin shortly thereafter. Tenders have been submitted and money will be made. Hafa, former quarter to slaves and Salalah's poor, will be torn down and rebuilt. Rumor has it a Starbucks is coming. Well how about that?

I don't know how I feel about this. I grew up in Hawaii before it was the land of Aloha and millions of tourists changed its landscape forever. As a young woman, I saw newscasts of old men weeping as they were evicted from banana plantations that were destined to be golf courses. Hawaii isn't the beautiful place of my childhood. It's gone, an homage to commercial development and angry Hawaiian nationalists. It's a real mess. I've also lived in Hafa, above the Cafe de Paris. I liked seeing the Omani ladies sitting in groups on the beach at night, chatting with friends and tapping on their mobiles and iPads. Omani men sit in a circle and play cards in the sand. Indians play cricket and boys play football. It's hard to picture that continuing after hotels are built and upscale coffee shops like la Starbucks arrive.

Hafa is a crumbling mess though. It is prime real estate, and in a country that needs to diversity before the oil runs out, it makes economic sense to develop the area. I can't but feel that it will lose some of it's funky charm though. The government has arranged for everyone to move to new shops elsewhere in the city; they have tried to do things right. However, the goofy souk with the hawkers, perfume vendors, and Pakistanis fixing sandals by hand (and feet) won't look quite the same elsewhere.

Also, on December 15th, my Bengali cleaner will join 5000 displaced laborers. Housing was arranged for them, but "far." He and his two mates pay 35 omani rial a month for a room above a tailor shop, and they've lived there for years. They will be hard pressed to find something like that in the city (I think) and may have to join the squatters. For a lot of workers, the porta-camps set up are just too far from the only work they have. It's a pickle for them isn't it?

I bleed liberal blood I admit. Just gush it. My Hawaii upbringing has given me a distinct anti-development frame of thinking. But I get it. Salalah changes every day. Roads are torn up and widened. "Flyovers" are in the works to connect Saada to Auqud. The new airport will be finished soon, and more flights mean more business. More commerce comes in and out of the Port of Salalah all the time. In ten years, Salalah will be unrecognizable from the dusty little city at the bottom of Oman it was two and a half years ago when I arrived. I hope to be here to see it. Then I hope to leave, memories of my nights looking from my rooftop intact, seeing the lights of Al Baleed, listening to the waves, and watching the ladies of Salalah gather without care on the beach.

From the roof of my old place in Hafa.

The cake of the moment was actually a crumble. A regular customer wanted something a little different, and though he would prefer rhubarb, that wasn't available this week at Lulus. I went with apple. Here is my recipe:

Felicia's Apple Crumble

Grease a 9x13 pan with butter and set aside. 

Peel, core, and slice 12 green apples. I use green because I like the apples to be a bit tart. Add a teaspoon of cinnamon and cup of sugar. Pour a cup of water over the lot of it, and stew for about 15 minutes. You want some chunks remaining, so don't stew it into a total mush.

Let cool for a bit while you prepare the topping. Preheat oven to 350F/180C

Mix 2 cups of oatmeal, a cup of flour, and 1/2 cup of sugar. Cut in a cup of cold butter. It helps to cut it into small cubes. I use my fingers to make a coarse mix. 

Pour the apples into the prepared pan and sprinkle with about 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Spread the oatmeal mixture over the apples and bake for 30 minutes.

Delicious with vanilla ice cream!

Yeah..this isn't my pic either. I get tired of whinging at my husband to take a pic and send it to me.

The husband asked me today if I am still doing cakes. I said I am, but this week has been light on butter. Shopping tomorrow though! I feel a mango bundt cake coming on...hooray!


Felicia El Aid

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

What Wives Want

DISCLAIMER: THIS POST IS MEANT TO AMUSE, NOT REFLECT ANYONE'S PARTICULAR SITUATION. Sheesh. Honestly I am laughing while I write. Seriously. I'm not trying to sound like Alanis Morissette.


What is it that we want from men anyway? I have done loads of research and have lots of empirical data to cull in order to answer this question.

Nah, not really. I will take a stab at it though.

We want your time.

مرة. A lot of it. Women want your undivided, devoted, time. We want you to sit and watch television with us after dinner and the kids are put to bed (assuming there are any). We want you to hold our hand while you do it too. And talk to us in a meaningful way. Even if it bores you crudless. And we don't think it is too much to ask. We will even watch this with you while you hang with us:

Or something equally unfathomable.

We do not need this:

If your wife demands a lot of jewelry and gifts, then you picked the wrong woman. Good luck with that. I am talking about normal women. We want companionship. Camaraderie. I DID take a poll on facebook and got the following from women: kindness, love, respect, humor, listening, support, feeling valued, a best friend, and from my aunt I got "a man who loves his family more than his own life." My aunt did get that in my Uncle Cony by the way, and they've been married yonks and still actually LIKE each other! I got time as an answer as well.

Know what I think men want? Dinner. I think they want dinner. Or that other thing that is not dinner.



Now Dhofari women? The don't need a revolution. Not over this anyway. According to my informant (cool anthropology word of the day), women in Dhofar really have it made. They are busy with other women all the time. They go to parties and gatherings. Many of them have maids, so they can sleep and eat and relax as they please. Some husbands are simply an afterthought. Of course not all Omani husbands are an afterthought....come on. My point is local women have a community and family structure that supports them even if their husbands can't be bothered. My Omani friend said, even in the case of divorce, here in Salalah a father will cut a cow or a camel and have a feast and declare thanks to God that his daughter is returned to him. 

How fun is that? I put great effort into building community for myself here, but it is an effort. I find people with whom I can spend time. Many women here do not have the support of the family and community with which they grew up. So we have to make our own. Because here is the thing. Men see us as demanding and needy. THEIR responses were along the lines of  "limits" and "more." Men..I swanee give me strength.

I guess the upshot of it is, I think wives want their husband's attention. We do want your kindness and your love and your loyalty. We want it all, and we don't think that is too much to ask. In return, we make you comfortable, bear your children (and lose our figures because of it), and keep you company when you need it. We are here for you. We are your shelter from the storm. 

I think my daughter nailed it best of all when I asked her. She said everything. We want everything. Tous. We want it all. So just give it to us k?

On to today's cake. I got a request from a new customer for a "turtle cake." A turtle cake is a chocolate cake smothered in chocolate and caramel sauce and laced with pecans. We don't have pecans here in Salalah that I can find, so I went with walnuts. Walnuts are also yummy.

This is their cake. 

I modified the recipe to double it. I've learned that these pics are NOT the small layers the recipes make. I was correct. A doubled recipe mak)es a gigantic three layer cake.

Turtle Cake

2 eggs
2 c. buttermilk (or 2 c. milk with a teaspoon of vinegar)
1 1/3 c. vegetable oil
4 c. all-purpose flour
3 c. sugar
1 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2  tbsp. baking soda (this was too much, just do 1)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. freshly brewed hot coffee (my customer didn’t want it…I used regular hot water)

In a stand mixer, blend the eggs, milk, oil, and sugar until creamy. It will be very liquid. Add sifted flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. While mixing, slowly pour in hot water. Mix 2 minutes.

Divide into three 8 inch GREASED AND FLOURED cake pans. Bake 20 mintues at 350 (180C). If you cannot fit all the pans in one oven, refrigerate the other layers. I skipped this step, and shouldn't have. The acid from the baking soda built up by the third layer I think. Not sure, but there were bubbles in the batter. 

Cool cakes in pans 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack and cooking completely. 


The chocolate sauce

12 oz chopped chocolate or chocolate bits
1 c. cream

Bring the cream just to the boil. Pour over the chocolate and let it sit for at least 10 minutes. Do not give into temptation to stir it. It makes the chocolate grainy. Bring to room temperature. Drizzle in gobs over the cake layers. You will probably have extra left.


3 cups of brown sugar. Light is better than dark, but all I had was dark. meh
1 c. cream
squeeze lemon juice
6 T cold butter, cut in chunks

Stir the brown sugar, cream, and lemon over low heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Boil about five minutes, until sauce is thickened. Don't boil it for too long, or you will have candy that is impossible to spread. Remove from the heat, wait 10 minutes, then incorporate the butter. When the caramel is at room temperature, whip until smooth and creamy. This recipe makes a LOT of sauce, more than needed for the cake. Refrigerate the leftovers for ice cream or something.

A CAUTION: This cake is too big. Just don't do it in three giant layers. Take the recipe back by half and make a two layer cake, or three short layers.

My cake. The family that ordered it will all require trips to the dentist!

I enjoyed writing this post and all the fun discussions at work that went with my "research." I do remember an elderly lady who frequented a salon where I worked as a younger woman. She advised all of us not to let our spouses get lonely. "A lonely husband is not good ladies. Neither is a lonely wife."


Felicia El Aid

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Freakin Wind Is Here!

I can hear it howling outside the window now. I heard it howling around my classroom yesterday. The wind has arrived. Dirt sifted onto stairwells, sand and dust in every crevice of your house, and a fine grit ground into your skin, tear ducts, ears, and.....oops. Never mind. For those who don't wear a hijab, hair gets coated with grime too.

I love it. It's my favorite time of year. Know why? Because it means cool weather is here. It actually gets down to the low 20s! (That's Celsius Americanos....70s F). Tis glory. So good. We get to cool off without the constant mist that accompanies kareef. Sometimes, I am actually cold.

It's winter in Salalah. East Coast Americans read it and weep. I am cold at 70 degrees with a light wind. You are freezing your bazoombas off at below 0. Hah! Ha ha ha.

We celebrated the coming of winter by going to Faziya beach. If you haven't been there, you really should. For readers abroad, it's worth the trip to Salalah. Truly it's hard to find a beach like this anywhere in the world. One has to drive into the mountains (and they ain't foothills either) then down 6 km to the beach below. You have a long stretch of rather isolated beach hemmed in by ancient desert cliffs. Shockin beautiful.

Barbecued fish and burgers, a fire, and walks and talks with good friends make life livable away from home. I've been terribly homesick the last few weeks and it was a gift to walk down the beach and talk with my girlfriends. I looked at one of them, and her husband doing silly dances by the fire, and felt grateful for the moment. Sometimes all it takes is a moment to get through it all right?

A still clean Faziya. Let's keep it that way.

On the way

Like swimming on the moon eh? However, I didn't bring cake.These are pictures from other trips...I didn't bring a camera this weekend. 

The cake of the day was Vanilla Bundt Cake by I Am Baker. The woman is out of control, but making good money with her blog cum website now. Her work is beautiful and her recipes reliable. The only modification I made was to throw in about a cup and a half of chocolate chips.

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Cream the sugar and butter in a mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, creaming thoroughly between eggs. Add the milk and vanilla and continue mixing for about 2 minutes. Sift the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and blend into the batter.

Pour into a WELL greased and floured bundt pan and bake approximately 30 minutes, until a toothpick tests clean.

Let the cake rest 10 minutes before flipping onto a plate. Cool completely before glazing. I didn't wait the full 10 minutes as SOMEBODY was rushing me out the door. But really. Wait. If you don't, bits of the cake will stick to the pan and it won't be very pretty.

For the glaze, I mix about a cup of confectioners sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla, and about 3 tablespoons of cream. It should run down the sides of the cake, but not too much. Mine was a bit thick, so it kinda gobbed on the top. Again, A CERTAIN PERSON was rushing me. Fortunately, my regular customer said it was the best one yet. Hooray!

Joy the Baker's cake. Come on.

My cake, without glaze. Note what happens when you don't wait 10 minutes.

A new week starts tomorrow. Classes are almost finished and exams are right around the corner. Before I know it,  it will be June and my third teaching year in Salalah will be over. Alarming how fast time goes by isn't it? I also feel like my blog post today is a little weak, but I can't be a genius every dang time, can I? 


Felicia El Aid

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


You know what Salalah is replete with? Large women. Glorious, black-swathed big ladies. I feel like the smallest cow in the pasture. Seriously. Squishy bodies here are more acceptable than anyplace I've ever been in my life (except for, perhaps, certain bars in Livermore Falls, Maine).

For most of my life, I've felt a bit overstuffed. Some years have been more overstuffed than others. Salalah was a revelation. Although diet centers are an exploding business, local ladies are NOT going there to lose weight for their looks.

They are going because being huge is killing them. They are going because doctors are telling them they can't bear children safely anymore. They are going because they are diabetic. But they aren't going in order to look prettier or more attractive to men. Here, Omani ladies have beauty all under control at size 20 and up. I once mentioned to an Omani acquaintance that I thought I should lose some weight. He shook his and said, "No. Not good." He wasn't being cheeky; he's much too respectable a guy for that. Just honest. Of course I am the queen of the overshare so perhaps I shouldn't have mentioned it all. Ok...I definitely shouldn't have mentioned it. Let's just say I was testing out my theory that lots of Arab men prefer a lass with a generous badonkadonk.

When I traveled to India after being in Salalah for a few months, I wasn't there twenty-four hours before I felt, well, fat again. I was again aware of my overstuffed nature. It irritated me that I, a reasonably smart woman, felt so influenced by the society around me. I couldn't wait to return to Oman and resume my loose flowy clothes and my casual attitude about being plushy.

I hope it doesn't change too much in the coming years, but change is coming nevertheless. The younger girls I teach talk about being slim and dieting a lot now. Indian and Western advertising is finally having an influence here as Dhofar modernizes. So they are drinking the kool aid. I sure hope they don't change completely, so that they become like Americans and admire bodies the size of swizzle sticks.

Do I want Omani women to be healthier? Of course. Diabetes is rampant in the Gulf. Walk into Lulus and Nutella isn't a few jars on a's an homage to chocolate butter in a giant pyramid. Never mind that I want to hug all of it. Check back with me in ten years. Maybe I will no longer be the smallest cow in the pasture. I ain't changin a whole lot though...let the world spin on. I have Nutella to eat.

Loathsome creature.

I am in no way implying this resembles local women. Or myself. 

It is actually very difficult to find pictures of Dhofari women online. It is even harder to TAKE a picture, and even if I did, I wouldn't post it publicly. It just isn't on. Instead, you get a picture of a chunky belly dancer. Enjoy.

The cake of the day came in a box. I know. I'm sorry. I did a box cake last time, but I DID do homemade frosting. I had to. A neighbor left a box of Betty Crocker cheesecake mix at my door. Just like a baby in a basket. I opened my door, looked down, and it was staring up at me.

So I made it. They are fairly respectable as far as box mixes go. Can a mix compare to cheesecake made from scratch? No. But they are pretty tasty anyway! I don't have a picture of the finished product. Once again my husband was doing that inconvenient job thing. I am too cheap to go buy another tablet/phone thingie after dropping the last crap tablet and breaking it. Ah well. 

Isn't this exciting? I will give you a hint. They don't look this thick in real life. You need two boxes for that. Cheaters. 

I have two cakes to make today. For money. You may have noticed I no longer make a cake a day. As I explained, it's just too dang expensive. I also modified my blog description to say a year of cakes. Just not every day. It's like it never happened! Isn't the delete button wonderful? 


Felicia El Aid