Finding a book for Oman was surprisingly easy, but finding a movie and a vegetarian recipe was definitely not.
The food: Omani Vegetable Shurbah
I used the recipe from this blog, but I’m not sure how accurate the recipe is since the blog they adapted it from doesn’t exist anymore. Oman doesn’t seem like a country with a lot of vegetarian options, but the soup wasn’t bad. I used some different vegetables than in the recipe, but it seems like the kind of thing that (hopefully) doesn’t matter what vegetables you use. It was pretty easy to make, as well. I probably could have made it a bit more flavorful, but I don’t have a teaspoon measure so I just have to eyeball and hope for the best. I’m not sure what sort of bread they eat in Oman- some sort of flatbread, I assume. I don’t have any flatbread, but it would probably be good with some.
The book: Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharti
The writing style in this book was a bit jarring at first. There are no quotation marks around anyone talking. There’s no chronological flow of time in the book either- a child in one sentence is married the next sentence and a newborn the sentence after. It’s almost as if you’re listening to someone’s memories, as they recall them. Each chapter focuses on a different character, which are all narrated in third person, except for one character who is in first person. However, after a while I got used to the style and it didn’t bother me anymore.
Celestial Bodies is about the lives of a family in Oman, as well as those of others in their village. Characters come in and out throughout the book, and because of the achronological style, you sort of have a whole view of their life at once. Sometimes a character mentioned very briefly would have a chapter later on when you almost forgot about them. It was interesting getting a view into Oman through the lens of family life. Occasionally there would be some pieces of history, and the book dealt a lot with slavery. Even though it had been banned decades before, some characters in the book still had slaves.
Overall I liked this book. If I thought my library had a lot of books by Omani authors, I might have given up after the first few pages because of the writing style. I’m glad I stuck with it, as it was an interesting read.
The movie: The Paradoxical Life in Muscat
As it turns out, Oman doesn’t have a film industry. There are also very few movies set in Oman, none of which I could find on Netflix. So in lieu of a movie, I watched a few different travel videos on YouTube, as well as this 50-minute documentary about life in Muscat, the capital of Oman. I learned a little bit about Oman and Muscat through this documentary, and it was fun to see a little bit into the lives of a variety of people.
While I watched a few different travel videos, my favorite was this one, about staying with a Bedouin family. There are a couple of Bedouin characters in Celestial Bodies, so I liked getting this glimpse into how they live. The vlogger was also reading Celestial Bodies in the video!