Culture Oman Podcast Sultanate

Sultanate Ep 029: Audio Postcard – Ruwi

June 10, 2018

Here in the Muslim world it is the holy month of Ramadan, where worshipers fast during daylight hours to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Mohamed. The major mosques in the sultanate host post-fast meals called Iftar which take place at sunset and before the Maghrab prayer.

For this audio postcard I’m here in Ruwi, which is the business district of Muscat, observing the moments before Maghrab and Iftar.

In the parking lot of Sultan Qaboos Mosque, an area is cordoned off for a communal feast of rice and grilled chicken. There are hundreds of participants here all seated in long straight rows, sitting on ground mats in front of large round aluminum platters folding their feast. Near the platters are large bottles of cold water, cartons of laban (a yogurt buttermilk) and dates.

Officially the fast ends as soon as the Muezzin starts the Adhan. Everyone breaks fast together.

Ruwi Drama

So, I specifically went to Sultan Qaboos Mosque in Ruwi (not to be confused with Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque) to photograph and make this recording because I knew they would be serving an Iftar meal in a way I could capture a decent image with the mosque in the background. I arrived well before Maghrab, started my microphone recording to capture everything, and wandered around outside the perimeter to grab just a few shots. Trying to keep a low profile. I didn’t want to disturb anybody.

Everybody was just sitting there waiting for the loudspeaker to crackle to life. So, needless to say everybody saw me, but nobody acted in a way like, “hey, don’t take my picture.” There’s no practical way to ask for everybody’s permission, but I knew the end image would only show the foreground subjects in limited detail. So I proceed to grab a few shots to share. Nothing closer closer than what you see here.

However, one of the catering staff came up to me, telling me I can’t take pictures. I kind of figured this would happen. I said, “no problem.” He then invited me to sit with them….. Here’s where my questions to you come:

How would you answer? Remember you specifically traveled to this location in Ruwi to discreetly and respectfully observe a religious moment from afar. You were told to stop taking photos, as opposed to being asked.

What’s the deal about no pictures? Peaceful muslims get unjustly categorized as dangerous by people who are ignorant, but hiding your practices from curious people isn’t going to look good. Maybe I’m missing something here.

As you can probably tell I am a little bummed, but it’s not a huge deal. I just thought it would make a good discussion and possible learning moment.

Let me know if you have any thoughts on my experience in the comments below.

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