Friday, May 4: After leaving the Mutrah Souq, I drive toward Muscat proper to find the “Ladies Tailoring” I had seen when driving back from As Sifah Beach. I had purchased two maxi-skirts from Lulu the week before, and I wanted to take them to a Ladies’ Tailor so I could try them on in the shop and have them measured and hemmed. I usually use a tailor at the Nizwa souq, but as he’s a Gent’s Tailor with no dressing room, I knew I wouldn’t be able to try them on in his shop. So, with my air conditioner going full blast, I head to Muscat and park in front of the tailor’s shop.
I go inside the hole-in-the-wall to find it’s a toasty oven inside. No tailor is in sight. I walk back outside and scan the horizon. Across the street I see a lady waving and pointing at another woman, gesturing that she is the one I am looking for. Finally, the woman moseys back across the street and comes in to the shop.
I ask this Pakistani “tailor” if she speaks English; she assures me she does, yet when I ask her a question about trying on the skirts she doesn’t comprehend. This happens a lot in Oman; people say they speak English but they really don’t. It would be like me saying I speak Arabic when all I can say are the basic “Hello, How are you, I’m fine, Thank you, Peace be upon you, Thanks be to God, Good morning, Good morning to you, and Welcome.” That is NOT speaking Arabic!! Anyone who tries having a conversation with me will realize that quickly.
I make all kinds of gestures to this woman and finally try on the skirt, sweat pouring off of me. She lackadaisically measures the hemline and tells me she can hem both skirts in 15 minutes. I should wait. I say that I will go for a drive and come back in 30 minutes. Give me air conditioning or give me death!!
I uncertainly and worriedly leave my skirts with this woman, who obviously must know what she’s doing, right (?), as she has a proper shop and actual dresses swaying in the hot breeze across the front of her shop. I’m a little hesitant though, seeing as how sloppily she measured the hemline. And 15 minutes to hem two full skirts with lining is a pretty optimistic prediction.
To kill time, I take a drive to the Al Bustan roundabout, which is a big dhow sitting in a fountain in the center of a large roundabout. Seedlings are planted in rows all around. I park the car, walk around the roundabout and take pictures, going as slowly as possible, giving the tailor ample time.
Then I drive up the road a bit to the Qantab exit, where I see another cool sculpture sitting off the exit.
Finally, after nearly 45 very long minutes have passed, I return to the tailor. I find now that a Pakistani man is there, and several women. The man is just NOW cutting off the bottom of one of the skirts! The women tell me to take a seat. I say, “Wait a minute. Can I see the skirt please?” I hold it up and find it is still dragging on the floor by about 6 inches! A bunch of talking ensues, where I explain that it needs to be shorter, basically the length of my pants! Finally they understand and the “tailor” cuts off some more. I am now plenty worried about what will happen to my skirts. I start fanning my face and saying it’s really hot. They turn on an ancient air conditioner that basically just swirls the warm air around. I sweat.
The Pakistani tailor sews and sews. It’s taking forever!! He is only working on the plaid skirt; apparently one of the other women has taken off with my black skirt. By then I am so miserable I just want them to finish so I can leave. After what seems like an eternity, they finish and hand me the skirts, telling me I owe them 2 rials. This despite the first woman telling me that they would charge only 500 baisas each (total 1 rial) for both skirts! I protest and remind them the woman told me 500 baisas, and they say, “But too much fabric!!” I pay them 2 rials just to get the heck out of that enclosed oven. I don’t even look at the skirts, but stuff them in a bag and get the heck out of Dodge.
By now it is nearly 1:00, way too late in a 113 degree day to be walking around outside! But I am determined to take a walk around Al Riyam Park to get pictures of the incense burner sculpture on the hill. To those who aren’t familiar with incense burners, this sculpture at first glance might look like some kind of rococo spaceship. I find the park, park my Terrain, and walk ever so slowly up toward the incense burner. I find when I approach it that the pathway is gated off, so I can’t even walk up to it. I’m slightly relieved as I don’t feel like exerting myself! I wander around the park, swarming with Indians playing cricket and listening to a singer under some shade trees. I wander through, enjoying the squeals of children, the whack of the cricket bat against the ball, the speckles of shade on the grass.
Finally, I am tired from the heat and anxious to get home to Nizwa. It’s strange when the thing you look forward to most is getting in your air-conditioned car for a long drive, or returning to your house where you can turn on all the air conditioners and fans full blast. I stop for a large bottle of water and a mango juice, and settle in for the drive back to Nizwa.
When I get home to Nizwa, I take out my skirts to try them on. I find each skirt is hemmed at a slant, the bottom of each like a sliding board. The lining is longer than the skirt and is all askew. I paid 2 rials for what? For nothing! I took the skirts straight away to my regular Gents’ Tailor and asked him in my most broken English if he might be able to fix them. They’re still with him now and the verdict is out. So much for “Ladies Tailoring!”