This week, Al Amana Centre released our Winter Newsletter. Keep reading for my reflection or click here to view the whole newsletter.
Before arriving in Oman, I had only met Aaro and Justin for one hour over Skype. I knew very little about Al Amana Centre or what my role would be, and I was nervous. Thankfully, if there is one thing Omanis and Al Amana Centre do well, it is hospitality.
I have lived in North Carolina and Virginia for my whole life, and I can tell you that American Southerners pride themselves on the warmth of their “Southern Hospitality.” This ideal describes a place where people slow down, gather around home cooked meals, sit on the front porch, and say a lot of “yes ma’am” and “no sir.” Friends are treated like family, and pitchers of sweet tea disappear over unhurried conversation.
Replace sweet tea with kahwa and dates, and Oman brings an abundance of warmth to hospitality (and I’m not talking about the warm temperatures). I have been in Oman for three months now, and I’m repeatedly blown away by the kindness I receive from strangers. Last weekend I attended a storytelling event with mostly Omani participants. Due to scheduling conflicts, neither of my friends could go with me, so I went alone. I stepped through the door and cautiously sat on a pillow near three Omani women around my age. As soon as I introduced myself as new to Oman, they lit up and started asking me questions of my experiences so far. They asked about what I do here, so I told them about Al Amana Centre. Eagerly they responded by telling me how Oman is a great place to do this peacebuilding work. We shared stories of our experiences in other countries and here in Oman, and before the event had even officially started, we were exchanging WhatsApp numbers and making plans to go to a yoga class together.
By the end of the night, they had welcomed me, the stranger, so fully that I felt like I was at home in Virginia sitting around with old friends. It is through building friendships like these, both during AAC programs and beyond, that I feel like I am learning the most about Oman and peacebuilding. It is in the smiles and laughter, the focused listening and captivating storytelling, through which I am broadening my own understanding of tolerance and learning to practice Omani hospitality. I am only three months into my year in Oman, so I still have much to experience, but I am thankful that this holiday season Oman is starting to feel a lot like home.