Smiling in the Arabian world (Oman)

A look behind the veil.

The journey continued in Oman after performing with magic, music and danish humor in United Arab Emirates. We arrived at the Arab pearl Muscat, where we felt like entering a 1001-nights fairytale in the beautiful neighborhood Muttrah. 


When we performed in some of the richest cities in the world, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the settings were the grand skyscrapers, 5-7 star hotels, the fastest and most luxurious life and stylish businessmen. Now we arrived in a part of Arabia, which we had looked particularly forward to. 

The skyscrapers were now replaced by small cottages with no more than two floors. All the glass and golden facades along with the blinking lights on the hotels of Dubai were gone, and instead we saw lighted curves, colorful fountains, millions of flowers, mosques and their towers headed above the quiet life of the city. Now were had arrived at the beautiful Oman, and we were ready  to other adventures, when the magic suitcase was opened and the guitar had been tuned. 


Smiling in Sur (which in danish means angry)

After a few days in the capital, we drove south and passed coincidentally the city “Sur”. We could not miss this challenge – could we make people smile even though they lived in a city, that claimed otherwise?

Actually it  turned out to be a bit of a project. Not only in this city but in many of the other places in the area. Because when most of the countries in the Gulf went from being relatively poor to extremely rich overnight because of the oil, they have and enormous amount of free working positions. 90 percent of the workers come from Thailand, India, Pakistan and Turkey.

These guestworkers are all very polite. And out of respect for strangers, they don't laugh at any cost, which we experienced, when we first started our show unplanned. Anyway a lot of people gathered around us to see what was going on. And steady but slowly the stone-faces loosened up. At first the locals seemed to wonder, what we were doing, and then they started smiling. At the end laughter and cheers, and people pushed to get closer and be part of the show.

The following days we performed a bunch of small tricks when we walked through the town. Everyone in Sur had by then heard of the weird strangers, who were passing by, and everyone cheered to see a trick or get the hands on a balloon animal.

When they found out, that Thomas is a professional idea-developer, they suddenly wanted coaching to handle their greatest challenges in life. One wished to ask his cousin to marry him, which was quite difficult, since he is not allowed to speak to her. Another wished to know, how he could loose quite some weight, because he wanted to sing and star in a Bollywood-movie.

We almost ended up as cult figures in the town, where the inhabitants luckily enough ended up not being quite as angry as the name of their city.


Among Bedouins and camels

We continued our adventure and went towards the huge Wahiba desert, which measures more than 10.000 square kilometers. We found a driver in a four-wheeler, who could roar us into the desert the first few kilometers. As if the devil were behind us, we flew across the sand up and down the peaks and valleys in the desert with a stream of sand flying behind the vehicle.

Our lift ended ind the steaming hot desert, where sand lay as far as our eyes could see. It was a spectacular scenery and somewhat of a contrast to Denmark, where we knew a snow-blizzard was keeping everybody indoors.

At the same time it was a gigantic contrast to other journeys we have been on. The vivid jungle, humid rainforest, subcultures of New York and rafting on the Amazon River. The world is without a doubt amazing.

A real Bedouin family opened their door to us, well the tent may be a more accurate expression. The family consisted of all ages. The two grandparents were in charge, next in the hierarchy came the two daughters and then the three children.   

This order was also used, when they served dinner, which normally consisted of rice and goat. We were given the first plates, as we were guests, then the dish were served to the grandfather. When he was full, women and children were allowed to eat.

The man wore the local clothing, the long “dish dash” with a scarf around his head. The women hid their faces behind a spectacular veil. It resembled a kind of black mask similar to the ones a bank robber might wear, were only the eyes are visible. This made the women look both mysterious and terrifying. It gave their looks a scary glow, and even though it is frowned upon to look at the women, it was difficult not doing so.


A goat as a pet

The camp consisted of several small tents and a few cabins made of bamboo. Inside the earth was covered by beautiful woven carpets which had the entire length of the tent. Along the walls pillows in every size and shape rested. There were not a single sofa, coffee-table or anything similar to furniture. Off course this meant that there were no TV or computers as well. The room only contained the carpet and pillows. On the walls hung a picture of sultan Qaboos and the family’s son in a military uniform.  

Around the tents smaller fences kept the families animals close by. The goats had their own fencing, and one of the goat kids practically was the family dog. The five-year old beautiful princess-like granddaughter dragged the small kid around everywhere. It hung in her arms, no matter where she went.

Besides the goats the camels had their fencing, but every morning, they walked away to find some plants to eat. In the evening they returned by themselves, and funny enough they always found the right family again.   


Behind the veil

We wanted to give the family an intimate show. The guitar and the magic suitcase were unpacked, and everyone looked astonished at what was about to happen.

At first the grandmother was very frightened, and she was afraid to join us. In the end she conquered her own fear, but when Jesper wanted to make some candy appear, she got frightened again. He lit his (magic) pot and put some magic salt in it, which turned the pot to large flames. The grandmother practically jumped backwards by surprise and fright and she screamed. Suddenly the small pot was full of candy, but the old woman would not let the others eat it, since she thought it must be bewitched. 

Thomas hid the strings on the guitar and shortly after the tent were full of danish music and singing. The Bedouin family clapped their hands, but they rarely hit the beat.

After this small show a new form of friendship emerged. We talked about the words, we had in common, we saw the family photos, we ate dates and drank Oman coffee. In this manner we got closer to one another, because we turned out not to be normal travelers, but someone who wished to give something back to the family.  

We spend the night in our sleeping bags under the sky with millions of stars twinkling above. Next day we talked some more with the Bedouins about our families at home and daily life in Denmark.

The women wear their legendary veils in front of their faces, so imagine our surprise, when they took them of and showed us their faces. We had not seen this coming, but we felt that this was their way of showing us, that they felt comfortable around us.

The funny thing is, that when we finally saw their faces without the masks, they off course turned out to look normal. The scary bits disappeared, when they took of their veils, only joyful faces were smiling at us. 

When they carry their veils and masks, they remove all personality and their faces become very motionless. But the magic and the music created a path, which made it possible for us to see a glimpse of what was behind the masks. And it was the warmest of smiles, that greeted us, as warm as the desert sand. 

The Smiling Fairytale Society