Jillian R.
As much as I've grown to love Muscat, there seems to be another minor inconvenience; it seems quite impossible to walk around alone (as a non-Omani woman) without getting harassed on the street.

Yesterday, I decided to go out by myself to pick up a few grocery items whilst Eric was at work. I walked to the nearby market square where we've been to countless times as a couple (people were always friendly). It was barely 11am and already the small supermarket here in Al Khuwair was bustling with the locals. I had quite a number of things on my shopping list so I was busy deciding which aisle to hit first. I didn't notice initially but when I did, I saw that in every aisle, a local man was staring at me - with a cellphone in hand.

I started to feel a little self-conscious so I looked down at what I was wearing; a knee-length pair of khakis, a fitted-T and a big shawl wrapped loosely over my entire upper body - this was more modest than what the other foreign women were wearing. So I continued to look around the shelves. Then it happened; a local guy (who had apparently been standing beside me for some time) said to me "Hello, can I have your number?". I won't deny that it was flattering at first but then it got creepy. Politely I told him that I was married and then I turned back to the shelves. The man then said "Why? We can be friends". I didn't want anything untoward to happen so I again, said "No, thank you, I'm married" and I walked away.

At the next aisle, the same thing happened with another man. This time he just asked for my number bluntly. Again, I declined twice. It was a very small supermarket and within a few minutes I finished. After I left the store, I was more aware then, that there's always someone staring at me from any corner of the street.

I quickly picked up a few more things I needed and I began to walk home. When I turned the corner into my neighborhood, another man who was standing in front of an apartment building called out to ask if he could give me a lift home. This was itself a very creepy question; strangers do not offer rides to anyone on the street, do they?

I quickly said, "No, thank you, I'm married" (here in the Gulf, saying that you're married is very important, I was told) and continued walking, in a faster pace now. A few seconds later, a car slowly crept up behind me and the same man, rolled down his window and asked to give me a ride and he also wanted my number. And for the last time that day, I uttered those few magic words, "No, thank you, I'm married". He apparently would not give up, because he slipped me a small piece of paper with his number instead; "Call me, we can be friends", he said.

Later a friend who had been living here for a few years told us that the men probably assumed that I was Filipino. Filipinos are reputed to be...well, escorts, if you may, here. Of course, this being true or not, it's not for me to decide. However, being a South East Asian anywhere is proving to be quite a challenge.

Why does everyone have to assume that I am Indonesian or Filipino? I am not saying it's shameful to be either one of those, these people are of course, hardworking and self-sufficient, they travel all over to world to become white or blue collared workers. It's time for the world to see the positive side and not just the negative. Till then however, I want it be known that I am Malaysian - but even so, is it any different?
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