Thanks to RuPaul and his amazing Drag Race, most people now know what a drag queen is — but there’s a new underground scene popping up in London that’s threatening to steal the crown … the drag king movement. Just as drag queens are men with women’s clothing and makeup, drag kings are women … cross-dressing as men. And there are a lot of them. Continue reading →
The No. 1 rule of travel is pretty simple: Don’t p*ss off the locals. Most people know this — or at least they think they do, and they usually give it the old college try when it comes to not stepping on the toes of the people around them in another city or country.
But what if you don’t know? What if you have no idea what irks the heck out of the locals? No worries; Yahoo Travel is here to help. With our How to P*ss Off series, we help you navigate those crazy cultural differences that can get you in so much trouble. So instead of getting bad karma and dirty looks, you can make friends and have a great time.
Grrr…don’t annoy the locals. (Getty Images)
This week we are in England — home of the queen, crumpets, and … apparently, a lot of people who want you to get out of their way. Think England is just like America but with a funny accent? Wrong. The English are all about their rules (Stand to the right! No stopping for photos! Get the street pronunciation right!), and they get really super cheesed off if you break them. So watch the video (above) and know before you go!
We’ve all seen women in burqas, niqabs, and abayas on the news — but how many do you actually know? And what is it like to wear one all the time?
Thanks to recent events and the advancement of IS, many people in the West see this traditional Islamic dress and cringe. But the truth is the niqab (a veil covering the head and face but not the eyes) has been around for millennia, predating the coming of Muhammad and the founding of Islam.
On my recent trip to Oman, I wanted to answer the question, “What is life really like for women in the Middle East?”
In Oman, they call the face mask a burqa. Sampta, a very traditional Bedouin woman, helps Froelich test it out. (Andrew Rothschild)
I’ve long been fascinated by that. I was raised in the Midwest, a part of the generation that grew up on Sally Field’s Not Without My Daughter (a movie in which Field’s character has to smuggle her daughter out of Iran because her Iranian husband will not give them permission to leave). In my hometown of Cincinnati, there were no women in burqas or hijabs, and it was completely alien to me.
As I grew up and traveled and lived around the world, I started to experience other cultures. But even when I visited places like Iraq, I still rarely had the opportunity to talk with the women behind the masks. I was never able to ask all the questions I had, like: Did you go to university? Do you date? And if you do — how? How do you socialize? Do you have arranged marriages? Can you get a divorce? Can you work after you get married? Do you have rights?
Faten, young and middle class — very much your everyday Omani woman. (Andrew Rothschild)
Now, clearly there are some women in the Middle East who go to college and have careers; there are female politicians there, of course. But I also know that most of these women are from upper-class families, who have always been educated and tend to live slightly outside the traditional norms.
I wanted to know what everyday life was like for everyday women.
Nawal, a fashion designer and very modern Omani woman, and Froelich. (Andrew Rothschild)
Dramamine works sometimes, but it usually just ensures that I sleep whenever I am on a boat. This happens even on large cruise ships. But there are times when one has to brave the sea and boats — especially if one loves history and literature and was raised on stories from “The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor” and “One Thousand and One Nights.”
Make no mistake — while many associate the ancient Arab world with Bedouins and camels trekking across the desert dunes, this area’s history is just as much linked to the sea as it is the desert. Since 4500 B.C. people in the area have made their living on boats. From the 8th century on, Arab traders ruled the oceans in this part of the world, with Oman as the epicenter of activity. In fact, due to demand and the expansion of the sea trade, at one time Oman was split into two — half of it on the Arabian Peninsula, which is still the country we think of today — and the other half in Zanzibar, Africa.
I spent New Year’s Eve in St. Moritz — which is weird for me. I don’t like cold weather, I’m not an especially gifted skier (read: awkward-as-heck skier), and starting the new year off in a town full of famously wealthy people didn’t really do it for me. I had visions of that scene in Dumb and Dumberwhen Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels go to Aspen all kitted out… and fit right in. But, a bunch of my friends I’d met in Afghanistan the year before were all convening for a ski race in St. Moritz to benefit the Afghan Ski Challenge and I missed them. So I booked a ticket and thought, “Now what?”
With Florence, Henrietta, and Beatrice as the bobs run by. (Photo: Paula Froelich)
And then my pal Beatrice told me about bobsledding.
“The Swiss championships are on right now— let’s go!” Beatrice said.
“Absolutely,” I agreed.
“And then you can go for a ride,” she said. “It will be the best two-and-a-half minutes of your life — if you don’t die.”
“Don’t worry,” she assured me, it will probably be fine. Just try to keep your head up so you can see when you turn the bends and enter the horseshoe [the bend where you go full vertical]. It’s a bit difficult with the g-force.”
So we tramped over to the Olympia Bob Run — which has been in operation since 1904 and is the only natural ice run in the world, meaning every year the club hires people to carve the ice run, which must be done with precision as even the slightest fault means death as you hurtle 90 mph down the icy slope. Or at the very least, a lot of broken bones.
The manager of the Olympia Bob Run, Damian Gianola, was a good friend of Beatrice’s — which is fortunate, as guests can book rides, but they book out fast so, if you’re going to the area, call ahead. Damian got me a seat on the last run of the day and suited me up:
Step One: Put on your face mask. Yes, it looks like I’m about to rob a store. No, I did not.
The French novelist Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once said, “What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.”
Nowhere is this statement more apt than in Oman. The land of Sinbad the Sailor and the Queen of Sheba, Oman — with the exception of the coastline — is seemingly a never-ending desert. In the western part of the country is the Empty Quarter, with sand dunes that tower 30 stories high. The rest of the country is a rocky desert, covered in limestone and fossilized rock.
The dramatic landscape of Oman. (Photo: Kristina Cafarella)
To the untrained eye, it is a barren, lonely landscape that looks as if it would not — could not — support life. But then, just as the desert becomes monotonous and unforgiving, you climb to a mountaintop, look down, and see trees, greenery, and water.
The temperature was hovering at around 90 degrees while I was driving through the Sharqiyah region, 230 kilometers north of the capital city, Muscat. The car was air-conditioned, but when we got out to hike, my lungs felt as if they were full of sand, gravel, and dust.
I soon sat down to drink some water and rest for a minute, when my guide, Qais, said, “Look over your shoulder.” And there it was — the Wadi Bani Khalid, one of the most famous oases in Oman (wadi means valley and in the valleys are oasis).
For a hot second, I could imagine what the Bedouin felt like when they saw this oasis hundreds of years ago — riding by camel for days – hot, tired, and thirsty — and then finding a slice of heaven hidden on earth.
The dramatic landscape of Wadi Bani Khalid. (Photo: Kristina Cafarella)
The streams and pools of the Wadi Bani Khalid are surrounded by date palms and greenery. They were so clear that, from the position I sat in, at least a mile up, I could see through to the bottom of the pools.“Let’s go. Now,” I said.
“Absolutely,” Qais agreed. Five minutes later (by car), I was walking though a biblical scene. Because Oman used to be covered by ocean, the limestone boulders are etched with fossils. You have to watch your step, since it is slippery, and the holes in the rock are magically filled with water.
In the Middle Eastern country of Oman, in the ancient northern town of Nizwa, history comes to life every Friday as an ancient, fascinating form of banking takes place.
It doesn’t involve ATMs or bank accounts, but rather livestock.
Since the Queen of Sheba, not much has changed at the Nizwa cattle market, except perhaps the mode of transportation used to get the livestock to market. Standing in the shadow of the Nizwa Fort, hundreds of cattle traders and buyers surround a circular area. Goats, then cows, are paraded around, and a loud, lively bidding process begins.
Photo: Nizwa Fort (Kristina Cafarella)
The fatter cows and goats are sold for meat and the studly ones for breeding, but most of the livestock is sold for investment.
“I will buy this goat today and then sell it for more next week,” a man called Mahmoud said of his most recent purchase, describing a physical version of what modern day traders call flipping.
Mahmoud’s purchase, an adult long-haired goat with one horn that was chewing on his pant leg, set him back $400 — but he was hoping to get $600 for it within the month.
Baby goats with their umbilical cords still attached are snapped up for around 100 rials (at an exchange rate of $3 per rial, that’s expensive). Cows, because they cost more to maintain, are at least six times more.
And high-quality animals can cost more than a car.
Last week a goat sold for the rial equivalent of $6,000, my guide Qais said. “It was a breeder. But most are sold for a few hundred rials, fattened up, and sold again within a few weeks for more money.”