Category Archives: Blog

Anantara: Paradise in Arabia…

asdf

Welcome to paradise (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

This spring, I had the chance to enjoy a serene stay at Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara while doing research in southern Oman. From its stunning beach (where guests swim with dolphins) to the quiet luxury of its pool villas, the hotel is without a doubt the best accommodation available along the southern coast of Dhofar.

asd

Our pool villa (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

Desperately in need of some rest and relaxation, my friend and I booked a pool villa to unwind in the comfort of privacy and quiet. Upon entering our pool villa, we were delighted (and surprised) to be treated to a relaxing complimentary foot massage — the perfect way to begin our stay. In addition to the inviting striped couch in the living room, we also had multiple lounging options for relaxing outside near our private pool.

asd

Villa lounge time (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

The red and white pillows stationed around the pool add a subtle Middle Eastern touch. We used these cozy pillow platforms to read and snooze after cooling off in the pool. The private pool can be entered from the living room on one side or the bathroom on the other — so you can take a dip and then directly hop in the shower or tub.

asdf

Where’s Waldo? (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

As you can see, the secluded privacy of the pool is ideal for families and covered Muslim women who do not feel comfortable wearing revealing swimwear in front of non-relatives (the pool villas were likely designed with that in mind). For venturing out of the villa to head towards the beach or infinity pool, old-fashioned blue metallic bikes (shipped from the United States) are provided for rides under the property’s towering palms.

asdf

Biking in paradise (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

Since I could not ride a bike due to an injury, I instead whirled to the infinity pool each day for a swim and snack. The stunning infinity pool that stretches all the way to the beach is the centerpiece of the sparking white hotel buildings — and the restaurants surrounding it got our taste buds whirling too.

asd

Whirling to infinity (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

From thin-crust poolside pizzas to a magnificent (and large) mezze platter, the menu of the beach cafe Al Mina (below) next to the pool is filled with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean culinary treasures. I had been told by a local friend before our stay that the food at Anantara was fairly priced, and I was relieved and glad to find she was right — we could have our fill and not worry about overspending.

sdf

Poolside Mediterranean dining (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

The breakfast buffet — an impressive display of international fare — is also served poolside at Sakalan Restaurant. In addition to the enormous selection of breakfast cuisines (from Oman, Lebanon, India, Japan, Europe, and the U.S.A., to name a few), there is also a menu from which you can order special breakfast dishes and drinks.

asdf

Brunch at Anantara (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

I ordered the Eggs Florentine from the brunch menu, and was not disappointed. I liked it so much that I ordered it again the next day to fuel up on protein before heading out for another long, fun-filled day at the beach. From breakfast to dinner, we were pleased with the culinary offerings of the hotel. We especially enjoyed feasting on Thai food (pad thai along with a sumptuous vegetarian Vietnamese appetizer platter) at Mekong — an elegant restaurant on the property that specializes in Asian cuisine from countries bordering the Mekong River.

asd

Eggs Florentine, yum! (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

After powering up each morning with a hearty breakfast, I hit the beach to go look for dolphins (one dolphin pod stayed near the beach for a good hour while I swam), enjoy a long sand stroll, and collect unique shells. After communing with nature in the strong turquoise waves each morning (the summer monsoon was beginning to brew), I spent my afternoons swimming, bobbing, and floating in the infinity pool. It was just what the doctor ordered.

asd

Swim time! (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

While it was tempting to spend all of our time on the grounds of the hotel, we pushed ourselves to go out and explore Dhofar in between meals and swims. Fortunately, Al Baleed Archaeological Park sits literally right next to the hotel. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it contains sprawling archaeological ruins (including those of the grand mosque and citadel) in addition to the Museum of Frankincense Land — a slick, modern museum which documents Oman’s history. Al Baleed Resort by Anantara opened just several months ago — and from what I can tell, they are already doing everything right. We were greatly impressed by the high quality of the service, the heavenly vision of the grounds, and the welcoming luxury and comfort of the pool villa. I was grateful to enjoy this special slice of paradise in the Sultanate of Oman — and can’t wait to return one day soon.

asd

Finding peace at Anantara (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Anantara: Paradise in Arabia…

Traffic Jam in Dhofar…

asdf

Beep beep (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

I got caught in this camel jam in Dhofar while cruising towards the Yemeni border to explore this stunning beach…

ads

Exploring windy beaches in Dhofar (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Traffic Jam in Dhofar…

Blending In…

asdf

Exploring Salalah (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

I got dressed in these traditional clothes (that match the couch and curtains) while visiting this Omani family in southern Oman.

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Blending In…

Khor Rori…

asd

Enjoying the view at Khor Rori in Oman (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

While doing research in Salalah in southern Oman near the Yemeni border, I visited the ancient port of Khor Rori / Sumhuram (4th century BCE to the 5th century CE). The ruins of Khor Rori (Sumhuram)​ ​–​ ​which are about a 40 minute drive from the city center — overlook a breathtaking harbor and excavations there are ongoing.

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Khor Rori…

Frankincense Land…

Al Baleed

Come explore Al Baleed (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

While doing research in Salalah in the south of Oman near the Yemeni border, I visited the archaeological ruins of Al Baleed (8th century to 16th century AD). The archaeological park of Al Baleed was directly next to my hotel (Anantara) — so at sunset, my friend and I took a lovely golf cart ride around this enormous site on the sea.

asd

Ruins at sunset (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

The park is also host to the “Museum of the Frankincense Land” dedicated to the history of Oman (well-curated, high quality, no photos allowed). If you visit Salalah, definitely plan a visit to these impressive ruins and the adjacent museum.

Land of Frankincense​ ​Museum (Photo: Emily O'Dell)

Land of Frankincense​ ​Museum (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Frankincense Land…

The Wadi of Kumzar…

asdf

Exploring Kumzar (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

I had the amazing experience of strolling through the lovely town of Kumzar into the stunning wadi that sits behind it.

asd

Wadi wanderings in Kumzar (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on The Wadi of Kumzar…

Approaching Kumzar…

ads

Docking in Kumzar (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

Words cannot describe the thrill I felt while approaching the isolated town of Kumzar in the Sultanate of Oman…

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Approaching Kumzar…

Fishing in Kumzar…

asdf

Exploring Kumzar (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

Sardine central! I learned about fishing in Kumzar firsthand — these kind fisherman showed me the ropes (literally!).

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Fishing in Kumzar…

Boarding the Boat to Kumzar…

Shipping off to Kumzar (Photo: Emily O'Dell)

Shipping off to Kumzar (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

I was very excited to board this small boat for a one hour ride into the Strait of Hormuz to visit Kumzar — and I was grateful for all of the Omanis who made it possible.

asdf

Approaching Kumzar (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Boarding the Boat to Kumzar…

Gone Round the Bend…

Telegraph Island in Oman (Photo: Emily O'Dell)

Telegraph Island in Oman (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

Before I left the Sultanate of Oman for the summer to do a fellowship at the American Center for Mongolian Studies in Mongolia, I took a boat ride to the isolated town of Kumzar (the northernmost tip of Oman). On the boat trip, my friends took me ’round the bend to Telegraph Island, a bare, rocky islet within one of the fjords of Musandam which served in the 19th century as a British communications post to relay messages from India to Britain. The isolation, heat, and hostile local tribes allegedly led British soldiers stationed there to go mad — hence giving birth to the phrase “going around the bend” (it’s not clear if the deaths on the island were from suicide, murder, or both). I have to confess: as we were swerving through the endless fjords, I felt myself going a little bit mad — the imposing, encircling fjords mask the horizon line, and the monotony of fjord after fjord makes one feel like they might just be the last one left on earth. In June 1867, Col Stewart wrote: “In a purely sanitary point of view, it would be desirable to move the establishment to a less confined locality. The heat…the high encircling rocks and limited view to seaward must have a depressing effect upon Europeans, especially during the hot season.”

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Gone Round the Bend…

Land of Genghis Khan…

asdf

Summering in Mongolia (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

A joy to be spening my 4th summer in Mongolia, where even the airport is named after legendary leader Genghis Khan…

asdf

Following in Genghis Khan’s footsteps (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Land of Genghis Khan…

Camel Surrogates…

Camel time in Mongolia (Photos: Emily O'Dell)

Camel time in Mongolia (Photos: Emily O’Dell)

The friendly camels in Mongolia help me deal with the pain of leaving behind my camel friends in the Sultanate of Oman…

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Camel Surrogates…

Mongolian Election…

Presidential campaigning in Mongolia (Photo: Emily O'Dell)

Presidential campaigning in Mongolia (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

I walked out of my apartment in Ulaanbaatar to find this yurt (ger) — set up to campaign for one of the presidential candidates in the upcoming election…

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Mongolian Election…

Postcard from Mongolia…

sdfasd

At work in Mongolia (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Postcard from Mongolia…

Postcard from Mongolia…

Enjoying Mongolia (Photo: Emily O'Dell)

Enjoying life & research in Mongolia (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Postcard from Mongolia…

Transdisciplinary Research in Mongolia…

This week in Mongolia (Photos: Emily O'Dell)

Presenting research this week in Mongolia (Photos: Emily O’Dell)

This week, I had the joy and honor of presenting my research at a conference in Ulaanbaatar sponsored by the American Center for Mongolian Studies and BioRegions entitled, “Transdisciplinary Research in Mongolia: Bridging the Cultural/Natural Science Divide.” I loved seeing my name and the title of my research in the program in both English and Mongolian. It was a wonderful conference, and I was grateful to be a part of it (and to have my work well-received).

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Transdisciplinary Research in Mongolia…

Mongolian Pro-Tip…

Enjoying life in Mongolia (Photo: Emily O'Dell)

Enjoying life in Mongolia (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

If you are traveling to Mongolia, this trusty little phrasebook can come in handy — also why not add some chocolate to help boost your memory?

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Mongolian Pro-Tip…

Summering in Mongolia…

Exploring Mongolia (Photo: Emily O'Dell)

Life on the steppe (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

I have been too busy with speaking, research, writing, and travel engagements to blog regularly, but you can follow my global adventures on Twitter (@emilyjodell). This summer I am in Ulaanbaatar (for my 4th summer in Mongolia) as a fellow at the American Center of Mongolian Studies where I will be advancing my study of Mongolian language to further my research projects. To follow my Mongolian adventures, find me on Twitter (@emilyjodell).
Exploring Mongolian script (Photo: Emily O'Dell)

Exploring Mongolian script (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Summering in Mongolia…

My Al Jazeera Feature: Elastic Girl…

Training young disability advocates in Lebanon

Training young disability advocates in Lebanon

I am very happy to share with you my new Al Jazeera in-depth feature, The Elastic Girl: Living with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which describes my life with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and highlights some of my disability advocacy work in the Middle East with Syrian refugees, children with cancer, and young people with mental illness. I hope you enjoy it — and thanks for any help in sharing the piece with others.

St. Jude's in Beirut (Photo: Emily O'Dell)

Volunteering at St. Jude’s in Beirut (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on My Al Jazeera Feature: Elastic Girl…

Al Arabiya: Unexpected Coverage…

Searching for Malcolm X in Sudan (Photo: Emily O'Dell)

Searching for Malcolm X in Sudan (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

I was alerted by a Sudanese colleague here in the Sultanate of Oman to an Arabic article in Al Arabiya about my research on Malcolm X in Sudan. While doing research for my academic journal article “X Marks the Spot: Mapping Malcolm’s Encounters with Sudan,” which was published in a special issue of the Journal of Africana Religions (The Meaning of Malcolm X for Africana Religions: Fifty Years On), I had the opportunity to literally follow in Malcolm’s footsteps in Sudan with his old Sudanese friends in Khartoum. I’m delighted to see this interest in my work about this fascinating chapter of American, Middle Eastern, and African history.

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Al Arabiya: Unexpected Coverage…

My New Huff-Po: Sufi Caravan in Sudan…

Exploring Sufism in Sudan (Photo: Emily O'Dell)

Exploring Sufism in Sudan (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

I am happy to share with you my new Huffington Post piece, Sufi Caravan in Sudan, about the time I spent with Sudanese Sufis while excavating an ancient temple from the sands of Sudan. Thank you for any help in sharing this piece/peace with others via email and social media — enjoy!

Sufi caravan in Sudan (Photo: Emily O'Dell)

Sufi caravan in Sudan (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on My New Huff-Po: Sufi Caravan in Sudan…

Coalition for Women in Journalism…

Coalition
I am happy and humbled to share with you that I have been chosen by the Coalition for Women in Journalism to serve as a global mentor for female journalists. You can learn more about this important and innovative venture at this link. I am very inspired by their work, and I am looking forward to mentoring female journalists and writers in the region.

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Coalition for Women in Journalism…

Setting the River on Fire…

In bookstores now...

In bookstores now…

I feel very humbled to have received an acknowledgement in Kay Redfield Jamison’s new biography on poet Robert Lowell — one of my favorite American writers (and a confessional muse of mine). I’ve been an admirer of Kay’s work for decades (intrigued as I am with the intersections of the arts and “madness”), and I can’t wait to read her latest work — which is getting great reviews (such as in the New York Times and Washington Post). I was honored and happy to provide her with details and sources on the history of the treatment of mania and “madness” in Islam and the Middle East — a subject which I’ve been researching for several years for a book project of my own. I’m really looking forward to reading this comprehensive study of Robert Lowell’s life (including his psychiatric medical records). In the words of Lowell, “We are poor passing facts, warned by that to give each figure in the photograph his living name.”

asd

Grateful to be acknowledged…

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Setting the River on Fire…

Harriman Institute…

Living in Russia (Photo: Emily O'Dell)

Living in Russia (Photo: Emily O’Dell)

cover_photo_thumbnailI’m very honored to be profiled this spring in the latest issue of Harriman Magazine at Columbia University as an alum of the Harriman Institute (where I got my Master’s in Russian, Eastern European, and Central Asian Studies). With the current media obsession with the so-called Russian menace, it’s a perfect time to have my expertise in Russia and the former Soviet Union highlighted and shared — and I’m grateful. Amazing that what began as an attempt to get in touch with my Russian roots became a serious course of study, followed by many grants and experiences of living in every Central Asian Republic. Life is full of surprises.

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Harriman Institute…