Cultures and beliefs clash with myth and magic in Oman

Bahla in Oman; one of the most haunted places on earth. Source: Getty Images

Do the names Oman and Zanzibar awake a sense of wonder in you, but somehow they just haven’t found their way onto your travel itinerary?

Preparing for a trip to Dubai, Deborah Rodrigues realised that despite many forays into the region, she had never visited Oman and wondered if it could be a good place for a holiday. Thus began the research which resulted in The Zanzibar Wife.

Everything the author read drew her into an amazing country with a unique history and geography; “my head began to spin ideas of different storylines with the backdrop of Oman”. Her interest was further piqued by reading in the National Geographic that the town of Bahla in Oman was one of the most haunted places in the world!

So okay I hear you say, we have a book about Oman – where does Zanzibar come in? In 1698 Zanzibar fell under the control of the Sultanate of Oman, and to many Omanis, Zanzibar is still their ancestral home, even though it is officially Tanzanian. Deborah writes “my real driver in Oman was as kind and funny as the driver in the book. It was because of him that the book got the title The Zanzibar Wife.

Sometimes the line between fact and fiction is very thin; real people sneak into a book and from the Q & A at the end of the novel, we learn that “No-one is safe from being a part of one of my books.” Although a work of fiction, many of the characters are based on real people Deborah knows although some of them change along the way as they become less fact and more fiction.

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The three main characters in this novel Rachel, Ariana and Miza are as different as the proverbial chalk and cheese, yet they share a journey in Oman that is, to me as a reader, magical, in more ways than one. An American war photographer, a British woman who needs major surgery to separate her from her mobile phone and makeup bag and a young “second wife” are strange bedfellows, but at the hands of a wonderful storyteller, their meeting and growing respect for each other seems the most natural occurrence. Each has a story and each story is based in fact.

An inanimate character of the book is a baby blanket a “kanga” on which is written the saying “Every bird flies with its own wings”. Both the blanket and saying are woven beautifully throughout the novel and towards the end, its meaning changes for those to whom it means the most – I loved this.

I read about Deborah’s books, long before I opened one for myself. It is very popular to recommend a book by “If you enjoyed the Little Coffee Shop of Kabul then you will love …”. Well, I’m not sure whether those other authors are for me, but I do know that when Deborah Rodrigues is the author, I will enjoy the read.

A friend once said she never reads fiction unless she can learn something from it. If you feel this way, then Deborah Rodrigues is an author for you.

On the cover of The Zanzibar Wife, by Deborah Rodrigues is the following “With a little magic anything is possible”. I recommend you read this book with an open mind, there is magic in its pages and this magic truly makes anything possible. Published by Penguin Random House Australia, this novel is available in paperback and digital formats. Click here for details.

Editor’s note – Travel at 60 recently published How Travel Changed my Life an exclusive blog from Deborah RodriguesClick here to link to the blog.