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Oman

 

Geography & Topography

Capital: Muscat

Population: 3 027 959

Area: 309,500 km²

Language: Arabic, English, Baluchi, Urdu, Indian dialects

Religion: Ibadhi Muslim, Sunni Muslim, Shiite Muslim, Hindu

Currency: Omani rial

 

History

Oman, officially called the Sultanate of Oman, is an Arab state in southwest Asia on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west, and Yemen to the southwest. The coast is formed by the Arabian Sea on the southeast and the Gulf of Oman on the northeast. The Madha and Musandam enclaves are surrounded by the UAE on their land borders, with the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman forming Musandam’s coastal boundaries.

For a period, Oman was a moderate regional power, formerly having a sultanate extending across the Strait of Hormuz to Iran, and modern day Pakistan, and far south to Zanzibar on the coat of south-east Africa. Over time, as its power declined, the sultanate came under heavy influence from the United Kingdom, though Oman was never formally part of the British Empire, or a British protectorate. The Omani royal family claim that Oman has been ruled by the Al Said dynasty since 1744, although without substantial proof. Oman has long-standing military and political ties with the United Kingdom and the United States, although it maintains an independent foreign policy.

Oman is an absolute monarchy in which the Sultan of Oman exercises ultimate authority but its parliament has some legislative and oversight powers. In November 2010, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) listed Oman, from among 135 countries worldwide, as the nation most-improved during the preceding 40 years.[8] According to international indices, Oman is one of the most developed and stable countries in the Arab World.

At the mouth of the Persian Gulf and in the path of trade routes to East Africa and the Orient, Oman built a commercial empire centuries ago. After the mid-19th century, power struggles weakened the sultanate, strengthening bonds to the British Empire. In 1970 British-educated Qaboos bin Said deposed his father and, as sultan, began modernizing. Oman allows the United States to use port and air base facilities. Oil, exported since 1967, has financed roads, schools, and hospitals. The majority of Omanis still farm or fish, and protection of fisheries and coastal zones is promoted.

Oman is famous for its khanjar knives, which are curved daggers worn during holidays as part of ceremonial dress. During the Medieval era, khanjars became highly popular as they symbolized Muslim sailors, and later various types of khanjars were made, representing various sailing nations in the Muslim world. Today, traditional clothing is worn by most Omani men. This typically consists of an ankle-length, collarless robe called a dishdasha that buttons at the neck with a tassel hanging down. Traditionally, this tassel would be dipped in perfume. Today the tassel is merely a traditional part of the dishdasha.

Women wear the hijab and abaya. Some women cover their faces and hands, but most do not. The abaya is a traditional dress and currently comes in different styles. The Sultan has forbidden the covering of faces in universities. On holidays, such as Eid, the women wear traditional dress, which is often very brightly colored and consists of a mid-calf length tunic over trousers. The Abaya is mostly worn in the capital, whereas in the interior regions brightly colored dresses are the usual attire.

Performing Arts

Music

The music of Oman has been strongly affected by the country’s coastal location, with Omani sailors interacting with, and bringing back music from, Egypt, Tanzania and elsewhere. More recently, a Portuguese occupation has left its own marks, while geographic neighbors like the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Iran have also had a profound influence. In contrast to other Arab countries, Omani traditional music has a strong emphasis on rhythm.

Traditional music marks all the stages in the life of an Omani, including birth, circumcision, marriage and death. In contrast to many Arab countries, all Omanis participate in music, include both men and women, and young and old.

Liwa and Fann at-Tanbura are types of music and dance performed mainly in communities which contain descendants of East Africans.

Dance

 

The Razha is a dance which is characterised by the sword and poetry exchange. It is performed in most areas of the Sultanate. The men participating in the dance must leap into the air, carrying a heavy sword. Upon landing, they must not falter. The men will also throw the sword into the air and catch it as it comes down; a show of strength and prowess. Years ago, the Razha was used as a way to express the needs of the people in the tribe and also to announce war, victory, muster troops or mediate between warring factions. The Razha al Kabira (the Razha of adults) was once a dance of war. Today it is used as a welcome and celebration to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos. It has three slow rhythms which the participants match in their movements. Upon the beating of the drum, the men perform their sword displays, the aim of which is to hit your opponent on the left thumb. If no side is a clear winner, then an elder of the tribe cuts the air between them, terminating the fight.

 

 

Some interesting facts:

  • In the past, Oman used to be one of the richest countries in the world, with the wealth mainly originating from the incense trade.
  • In Oman, Frankincense trees only grow in the wild.
  • It is said that Ubar, the legendary city believed to be in control of Frankincense trade, got buried under the desert. The reason cited for this is that its wealth made people astray and led them away from religion.
  • There is a shrub in Oman, known as myrtus communis or yas. Its leaves are used for making perfume.
  • Oman was the home of ship building thousands of years ago, when it was mainly involved in the incense trade.
  • The highlands of Oman have raised irrigation system. Through it, water is carried from mountain streams. Known as the ‘ Aflaj Irrigation Systems’, it has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Oman is traditionally known for breeding Arab horses.

Omani Community in Australia:

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