Culture of Oman
Outwardly, Oman shares many of the cultural characteristics of its Arab neighbours, particularly those in the Gulf Cooperation Council. Despite these similarities, important factors make Oman unique in the Middle East. These result as much from geography and history as from culture and economics. The relatively recent and artificial nature of the state in Oman makes it difficult to describe a national culture; however, sufficient cultural heterogeneity exists within its national boundaries to make Oman distinct from other Arab States of the Persian Gulf. Oman's cultural diversity is greater than that of its Arab neighbours, given its historical expansion to the Swahili Coast and the Indian Ocean.
Oman has a long tradition of shipbuilding, as maritime travel played a major role in the Omanis' ability to stay in contact with the civilisations of the ancient world. Sur was one of the most famous shipbuilding cities of the Indian Ocean. The Al Ghanja ship takes one whole year to build. Other types of Omani ship include As Sunbouq and Al Badan.
In March 2016 archaeologists working off Al Hallaniyah Island identified a shipwreck believed to be that of the Esmeralda from Vasco da Gama's 1502–1503 fleet. The wreck was initially discovered in 1998. Later underwater excavations took place between 2013 and 2015 through a partnership between the Oman Ministry of Heritage and Culture and Bluewater Recoveries Ltd., a shipwreck recovery company. The vessel was identified through such artifacts as a "Portuguese coin minted for trade with India (one of only two coins of this type known to exist) and stone cannonballs engraved with what appear to be the initials of Vincente Sodré, da Gama's maternal uncle and the commander of the Esmeralda."
The male national dress in Oman consists of the dishdasha, a simple, ankle-length, collarless gown with long sleeves. Most frequently white in colour, the dishdasha may also appear in a variety of other colours. Its main adornment, a tassel (furakha) sewn into the neckline, can be impregnated with perfume. Underneath the dishdasha, men wear a plain, wide strip of cloth wrapped around the body from the waist down. The most noted regional differences in dishdasha designs are the style with which they are embroidered, which varies according to age group. On formal occasions a black or beige cloak called a bisht may cover the dishdasha. The embroidery edging the cloak is often in silver or gold thread and it is intricate in detail.
Omani men wear two types of headdress:
- the ghutra, also called “Musar” a square piece of woven wool or cotton fabric of a single colour, decorated with various embroidered patterns.
- the kummah, a cap that is the head dress worn during leisure hours.
Some men carry the assa, a stick, which can have practical uses or is simply used as an accessory during formal events. Omani men, on the whole, wear sandals on their feet.
The khanjar (dagger) forms part of the national dress and men wear the khanjar on all formal public occasions and festivals. It is traditionally worn at the waist. Sheaths may vary from simple covers to ornate silver or gold-decorated pieces. It is a symbol of a man's origin, his manhood and courage. A depiction of a khanjar appears on the national flag.
Omani women wear eye-catching national costumes, with distinctive regional variations. All costumes incorporate vivid colours and vibrant embroidery and decorations. In the past, the choice of colours reflected a tribe's tradition. The Omani women's traditional costume comprises several garments: the kandoorah, which is a long tunic whose sleeves or radoon are adorned with hand-stitched embroidery of various designs. The dishdasha is worn over a pair of loose fitting trousers, tight at the ankles, known as a sirwal. Women also wear a head shawl most commonly referred to as the lihaf.
As of 2014 women reserve wearing their traditional dress for special occasions, and instead wear a loose black cloak called an abaya over their personal choice of clothing, whilst in some regions, particularly amongst the Bedouin, the burqa is still worn. Women wear hijab, and though some women cover their faces and hands, most do not. The Sultan has forbidden the covering of faces in public office.
Music and cinema
Music of Oman is extremely diverse due to Oman's imperial legacy. There are over 130 different forms of traditional Omani songs and dances. The Oman Centre for Traditional Music was established in 1984 to preserve them. In 1985, Sultan Qaboos founded the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra, an act attributed [by whom?] to his love for classical music. Instead of engaging foreign musicians, he decided to establish an orchestra made up of Omanis. On 1 July 1987 at the Al Bustan Palace Hotel's Oman Auditorium the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra gave its inaugural concert.
The cinema of Oman is very small, there being only one Omani film Al-Boom (2006) as of 2007.Oman Arab Cinema Company LLC is the single largest motion picture exhibitor chain in Oman. It belongs to the Jawad Sultan Group of Companies, which has a history spanning more than 40 years in the Sultanate of Oman. In popular music, a seven-minute music video about Oman went viral, achieving 500,000 view on YouTube within 10 days of being released on YouTube in November 2015. The a cappella production features three of the region's most popular talents: Kahliji musician Al Wasmi, Omani poet Mazin Al-Haddabi and actress Buthaina Al Raisi.
Sultanate of Oman Television began broadcasting for the first time from Muscat on 17 November 1974 and separately from Salalah on 25 November 1975. On 1 June 1979, the two stations at Muscat and Salalah linked by satellite to form a unified broadcasting service. In order to overcome the natural obstacles created by the mountainous terrain, a network of stations spread across the country in both populated and remote areas transmit Oman TV's broadcasts.
Oman has fewer restrictions on independent media than its neighbors Saudi Arabia or Yemen. The press freedom group Reporters Without Borders ranked the country 125th out of 180 countries on its 2016 World Press Freedom Index, one spot below Zimbabwe. However, in 2016, the government drew international criticism for closing the newspaper Azamn and arresting three journalists after a report about corruption in the country's judiciary.
Omani cuisine is diverse and has been influenced by many cultures. Omanis usually eat their main daily meal at midday, while the evening meal is lighter. During Ramadan, dinner is served after the Taraweeh prayers, sometimes as late as 11 pm. However these dinner timings differ according to each family – for instance, some families would choose to eat right after maghrib prayers and have dessert after taraweeh.
Arsia, a festival meal served during celebrations, consists of mashed rice and meat (sometimes chicken). Another popular festival meal, shuwa, consists of meat cooked very slowly (sometimes for up to 2 days) in an underground clay-oven. The meat becomes extremely tender and it is infused with spices and herbs before cooking to give it a very distinct taste. Fish is often used in main dishes too, and the kingfish is a popular ingredient. Mashuai is a meal consisting of a whole spit-roasted kingfish served with lemon rice.
Rukhal bread is a thin, round bread originally baked over a fire made from palm leaves. It is eaten at any meal, typically served with Omani honey for breakfast or crumbled over curry for dinner. Chicken, fish, and lamb or mutton are regularly used in dishes. The Omani halwa is a very popular sweet, basically consisting of cooked raw sugar with nuts. There are many different flavors, the most popular ones being the black halwa (original) and the saffron halwa. Halwa is considered as a symbol of Omani hospitality, and is traditionally served with coffee. As is the case with most Arab States of the Persian Gulf, alcohol is only available over-the-counter to non-Muslims. Muslims can still purchase alcoholic drinks. Alcohol is served in many hotels and a few restaurants.
Sadu House is among Kuwait's most important cultural institutions. Bait Al-Othman is the largest museum specializing in Kuwait's history. The Scientific Center is one of the largest science museums in the Middle East. The Museum of Modern Art showcases the history of modern art in Kuwait and the region. The National Museum, established in 1983, has been described as "underused and overlooked".
Several Kuwaiti museums are devoted to Islamic art, most notably the Tareq Rajab Museums and Dar al Athar al Islamiyyah cultural centres. The Dar al Athar al Islamiyyah cultural centres include education wings, conservation labs, and research libraries. There are several art libraries in Kuwait. Many museums in Kuwait are private enterprises. In contrast to the top-down approach in other Gulf states, museum development in Kuwait reflects a greater sense of civic identity and demonstrates the strength of civil society in Kuwait, which has produced many independent cultural enterprises.
The Amiri Diwan is currently developing the new Kuwait National Cultural District (KNCD), which comprises various cultural projects including Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Centre, Sheikh Jaber Al Ahmad Cultural Centre, Al Shaheed Park, and Al Salam Palace. With a capital cost of more than US$1 billion, the project is one of the largest cultural investments in the world. The Kuwait National Cultural District is a member of the Global Cultural Districts Network.
In October 2004, the Omani government set up a Ministry of Sports Affairs to replace the General Organization for youth, sports and cultural affairs. The 2009 Gulf Cup of Nations, the 19th edition, took place in Muscat, from 4 to 17 January 2009 and was won by the Omani national football team.
Oman's traditional sports are dhow racing, horse racing, camel racing, bull fighting and falconry. Association football, basketball, waterskiing and sandboarding are among the sports that have emerged quickly and gained popularity among the younger generation.
Ali Al-Habsi is an Omani professional association football player. As of 2015, he plays in the Football League Championship as a goalkeeper for Reading. The International Olympic Committee awarded [when?] the former GOYSCA its prestigious prize for Sporting excellence in recognition of its contributions to youth and sports and its efforts to promote the Olympic spirit and goals.
The Oman Olympic Committee played a major part in organizing the highly successful 2003 Olympic Days, which were of great benefit to the sports associations, clubs and young participants. The football association took part, along with the handball, basketball, rugby union, hockey, volleyball, athletics, swimming, and tennis associations. In 2010 Muscat hosted the 2010 Asian Beach Games.
Oman also hosts tennis tournaments in different age divisions each year. The Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex stadium contains a 50-meter swimming pool which is used for international tournaments from different schools in different countries. The Tour of Oman, a professional cycling 6-day stage race, takes place in February. Oman hosted the Asian 2011 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup qualifiers, where 11 teams competed for three spots at the FIFA World Cup. Oman hosted the Men's and Women's 2012 Beach Handball World Championships at the Millennium Resort in Mussanah, from 8 to 13 July. Oman has competed repeatedly for a position in the FIFA World Cup, but have yet qualified to compete in the tournament.
Oman, along with Fujairah in the UAE, are the only regions in the Middle East that have a variant of bullfighting, known as 'bull-butting', organized within their territories. Al-Batena area in Oman is specifically prominent for such events. It involves two bulls of the Brahman breed pitted against one another and as the name implies, they engage in a forceful barrage of headbutts. The first one to collapse or concede its ground is declared the loser. Most bull-butting matches are short affairs and last for less than 5 minutes. The origins of bull-butting in Oman remain unknown, but many locals believe it was brought to Oman by the Moors of Spanish origin. Yet others say it has a direct connection with Portugal, which colonized the Omani coastline for nearly two centuries.
In Cricket, Oman qualified for the 2016 ICC World Twenty20 by securing sixth place in 2015 ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier. They have also been granted T20I status as they were among the top six teams in the qualifiers.
Being a seafaring nation, an important symbol in Oman is the dhow. These sailing ships have been used for centuries along the Arabian Peninsula, India, and East Africa for the purpose of trade. In fact, the earliest reported use of an Omani dhow was in the 8th century, arriving in China. In modern-day use, the dhows operate for the purpose of trade, tourism, and fishing, and they can be seen all along Oman's coastline. The main ports of a large fleet, while Sur maintains an extensive dhow building industry.