Tuesday, 18 April 2017

O is for...Oum...and...Oman



is for



Oum El Ghaith Benessahraoui, known simply as Oum, from Morocco. Totally strumming my feelings with her fingers and killing me softly every time I hear her. Blending her uniquely fascinating brand of Arab-African music, a glorious fusion of both her Berber/Amazigh and Arab heritage. Enjoy!





Oman



Oman is one of the Gulf countries, lying at the extreme south-east corner of the Arabian peninsula, and...is it pretty or what? It has a population of about 4 million, and 45% of that is expatriate.


Expat soaking feet at Hawiyat Najm - 'The Fallen Star' Sinkhole. 
Bimmah, Oman.


And it has a history as long as a whale's tail – recently an archaeological find in Abyut al Awal has unearthed stone tools from a specific African Lithic Period dated back to 106,000 years ago. That’s seriously ancient! It’s the hard evidence that Man migrated out of Africa first into Arabia - happening place the Middle East even yonks and yonks ago. There are other sites that show Oman being continuously settled since some 9500-10,000 years ago.  

Wadi Shab. Oman has a coastline of over 2000 kms. 

Like much of Arabia, Oman too has been under the rule/influence of Persian dynasties from ancient times. Islam came to Oman in the 7th century, and remains the major faith there since then.  Political control however passed onto the Portuguese in the 15th-16th century, and they and the Ottomans fought over Oman all through the latter centuries. Till a local rebel group kicked both of them out and founded the present ruling dynasty of Sultans in 18th century, since when Oman has been self governing. It is an absolute monarchy through male primogeniture - the Sultan is the supreme authority. 


Mutrah in Muscat. Muscat has been a trading port for centuries. 
Omani Arabs have controlled trade in these parts historically.


Sultan's Palace. Muscat. No security to keep passers by off, 
anyone can walk right up to the gate and take a snap, like 
I did.

Freedom of worship is not an issue - there are places of prayers for all major faiths. The current Khimji family of Indian origin, (their forefather came to Oman in 1870) are the only Omani Hindu sheikhs in the world. The present head of the family is a Vaishnav (worshipper of Krishna as a family deity), a strict vegetarian and has close access to the Sultan. 

Al Hajar Mountains. Oman has the highest hills in the 
Arabian Peninsula.


The Sultan is reputed to be a bit of an eccentric, and incidentally, is a student of Shankar Dayal Sharma's, ninth President of India. When the President visited Oman, the Sultan met his professor and drove him personally back from the airport, a very Eastern/Arab/Indian teacher-pupil type cute, great-PR-vibe thing to do. (This I hear about most Arab monarchs - they are always jumping into SUVs and driving off by themselves without much ceremony at the drop of a hat, and the young princes of royal blood are the same - zoom off on motorbikes and stop at roadside shops, rub shoulders with the hoi polloi, and zoom off again. Must be absolute security nightmares!)


The Omani Sultan's also a passionate fan of music, and has set up the Omani Royal Orchestra. Slightly rocky marital history (does that remind you of any other leaders? :) But no male heirs, and no successors named. More reliant on business families for his administration than members of his own family, unlike normal Arab practice.


Sur. Traditional centre of Omani shipbuilding and a historically 
important port in the past.



Wadi Tiwi. Lots of trekking opportunities if you're into that sort
of thing. And desert safaris.


Oman has traditionally been the main controller of frankincense trade since ancient times. 'All the perfumes of Arabia?' That's Oman - it was the centrepoint of the Incense Route. The present economy is based on oil exports, it has the 25th largest reserves worldwide.  Though there have been determined efforts to diversify since the last few decades.  Tourism is now a fast growing area - Oman is a major turtle- and whale-watch destination in the Gulf area.






Did you know Arabic has Oral traditions in poetry going back millennia, pre-dating Islam? Poetry slams, where two poets from different tribes competed against each other, stood in for actual battles, thus avoiding bloodshed. May be an idea to tweak and use to avoid our modern megaconflicts!







Posted for the A-Z Challenge 2017 



57 comments:

  1. Oh my that was an amazing video. What a voice--and the scenery. Good grief.

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    1. My exact same reaction when I first heard her too! :D

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  2. It sounds like Oum is accompanied by an oud...

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    1. Very likely...though I can't quite spot it in the visuals...

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  3. Love the way you are broadening my world. Megathanks.
    I also love the idea of poetry slams instead of wars. 'The mouth is mightier than the sword (or bomb)...'

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    1. That's what we tell the children all the time - words are powerful, use your words etc. then promptly forget to apply the lessons ourselves!

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  4. Let's have a poetry athon to deal with differences - indeed. Lovely places you have opened ours eyes to and music to our ears.
    @moondustwriter sharing a
    A Piece of Uganda

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    1. A poemarathon would be the most sensible thing...using art to diffuse conflict.

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  5. Very interesting how that country is run and that it's open to other religions. Sounds like it's probably tourist-friendly.

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    1. Oman prides itself on its religious freedoms - I understand that proselytising is forbidden for Muslims also. Most Omanis belong to a sect of Islam called Ibadi, neither Sunni nor Shia and follow a different version of Islam.
      And it is very tourist friendly, tourism is a focus area. Omanis are conservative and cosmopolitan due to their superlong history of trade with distant countries.

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  6. Oh, if only artists and the most creative were in charge, yes, a poetry read-off - love that! Such great information, and it sounds like such a peaceful place!
    I've still got to go back and read more, and one day soon, I will, I promise! :)

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    1. Quite peaceful - the best place for foreigners and expats, so I've heard. And the world might be a bit more laid back and untidy, but far more peaceful, if the creatives were in charge :)

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  7. A poetry slam sounds like a wonderful substitute for war. Now if we could only get everyone else on board. Thanks for the information about Oman!

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    1. Yup, not sure at all if Kim Jong Un would agree to recite poetry :)

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  8. That was some video.Thanks for sharing. Oman I must say sounds a great place.

    Yvonne.

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    1. It is a lovely place to visit for sure, and I know expats there who are quite comfortable with the lifestyle it offers.

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  9. Maybe it was that great opening song or you're getting better. Anyway, this was the best post yet.

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    1. Thank you, Oum is a favourite of mine.

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  10. I love that there's a long history of poetry here. Such pretty pictures. Obviously lusted after by others down the centuries.

    It's great catching up with your posts, Nila. You look like you're having fun!

    Denise -- heh heh, I'm an early poster for WEP.

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    1. As you know, poetry originated in Arabia! :) I am indeed having fun, always do at the A-Z.

      See you later at the WEP!

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  11. A very ancient country indeed and Beautiful pictures of a part of the world I know nothing about. Those royal princes sure have fun. Hope it doesn't backfire on them. Thanks for a great into to Oman.

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    1. As with all monarchies, there are pro and anti groups all over Arablands. Quite a lot of pro groups, which again doesn't get much media space.

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  12. Poetry war seems like a cool idea. I am loving this virtual tour of the Arab countries.
    Obnoxious

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    1. Poetry war is actually a very cool idea, was part of Bengali/Indian culture too in the past...glad you like the virtual tour :)

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  13. Your pictures make me dream of travelling... (Probably it is not the first time I write this here!).
    -----
    Eva - Mail Adventures
    O is for Obverse. Can you always be sure which side is it?

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    1. Oman's official tourism tagline is - 'Beauty they say has an address'... :-) It is indeed a beautiful place, I've heard Salalah being described as the Switzerland of GCC! :) You should plan a trip if you like Arabic culture.

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  14. Oman looks like a beautiful place. I had a few friends who used to live there and they all loved living there. Thanks for sharing.

    Suzy at Someday Somewhere - Open Doors

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    1. Ya, I know people there too, who love it.

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  15. This might just be my favorite entry yet! Some truly mind-blowing facts about Oman. Hindu sheikhs? Sultan a student of an Indian president? I had no idea!

    Also, I think the term 'yonks and yonks' should be more common in history books. :)

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    1. I have always heard that Oman had *the best* Durgapuja in the entire Gulf, haven't yet had the chance of checking this out...yeah, the Hindu Sheikh bit floored me too. Got to hear of it when I was travelling there. On the Mutrah Corniche, there are old houses with nameplates written in Gujrati and Arabic. The connects between Oman and India are really ancient! and strong.

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    2. and...if only the language in my school history books hadn't been so dry and sleep-inducing, I wouldn't have given up on history so early ...agree that yonks and yonks have a place in the vocab :)

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  16. Hi Nila - I'm coming back to read properly ... and listen to the wonderful music. Now I've read Arpan's comment ... I obviously need to re-read ... I was thinking about the length of human habitation ... and the migration routes the ancients took out of Africa ...

    Fabulous - brilliant ... cheers Hilary

    http://positiveletters.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/o-is-for-orkney-islands-adapted-breeds.html

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    1. There is now ample proof that humans went all over Arabia in the first migrations out of Africa...it has always puzzled me how they could have tippy-toed along the coastlines (which might not have been coastlines at that point, I don't know) on their way to Europe and Asia. Now we know. They didn't. Had far more sense than we credit the ancients with! :)

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  17. Nilanjana...thanks for taking up O for Oman! From Sharjah, it was a car ride for us up to Muscat. The journey was never tiring as on one side we had sea and on another the mountain peaks! Mussandam was my favorite place! Your post invoked all good old days!
    Lucidity in your writing makes it a pleasurable ride.
    ------------------------------------------------
    Anagha From Team MocktailMommies
    Collage Of Life

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    1. I lived in Sharjah many years ago and have been by boat to Dibba and beyond - the sea route is equally fantastic :)

      Arabia is such a beautiful place! Glad to have brought back good memories.

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  18. The mentioning of arabic and oral tradition and poems reminded me of arabic female poet Nimah Nawwab. I listened to her work when the Omnitheater was doing a feature on Saudi Arabia.

    Another poet to add to your list. Joyce Carol Oates

    http://theglobaldig.blogspot.com/2017/04/o-is-for-oates-joyce-carol-oates.html

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    1. Thanks for the recos - Oates is known of course, will be checking Nimah out.

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  19. Great to see such lovely pictures of Oman and read such narrations about the city. I only heard about the market the culture of the city from some of my relatives who stay there and get settled there. Enjoyed it.
    Here is my link for today's take, Obsession

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  20. Beautiful post, Nilanjana! such fascinating details , especially the Vaishnava sheikh , the cool sultans , the connection with our late President, the ancient-ness and the cosmopolitan population. Also, the picture are breathtakingly beautiful . Had no clue about Oman's splendour . Also, the poetry slams seem to be a more logical alternative to battles :)
    best wishes,
    Moon
    https://aslifehappens60.wordpress.com

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    1. Am a poetry lover and violence hater so the slams make perfect sense to me!

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  21. Wow. I was not aware of the beauty of Oman. This post made me chuckle a few times. I like your descriptions of the royalty always riding off. Love the term yonks and yonks. Lots of cheeky details
    A world poetry slam is a grand idea!

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    1. All of Arabia, whatever I have seen of it at least, is beautiful. Oman is even more so. The cheeky details - now those are the things that made my trips memorable :)

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  22. Replies
    1. Oum is one of my fav Arab/African musicians - music from the desert is just stunning!

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  23. I say it every day, but it's true - I SO love this series of yours. I'm learning so much, and wanting to know more and more and more. Kudos to you! I'm particularly fascinated by Oman's role in the frankincense and perfume trade.

    I've certainly enjoyed being exposed to so much fabulous music in your posts - but this Oum may be my favorite.

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    1. Salalah is the perfume capital of Arabia, frankincense still grows around there, and Oman still has a share of the market, though bulk of the frankincense is now produced in Somalia and elsewhere in Africa, as you know.

      Oum is simply amazing, I just adore her music.

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  24. that's interesting about the lack of security at the Sultan's palace!
    joy @ The Joyous Living

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    1. Most of the Arab monarchs/rulers traditionally had a close relationship with their subjects, a tribal culture is based on that - everybody knew everybody and lines of authority and hierarchies were well established. In some ways that has persisted into modern times - the lack of pomp and ceremony is part of that.

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  25. Oman is a very special place that I've visited three times. Somehow I feel less of an outsider when I walk their streets.

    Amble Bay's Orchestra

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    1. Exactly! Nailed it absolutely, in just one sentence, wow!

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  26. I learnt lots about Oman from this post. One of the cradles of civilisation, monarchs who are very relaxed about security, and the precursor to modern rap battles. Fantastic stuff!

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    1. Nice sum up. That's what Arabia is really about :)

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  27. I loved Oum's Arab-African blend of music and especially her invitation at the end of her song: come to the desert, where she talks about love, peace and simplicity that are waiting...
    The ululating sound of her voice is a distinctive African vibe!

    The poetry slams of bygone days would be really useful today as a means of dealing with conflict... artistic therapy! This reinforces the role of creativity as the key to unlocking and managing the problems of this world.

    What really fascinates me is the juxtaposition of ancient-ness and modernity! It somehow seems to make sense. You know what I mean?
    Lovely series!

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    1. Thank you, Michelle!

      Oum's is just gorgeous music, mind blowing and soul stirring, that too I have little understanding of the lyrics in Arabic. The ululating I've heard in Nigeria too as a child, and it is done in my culture also.

      Some musicians in the Nile countries are actually trying to solve water sharing and sustainable river issues with a collaboration in music. Produce some terrific music, don't know how far the problems solved but its worth trying.

      And I completely get what you said about ancient and modern, in Africa they meet in a way that is timeless and truly awesome in the original sense of the word.

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