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Culture & People
 
 
 

General

The Omani culture is steeped in the religion of Islam. Oman has developed its own type of Islam, known as Ibadhism. There are also Sunni and Shia Muslims in Oman. With this in mind the Islam month of fasting, Ramadan and other Islamic festivities are very important events in Omani culture. A very important part of Omani culture is hospitality. If invited into an Omani house, a visitor is likely to be greeted with a bowl of dates, another of halwa, kawa (coffee with cardamon), tea with cardamon and ginger, fruit, and small sweet pastries.

The government provides some limited assistance for the arts through subsidies to such organisations as the Omani Arts Society. Most artists, however, either hold full-time jobs or come from well-to-do families.

Architecture

Yemeni houses are built using local materials and always blend harmoniously with their natural setting. Reeds, mud and brick are used in the valleys and the plains, while stone-building is common in mountainous dwelling areas. Decorations on the house façades tend to vary from region to region.

The tower is the most popular type of architecture in the highlands; the tower is made of stone or brick and it usually reaches a height of 4-6 storeys to accommodate an extended family. The ground floor of a tower house is used for storage and housing domestic animals. The first floor rooms store household items and the second floor usually contains a reception room for guests. Bedrooms and the kitchen are located on the top two or three floors, with the kitchen usually being equipped with a well, which passes through the lower storeys and into the ground. The top floor contains a large room called the mafrai, where the owner of the house meets his friends in the afternoons, to talk and chew qat.

In the Tihamah region, the dwellings are low. Houses in the countryside are usually one-room huts built of reeds, with a sharply pointed roof. Town houses in this region are of one or two storeys and are built of brick, often with intricate decorations on the outer walls.

Literature

In the past, literature was confined to religious treatises and histories. Like other Arabs, Omanis gave great importance to oral traditions, including poetry and an emphasis on genealogical roots. The Ministry of Information has sought to revive these traditions through folk programs on radio and television. In the last decades of the 20th century, a small number of authors published works of fiction and poetry.

Visual Arts

Traditional Omani handicrafts are in decline although periodic attempts are made to encourage their production. Notable handmade products include silver and gold jewellery, woven baskets, goat- and camel-hair rugs, swords and khanjars (curved daggers), and large pottery water jugs. Drawing, painting, and photography have become popular forms of expression in educated circles, although artists still tend to avoid representation of the human form as per Islamic convention.


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