Muscat Festival: Resurrecting Oman's nomadic past
January 28, 2018 | 4:15 PM
by Ismael David Mujahid

At this year's Muscat Festival, the Bedouin, from the Sultanate's Al Sharqiyah region, have come together to offer visitors a snapshot of customs, traditional values, and legendary hospitality that were staples of life before the advent of oil and modern amenities.

In pictures: The best photos from the Muscat Festival

From a dedicated section at the rear of Al Amerat Park's Heritage Village, songs of the past are sung, traditional string instruments played, and long lines of visitors are welcomed to a majlis, where they are regaled with tales of the enchanting rural homelands of the “bedu.” From beneath a traditional “areesh” and around roasted coffee, people of all ages are discovering a bygone era that has certainly not been forgotten.

Two camels, Ghazwa and Sanab, draped in embroidered Bedouin cloth, elegantly take children for rides in a field nearby. “Praise be to God, the festival has been great”, said Sayf Al Salmi, a 21-year-old looking after the pair of dromedaries.

Over half a dozen children and their families wait for their turn to ride the camels, take pictures, and get a first-hand look at the legendary “ships of the desert.” Sayf, a proud bedu from the village of Hayma in Wilayat Ibra, is more than happy to assist riders with a wooden “bakoora”, a stick carried by nomads, in hand.

Across the field, Jahlani singer Rashid Al Musheikhi draws a crowd of onlookers as he melodiously plays the “rubaba”, sitting on a richly decorated carpet. Not far, women wearing the traditional black burqa of Al Sharqiyah sell cosmetics. The line of admirers is long and includes residents and local Omanis looking for a window into the resilient, awe-inspiring lifestyle that was once common all over the Sultanate.

“We have gotten more visitors than we did last year,” noted Salim bin Hamood Al Salmi, who proudly sits with his khanjar on, and welcomes visitors into the areesh. Salim, who also hails from Hayma, beams with pride as he discusses the various visitors they have received so far. “Most people come to see and learn what life was like for the Bedouin in the past.

Thanks to modern amenities, things have changed; however, most do not know or remember how we used to live. So, it’s important that we remind them.” This slice of the Al Sharqiyah region showcases a pastoral lifestyle that was harsh and rugged, where livestock such as camels, donkeys and sheep formed an integral part of survival.

Thanks to their ingenuity, however, the bedu not only survived, but thrived in the merciless desert and stern mountain terrain,

passing down the secrets of their success from one generation to another over thousands of years.

Here, right at the Muscat Festival, these traditions are finding new audiences in the hearts and minds of delighted festival-goers, elevating the preservation of Oman's nomadic heritage to even greater heights with each smile, snap, and video shared with the bedu.

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