The Sultanate of Oman, lies on the south east corner of the Arabian Peninsula between latitudes 16°40' and 26°-20' north and longitudes 51°50', and 59°40' east. Its coast runs to a distance of 1,700 km from the Strait of Hormuz in the north to the borders of the Republic of Yemen, thus overlooking three seas, the Arabian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea.
It is bordered to the west by the UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to South by the Republic of Yemen, the Strait of I Hormuz to the North and the Arabian Sea to the East.
Capital : Muscat
Size : 309,500 sq. km.
Oman lies on the Tropic of Cancer in the extreme southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula, covering an area (between latitude 16.40 and 26.20 degrees north and longitude 51.50 and 59.40 degrees east), of major strategic importance.
The country’s breathtaking coastline stretches for over 1,700 kms, from the Arabian Sea and the entrance to the Indian Ocean at its south-western extremity, to the Gulf of Oman and Musandam in the north, where it overlooks the Strait of Hormuz and the entrance to the Arabian Gulf; a location that has played a vital part in Oman’s strategic development.
The Hajar mountain range, which the Omanis compare to a human backbone, forms a great arc extending from the north-west of the country towards the south-east. Their highest peak, Jabal Shams, in the Dakhiliyah region, reaches an altitude of 3,000 metres. In Musandam, where the Strait of Hormuz lies between the Omani and Iranian coasts, the mountains soar to a height of 1,800 metres above sea level.
Oman’s varied and spectacular landscapes are a blend of its geological history, and its climate over the past few million years. Superb rock outcrops in the Al Hajar Mountains, the Huqf and Dhofar are a paradise for international geologists. The rock record spans about 825 million years and includes at least three periods when the country was covered by ice, somewhat surprising given its present latitude and climate.
Oman, located at the southeast corner of the Arabian plate, is being pushed slowly northward, as the Red Sea grows wider. The lofty Al Hajar Mountains and the drowned valleys of Musandam are dramatic reminders of this.
In its geologically recent past it also lay at the margin of an ocean and the discovery of dark coloured Semail ophiolites, which are vol-canic rocks from that ocean, locally rich in copper and chrome, confirm this.
The Interior plains of Oman are of young sedimentary rocks, wadi gravels, dune sands and salt flats. Beneath them is a several kilometre thick stack of older sedimentary rocks that host the country’s hydrocarbon resources. Ancient salt, which comes to the surface in several salt hills such as Qarat Kibrit, play an important role in forming many of these oil and gas accumulations.
The country’s climate, like its topography is diverse, with humid coastal areas and a hot, dry desert interior. Although rainfall is generally light and irregular, Dhofar province in the south catches the Indian Ocean monsoon that falls between June and September. In the interior summer temperatures can soar to 130 degrees F (54 degrees C). Most tourists visit during the more temperate months between October and April, with visitors from the GCC countries preferring the months of July and August when the monsoon season comes to the Dhofar region.
2,331,391 (2003 Census)
The Omani Flag and Meaning
The National Anthem of the sultanate of Oman:
The Omani flag was approved by Royal Decree on 17th of December 1970. It is rectangular in shape and comprises two crossed swords with an Omani khanjar (dagger) superimposed upon them. The flag is in three colors: white to symbolize peace and prosperity, red for the battles fought by the Omani people to expel foreign invaders during their long history, and green to represent the country's fertility and agriculture. The swords and Khanjar (dagger) have been used as the country's emblem since the middle of the eighteenth century.
"O lord, protect for us His Majesty the Sultan and the people in our land, with honour and peace. May his leadership be glorious, for him we shall lay down our lives,
O Oman, since the time of the Prophet,
We are a loyal people amongst the noblest Arabs,
Rejoice - Qaboos has come,
May Heaven bless him,
Be joyful and commend him to the protection of our prayers."
National Symbol :
Two crossed swords with an Omani khanjar.
National day :
The 18th of November
Looking at the phenomenal achievements that have been made in Oman over the last years, the multi-lane highways, modern hospitals, schools and universities, it is tempting to think of the Sultanate as a “new” country.
However, archaeologists have shown that civilisation flourished in the area of modern day Oman at least 5,000 years ago and probably before, albeit under a series of names, the best known being Majan or Megan, and Mezoun.
Sumerian tablets refer to a country called Magan, a name thought to refer to Oman’s ancient copper mines. Mezoun is derived from the word “muzn”, which means abundant flowing water. The name we call the country by today, Oman, is believed to originate from the Arab tribes who migrated to its territory from the Uman region of Yemen. Many tribes settled in Oman making a living by fishing, herding or stock breeding and many present day Omani families are able to trace their ancestral routes to other parts of Arabia.
Advent of Islam
The Omanis were among the first people to embrace Islam voluntarily in around 630 AD when the Prophet Muhammed sent his envoy Amr ibn Al As to meet Jaifar and ‘Abd, the joint rulers of Oman at that time - to invite them to accept the faith. In accepting Islam, Oman became an Ibadhi state, ruled by an elected leader, the Imam.
During the early years of the Islamic mission Oman played a major role in the Wars of Apostasy that occurred after the death of Muhammad and also took part in the great Islamic conquests by land and sea in Iraq, Persia and beyond. However, its most prominent role in this respect was through its extensive trading and seafaring activities in East Africa, particularly during the19th century, when it propagated Islam in many of East Africa’s coastal regions, and certain areas of Central Africa. Omanis also carried the message of Islam with them to China and the Asian ports.
By the Middle Ages, Oman had established itself as a prosperous seafaring nation, sending dhows from its great port at Sohar to trade with merchants in far flung destinations. It seems likely that at this time Sohar was one of the largest and most important cities in the Arab world.
The Ya'ruba and the expulsion of the Portuguese
In the early 16th century the powerful Portugese trading empire sought to extend its influence and reduce Oman’s control over the thriving Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean routes. Portugese troops invaded Oman and captured some of the coastal areas, occupying them for up to 150 years before being defeated by Sultan bin Saif Al Ya’rubi.
During the Ya’ruba period (1624 – 1744) Oman entered an era of prosperity at home and abroad, and many of the Sultanate’s historic buildings and forts date from this time. However, expansion ended when civil war erupted between rival Omani tribes over the election of a new Imam. Persian forces seized the opportunity to invade and some coastal areas found themselves under foreign occupation once again.
19th Century to today
No country since Persia has successfully invaded Oman which, by the 19th century was a sovereign power in its own right, expanding its territory across the Arabian Gulf and East Africa, where it controlled the island of Zanzibar. The country went on to establish political links with the other great powers of the time, including Britain, France, the Netherlands and the United States. However in the early part of the 20th century, Oman entered a period of decline and isolation.
The search for oil began in the 1920s when the D’Arcy Exploration Company, a subsidiary of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, conducted a geological survey that proved unsuccessful. The Second World War and other events interrupted exploration until 1962 when the first successful well was drilled at Yibal, followed by other wells at Natih and Fahud. Oil production on a commercial scale began in 1967.When Sultan Qaboos came to power in 1970, Oman was almost as far removed from the modern, prosperous 21st century state we know today, as it is possible to get.
The country had only a few basic roads, a tiny number of schools and little in the way of medical care; its people were poor and disadvantaged. Many of Oman’s wealthy and educated had left the country to seek their fortunes abroad. One of the first challenges His Majesty faced was to reverse this “brain drain”, to encourage expatriate Omanis to return home and throw their weight behind the creation of a strong, educated, unified nation. This they did with enthusiasm, helping to build and develop the thriving, vibrant country that is modern day Oman.
The official language is Arabic, and the English language is spoken in the education and economic sectors.
THE WHITE BOOK
THE BASIC LAW OF THE SULTANATE OF OMAN
Royal Decree No. 101/96
On the Issue of the Basic Law of the State
I, Qaboos bin Said, Sultan of Oman, in confirmation of the principles which have guided State policy in various fields during the past period, and in asserting our determination to continue efforts to create a better future characterized by further achievements which will bring benefits to the Country and its Citizens.
And in our determination to strengthen Oman’s international position and its role in establishing the foundations of peace, security, justice and co-operation between different States and Peoples.
And in accordance with the exigencies of the public interest, have decreed the following:
Article (1) the issue of the Basic Law of the State in accordance with the attached form of words.
Article (2) This Decree shall be published in the Official Gazette and shall come into force with effect from its date of issue.
Issued on: 24 Jumada al Akhira 1417 AH
Corresponding to: 6 November 1996
QABOOS BIN SAID
SULTAN OF OMAN
Leader – Head of State, head of government
His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said (since 1970)
Key Political Developments/figures
The Council of Oman (Majlis Oman) is made up of member of the State Council (Majlis A'Dawla) and Consultation /Shura Council (Majlis A'Shura) as stipulated in Article 58 of the Basic Law of the State. It assists the government in drawing up the general policies of the state. The Council meets at the request of Sultan Qaboos, to study and discuss matters raised by him, taking all its decisions on the basis of a majority vote. Sultan Qaboos addresses all the members of this Council on an annual basis.
Most Recent Elections
The Consultation / Shura Council (Majlis A'Shura) was established in 1991 and evolved from the State Consultative Council, which had been in operation for a decade from 1981 to 1991.
While members of the State Consultative Council had been appointed by Sultan Qaboos, the members of today's Consultation Council are representatives of the Sultanate's distracts, elected by Omani citizens in general elections where women vote and stand for office on an equal footing with men. There have been women members of the Consultation Council since 1994; Omanis were the first women in the Arab Gulf Co-operation Council (AGCC) states to enjoy this right. Two women were elected to the Council's fifth term (2004-2007) in the October 2003 general elections.
Oman's Consultation Council is a financially and administratively independent legal entity based in the Governorate of Muscat. Its role and functions have been reinforced over the years to keep pace with the needs of Oman's rapidly changing society.
A wilayat with a population of 30,000 or above is represented by two members, while a wilayat with fewer than 30,000 inhabitants is represented by just one. The winning candidate is the one who obtains the greatest number of votes according to the official election results.
During its fifth term (2004-2007) the Consultation/Shura Council has 83 members including two women.
Omani citizens are eligible to stand as candidates for the Consultation Council provided that they are Omani nationals, as defined by the law, not less than 30 years old and of good social standing and reputation in their Wilayats. A candidate must not have been convicted of a crime, indecency or dishonesty unless he or she has been completely reinstated, and he or she must have a reasonable standard of education and appropriate practical experience.
Membership of the Consultation Council is for a period of four years and is renewable. The next election of members is due to take place in 2007. A member may not combine membership of the Consultation Council with membership of the State Council or public office. The Chairman of the Consultation Council is appointed by Royal Decree.
The Majlis A'Shura enjoys wide-ranging powers under the law. The range of legislative, economic and social powers enjoyed by the Consultation Council enable it to fulfill its role of broadening popular participation in shaping and directing the course of the country's development.
The Consultation Council operates through a system of established channels and procedures, which involve making the maximum use of the expertise of ministers while taking into account the effects on the general public of any decision making resulting from such consultation. The Majlis A 'Shura debated the draft Seventh Five-year Plan (2006-2010) and the 2006 draft General State Budget.
As far as the Council's organizational system is concerned, the Chairman has two Deputy Chairmen who arc elected from the Council membership. The Council has several standing Committees: the Legal Committee, the Economic Committee, the Health and Social Affairs Committee, the Education and Culture Committee, and the Services and Local Community Development Committee. Special committees have also been set up to deal with national manpower employment programmes and the tourism sector. These special committees cease to exist when they have fulfilled the functions for which they have been set up.
6th Term Elections, 2008-2012
The elections will take place in October 2007. However, prior to this a "Get Out and Vote'' campaign will be launched by the Ministries of Information and Interior, the aims of which will be to encourage all eligible Omanis to register to vote towards the end of the year, and also to familiarize them with the voting procedures
Co-ordination with other institutions
The government works in close co-operation with the State Council (Majlis A'Dawla) and the Consultation Council (Majlis A'Shura) in the interests of the country and its citizens. On the Sultan's instructions an annual meeting is held between the members of the Council of Ministers, the State Council and the Consultation Council to promote closer and broader contacts between the members of all three bodies. The latest of these, which took place at the Diwan of Royal Court building on 24 December 2005, was an open meeting that provided an opportunity for all comers to exchange views.
The Consultation/ Shura Council (Majlis A'Shura) takes part in activities and meetings of Arab, Islamic and international parliamentary unions, as well as exchange visits with parliaments and similar bodies in Arab and foreign states. In doing so its aim is to strengthen Oman's relations with other countries and contribute to efforts to deal with issues of concern to the states and peoples of the region.
In this connection the Chairman of the Consultation Council attended the first preparatory session of the Arab transitional parliament at the Arab League on 27th and 28th December 2005 where Oman's representatives were nominated for membership of the Arab transitional parliament. Omani representatives also attended meetings of the Arab Parliamentary Union in Jordan in February 2006. The Council Chairman participated in both the eighth council session and the fourth conference of the Organization of Islamic Conference's union of councils of member states in Turkey in April 2006.
Council members also traveled abroad to promote Oman as a centre of regional stability and have enthusiastically received return visits from dignitaries from around the globe.
The Omani economy has been radically transformed over a series of development plans beginning with the First Five¬year Plan (1976-1980). At Sultan Qaboos's instruction, a vision of Oman's economic future up to the year 2020 was set out at the end of the first phase of the country's develop¬ment (1970-1995). Vision 2020 outlined the country's economic and social goals over the 25 years of the second phase of the development process (1996¬2020).
The long-term development strategy (1996-2020) estab¬lished a stable, all-inclusive framework for the Omani econ¬omy that provided for steady growth and a calculated improvement in the individual citizen's share of the national income. This was based on a policy of diversifying the sources of the Sultanate's income and increasing the con¬tributions of the natural gas and the industrial and tourist sec¬tors, while diversifying away from dependence on oil, expanding the private sector, implementing privatization policies, developing human resources and attracting greater investment, all within a frame¬work aimed at promoting sus¬tainable development that would lead to further integra¬tion into the global economy.
Most Recent GDP / GDP per capita / GDP – real growth rate R.O 11,817
Revenues of 2007 are estimated to reach RO 4.49 billion, while spending is expected to touch RO 4.89 billion and deficit RO 400 million, Oil revenues are calculated against $40 bpd.
Expected 2007 revenues are 25 per cent higher than those of 2006, which stood at RO 3.587 billion. This year's expenditure is expected to rise by RO 653 million over the 2006 spending which amounted to RO 4.237 billion. The deficit of 2006 was estimated to reach RO 650 million as against calculations of oil revenues of $32 bpd.
Government revenues in the first 10 months last year surged to R.O 4,963 billion, compared to R.O 3,565 billion during the corresponding period in the previous year.
The State's General Budget by the end of October 2006 recorded a surplus of RO 1.475 billion. The average oil price, in the first 10 months of last year stood at $62.57 bpd.
The 2007 budget expects net oil revenues of RO 3.015 billion, gas revenues of RO 550 million, current revenues of RO 890 million, capital revenues of RO 22 million and capital returns of RO 13 million.
Budget schedule point to a recession of current defense and security expenditures from RO 1.254 billion to R.O1.235 billion, against augmented expenditure of civil ministries to R 1.603 billion this year from RO 1.383 billion in 2006.
Investment expenditure this year is expected to rise to RO 1.492 billion, compared to RO 1.11 billion in last year's budget.
Government raised its spending on oil and gas production to RO 975 million, some RO 718 million higher than 2006 figures.
In its 2007 budget, the government, as part of current and capital expenditure of civil ministries and other government departments, seeks to spend RO 608.7 million in the education sector, RO 198.8 million in the health sector, RO 191.7 million in the general services sector, RO 117.4 million in the social security/ social care sector, RO 138.5 million in the housing sector and RO 46.1 million in the culture and religious affairs sector.
Key Natural Resources
Oil, Gas, Agricultural and fisheries
Featured Culture – Music, Arts, Crafts, Language
Omani traditional music, as previously mentioned, was never linked to musical notation, either in its creation, or in its performance. Therefore, unlike notation-based musical works, the relationship between music and notation was established later. Nor is it part of the performance of such arts which have indeed survived for centuries without the help of musical notation. Whether a researcher is involved in classifying Omani arts or in an effort to learn about their musical structure by placing them under the academic microscope, it is advisable to transcribe the music, which would necessarily be subsequent to the musical event itself. Through such notation, the academic researcher can investigate, compare, and analyze the music which is visible in front of him.
However, one should not overrate this notational approach, as, due to its completion after the musical event, it involves a certain degree of abstraction from the musical reality. Therefore, one should not forget that live performance cannot, under any circumstances, be superseded by notation. Besides, the scholar engaged in such notational activity, the 'transcription', usually has one goal in sight, which he highlights at the outset of his notational effort. Consequently, transcriptional notation is usually regarded as a reflection of the transcriber's personality, thoughts and goals. Whenever Omani arts are written in notation, it should be remembered that such arts are the origin or the source, and notation is the outcome, rather than the other way round.
Concerning transcriptions, it is advisable to employ several notational approaches. As the aim of any transcription is to recreate a musical event, which is not originally based on musical notation, not only familiar and unfamiliar forms of notation are required, but even the invention of new forms may be necessary to serve both educational and research purpose needs. Since notation is a medium of musical thought transmission from a solely audible condition to a visual one, one's imagination can then run free, without constraints, to highlight or analyze any musical component in which a student is particularly interested.
As the transcription always consists of a post-script notation and is associated with the transcriber's individual goals, it should not be confused with the more familiar notational approach, where, as in European music, the written notation always forms the basis for performance.
The transcription of Omani arts, however, does not represent the musical reality, but only a limited excerpt of the musical event.
Therefore, if a performer, who is quite unfamiliar with Oman's musical traditions, is given a musical notation, he is unlikely to be able to play it in a way which exactly resembles the original, because the notation contains only some musical elements, rather than the entire musical work.
In conclusion, musical notation in Oman must be viewed as an application to serve instructional and/or research purposes. As for the practical objectives, caution should be observed in using notation and it should not be depended upon wholly to perform instrumental music or songs.
The best results for a non-native performing Omani arts can be achieved by listening to an original performance as well as using the notation, as this is most likely to produce a result close to the original - i.e. to the live performance. Retaining this recommended approach should help keep up this heritage throughout successive generations without distortions or shortcomings. Notation, if used as specified, can contribute to knowledge and provide perspective on such indigenous arts.
The ideal option is indisputably a combination of the theoretical/academic aspect and the practical, live performance aspect through analysis and musical classification as well as the use of notation for its well-defined objectives.
Omani halwa (sweet) is famous at home and abroad as a symbol of traditional Omani hospitality. It is usually served in Omani homes before drinking Arabic coffee.
The main ingredients which go into the making of halwa are: starch, eggs, sugar, water, ghee, saffron, cardamom, nuts and rose water from the Jebel al Akdhar. The ingredients are mixed, in proportions and quantities known only to the skilled halwa maker, and cooked in a mirjal (large cooking pot used especially for halwa) for a time of not less than 2 hours.
The cooking can be done over a gas or electric stove, but the preferred method is over a wood fire made up of somr wood, known for its durability, smoke and odourfree properties.
After cooking, the halwa can be preserved for more than four months without losing its quality, and without the need for refrigeration or preserving agents.
Halwa is usually served in a dist, a large earthenware bowl, which can vary in size and composition according to demand or type of occasion. The list can also be made of metal or plastic. Halwa is invariably served at times of joy or sorrow and, on religious occasions and festivals. It graces the tables of every Omani home.
Ship (Dhow) building Oman's connection with the sea stretches back many centuries when Omani sailors using mast and sail, pioneered sea routes to the cities of the ancient world. Favorable factors were Oman's position at the crossroads of shipping routes which linked the Arabian Gulf to India, the Red Sea and East Africa and her knowledge of shipbuilding.
Oman became the first non-European country to extend its influence to Africa where it remained for hundreds of years, due mainly to her ships/dhows. Oman was an important maritime and political power who established relations with China, Great Britain, France, the Netherlands and the United States of America. Throughout its long history, Oman's navy has played a key role in the country's economic success, both in providing the instrument for internal and external trade and in underpinning fishing and pearling activities. The Omani warship "The Sultana" which anchored in New York harbor in 1840, bearing gifts from Sultan Said bin Sultan to the American President, was a symbol of the greatness of the Omani fleet at that time.
In Oman two techniques are used in shipbuilding. In the first, timbers are laid
side-by-side and pierced at intervals with a fine hand drill. The timbers are then bound together through these holes by means of rope made of coconut fiber and the holes covered with a mixture of fiber or raw cotton soaked in fish, coconut or sesame oil. Arab geographers such as Al Idrissi and Ibn Jubair believed that boats bound with fibers and with flat hulls were safer than those
fitted together with rigid iron nails because if they ran onto rocks or came into contact with another hull, they were more flexible. In the second method, nails are used and in essence this is the same technique as used in other countries of the Arabian Gulf and Red Sea.
The main type of wood used for the hull and keel is teak which is imported from India. The ribs are made from locally available woods such as qart, sidr and sarar. The tools used in a ship's construction are simple and basic such as the hammer, saw, awl, bow drill, chisel, plane and calking iron. The principal shipbuilding yards in Oman were Sur, Mutrah and Shinas.
Omani ships, which can last for 60-100 years, are distinguished by their variety of types although some are no longer made. The largest type was the ocean-going cargo vessel, the baghlah with a length of 135 feet and a load capacity of 150-400 tonnes which could be distinguished by its high poop deck and quarter galleries, its transom stern being pierced by five window apertures and often elaborately carved. The ghanjail was very similar to the baghlah, and is considered by many Omani people to be the most beautiful of the large dhows.
The sambuuq used to be one of the most commonly seen Arab vessels: its distinguishing features are the low, curved, scimitar-shaped stem piece and high square stern which lacks a quarter gallery.
The word sambuaq used to denote the sewn boats of the Dhofari coast, and may therefore be a term of great antiquity.
The government is keen to encourage the maritime tourist industry, in restoring old ships, increasing the use of large vessels/dhows for sea fishing, and also the building of small models of Omani ships for decorative purposes and for participating in exhibitions.
Bee keeping Beekeeping has been practiced since ancient times in Oman. The subject of honey is mentioned in the Holy Koran sura 'The Bee' in ayyats 68 and 69: And the Lord taught the Bee to build its cells in hills, in trees, and in men's habitats; then to eat of all the produce and find with the skill the precious paths of its Lord: there issues from within their bodies a drink of varying colors, wherein is healing for men; verily this is a sign for those who give thought.
Oman has a varied landscape represented in its dried-up river beds, hills, plains and deserts in which flourish the plants and trees which provide the honey bee with the nutrients it requires: palm trees, coconut palms, cereals, limes, vegetables, sugar cane, frankincense and gum trees.
In particular the somr, sidr, and ghaaf trees, coconut palm, prickly pear and papaya trees provide the principal ingredients which give Omani honey its distinctive flavor.
Two types of bees are known in Oman: Apis millifera and Apis florea. The specialist bee keepers of northern Oman have developed great skill in obtaining honey and propagating bee colonies in a sustainable manner.
In Northern Oman the larger honey bee was traditionally kept in hollowed out trunks of date palms, locally known as tubl. When bee keepers require honey they cut from the back of the tubl. Modern methods of bee-keeping have now been introduced into Oman and honey production efficiency has been greatly improved.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has imposed a strict ban on mixing Omani and imported strains of bees.
His Majesty's government provides veterinary services, advice, and material support to all Omani beekeepers.
Omani people take pride in their horses which symbolize the nobility and longevity of their culture. Horses are mentioned in the Holy Quran in Sura Al-'Adiyat which runs "By the steeds that run with panting breath. And strike sparks of fire, and push home the charge in the morning, and raise the dust in clouds the while, and penetrate forthwith into the midst of the foe en masse.
It is said that the first horse to come among the Arabs was named Zaad ar-Raakib and in his book "The Genealogy of Horses" Al Kalbi mentions that the Prophet Solomon gave the Azd tribe (of the people of Oman) a horse from among his stock.
Ibn Batuta, writing in the 14th century, mentions the export of thoroughbred horses from Dhofar, and Marco Polo, writing earlier, in the 13th century, also refers to the export of fine Arabian horses from Qalhat and Dhofar.
In the Sultanate of Oman there are currently about 2,000 horses, of which approximately 350 are pure-bred Arab horses, 150 are thoroughbreds, and 1,500 are pure-bred Omani horses.
The Omanis' love of horses can be seen in the way they deck them out: the neck ornaments, the silver bridle, the sweat cover placed on the back and the underclothes to prevent chafing, the silver collar-piece, and finally the reins. There are annual horse races at the Royal Stables and throughout the year in the regions especially on religious and national occasions.
Besides the races the riders participate in polo matches, tent-pegging competitions, trotting races, show-jumping, dressage and carriage processions.
His Majesty the Sultan pays special attention to all aspects of horse-breeding, preserving bloodlines, and equestrian sports of all kinds. A Directorate-General of the Royal Stables has been established under the Diwan of Royal Court which supervises the breeding and rearing of horses using scientific methods in conformity with international standards.
In addition the Royal Horse Racing Club was established to oversee the planning and development of equestrian activities, as well as organizing the Royal Oman Horse Show which is held every 5 years. The Racing Club also distributes horses every year to citizens who are prepared to care for them and organizes the annual Royal Horse Race meeting which takes place under Royal patronage.
The Oman Equestrian Federation arranges other race meetings and equestrian events, with the aim of preserving this valuable heritage. The Royal Stables possess numerous breeds of horses known for their excellence in racing, dressage, show jumping and polo, in addition to a troupe of cavalry horses.
Following directives from His Majesty, a horse-breeding department was set up in Salalah which concentrates on the breeding of pure-bred Arab horses. In general, the Royal Stables breed a variety of pure bred and thoroughbred horses from the finest bloodlines available.
The Royal Stables is a member of the World Arab Horse Organization (WAHO).
Camel breeding and rearing is a traditional activity practiced all over Oman, dating back to references in the Holy Quran. Omani camels are of medium size and known for their strength and speed. Color varies by region: Dhofar camels tend to be black, although lighter colors are more common elsewhere. Camels are used in Oman for riding or racing and also for meat and milk. Camel-breeding has become more profitable in recent years and therefore more popular; the price of a racing camel can reach over R075, 000.
To accord with the wish of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos to preserve the Omani heritage, a Directorate-General of Camel Affairs was established in the Diwan of Royal Court in 1989. Located in the Wilayats of Barka at Fulaij, it is equipped with the most modern race tracks and camel pens. This concern testifies to the esteem in which the ancient craft is held among Omanis.
Incense and Fragrant
Incense or bokhur is burned daily in most Omani homes. Omani villages have their own bokhur maker who produces incense unique to that area using various ingredients, such as rosewater, sugar, ambergris, sandalwood, frankincense and myrrh. Bokhur is burned in an incense burner made from clay, porcelain or silver. The bokhur is scattered over red hot charcoals and left to smoulder, releasing the fragrance which will permeate clothes and furniture. Frankincense is also used extensively throughout the Sultanate for a variety of purposes. The Dhofari frankincense is considered amongst the best in the world.
Frankincense formed the basis of trade between ancient civilizations as long as 7,000 years ago. It was on account of frankincense that the camel caravans set forth from Dhofar in south Oman on journeys to Mesopotamia, Syria and Egypt, even to the Palestinian port of Gaza from where the precious cargo was shipped to Europe and especially to ancient Rome.
The Omani frankincense tree, Boswelia sacra, grows to a height of around 5 meters. Both it and the trees from which myrrh is derived, Commiphora myrrha, belong to the family Burseraceae whose members have resin ducts in their bark.
In Oman the trees are found in a relatively restricted habitat, just out of range of the monsoon rains but where cool winds depress air temperatures in hot summer months in the Dhofar region.
In Oman the trees are found in a relatively restricted habitat, just out of range of the monsoon rains but where cool winds depress air temperatures in hot summer months in the Dhofar region.
At the beginning of April, as soon as the temperatures start to rise, the frankincense gatherers cut the frankincense trees in many places. The first 'cut' is called the tawqii and consists of paring off the outer bark of the branches and trunk. This causes a milky-white liquid to ooze from the tree which quickly solidifies and is left in this condition for 14 days or so. The second 'cut' which follows this period, produces resin of an inferior quality and the real harvest begins two weeks after the second 'cut'. With this third 'cut' the tree produces frankincense resin of yellowish color which is sold commercially in the market.
The 'cutting' of the frankincense trees calls for great skill. The harvest lasts for 3 months and the average yield of frankincense resin for one tree is around 10 kilos. The Governorate of Dhofar produces approx. 7,000 tones of frankincense annually.
Omani frankincense, which is considered to be the finest quality in the world, are still much in demand in many countries. It is an important ingredient in the manufacture of incense which is burned on social occasions, in the manufacture of medicines, fragrant, powders, perfumes, candles as well as in halls of worship around the world.
Rose fragrant & Rosewater
On the slopes of Jebel Akhdar, there are rose terraces, which produce the most heavenly smelling rose water and rose fragrant (attar). Rosewater is used in religious ceremonies, in cooking and also in beauty treatments. Distilling fragrant from the rose petals is a difficult procedure and the Jebel Akhdar rose has a short bloom, lasting only for a few weeks in April. Consequently this fragrant is expensive, but has one of the most beautiful perfumes.
Jasmine is an abundant flowering shrub in the Sultanate which releases its fragrance at night. People often collect the flowers and leave them in dishes to perfume rooms of the house.
One of the most prized fragrance items in Oman is oudh, which is imported from Cambodia, India and Malaysia. It is a musky-smelling wood which may be burned or from which fragrant can be extracted. It is very expensive and only used on important occasions such as Eid, weddings, funerals and to celebrate the birth of a child. The oudh fragrant will often be given as part of a woman's dowry, together with gold and other gifts.