A 70-year journey in preserving tradition

Muscat, Dec 19 – Omar al Rashidi, 77, is full of concentration as he skillfully crafts a traditional weapon with his nimble fingers at his modest shop in Souq Sinaw — which has on display hundreds of Omani khanjars, belts and sticks — while being surrounded by onlookers as well as friends.
His has been a long journey in the preservation and nurturing of Omani tradition. Seventy years, to be precise.
During this period, Al Rashidi has been engaged in the task of making traditional weapons and belts with old-fashioned tools and local raw materials.
It’s a skill he inherited from his parents. Recalling the first time he got himself involved in this work, he said: “I was seven years’ old, living in our small, muddy house in the village. I was trying to memorise every single procedure my father performed during his work.”
“It is a complicated task,” he said, talking about how they would spend the day, collecting materials and trying to “come up with new decorations to make art works unique”.
After the old souq collapsed, Al Rashidi moved his staff to a new location. “Yet, this job is part of my daily life. I cannot leave it. I display all that I have made in my shop. I look at them admiringly.”
Despite the age, he still tries to come up with new ideas. “This helps me compete in the local market. I try to offer a reasonable price to my customers,” and deal with them in a frankest manner”, he told the Observer.

Omar is keen to share his knowledge with his sons and relatives. “I have succeeded in teaching them the key skills. It is their turn to preserve this national treasure and introduce it to their children,” he said.
Al Rashidi, well-known in the Sultanate as well as the nearby countries, has showcased his works at many events. His local participations have been at the Muscat and Salalah festivals. He has also taken part in many international events.
In 2005, he received an international certificate for participating in Smithsonian Folklife Festival in USA.
Al Rashidi also loves Arabian poetry and literature. In an interview, he expressed his feelings through poems and Arabic proverbs.
“I used to spend most of my time learning Arabian arts. There is a strong relation between Arabian literature and what I have been dealing with since childhood.”
Al Rashidi is glad the government is paying attention to this field. He, however, is keen on integrating this traditional industry in academic establishments. “This should be taught in schools, where we can make the younger generation appreciate it.”
The Public Authority for Craft Industries (PACI) was established under Royal Decree No 24/2003 in 2003. It aims to safeguard, promote and develop Oman’s traditional craft heritage and ensure its craft industries continue to thrive and attract new generations of artisans.

YAHYA AL SALMANI