For as long as the human civilization has existed, textile has been there. Although it’s hard to pinpoint the exact date of when people started using clothes, experts believe that adaptation by covering themselves for protection against the elements would have been the most logical solution invented by early humans especially that they migrated to changing climates.
In the earlier days, homo sapiens would have used animal skins or vegetation to clothe themselves. When they discovered sewing, their designs were crude and simple yet everything that we learn and know today spun from those early moments of discovery.
In the Sultanate, textile is one of the traditional crafts practiced by Omani people. This tradition can be traced back to the olden times of the Omani society. It has been and continues to be a source of income for Omanis, a craft that will not die as long as Omanis cling to their traditional clothes.
In the past, the Sado seller, which is what the Bedouin women are called, used to travel and sell the textile and thus promoting the textile industry in the country.
Women used to work in a special machine called alnoul which is used to turn the goat hair and camel hair into wool or cotton.
To boost this industry, crafts makers had developed their own style and as of today, works by artisans from the Sultanate are identifiable for their specific elements that boasts is strong heritage and culture.
Protecting the industry
The Sultanate of Oman has paid great attention to revitalizing and developing the traditional textile industries to cope with modern times. In order to maintain and boost the industry, the General Authority for Craft Industries was established which now plays great roles in maintaining and developing this profitable industry.
The Training and Production Center for Textile and Embroidery in the Wilayat of Samail in Al Dakhiliya Governorate, which was established by the Authority, is one of the training centers that works to improve Omani talents.
There are many departments and craft houses located in different governorates of the Sultanate. All of them has the primary goal of enriching the textile industry no matter of its kind.
Under the textile industry are different genre of creating clothes. Wool and cotton yarns alone have spun different practices.
Today, Bedouins still produce various garments and products such as wool, bedspreads, carpets, mats, tents, medals, goat hair, household furniture, camel hair. They also create manassels, rugs, bags and belts based on the knowledge pass on to them by their forebears.
All these products are still actively in use are widely sought after. In fact, they are not just being sold locally but many of them are being exported.
Producers of these local textiles and garments have also gained special places in society and are often invited to join celebrations, carnivals and festivals to showcase the uniqueness and authenticity of their work.
These artisanal craftsmen are also asked to teach their crafts in the training centers for those youth who are interested to learn and thus preserve this craft.
Visibility in the society
Any local celebration today will not be complete visually without the local textiles produced by Oman artisans.
If one attends an Omani wedding, or even simple party, one would immediately notice the Omani halwa offering. These offering is mostly carried by two people who serve it to the audience. What carries this offering however is the traditional mat called alseiha — a local product that is truly Omani.
As modernisation kicks in, local weavers and garment producers also become smart with their use of locally produce textiles. With the right support and dedication to preservation to an importance heritage, we may soon see local produce textiles on runways as well as high end furniture and garment shops. The key is only to keep it alive and thriving.
Siham Al Saidi