Lamenting the decline of traditional tools

Inside the house of Aunt Sheikha, an Omani grandmother, one will find several gorgeous traditional crafts made by local Omanis. A beautiful traditional rug called Besat hugs your feet once you enter the main hall.
Inching farther inside, you will be welcomed by amazing baskets perfectly knitted together by hand using palm fronds. These baskets, for as long as farmers in Oman had been planting dates, are used to collect dates.
Fans were also very eye-catching displays. They once were a fad among the old people but with technology and air conditioning, its use hasn’t been passed along to the younger generations.
On one corner of the house, even the cleaning tools were made from dates. The one very prominent and everyone is familiar with are the brooms made of palm fronds, collected and meticulously organised and tied together by a rope and a very reliable tool for collecting dust.
These tools, not many realised are all part of Oman’s heritage, an important part of the Omani society that tells the story of the society’s unique characteristics.
Despite her house being a functioning museum filled with different Omani traditional products, she complained that there is a dramatic decline in the production of these important household items.
“I can barely find my favourite hand tools on the market today. Even If I found some, they wouldn’t be as good quality as they were made in the past,” she shared.
Aunt Sheikha is not the only one with this opinion.
“The markets do not offer these tools anymore,” shared Omani housemaid Fatma.
They suspected that production may have gone down as many of the younger generations are shifting to other products — one that is more in tuned with the times. Not only are they not purchasing these products, they don’t also think of being entrepreneurs following the footsteps of their parents.
As a result, family businesses that once focused on traditional household items are dying and along with it, the skillset of doing quality household tools. Modern machines also posed a great challenge as they are proving that some traditional methods are already obsolete.
Sexagenarian Asma is very aware that young women these days have more contemporary methods of cleaning their houses.
“My daughters are no longer using local materials when they do house chores,” she said. “They now depend on vacuum cleaners and chemical detergent to remove dust and stains.”
The fight between the old and the new also spilled into agriculture. The basic tools used in the past are now replaced with what many called “more efficient” tools.
Omani farmer Almenjal shared that his family, in the past, used wooden tool that has a metal blade in harvesting the crops. These traditional farming tools were usually made by local artisans from villages. Due to changing times, machines have now replaced these tools as they are able to do the job in shorter amount of time.
Even the Public Authority of Crafts Industry are aware of these changes and the traditional tools are just documented hopefully for revival in a much better time.
For Aunt Sheikha, however, the old tools are still the best choice.
‘I could by eight Masma’a (traditional dust cleaner) for one RO. In fact, now, you can buy three of these with only 1 OMR but the quality is not as good,” she said.
“They remain to be very affordable compared to the more modern machines that also get destroyed easy,” she shared.

Omaima Al Kindi