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A deep look into how Oman and Zanzibar honour outstanding performance in history

Throughout human history, great achievements in different aspects of life had been awarded distinctly with different forms of ornaments or mementoes. In Greece and Rome for example, a wreath made of laurel was worn in the head as an honour to someone who has been victorious in sports, music and poetry, even at the later part, to signify victory in battles.

Over time, these awards will give way to their more modern forms. Insignias, medals and trophies become souvenirs for victors.

In Oman, orders have a deep-rooted history in the country and every order usually comes with an unforgettable story of great heroism and noble acts. Orders and decorations, in all their designs, classes, colours, and materials, are marks of honour for those who are honoured to wear them during international events and gatherings, whether the honoured is a guest or a resident. Recognition insignia and high-ranked orders have noble values, as they are awarded for outstanding services in the fields of military, artistry, literature, science, etc.

The authors of the book “Orders, decorations and medals in the Sultanate of Oman and Zanzibar”, Raya al Hajri and Jalila al Rashdi focused particularly on the orders of the Sultanate of Oman, yet, “while the research was conducted, it fluently took us to Zanzibar, as it was a country of prosperity and a flourishing civilisation”, says Raya, assistant director of organisations and international cooperation at the National Records and Archives Authority.

The book is part of NRAA publications in the 25th edition of research studies on national and international archives. It highlights various civilisational and historical aspects of the legacy of Oman and Omanis across the ages.

The 336-page manual consists of a preface and four chapters. The first chapter is dedicated to orders, decorations and medals in Oman and Zanzibar; the second on Oman orders and medals; the third on foreign orders, decorations and medals awarded to sultans of Oman and Zanzibar and the fourth on orders, decorations and medals awarded to Omani notables.

The establishment of orders and decorations was coupled with several rituals. It was essential to distinguish between members of a certain group or association. Those groups started wearing uniform insignia called “order “. These rituals and practices go back thousands of years. They originated in the middle ages. At first, orders were established to distinguish religious groups living in harsh conditions similar to those of priests, who devoted themselves to serving the religion and the king. The patterns then developed into orders of knighthood and Merit. History investigation shows that these military religious orders originated during the Crusades, including the Order of Malta, the order of Knights Templars, and the Teutonic Order. The Order of Malta was instituted in 1070 as a charity organisation, unlike the Order of Knights Templars, whose main purpose was to defend their religious beliefs. The organisation was created by some Italian merchants to care for sick Christian pilgrims at St John’s Hospital near the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

Raya explains that this English version of the book aims at introducing the foreign readers to the diplomatic role undertaken by the Omani sultans and their practice of international protocols in the field of decorations and medals. This book is a valuable tool to researchers and those interested in the history of decorations, and medals in the Sultanate of Oman in particular and the world in general.

This book is important due to its comprehension of the different kinds of medals and their purposes as it keeps pace with recent changes in the field of decorations. The book contained all the different names of medals in English to make it easy for the foreign reader to get the exact names.

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