The following is my English translation of excerpts from “A Soldier from Oman: Memory’s Nectar” by (ret.) Inspector-General Said bin Rashid al Kalbani
Our Sandals, between Al Qashra and Al Shamiyya
In those days there were no shoes to sell. Necessity being the mother of invention, as the saying goes, people used local material to make shoes themselves. There was a type made from sheep’s skin, known as qashra, and another made of sheep’s hair, known as shamiyya, used when climbing mountains. Women also made their sandals by themselves.
When the car came to the Sultanate of Oman, it not only represented a dramatic shift in transportation, but it also introduced our country to types of shoes totally unknown to us, made as they were of car tyres. It seems that we benefited from cars more than their makers and promoters could have imagined. Perhaps we were pioneers in industries relying on recycling waste materials!
Al Sho’ for Camels and Al Khbaat for Sheep
We used to feed our camels for dinner with what we cut from the sho’ tree, while during the daylight we let them graze in the open space. Our camels apparently appreciated the saying, “Who eats sho’ shall not hunger or walk barefoot”, for it was the case that just a single meal of sho’ would suffice a camel for an entire day or even two days.
We also extracted from the sho’ tree oil we used in treating some illnesses, such as stomach pain and neuritis. As regards khbaat, the leaves of the samar tree which flourished in particular during January and February, we harvested them with a long stick known as mihjaan. We fed with khbaat leaves our sheep and goats, as, unlike camels, they couldn’t reach the leaves themselves. The camels did have their own share, though.
If we asked someone today what “motashawwik” meant he would definitely not know. He might think of a primitive person with a body covered in thorns* (a thorny man), as is the case with hedgehogs. Nothing could be far from this, for motashawwik refers to the man who dresses up in dishdasha**, mosor*** and carries a gun, a belt, a knife and a pot of kohl; as a result of which, he would look rather handsome and imposing. Men usually dressed up on occasions such as marriage ceremonies, Eid(s), shooting competitions or when visiting another town.
Wedding Ceremony in the Morning
Wedding ceremony was usually held in the morning at about eight or nine O’clock. Strange as it might sound to people in other regions, this tradition still holds in Miskan. The groom would be motashawwik, dressed up, on the day of his wedding. All the guests would gather in a particular place and would be welcomed with all hospitality rituals. All sorts of meat would be served. Wedding in those days lasted for no longer than a single day. People would come in the following morning to greet and congratulate the groom. They would be given oil and a nice smelling local mixture used for decoration, which they would apply to their faces, beard, hands and feet.
*The word “shok” in Arabic means “thorn” (the translator).
**The national dress that the Omani man wears (the translator).
***The traditional turban that the Omani man wraps around his head (the translator).