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From Our Folk Arts

A Window into Contemporary Omani Literature

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 Folk Arts

At that time the widely-spread folk arts were the likes of aiyal, aazi, shilla, razha. Similar to traditional songs, some were exclusive to certain occasions. People, both men and women, would sing on the plains when grazing their animals or engaged in any other activities. After the Eid prayers, women would stand up nearby and sing melodious songs in a happy atmosphere.

Al Osefer and Al Yatima

Just as we had our pedigree male camel, called Osefer, mentioned earlier, so Uncle Salim had a female camel called Yatima. Pride and joy of our all family, the beautiful Yatima was deemed to be one of the excellent camels for racing throughout the whole region. Although friendly towards me and to the rest of our family, she was particularly close to my cousin Mohammed bin Ali Al Kalbani, probably because he took special care of her.

Travelling to Khabora

We would go to Khabora, where we pursued our business interests, either once or twice a month. Depending on weather conditions, our journey started either in the morning or in the evening. I once went with Uncle Saif Al Kalbani in a group of seven people, all on camels. I was the youngest of all. There was a small valley known as Wadi Shakl in the larger Wadi Hawasina. We stayed up there and let our camels graze from the sadar tree.

There was a big stone named “Maraza”. We had a white stone in Miskan with the same name, which children used to compete in carrying as an exercise for the task ahead in Wadi Hawasina. For it was the custom that if someone couldn’t carry the Hawasina stone, he would bear the consequence by arranging a dinner for the whole group. The dinner was the Qashe fish with Omani oil. This latter we kept in akka, lizard’s skin, known for its toughness and cohesiveness. As such oil wouldn’t seep through it.

Al O’ws Embarrasses Us

Once, with Uncle Saif Al Kalbani, we encountered a fox, locally known as AlO’ws. We hunted it, as it was lying on the ground. But it happened that the fox bit so fiercely the left hand of the person who wanted to slaughter it that its teeth left a hole in it. He was taken to the small town of Ghezeen to be treated with iodine, known locally as hal dam. The Ghezeen people, all from the Hawasina tribe, began to treat him without knowing anything about the bite.

They later inquired insistently about the reason. Our people hesitated to say anything at first, as it was viewed unmanly to be bitten by a fox. After a rather heated debate, the man who had been bitten began to feel that his people were being embarrassed. Consequently, he revealed the whole incident.

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