Sunday, April 02, 2023 | Ramadan 10, 1444 H
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Material Known as Americani

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

The Eid Night

After seeing the Eid moon, women would make harees*, one of the most famous Omani dishes. It would be stored in khars, a big pot able to preserve the harees until morning. After eating it, men would go to the mosalla**. Before prayers, children would play maraza, shooting at a particular target. The place was safe, and people, in general, paid due attention, as they expected such activities during Eid times.

Children stopped playing maraza during the prayers, after which men sang shallaat*** and children resumed their games. People would return to their homes, collect and bring as much food as they could afford and add it to the communal meal. Everybody would sit together and share the food, enjoying each other’s company. After the meal, they would visit each other in their homes, pay their respect to the elders and those who were unable to come out.

People back then were just one family in their love and respect to each other.

The Americani Dress

Men’s clothes were made of a material known as “Americani”. It would be dyed with a mixture of oil and turmeric brought by the Yemenis from Socotra, as well as with the bark of the sadar tree to change its colour for camouflage during hunting. As regards women’s clothes, made of aniline taken from the Azlam tree, they weren’t altogether different from the ones women wear today, though the a’bayah**** didn’t exist during that time. Women would only cover themselves with their wide, long shirt.

The aniline substance was extracted, as mentioned, from the Azlam tree, abundantly available in Miskan and in the farms of Wadi Kabeer. The tree would be cut monthly and brewed in a pot before its branches and stalks were squeezed. It would be subsequently pounded with a stick from a palm tree (known locally as me’saaj) till the resultant substance was melted, poured into a palm made pot, known locally as masab, and then filtered.

After that a piece of cotton, (known al makhmaar), was placed over a square ditch. The liquid aniline was then poured onto it so that the water would soak through, leaving the material to dry. The dried material was divided into small squares (known foquush al neel). Upon being fully dry, it would be put in a cotton pouch (khareeta). Women used as much as they needed of the aniline; the rest would be sold in the souq(s)***** of both Ibri and Khabora.


*A local dish usually served during Eid and on different social occasions, comprising of mashed chicken or meat, seasoned with different spices (the translator).

**“Mosalla” is, literally, the place where people perform their prayers. In the past there used to be special open places for the Eid prayers. Though the Eid prayers are usually performed in mosques nowadays, the “mosalla” tradition still continues in some parts of Oman (the translator).

***Traditional songs, some associated with specific social occasions, others with specific professions. As an example for the latter, seamen would sing special songs when loading their ships, (shillat al homul) and when unloading them (shillat al naazil) (the translator).

****The usually black veil women wear nowadays on top of their dresses in Oman and the Arabian Peninsula at large (the translator).

*****Souq is the Arabic word for “market” (the translator).

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