Friday, March 24, 2023 | Ramadan 1, 1444 H
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Games Played on Moonlit Nights

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

Seedaf Insect Satisfies our Hunger

I remember whenever there was a lack of food, we would resort to a tree in the valley that would flower in the spring. We used to pluck its nail looking branches, named as dood*, because they resembled insects. We made food from them, adding to them Qashe, onion, lemon, Omani oil, a special type of plant, dhja’ and wafers.

You can imagine how ironic it is that people these days have returned to this habit, calling it the “Sedaaf” meal.

Bullet out of Happiness and for Cautioning from Water!

When it rained after a period of dryness, valleys flowed with water. We would go to the valleys and fire bullets both celebrating and announcing to the whole town that water had arrived. This was something of a habit all across Oman. Interestingly, bullets would also be fired to caution those in the valley, as rainfall during those days was rather strong. We would also try very hard to get out any cattle which might be in the valley.

Traditional Games

Time would seem too long if there were no forms of entertainment. Such was the case in our old days. We would, nonetheless, invent all forms of recreation. In addition to participating with adults in competitions and everyday affairs, we had fun in taking part in many famous traditional games such as Naera, Hawalees and Ghalla. The general texture of all these games would be more or less the same, and all would be performed with no insignificant material: camels’ waste!

Naera would be played by two players; it had 6 holes, called “homes”. Similarly, Hawalees would be played by two, but it would have 28 homes, in which we would move camels’ waste according to the rules of the game. Ghalla, with nine homes, would be played by three. Added to that, there were games that would be played on moonlit nights, and others during daylight.

Children would occasionally compete in races involving donkeys. When someone fell down, a “grave” was dug for him, as a sign that he was dead, and as such, out of the game. Indeed he wouldn’t be allowed in take part in all the other succeeding games. These pseudo-graves still exist in the plains in Miskan.

All these games are genuine and original heritage, and, as such, they should be preserved. For they are a manifestation of a beautiful past we all experienced in our childhood and youth.

Craft Industries

In those days, people made all their wares themselves from local materials. Men made many products known as sa’fiyaat or khosiyyat from palm trees. One such product was somma. Brought from the valley banks, it would be used for collecting the khabaat dates, wheat and all sorts of everyday practicalities. People also made utensils such as makaba and khasafa used for storing dates, and making mats.

Women made madariyyatm, a special type of soil, known as madar brought from Maqta’al Madra, a place that still exists today. Madar was used in making pottery pots like, juror, for preserving honey and oil; pots for cooking and preserving water.

Indeed, women were actively involved in our social life, especially the ones from the plains. They would weave goats’ hair, from which we made all sorts of sacks and bags, raise cattle and bring them food as well as wood for cooking from the nearby valleys. It wasn’t a strange scene at all to see a woman carrying her weaving device behind her sheep.

Everyone worked back then, everyone was productive, actively engaged in pursuing their needs. Nature was countlessly bountiful; it needed a mind that thought, a soul that was content.

*The Arabic word for “insect” (the translator).

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